London’s Crossrail project facing £150 million funding gap, MPs warn

Crossrail trains wait for the completion of the Elizabeth Line at a depot at Old Oak Common, in west London.
Crossrail trains at a depot at Old Oak Common

Crossrail is facing a “serious” funding gap and there is uncertainty over how loans will be repaid, MPs have warned.

A report by the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated that the estimated cost of completing London’s new east-west railway exceeds current available funding by £150 million.

The predicted cost of finishing the project is now £18.9 billion.

The committee also expressed doubts over how and when Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority will repay taxpayer loans issued for the project amid the collapse in fares revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Transport (DfT) expects a £750 million loan to be “financed and repaid” from TfL’s own revenues, according to the report.

The PAC recommended that, by the end of November, the DfT and TfL should set out the latter’s revenue forecast scenarios and the subsequent impact on whether and when Crossrail’s loans will be repaid.

The railway will be known as the Elizabeth Line once it opens, with services running from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, via central London.

An information board for the new Elizabeth Line at Tottenham Court Road station

It was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010 and was initially due to be completed in December 2018.

But it has been hit by a number of problems including construction delays and difficulties installing complex signalling systems.

Trains are now due to begin running in the central section between February and June next year, with full services scheduled to launch in either December 2022 or May 2023.

Labour MP, Dame Meg Hillier, who chairs the PAC, said: “We are finally, thankfully seeing a clearer sense of ownership, responsibility and determination to complete the Crossrail programme from those in charge, but there remains a serious £150 million funding gap to finish the programme.

“There must be a focus now on finding real solutions to this.

“With fares down because of the ongoing impact of Covid, we also need more clarity on the plans and timescale for repaying the significant Government loans.”

TfL commissioner, Andy Byford, 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 project has my full, personal attention, the opening window continues to be what I have always said, namely the first half of 2022 and 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.”

A walkway for the new Elizabeth Line at Bond Street Station

Crossrail chief executive, Mark Wild, said: “The forecast cost of completing the project remains unchanged at £18.9 billion.

“Now, more than ever, Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the Elizabeth line will bring.”

He continued: “Significant progress has been made across the project with delivery of the Elizabeth line now in its final complex stages.”