There must be no second thoughts on Crossrail

TODAY marks a seminal point for the City as the House of Lords discusses the Business Rate Supplements Bill.&nbsp;A&nbsp;bill affecting payments from businesses will clearly always be of huge relevance to the prospects for City firms but this is doubly important because it will determine the future of the Crossrail project.<br /><br />The bill provides the Mayor of London with the power to raise a supplementary business rate of 2p in the pound (small businesses in premises with less than &pound;50,000 rateable value will be fully exempt) to raise funds for infrastructure projects.&nbsp;It is this contribution that will form a key part of the overall funding package for Crossrail, agreed between the City, business, the Mayor and the Government. For decades businesses and commuters have been pressing for a major new railway link connecting central London, the City and Canary Wharf to Heathrow and to commuter areas east and west of the capital.&nbsp;Subject to the final stages of progression through Parliament of the Business Rate Supplements Bill, the biggest addition to the transport network in London and the South East for 50 years will finally be within the City&rsquo;s grasp.<br /><br />In fact digging is already under way. The first of nearly four hundred 18.5 metre tall steel piles that will form the basis of the new Canary Wharf Crossrail station was launched last Friday. Preliminary trial holes are being drilled at points around the City.&nbsp;The redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road tube station and the Crossrail ticket hall, which is being built there, has just started its second phase this weekend.<br /><br />But what will be the benefit to City commuters?&nbsp;They will have faster journeys, congestion on trains and at stations will be reduced by 10 per cent and there will be less need to interchange &ndash; particularly at busy hubs like London Bridge.&nbsp;It will also bring relief to the Great Eastern and London, Tilbury &amp; Southend lines into Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street as well as the North Kent lines into London Bridge, Charing Cross and Cannon Street.<br /><br />Crossrail detractors are claiming now is the time to be tightening purse strings but on the contrary, now is precisely the moment to finance a project like this.&nbsp;Countercyclical infrastructure spending will help aid economic recovery and ensure we emerge stronger and more resilient.&nbsp;In the same way that banks cannot be allowed to go bankrupt so transport projects like this need to move towards completion.<br /><br />Crossrail&nbsp;is crucial to keep London globally competitive.<br /><br />Stuart Fraser is head of the policy resources committee at the City of London Corporation<br />