Crossrail finally gets the go ahead

So we have Crossrail at last. It may be somewhat the wrong scheme, not going to the right places – who wants to travel from the wilds of Kent to Maidenhead? – but it is nevertheless an essential part of London’s plans for growth and certainly better than doing nothing. But if anything illustrates the inability of the British planning system to cope with major projects, it is this. It has been so long in gestation that most of those who would have benefitted from the original scheme are dead or retired!
Governments have never recognised the value of the railways to the economy and the Treasury has always been able to ride roughshod over the Department for Transport. So rather than being up and running now, the scheme will not be open until the back end of the next decade. Even now, so little urgency is being shown, with construction not due even to start until 2010.
At least a new method of funding infrastructure through business paying an extra levy, which is a model that should be copied elsewher. Moreover, the scheme is not going to be a crazy PFI project, a recognition that the risks of tunnelling under London are just too great to try to pass on to the private sector. But when costs soar, I bet it will be the public sector that gets the blame, even though it is highly likely that the increase will be a result of the sheer complexity of the task.
It’s amazing what the imminence of an election can do. Perhaps we should have them more often.

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