Andy Byford, London’s transport commissioner, warned on Wednesday that Britain would become a “laughing stock” and it would be “unconscionable” and “madness” not to persevere with Crossrail as it neared completion.
Mr Byford, who has assumed personal charge for delivering the crisis-hit line, said Crossrail was no longer able to enter into new contracts, was suffering a “brain drain” of engineers and needed a final £275m from the Government and legal guarantees to underpin its finances by the end of the week.
The Department for Transport last night said “negotiations are still ongoing” after Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered only a general commitment to “financing the completion of Crossrail” in his comprehensive spending review.
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John Dickie, director of policy at big business group London First, said : “Crossrail was set up as a joint project between TfL and the DfT. The pandemic has ravaged TfL’s fare income so, in our over-centralised country, only the Government has the capacity to provide more cash to finish the project.
“The DfT has given the new Transport commissioner the responsibility for delivering Crossrail; they need to stop playing games and give him the tools to do the job.”
A final £1.1 billion is required to open Crossrail by the first half of 2022, taking its total cost above £19 billion. The Greater London Authority has pledged £825m but the Treasury need to provide the £275m remainder.
Mr Byford said that unless the financial guarantees were received by the end of the week he would have to start shutting down the line. “This week to me is D-day,” he said. “We have got to get this done this week.”
London Councils, which represents the 33 boroughs, said it was “hugely disappointing” that the National Infrastructure Strategy, published alongside the spending review, confirmed Government plans to “pivot investment away from London”, including the shelving of Crossrail 2.
A Government spokesman said: “The Government remains committed to the efficient completion of the project, in a way that is fair to UK taxpayers, and that ensures London - as the primary beneficiary of Crossrail – bears the additional costs.
“We are working with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to develop a funding solution to see Crossrail’s completion.”
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