Philip Glanville: The axing of Crossrail 2 will hold back London’s town centres

Philip Glanville: The axing of Crossrail 2 will hold back London’s town centres

It is sad but perhaps inevitable that in line with its anti-London rhetoric, the government has mothballed Crossrail 2, which as Alexander Jan wrote for On London, is a complete U-turn in transport policy. Buried within the funding settlement being forced on Transport for London, it’s a decision that owes more to political positioning than economic, regeneration or transport sense, but that’s something we have become used to over the last year.

As Mayor of Hackney, I’ve long campaigned in support of Crossrail 2, together with council leaders and fellow Mayors in north and east London. Representing a borough without a Tube station, Crossrail 2 would transform our links with central and south east London and create jobs for our residents. It would also relieve pressures on existing infrastructure like the London Overground and, at Dalston Kingsland, create a fully accessible station and connection into Central London.

While I can reluctantly live with the decision, its shambolic handling leaves councils and businesses concerned with where that leaves years of planning for economic growth and new housing in our town centres – at the very time our high streets need certainty to rebuild after the pandemic.

As part of the planning for a new route, the Department for Transport, over many generations and false starts – remember the Chelsea-Hackney line? – safeguarded sites in Dalston and Shoreditch, effectively stopping any redevelopment or major investment in areas where a new rail line might be built. We’ve spent years working with the Crossrail 2 team to amend these rules and ensure that places of community value like Ridley Road Market are protected and heritage assets retained in any plan.

Put simply, leaving those old unaltered restrictions in place and kicking the project into the long grass, with no clarity about the future, will put those protections, new homes, businesses and jobs at risk. We’ve spent the last two years speaking to residents in Dalston about what they want the future of the area to look like. What should we tell them now that the biggest investment in a generation has been canned?

With large areas of both Hackney Central and Dalston subject to safeguarding directions, major strategic sites such as the Kingsland Shopping Centre, Clapton Bus Garage and land around Hackney Central station will be hamstrung from development, without any certainty that Crossrail 2 will go ahead. It will severely limit the future potential of our town centres and their key gateway stations.

If the government isn’t serious about delivering this transformative project for London, it must level with the public now and remove this red tape and uncertainty, so that local people and all affected councils can get on with delivering their ambitions – not leaving our town centres to stagnate when they need investment most.

This is also a levelling up issue. The benefits of investing in transport infrastructure don’t just stay in London. Already, TfL estimates that 55 pence in every £1 it commits to procurement is spent in the regions, creating and sustaining jobs. Our construction and transport industries need green, shovel-ready projects that will keep their expertise and experience put to use, from the Elizabeth Line on to High Speed 2 and Crossrail 2 as well.

Coronavirus continues to devastate our present, but it shouldn’t destroy the long-term growth and sustainability of Hackney nor our capital as a whole. London’s economy continues to shift eastwards, but that needs to be underpinned by the right infrastructure.

Margaret Thatcher notoriously once said in relation to the similarly abandoned Chelsea-Hackney line: “Why would people in Chelsea want to go to Hackney?” She was wrong then and it would be a shame for communities all along the Crossrail 2 route if the same mistake was made again by the current occupant of Number 10. We can’t wait until the 2030s or 2040s for these plans to be dusted off again.

OnLondon.co.uk exists to provide fair and thorough coverage of the UK capital’s politics, development and culture. It depends greatly on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up London news, views and information from a wide range of sources. Click here to donate directly or contact davehillonlondon@gmail.com for bank account details. Thanks.

Categories: Comment

6 Comments

  1. Kyle Harrison says:

    Margaret Thatcher notoriously once said in relation to the similarly abandoned Chelsea-Hackney line: “Why would people in Chelsea want to go to Hackney?”

    And people say Maggie didn’t have a sense of humour! Ha!

  2. M Davies says:

    What short memories you have!

    For over 15 years London has seen £2 per capita spent compared to £1 per capita in the UK outside of London. I remember CR2 being announced in a blaze of silence to keep it under the radar. I have seen Cardiff/Swansea electrification “postponed” despite it being 1/2 the cost of one London station! We taxpayers have seen no end to our hard earned money being in spent in London on the pretext “its the capital”. If you were to wander outside the M25 you would find a whole new world deprived of investment by previous governments. The only investments make it is easy to get to London but try getting from Liverpool to York or even worse Chester, half the distance yet double the time!

    It is not anti-London rhetoric but a redistribution of funding, it is time the rest of the UK had a slice of the pie before its too late, after all we have all paid for it.

    1. Dave Hill says:

      Per capita spending is missing the point. What matters is spending per passenger journey – ie, the amount of use to which transport capacity is put. Do the sums that way and and you get a very different answer, one which recognises that transport within London is used every day by millions who live elsewhere.

      1. M Davies says:

        The reason passenger journey is higher is we cant get anywhere by rail as the investment wasn’t put there in the first place so we are forced to use our own mode of transport unlike london which is impossible to drive round and even if any moderate success is achieved you give an arm and leg to park.

    2. Dave Hill says:

      Furthermore, London taxes raised in London subsidise the rest of the UK outside the south east to the tune of nearly £40 billion a year. The idea that the reverse is true is a “red wall” fib legitimised by Conservative politicians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.