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July 25, 2017updated 31 Jul 2017 11:17am

The Crossrail we have to bear

By Alec Marsh

News that Crossrail 2 is firmly back on the agenda is welcome, but the question is when can we have Crossrails 3 and 4 – which London desperately needs, writes Alec Marsh

Having unceremoniously dropped Crossrail 2 from the recent Queen’s Speech, that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling now says he’s backing the £31 billion proposed underground route for London is to be welcomed in the strongest possible terms.

Welcome yet still further is that Mr Grayling has forged an agreement with the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, on the matter. Indeed, in the words of one London infrastructure watcher, David Leam of London First: ‘With this joint statement, Crossrail 2 has moved forward – from whether we do it to how we do it.’

And nowhere should this welcome be echoed more strongly than in the City of London and the capital’s thriving financial services industry, which desperately needs a viable transportation system for its staff, underpinned by a broader housing strategy. But it’s not just necessary for the capital’s workers: don’t forget that we also need a transport system worthy of the precious HNWs that we would like to welcome to these shores, too – and their dependants and loved ones.

Not so long ago the veteran Spear’s contributor Alessandro Tome wrote about using the Tube for the first time in yonks: it read like the descent into hell as told by Dante.

So the government backing of Crossrail 2 is not before time: linking the glories of Hertfordshire to the north east of our sprawling metropolis to the shores of Surrey in the south west, Crossrail 2 will add capacity for 270,000 journeys at peak times and connect an array of useful transport hubs – including King’s Cross and Victoria. It’ll also relieve pressure on Waterloo.

Its supporters suggest that its impact will ape that of its nominative predecessor, the still as yet unfinished £15 billion-Crossrail – now officially designated the Elizabeth line. This was begun in 2009, will open in 2018, and will increase capacity of the grossly inundated underground network by ten per cent, making up around 200 million passenger journeys a year. It itself is the biggest increase in the underground’s capacity since the Second World War – which tells you something about how much that conflict cost the country. Ironically, a north west to south line like Crossrail 2 was proposed back in 1944 – just 73 years ago.  (We had to wait less time for a men’s winner at Wimbledon.)

Moreover, the astonishingly good news is that Crossrail 2 is estimated to further increase the capacity of the Underground network by another ten per cent. If the terms of the National Infrastructure Commission’s statement in 2016 are adhered to, then a bill should go before Parliament in 2019, to pave the way for construction to be completed by 2033. By then of course, London will probably need Crossrail 3 and 4: that’s if teleporters haven’t been invented.

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For anyone who uses the London Underground now, especially in the summer, Crossrail and Crossrail 2 can’t come soon enough. If you were to travel on the Central line, queuing in stations as escalators clear and barriers are moved through, you would be well within your rights to hazard that London doesn’t just need a ten or 20 per cent capacity increase – it needs a 100 per cent capacity increase – and fast. And with the capital’s population due to rise by more than a million to 10 million by 2029, the pressure will only mount.

So the question – and London knows it best – is certainly not if the capital needs it; it’s when, and how many more. The only question outstanding is what to call Crossrail 2 – the Prince of Wales line, anyone?

Alec Marsh is editor of Spear’s

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