05:29PM, Wednesday 03 November 2021
Photo from Crossrail Ltd
The long-awaited Crossrail project which will link Maidenhead to central London and beyond is facing a £150million funding shortfall, a Parliament committee has revealed.
A report by the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – published on Friday – said that the estimated cost of completing the railway could significantly exceed available funding.
The project has been faced with a series of delays over the years and was initially meant to be completed in 2018 – however last year, Crossrail chiefs predicted a full line completion date of 2023.
Once finished, the route – known as the Elizabeth line – will run from Maidenhead in the west into central London and on to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, and will be operated by Transport for London (TfL).
The plan is to improve connectivity between the Thames Valley and the capital and reduce journey times.
The issue of a £150million funding gap arose when a Crossrail progress update report was debated by PAC last month, with concerns raised over how TfL will be able to pay back billions in taxpayer loans used for the project because of falling passenger numbers.
Mark Wild, Crossrail’s chief executive, has maintained that the forecast cost of completing the project ‘remains unchanged’ at £18.9billion.
“To date, the taxpayer has provided nearly £2.9billion in loans to TfL and the Greater London Authority to fund Crossrail Ltd’s costs on the programme,” the PAC report said.
“However, this funding may still not be enough, with Crossrail Ltd’s middle estimate cost of the programme in July 2021 coming in £150million above its current available funding, thus potentially creating a shortfall.”
It added: “Our 2019 reports found that funding for Crossrail had increased by £2.8billion to £17.6billion.
“Since then, Crossrail Ltd’s estimate of the cost to complete the Elizabeth line has increased to £18.9 billion, 28 per cent more than the £14.8billion budget set in 2010.”
Latest projections predict that the central section of the line will open in the first half of next year, with full east-west services starting in May 2023.
Maidenhead travellers can expect to access the central London stations from Berkshire in autumn 2022.
Andy Byford, TfL’s commissioner, said: “While I understand that everyone wants to know the specific opening date for the Elizabeth line, this will not be confirmed until we are completely satisfied that we are ready to go.
“The final cost will not exceed a penny more than the budget which TfL inherited when it assumed full control of the project under my direction.”
Mr Wild added: “Crossrail Ltd welcomes the PAC’s latest report. The next phase of the programme, trial operations, will commence later this year and will mark the final step before passenger services can commence next year.
“The forecast cost of completing the project remains unchanged at £18.9billion.”
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