Crossrail 2 and sustainable growth

Cross Rail - Photo by Matt BRown -
Transport Knowledge Hub logo Published on: 5th March 2019 by Tom Copley.

To commuters in London’s north east and south west the news that additional transport capacity is required will be no news at all. Chronic overcrowding is a daily occurrence on the routes into Moorgate, Waterloo and Liverpool Street. Although the belated launch of the Elizabeth line next year will provide some relief for the latter, the simple fact is that in the face of continued population and employment growth, substantial preparation for the next major transport project should now be well underway.

Crossrail 2 – the planned new route linking existing National Rail lines from Tottenham Hale out into Hertfordshire with those from Wimbledon heading out into Surrey, will not only increase the capital’s rail capacity by a further 10%, but also unlock regeneration, housing and employment opportunities right across the city.

As it is, despite the best efforts of TfL’s fantastic staff, many Londoners already face the daily reality of having to wait at station gatelines for prolonged periods before even being allowed access to a platform. Without Crossrail 2, this situation is set to worsen further with at least seventeen Underground stations predicted to buckle under crowding pressures. What’s more, the benefits of HS2 in terms of time saved through faster journeys could simply be wiped out as those arriving at Euston face long queues to board onward trains. Indeed, without Crossrail 2 TfL have been clear that Euston Underground station would have to shut at peak times if and when HS2 arrives.

On top of all this, the Mayor of London has warned that Victoria and Waterloo National Rail stations – with the latter already attracting close to 100 million users annually – face rush hour meltdown without the substantial additional capacity across the network that Crossrail 2 will provide.

What’s driving all this is, of course, population. By the time Crossrail 2 is projected to open, London’s residential population will have topped 10 million. Our ‘daytime’ population will continue expanding too, with an additional 800,000 jobs compared to today. With more people and more opportunities, enabling all Londoners to get about effectively will be more important than ever before. And as much as Crossrail 2 is about cutting journey times, improving connections and providing relief to existing services, it’s also about accessibility. Retrofitting existing transport infrastructure can be expensive and challenging, and in some cases it’s downright impossible. New infrastructure allows us to open up more of the transport network to Londoners with physical disabilities, facilitating – alongside the Elizabeth line – journey combinations that are currently unfeasible.

This isn’t to suggest, of course, that Crossrail 2 is simply about joining the dots between different bits of existing infrastructure – it’s also about creating new infrastructure opportunities. Foremost amongst these, particularly in the context of London’s rising population, is housing. Following the 2017 London Strategic Housing Market Assessment, the new London Plan state that London needs 1.6 million new homes by 2041. The National Infrastructure Commission has estimated that, given the right planning frameworks, Crossrail 2 will allow for 200,000 new homes in London and the South East – 12.5% of the identified housing need.

This level of delivery will require extensive co-operation between local authorities, the GLA, central government and TfL – but it offers an almost unparalleled opportunity to deliver sustainable development, built around public transport, in places where people want to live – including nine stations in Kingston, and 21,000 homes in the Lea Valley Opportunity Area.

Unsurprisingly the main factor holding back this vital project is the cost. But what about the cost of inaction? London has already agreed to pay for half the cost of Crossrail 2, and crucially to split it 50/50 with the government during the project’s construction, not paying back our share afterwards as with Crossrail 1. Government could assist us in this by granting the Mayor/TfL powers to implement a system of land value capture along the route, where land values are predicted to rise by £60 billion, twice the estimated total cost of the project.

Creating opportunities for people to live in areas with strong employment opportunities and excellent connectivity will further reduce the reliance of Londoners on the motor car, in turn reducing congestion and air pollution. With Crossrail 2 set to deliver an additional 270,000 people an hour into central London every morning, this project presents a significant opportunity to begin reshaping London into a more accessible, more navigable and less polluted city for all.

About the Author

This post was written by Tom Copley. Deputy Chair of Housing Committee and Member of the Transport Committee London Assembly