Dropping the planned Crossrail 2 rail link would leave London’s transport network significantly overcrowded and unable to cope with the capital’s projected population growth, ministers have been warned.
The proposed scheme would connect Cheshunt in Hertfordshire to Epsom in Surrey, passing through Clapham Junction, Victoria and Tottenham Court Road, slashing journey times for passengers and boosting capacity. It would also support the building of up to 200,000 new homes and the creation of thousands of new jobs.
Transport for London is currently waiting for ministerial approval to proceed with the project, but its omission from last week’s Queen’s Speech has sparked concerns that the Government’s commitment to it may be waning.
Such concerns are heightened by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to walk away to axe rail devolution for the capital, a decision even some Tory MPs believe was an act of political point scoring by Mr Grayling who has an acrimonious relationship with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Speaking on board the first-ever Crossrail 1 / Elizabeth line train to enter passenger service, transport commissioner Mike Brown last week told this site that Crossrail 2 was “self-evidently vital if London is going to continue to support the rest of the UK economy.”
He added that Euston would be unable to cope with the larger passenger numbers brought in by HS2 and that stations such as Clapham Junction, already extremely over crowded during rush hour, would be unable to cope if Crossrail 2 didn’t proceed.
However Mr Brown sought to play down concerns that ministers would allow political differences with Mr Khan to influence their decision, saying: “I don’t think the operation of London as a key contributor to the UK economy is something that people will ever play game with.”
“I don’t think for one moment the Government would ever do so with Crossrail 2.”
Today Mr Brown’s concerns about overcrowding were echoed by passenger watchdog London TravelWatch which warned that failure to back the new rail link would mean existing services were increasingly subject to “dangerous levels of overcrowding”.
Chair Stephen Locke has written to Mr Grayling stressing how important Crossrail 2 is to creating the extra capacity needed by passengers in London, but also to those travelling to and from Stansted Airport and on South West mainline services to Southampton, Exeter, Salisbury, Bournemouth and Portsmouth.
Mr Locke said: “Crossrail 2 would help to tackle worsening overcrowding at some of London’s busiest stations such as Waterloo and Clapham Junction.
“It will also serve areas which are poorly connected, benefiting people travelling to and from outside London.
“On top of this, the project is pretty much shovel ready. It is essential that Crossrail 2 features in the Government’s legislative and funding programmes.”