UK Shelves London’s Crossrail 2 to Free up Funds for Regional Cities

UK Shelves London’s Crossrail 2 to Free up Funds for Regional Cities
Crossrail engineers inspect the completed track as the Crossrail project celebrates the completion of the Elizabeth Line track, in London, on Sept. 14, 2017. (John Phillips/Getty Images)
Alexander Zhang

The British government announced on Thursday that it had stopped developing Crossrail 2, a major underground rail development that had been proposed for London.

The rail project, which was planned to run from northeast to southwest London, was estimated to cost £41 billion ($56 billion) and was scheduled to open in the 2030s.

The government said it wanted to free up funds to develop the transport networks of regional British cities, as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda to reduce regional disparities in the country.

“Levelling up the rest of the UK does not mean levelling London down,” the Treasury said in its National Infrastructure Strategy (pdf) released on Thursday, in which it renewed its pledge to finance the completion of Crossrail.

Crossrail, also known as Elizabeth Line, was initially due to open in 2018 but has faced numerous delays. It is now expected to be ready to open in 2022.

But the National Infrastructure Strategy said the government had agreed that Transport for London “will stop development on Crossrail 2.”

“This frees up investment to raise the performance of public transport networks in the regional cities towards London’s gold standard,” it said.

While London is one of the most productive cities in the world, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission noted that many of Britain’s other major cities “have below average productivity relative to their size and population, in part due to high congestion and poor local transport links.”

“London is the only city in Europe where you can access more local services by public transport than by car. But the story is different in regional cities, where access to those same services by public transport lags behind continental peers,” said the National Infrastructure Strategy.

“This is why the government will invest in the North, Midlands, and South West to help rebalance the UK economy, and devolved administrations will receive funding to enable public transport investment in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.”

Earlier this month, Transport for London (TfL), which suffered heavy losses due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, agreed to end consultancy work on Crossrail 2 “as soon as possible,” as a condition of a government bailout.

But TfL said the proposed route of Crossrail 2 will be protected “until such time as the railway can be progressed.”

“Crossrail 2 will still be needed in future to support London’s growth and we have clearly demonstrated the case for the scheme. The project has been put in good order, ready to be restarted when the time is right,” it said in a statement.