UK transport going off the rails

The long-awaited London Crossrail scheme looks set to be delayed till past 2015, over fears of soaring costs. That's bad news for business, which is calling out for a faster route across the capital, and better links between the City and Heathrow. Not that the airport is much to shout about either. Criticism of the 'Heathrow hassle' is par for the course these days, with drubbings in the past week coming from London mayor Ken Livingstone and Kitty Ussher, Gordon Brown's new City minister.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
Indeed, the country's transport infrastructure just seems to lurch from crisis to crisis at the moment. Negative publicity over Crossrail and Heathrow follow in the tyre tracks of MetroNet's public-private partnership crash last month, barely into its contract to revamp much of the capital's creaking tube network. Meanwhile ticket prices are soaring on our overcrowded train services, and our most prominent airlines are getting collared for colluding over price-fixing. Chuck the small matter of preparing for the Olympics into the mix, and it's easy to imagine the whole of UK transport just pulling into a layby and giving up.

Indeed, the Olympics is being cited as the main reason to delay Crossrail, which has been on the drawing board for 18 years and was once intended to be ready in time for the event. If the two projects were undertaken simultaneously, it's feared that it will put construction work at a premium and everything will get more expensive. Indeed, as it is it's easy to picture Crossrail's costs exceeding the estimated £10bn. MetroNet's collapse was caused by the unsustainable cost of the work - a predicted overspend of £2bn by 2010.  

The question of how Crossrail will be funded remains its main stumbling block, with the key issue being how to combine public and private funding. With the MetroNet PPP wreckage still looming large in the rear view mirror, we can imagine the plans proceeding down the road with extreme caution.

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