The capital’s transportation chief has warned ministers, Crocerill, the long-delayed 19 billion East-West railway line, which is facing a “downtime” without the urgent release of new government funding.
Sky News has learned that London Transport Commissioner Andy Bifford has written to the permanent secretary of the Department of Transportation (DfT) this week, asking him for immediate support of £ 80m to keep the project on track.
Mr Byford, who took over in May and spent much of the past six months struggling to secure funds to keep London’s bus and subway network operating during the COVID-19 crisis, Bernadette told Kelly that without providing additional funding, she could abdicate responsibility for it.
“If no agreement is reached this week, we will have no choice but to suspend the project and seek an alternative ruling to eventually complete it,” the letter said, according to a Whitehall source who was briefed on it.
“I sincerely hope we can avoid the doomsday scenario.”
Crossrail – officially known as Elizabeth Line – has suffered from delays and cost overruns, and is already over three years late.
Understandably, Byford told Mrs. Kelly that Crossrail “is no longer able to make any other financial obligations.”
The most recent review of Crossrail’s schedule and budget came in August, when the outgoing Crossrail Board said it was now likely to cost £ 18.7 billion – £ 450 million more than its previous estimate, nine months ago.
The central section is now expected to open during the first half of 2022.
The 118-kilometer line, which runs from Reading Airport and Heathrow through central London to Shinfield and Abbey Wood, is London’s most ambitious and expensive transportation project in decades.
Billed as Europe’s largest infrastructure project, Crossrail is expected to carry 200 million passengers annually, and includes ten new terminals
However, it did have problems, including issues related to signage, station configurations at Bond Street and Whitechapel.
Social distancing restrictions during the pandemic have also reduced the number of people able to work on construction sites at any time.
Management of the line was overhauled last year, and over the summer Byford told the government it was willing to take responsibility for its handover provided adequate funding was provided by the government – one of the Crossrail’s co-sponsors.
In recent months, Byford has hired two senior executives who worked with him in a previous position in Toronto to improve the chances of Crossrail delivering on schedule.
Understandably, Byford’s speech highlighted Ms. Kelly the “runaway risk” of engineers leaving the project amid continuing uncertainty about its progress.
He is also said to have reiterated that TfL’s financing position has been hit hard by a sharp drop in revenue from congestion charges, advertising and retail activities across its network.
“So we do not have the financial leeway to provide additional funding unless the government provides confirmed funding now by agreeing to the terms of the conditions that we have provided you,” Bifford wrote, according to the Whitehall source.
“These clause headings include the majority of the Crossrail financing deficit that is covered by borrowing from the GLA, which is, in our view, a very good bargain for the government given the broader financial implications of the current conditions and ensures London continues to pay for the majority of the additional funding required.”
Political tensions over Crossrail have been building for years, but are exacerbated by the prospect of municipal elections next year.
Transport for London recently secured a £ 1.7 billion bailout from the government following a bitter public dispute between Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and ministers including Boris Johnson – his predecessor – who said he had bankrupted the capital’s transport network.
In a statement announcing the rescue funding earlier this month, Transport for London said: “Discussions regarding funding for additional costs to complete the Crossrail project have not been included as part of this funding package, but are progressing in parallel, remain constructive and are expected to be completed. soon. . “
Suggestions for a renewal of the Crossrail financing and construction crisis would unnerved businesses in the capital, many of which are suffering from profound changes in business patterns and consumer behavior brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
A source in the municipality said: “TfL has stepped forward and assumed full responsibility for the delivery of the Crossrail project, and based on the government’s insistence that ‘London pays’, the current funding proposal will see the vast majority of these costs covered by the London Authority. Major borrowing.
“This offer was made to ministers months ago and it will mean London will cover more than its fair share of the project, the financial benefits of which will go largely to the Treasury.
“It is inconceivable that a deal cannot be made on the generous terms of the government.”
A spokesperson for Transport for London said: “TfL, the GLA and the government are continuing to hold discussions about the additional funding needed to complete the Crossrail project.”
A government spokesperson said: “The government remains committed to the efficient delivery of the project, in a manner that is fair to UK taxpayers, and ensures that London – as the primary recipient of Crossrail – bears the additional costs.
“We are working with the Greater London Authority and Transport in London to develop a financing solution to see Crossrail complete.”
“It is a pity, unlike other construction projects, that the mayor unnecessarily chose to stop work on Crossrail during the pandemic.”