The boss of the £31bn Crossrail 2 project hopes to get proposals making it more affordable green lit by the government this autumn, saying its overall timetable is still on track, despite funding challenges.
Speaking to City A.M., Crossrail 2 managing director Michèle Dix said her team has been working on making the scheme cheaper since the mayor and transport secretary agreed the next steps for the South East rail route in July, including making it more affordable, with London having to meet half the costs during construction.
Dix said she is confident they will meet the task set for the capital, despite deeming it "a more difficult challenge" than the one faced for Crossrail 1.
"TfL [Transport for London] was a young organisation and therefore its debts weren't as big as its debts now, and we are still paying for Crossrail 1," she said. "With Crossrail 2, it's not simply a case of just go out and borrow. Anything we borrow we have to pay back, and therefore it's a more difficult challenge, but not one that we're not prepared to meet.
"We will be submitting a revision to the government for a decision to be made in the autumn, so we're on track in doing our work so that we can get an autumn decision."
TfL has been assessing whether the overall cost of the scheme can be reduced by looking at lessons learned from other schemes on bringing down the cost of construction, and factoring in what could be done more cheaply through procurement, management and integration.
"That benchmarking work has shown that we can make some savings on that cost and hence bring the overall cost of the scheme down a bit," Dix said, though she would not yet disclose how much cheaper Crossrail 2 can be.
The Crossrail 2 team is also looking at the possibility of involving the private sector more in building the scheme, and assessing the construction timetable for the scheme.
Dix and her team have been considering whether constructing it in stages "and trying to open some earlier than others" could then generate some money upfront "to help pay for the construction of the next stage".
For Crossrail (now named the Elizabeth Line) for example, the first stage has already opened between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, with trains up and running in June.
"So we've been looking at the overall timetable for construction again to see if we can reduce that," Dix added.
TfL has also been mulling other potential funding streams, with discussions ongoing on possible options.
"In terms of money, the government has given us the money for the development of the scheme, because they agreed the £80m, and the mayor agreed the £80m, back in 2016," she said. "So the development money for the scheme has been agreed; the decision is about giving the government confidence that London can cover the costs."
Safeguarding route changes
"What we're really, really keen on is them saying not only that the business case is good, which is effectively what the secretary of state said in the summer, but that it is affordable and that we can consult on the revisions that we've made to the scheme, or want to make to the scheme, and to safeguard the scheme," Dix added.
Any fresh changes to the route that were not previously safeguarded need to be done so TfL can protect it for the future development of the railway.
Dix said her team is still working on a timetable of getting a hybrid bill, that will grant permission to build the scheme, submitted in the early part of 2020, following a consultation early next year.