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Is Crossrail 2 in danger of hitting the buffers?

Is Crossrail 2 in danger of being derailed?  

While HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse got namechecks in today’s 85-page Tory manifesto, the £31bn cross-London rail project was conspicuous by its absence.

It is worrying times for Crossrail 2 as chancellor Philip Hammond also neglected to mention it in his Budget in March.

This may not be the end of the line for the rail mega project as the Department of Transport is still considering the business case. But the manifesto gives an intriguing view on what the Tories’ priorities are likely to be for transport infrastructure, if they regain power.

For some years, the Conservatives have been committed to the idea of rebalancing the UK economy away from London and the south-east. David Cameron’s government introduced the concept of the Northern Powerhouse and now Theresa May is pushing this agenda.

Clearly Mrs May is aware that voters feel there is too much concentration of power in the capital. 

Improving links to the north of England and across the region – through HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse (or HS3 as it also referred to) – is likely to win favour with many voters in this part of the country.

The newly elected metro mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool have also put pressure on the government to commit to the Northern Powerhouse ahead of Crossrail 2.

But is the fact that Crossrail 2 sits lower down the agenda also an acknowledgement that availability of construction workers – particularly in London – could be an issue post-Brexit? With tighter controls on immigration likely, there will only be a finite amount of labour to tackle these mega projects.

Transport for London said it wanted to see Crossrail 2 included in all the political parties’ manifestos. The body will be satisfied with Labour and the Lib Dems as both committed to the project in their respective manifestos.

But for the manifesto that is likely to count, TfL has been left disappointed.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will also no doubt be on the phone to 10 Downing Street about the omission. He claims that a failure to go ahead with the project could cause a “meltdown” for the south of England’s transport network. 

With Crossrail’s first stage set to launch this month, bosses at Crossrail 2 and contractors hoping to get a slice of the pie will be looking on enviously as they wait for the green light for the follow-up project.

Judging by today’s evidence, it could be an agonising wait.

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