Crossrail inquiry needed after latest delays, says Havering Council leader
- Credit: Archant
Havering Council leader Damian White has said an inquiry is needed after further delays to Crossrail were revealed.
It was announced by Crossrail Limited following its latest board meeting that services on the central section of the Elizabeth line between Paddington and Abbey Wood would not start until the first half of 2022.
Full services that would extend to Romford, Gidea Park and Harold Wood stations will only be introduced once this section has been opened.
The project had originally been due to open in 2018 but has been hit by a number of setbacks.
Cllr White said the news of the latest delay was “extremely disappointing”, adding: “This delay will impact economic recovery at a time when we need it most. This project has clearly been mismanaged and there needs to be an inquiry to understand why it has gone so far over budget and not been delivered on time.”
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Major developments are planned for Romford, such as the 1,380- home Waterloo Estate proposals, but Cllr White confirmed any regeneration projects in the borough are not “beholden” to Crossrail. He said: “However, what we don’t want to see is that it impacts on the much needed improvements to our stations.”
Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, echoed Cllr White’s disappointment at the delays and said he had held talks with Crossrail chairman Tony Meggs about the situation.
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Crossrail Ltd revealed the cost of the project could be up to £1.1billion more than the £17.6bn revealed when a finance package for the final stages was confirmed by the government, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) in December 2018.
The initial estimated cost of the project was £15.9bn. Mr Rosindell said: “I am very disappointed it has taken all these years extra and the extra cost. We are where we are and the project must be completed and I have urged them to do it as quickly as possible.
“2022 is appropriate as it is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.”
Labour MP Jon Cruddas, who represents constituents in Dagenham and Rainham, said he was concerned about the further hold-up to the project. “I have made site visits and seen first-hand the work to create the infrastructure and I will be raising the implications of the delay to the project with Crossrail on my next meeting with them.”
Julie Frost, director of Romford’s Business Improvement District (BID), felt the economic impact of the latest delay was potentially less significant than it would have been before Covid-19.
She said that the shift to home working created by the pandemic would mean demand for commuters using Crossrail to get into central London would fall if the trend continued.
“On the reverse-side, more home-based working will see more people choosing to spend their disposable income in Romford and in the surrounding districts,” Julie continued. “This could therefore present an opportunity to attract a broader range of higher quality consumer offers to more suburban areas in outer London, rather than concentrating their presence in inner London.”
Crossrail Ltd’s chief executive, Mark Wild, said the company’s focus is on opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible.
“Now more than ever Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the Elizabeth line will bring and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and quickly as we can,” he said.
“We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway and we are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth line, known as trial running, at the earliest opportunity.
“Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risks and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks.
“We are working tirelessly to complete the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway and successfully transition the project as an operational railway to TfL.”
Andy Byford, London’s transport commissioner who leads TfL, said: “It is very disappointing to receive confirmation from Crossrail Ltd that their plan for opening the Elizabeth line now has a date of the first half of 2022.
“The line will transform travel across London and is vital to supporting jobs, homes and businesses across the capital.
“I will now work with my team and the Department for Transport to review Crossrail’s plans. I have been very clear that I am committed to getting this railway open safely and reliably as quickly as possible for the benefit of London and beyond.”