Ex-TfL chief operating officer backs Crossrail as MPs warn of £150m funding gap

29 October 2021, 15:42 | Updated: 29 October 2021, 15:48

'Keep your eye on the benefits': Ex-TfL chief operating officer backs Crossrail
'Keep your eye on the benefits': Ex-TfL chief operating officer backs Crossrail. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Tim Dodd

People should "keep [their] eye on the benefits" of Crossrail, says former TfL Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport Garrett Emmerson as MPs warn the rail project has a £150m hole in its budget.

The Crossrail project connects Reading with Essex through a network of new tunnels under London, and is reported to be running more than three years behind schedule at an expected cost of £18.9 billion.

A report by the Commons' Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated that the estimated cost of completing London's new east-west railway exceeds current available funding by £150 million.

The committee also expressed doubts over how and when Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority will repay taxpayer loans issued for the project amid the collapse in fares revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: 'Significant moment' as London's Crossrail tests trains on track

Andrew Castle asked Mr Emmerson: "18.9 billion quid, what was the initial costing for Crossrail?"

Mr Emmerson said: "It was about 16 [bn] I think when it was approved back in 2008.

"It's always been a question of how to fund such a complex and ambitious project to connect up the East and West of London and go under or over, I think pretty much every single other underground railway line in London."

Read more: Crossrail will not open until 2022 and will be more than £3bn over budget

He continued: "You've got to keep your eye on the benefits of it ultimately. Connecting Heathrow, the City, Canary Wharf and so on is going to be transformational in terms of connectivity across London.

"Also it's going to open up commuting opportunities right into the heart of London on a single service from both East and West, linking up the really big development areas of London as well."

The railway will be known as the Elizabeth Line once it opens, with services running from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, via central London.

It was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010 and was initially due to be completed in December 2018.

But it has been hit by a number of problems, including construction delays and difficulties installing complex signalling systems.