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Crossrail 2: Government needs to sign on the dotted line

Crossrail 2 can bring £150bn of economic benefits to the capital – and that makes government backing more important than ever

LONDON, 2 June 2017 - Crossrail 2 is an essential opportunity for growth as London continues to expand, but questions over its future have arisen following the recent Conservative manifesto, which makes no mention of giving the project the go-ahead. But despite this, it should still remain an essential part of London’s future.

The capital is fortunate to enjoy a skills base largely enabled by accessible public transport. Recent research commissioned by Westminster Property Association (WPA) and authored by JLL, cites Crossrail 2 as a major driver for London and UK growth and calls on the government to back it. As well as relieving pressure on the transport network, the research explains how Crossrail 2 will unlock land for the development of up to 200,000 homes along the line and create more than 100,000 additional jobs in central London.

£150bn benefit
The economic benefits are expected to exceed £150bn with a major impact across the South-east, thanks to the huge rail capacity expansion in Surrey, Hertfordshire and beyond. Without it, commuters could be sentenced to years of travel despair.

It has been argued that the lack of new investment in projects such as Crossrail 2 could impair London’s success. If central London is deemed inaccessible, unaffordable or lacking the space today’s businesses require, they will locate elsewhere. For example, we have recently witnessed a number of high-profile company moves to the likes of Birmingham, or even further afield in Paris or Berlin in the case of the technology sector.

To counteract these moves away from the capital, the implementation of Crossrail 2 will increase the pool of available labour. But with this comes an increasing demand for employment space.

Based on Crossrail 2’s effects, WPA and JLL recommend that the London Plan and local plans could identify appropriate sites for development (both residential and commercial) and that inefficient, outdated or unsightly buildings could be used for redevelopment.

Planning briefs could also be introduced aimed at creating high-quality projects, which contribute to the economic concentration, visual impact and pedestrian experience in Central London, while contributing to affordable housing delivery.

Strong investment activity in the immediate areas near Crossrail 2 stations has brought the South-east closer to London and the capital much closer to its secondary towns and cities. It is clear, however, that Crossrail 2 needs to ensure that a coordinated strategy for the wider areas beyond train stations is sought.

Covering the cost of Crossrail
One challenge to consider is the fact that the proposed Crossrail 2 route encompasses areas that may not welcome development; traditionally low-rise communities with already well-serviced routes along the line for example.

Another challenge is funding. Financing the £30bn line won’t be simple. London is expected to cover over half of the cost, using a combination of the Community Infrastructure Levy, business rate supplements and property development, while central government will incur the rest.

However, there have been some discussions suggesting that funding should be allocated to or other major transport schemes instead of Crossrail 2. Both High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail were mentioned in the Conservative manifesto.
Crossrail 2 is not just a transport project. Its potential effects on London’s built environment could be the most important way in which it supports economic progress. It provides an opportunity to tackle some of the economic and social issues which have held us back.

There is no doubt in my mind that Crossrail 2 will keep us moving in the right direction – we just need the government to sign on the dotted line.

Ashley Perry is a senior project manager in JLL’s project management team and member of the Urban Land Institute’s Young Leaders Committee in the UK and Europe

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