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Crossrail 2: Fears mount over future of £31bn project

Crossrail Tunnel beneath the Thames constructed by TBM Sophia
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Fears are growing over the future of Crossrail 2 in the wake of the £31billion project being omitted from the Conservatives’ manifesto. 

Speaking to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, industry sources have raised concerns over whether plans to move ahead with the project could hit the buffers if the Tories regain power in next week’s general election.

One senior construction figure told CN: ’It’s a project that is struggling to find support within government.

‘There is scepticism from the Treasury and broader government antipathy towards London, plus with the worries of affordability since Brexit, I would say the mood music is there for all to see.’

While HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse were namechecked in the Conservative manifesto, Crossrail 2 failed to get a mention.

Labour, which is making a comeback in the polls, did back the £31billion scheme in its manifesto. 

The government has been facing pressure from MPs, London mayor Sadiq Khan and construction leaders to commit to the rail line, which will link south-west and north-east London and run from Surrey to Hertfordshire.

Labour MP Joan Ryan tabled an early day motion last month calling for the project to go ahead, arguing it will be ‘crucial to the growth and prosperity of London’.

Khan has called for a ‘cast iron pledge’ from all political parties to move forward with Crossrail 2 to avoid a ‘rush hour meltdown’.

However, the senior industry source added: ’It’s obvious that Sadiq Khan and [transport secretary] Chris Grayling do not get on.

’Along with a general anti-London sentiment in favour of the regions, I wouldn’t be surprised if Crossrail 2 went onto the slow track.’

Last year then chancellor George Osborne pledged £80million for development to help bring forward the construction of Crossrail 2.

However, current chancellor Philip Hammond did not mention the project in his Budget in March.

David Leam, infrastructure director at lobby group London First, said he was still positive about Crossrail 2, as it is ‘fundamentally still a strong project’.

He added: ’There’s no doubt the Conservatives want to signal they are serious about doing something to improve transport links in the North.

’But I would resist the idea that we can only do one or the other. We can’t be that limited – we have to be more ambitious.”

Leam admitted that securing funding for Crossrail 2 represented a ‘challenge’.

But he added: ’We can follow the Crossrail model. We talk of Crossrail as a £15billion project – but the government isn’t paying £15billion.

’London businesses are paying for a third of it and users are paying for a third of it.

‘The idea that money is being diverted is not quite right.’

In total, Crossrail would be expected to support around 200,000 new homes and 200,000 jobs, as well as generating 60,000 supply chain jobs and 18,000 apprenticeship opportunities.

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