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Crossrail 2 and the £15bn question

Jack Simpson

Hailed by many at the time as a “green light”, the truth is that Crossrail 2 has been stuck on amber ever since.

As part of the announcement, Mr Grayling stated London would have to fund 50 per cent of the project during construction.

Raising £15bn in just over a decade is no mean feat.

Today London business group London First published its Paying for Crossrail 2 report.

Dubbed as a plan to show how the capital could cover its funding requirement for the £30bn project, it largely served to reaffirm just how difficult funding Crossrail 2 will be.

There were nine suggestions for new funding and financing mechanisms that could help London cover its cash requirements to build the line.

Some of these, such as increases in rail fares or council tax contributions, are likely to be unpopular.

In a city that elected its current mayor on a pledge to freeze fares for three years, a hike in prices as soon as that freeze ends will likely irk the capital’s commuters.

At the same time, persuading local authorities with already constrained budgets for much needed council tax contributions will also be a tough sell.

Even if these proposals are accepted, London First’s other money-raising suggestions are largely untested.

Capturing the uplifts in property and land prices that result from new transport schemes is something that needs exploring, and will no doubt be a crucial way of funding projects in the future.

However, in terms of land value capture for the Crossrail 2 project, the jury is still out on the best way to achieve this is, with Transport for London currently looking at a number of methods.

When the best option is selected, it will then need to be written into legislation – something that is bound to take years.

Another way of capturing the value uplifts of Crossrail 2 would be through the government ringfencing the resulting increases in stamp duty and business rate payments.

But getting the government – which has already been explicit on the limits for its funding package – to hand over this increased Treasury income will take some persuading.

The UK infrastructure market has historically been one that relies on government funding.

Looking at alternative ways to secure funding for major schemes through means is not something that comes naturally; doing it for a project the scale of Crossrail 2 is unprecedented.

Exploring alternative ways of funding major schemes has rarely met with success in recent years.

The £30bn project represents an opportunity to hone new innovative funding methods, which could be crucial to funding future schemes of similar scale.

However, significant deliberation and development is still needed over precisely what those methods should be.

With a hybrid bill expected to be tabled in 2021, the looming complexity of Crossrail 2’s funding puts that date under increasing pressure.

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