The achievement of building the Elizabeth Line proves the UK can deliver big infrastructure projects, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Mr Shapps has also given tentative support to the concept of Crossrail 2, although he says its delivery will depend on the return of passenger demand.
Speaking exclusively to Modern Railways the day before the opening of the central section of the Elizabeth Line, Mr Shapps described Crossrail as a ‘fantastic’ achievement. ‘We all know the long and winding history of the project, but this moment reminds us that we can still deliver big infrastructure projects’ he said. The Secretary of State added that when he visits other countries the number of people who ask about the Elizabeth Line is ‘incredible’; ‘it really grabs people’s attention, and other people want to talk to me about building their own metros’ he said.
At the official opening of the Elizabeth Line by Her Majesty the Queen at Paddington on 17 May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the completion of Crossrail should set the scene for future delivery of Crossrail 2. Development of the north east to south west route across London, with connections to the West Anglia and South Western main lines, was paused by Transport for London during the pandemic due to uncertainty over future funding.
Mr Shapps highlighted that the Government had taken the precaution of safeguarding the land for Crossrail 2, even if development work had been paused. ‘We’re confident that in the end people will come back’ he said. ‘I don’t have a timeline, but if we didn’t think it would happen we wouldn’t have safeguarded the route.’
The Transport Secretary also highlighted the Government’s £9 billion contribution to the Crossrail project plus a further £2 billion for Network Rail’s part of the scheme on the surface stretches. ‘The UK Government is always looking at ways to help, but it would primarily have to be a TfL-led project’ he said of a future Crossrail 2.
Discussing funding for TfL, Mr Shapps maintained that the Government had been ‘extraordinarily generous’ in providing £5 billion for the organisation during the pandemic. He said there is more to do for TfL to achieve the efficiencies the Government desires, but the Government does want to see TfL become financially secure and stable. ‘I don’t accept the idea of managed decline’ he added, but noted that future funding had to reflect the level of passenger demand, which had fallen compared to pre-Covid levels.