Crossrail on track?

One piece of advice: whether you’re a politician, a businessman or an innocent bystander, never get involved in large scale public infrastructure projects. Not only are they a massive pain, but they never seem to go away. Take Crossrail. Now that the private sector has chipped in 1bn pounds to the project, everyone has started wondering whether it’s worth doing at all. No wonder things tend to take a while to get going round here.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
The £1bn of private investment that Gordon Brown has secured would appear to bear testament to the new PM’s much-touted buddy relationship with business. Yet it has apparently involved some serious thumb screws. Of course, it was probably a case of needs must for Brown. Lightening the public burden of such a highly controversial project becomes all the more important when you have a public spending review, and possible snap election, coming up.

The private-sector pledge answers one key criticism of the project, that taxpayers would have to fund a mode of transport designed largely to fatten the City’s already bulging pockets. But plenty of other niggles remain: that Crossrail won’t actually solve the problems of congestion in London, which lie elsewhere; that it doesn’t connect with major hubs such as Heathrow Terminal 5 or the new international rail terminal at St Pancras; and that the continued and disproportionate investment in costly projects in London, the Olympics as well as Crossrail, does nothing to help business in other parts of the country. The north, for example, is miffed that its proposal for better links, between its cities or with London, would benefit both London and themselves and cost a lot less.

That said, someone clearly wants the project out of the siding. Much has been made of the government’s tough approach to get the City on board, but the fact that the institutions are willing to cough up the dough shows just how desperately the City feels it needs Crossrail. Either that or they can’t face the idea that talks will carry on for another 20 years.

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