The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission has admitted that the recent general election could delay a decision to move forward with Crossrail 2.
Lord Adonis, who served as transport secretary between October 2008 and June 2009, said he was still “hopeful” a decision on the £31bn project could be made in the “next couple of months” and was confident the Crossrail 2 team could deliver this.
However, he conceded that the election, which saw prime minister Theresa May lose her majority in parliament, could lead to a delay on a decision over the project.
He said: “[The] election could potentially delay the project moving forward but I’m confident it won’t due to its cross-party support.”
Transport for London had initially planned to work on a hybrid bill for the new rail line, which would be submitted in 2019.
However, when asked if this deadline would still be met, Crossrail 2 head of commercial Simon Adams said the government would need to reassess whether that was still a realistic milestone.
He said: “It is still our planning assumption, but the world has changed in the last week and we would have to get revalidation from the government on those assumptions.”
Crossrail 2 is looking at ways of bringing down the cost of the £31bn mega-project in a bid to secure backing from the government, but has ruled out cancelling any parts of the current scheme.
Lord Adonis told Construction News the team behind Crossrail 2 was looking at cost-cutting and also reassessing what level of contribution should come from London.
He said: “Yes [we are looking to cut costs], we are looking to make the project better value for money and the funding package is also currently being worked on.”
He added: “The commitment was for the mayor to fund at least 50 per cent of construction costs and the government to fund 50 per cent of construction costs; both sides are looking at that at the moment.”
Backed by the mayor and Transport for London, the £31bn rail line would run from north-east to south-west London. Last year the then chancellor George Osborne handed TfL £80m to support the scheme’s development.
A report by the National Infrastructure Commission found that up to £4bn could be saved from Crossrail 2’s overall costs if the north-western branch to New Southgate was delayed.
There have been question marks over the government’s commitment to the project recently after it was dropped from the Conservative manifesto.
Construction News reported this week that the mayor of London Sadiq Khan had written to the chancellor Philip Hammond in February urging him to publicly back the project amid fears that the government was “cooling” on the scheme.
TfL submitted the outline business case for Crossrail 2 to the government in March, with the Treasury and the Department for Transport now assessing whether to take the project forward and what level of funding it will be given.
Mr Adams admitted that the project faced affordability and funding challenges but ruled out any “descoping” of the current proposal.
He said: “What is a challenge is affordability and funding issues. We need to look at how costs are likely to fall and a funding model to understand what is achievable; to do that we might have to look at how we time our construction spend.”
He added that the way the project was scheduled would be crucial to ensure the need for skills on other major projects did not drive up costs.
“Timing of construction spend is important, as there will be a number of other major projects such as Hinkley and HS2 being delivered at a similar time,” he said. “What we are keen to do is to time our spend so it doesn’t drive inflation in the market.”