May 21, 2012 1:12 am

London urged to start work on Crossrail 2

Detailed planning must start urgently on a £15bn north-south rail link for London to avoid the capital’s underground system “grinding to a halt” in the next 20 years, the government has been warned.

The scheme, dubbed Crossrail 2, envisages building a new underground line, which could link Wimbledon in south-west London to Tottenham in the north-east by the end of next decade.

The capital’s population is expected to grow by 1.2m to more than 8.8m by 2031, with an extra 750,000 jobs created, negating the capacity improvements under way to relieve congestion during peak hours.

Capacity is set to increase by a third over the next 10 years as the Tube network benefits from a multibillion pound upgrade along with the £16bn Crossrail project that will connect east and west London by the end of this decade.

But by 2031, projections from Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail predict that commuters will once again face squeezing into overflowing train and tube carriages, particularly in south-west and north-east London.

A report by London First, the business lobby group, will on Monday urge the government and TfL to start detailed planning immediately for Crossrail 2 to avoid the delays that have hamstrung previous projects.

Boring machines started work on the east-west tunnels for Crossrail last month but it has taken 40 years to get to this stage.

“The issue is whether we want to start planning for Crossrail 2 now or leave it until the early 2030s when the congestion is upon us and let London grind to a halt like we did with the Tube in the 1980s and 1990s, which did a lot of economic damage to London,” said Lord Adonis, the former Labour transport secretary who chaired the London First working group looking into the new line.

The lobbying comes before a TfL review of the proposed route for Crossrail 2 next year. The initial blueprint did not foresee a station at Euston, which planners now believe is essential since the government gave the green light to a high speed rail line from that station to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

There are two options under consideration: a shorter metro line costing an estimated £10bn that would only go as far south as Clapham Junction and north to Seven Sisters; or a full-scale rail line, similar to Crossrail, that would connect with mainline services at Tottenham Hale in the north and Wimbledon in the south, at a cost of about £15bn.

Lord Adonis would not be drawn on which option he preferred but the report found that the bigger scheme would generate better economic benefits, equivalent to about twice the costs, as it offers greater improvements for rail commuters from outer London and the home counties.

Work was under way to develop a credible funding plan, said Lord Adonis, adding that the proposals had “strong support from the business community”. A special levy on London businesses is funding a quarter of the £16bn cost of Crossrail.

Theresa Villiers, transport minister, said it was for Boris Johnson, London mayor, and TfL to take the lead in developing the capital’s transport strategy.

But the government was “working with them to examine future infrastructure and investment opportunities” and the London First

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