LONDON will start grinding to a halt if Crossrail 2 – the proposed new north-south rail line for the capital – isn’t built by 2030.
That’s why London First, the business promotion body, has recommended a firm plan for Crossrail 2, including significant property developer contributions so that London could directly pay for a large part of it. The mayor and the government have yet to respond. They need to act now, so that Crossrail 2 can be planned and built as the successor to the Crossrail 1 east-west line, which opens in four years’ time.
Why Crossrail 2, running in a tunnel from Wimbledon to Hackney, and connecting to existing suburban rail lines at each end? Because it transforms public transport capacity on the north-east to south-west London corridor, essential to relieving congestion and opening up regeneration zones for new housing as London’s population heads towards 10m – from today’s 8.2m – by the early 2030s.
Crossrail 2 relieves a string of congested central London rail stations and termini, including Clapham Junction, Waterloo, Victoria, King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston. It also eases the most congested sections of the Victoria, Piccadilly and Northern lines, and transforms both capacity and journey times for the large and vital commuter-land of south-west London – including Wimbledon, Kingston, Surbiton and Twickenham.
Passenger numbers on the Tube have increased by 40 per cent in the past 15 years alone, surging by more than 10 per cent even since the 2008 financial crisis. The equivalent of the population of Manchester now rides the Tube each day.
Try getting on the Northern Line in Clapham at 8am today. It is so congested that some commuters have started taking the bus further south so they can get on. Before long, stations will be closed periodically because of overcrowding.
Crossrail 2 will also unlock significant new housing – desperately needed, as barely a third of the new homes required each year are being built in the capital.
In north-east London, Hackney, Tottenham and Alexandra Palace are prime sites for regeneration and new housing, once they are connected to central London with reliable, high-capacity rail links. Just look at the success of the London Overground, the orbital line which serves Stratford, Hackney and Islington, since it launched in 2007. It is already congested in rush hours. Tens of thousands of new houses could be built on the back of Crossrail 2, and part of its funding should come from capturing the increase in land values.
The key point is to plan Crossrail 2 in conjunction with large-scale housing. Crossrail 1 is projected to add more than £5bn to property values along its route, only a fraction of which is being captured to support the cost of the line.
But Crossrail 2 requires political leadership. Railway lines can’t be built spontaneously by the private sector. We need agreement on a route, a funding deal and a construction timetable – now.
Lord Adonis was transport secretary in the last government, and chaired London First’s Crossrail 2 Task Force.