Tuesday 1 December 2020 12:00 pm

Government agrees £825m loan to finish Crossrail

The government has agreed a £825m loan to finance the completion Crossrail train link, Grant Shapps today announced.

Writing on Twitter, Shapps said that the loan was a “fair dal for taxpayers across the UK”.

The loan takes the total cost of the project, which has been plagued by difficulties over its lifespan, to £18.6bn.

The new funding comes weeks after Transport for London’s commissioner Andy Byford wrote to the government asking for immediate emergency financing to keep the project on track.

Without an extra £80m, Byford said that Crossrail risked having to be “mothballed”.

City Hall’s deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander said that she was “relieved” that the negotiations had resulted in a deal.

However, TfL officials said that the cost to complete Crossrail was now expected to exceed the £2.2bn in extra funding agreed with the government in 2018.

They said that they would continue to work on reducing the shortfall.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Securing this financing package enables us to press full steam ahead with getting the central section of the Elizabeth line open as soon as possible.

“The Government have insisted London must pay the shortfall – despite the overwhelming majority of the tax income that will result from Crossrail going to the Treasury.

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“This is another example of London supporting the country way over and above the help we get from this Government.”

Negotiations over a new funding package for Crossrail were conducted separately to talks over emergency support for TfL, which dissolved into a bitter dispute over the state of the transport network’s finances.

Despite the exchange of blows between Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan, a £1.8bn rescue package was eventually agreed.

Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey criticised Khan’s handling of the project.

“When Khan became Mayor, Crossrail was on time and on budget. Four years later, his delays have cost taxpayers £5.2bn in lost fares and emergency loans.

“I’m grateful the government bailed Khan out on Crossrail, just like they bailed him out on TfL twice.

“It’s yet another example of Khan’s mismanagement. And Londoners are the ones who end up with the bill.”

Funding comes two years after Crossrail due to open

It comes nearly two years after the rail link, which is also known as the Elizabeth Line, was due to open.

The rail line will run east to west, connecting Heathrow Airport with London’s financial centre in the Square Mile.

It will also connect to the north-south HS2 rail route at Old Oak Common in north west London.

When fully open, TfL says that the Elizabeth line will increase central London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent, able to carry more than half a million passengers per day and will support new journeys through central London out to Essex and Berkshire.  

The new railway is expected to support thousands of new homes and new jobs and will boost the UK economy by £42bn. 

In last week’s National Infrastructure Strategy, the government said that it was committed to finishing Crossrail, which is now expected to open in the first half of 2022.

Back in August, it was warned that the project would cost £17.8bn – £450m more than previously budgeted in November 2019.

Originally, Crossrail was due to cost £14.9bn, but delays to the construction process have seen costs spiral.

Speaking to the London Assembly’s transport committee today, chief exec Mark Wild said that he was aiming to get the line open as close to the beginning of 2022 as possible.

Pre-trial running of trains begins tomorrow, with full-scale trials set to begin at the end of March.

These are expected to take up to a year to complete, but Wild said that the pre-trial testing could speed up the process.

He also said that all of Crossrail’s station upgrades, with the exception of Bond Street, would be ready by Christmas.

But it will take the whole of 2021 to hook the physical infrastructure up to the Crossrail system, Wild warned.