With a plethora of talented engineers at our disposal and a rich history of leading the world in pioneering rail projects, it is depressing to witness Britain’s clumsy approach to improving the country’s transport links.
Commuter services into the City still woefully under-serve the UK’s economic engine.
Meanwhile, news has broken that Crossrail has succumbed to further delays (of up to a year) and a budget hike that could see the cost of the line approaching £17bn.
On top of the inconvenience to Londoners crammed on to existing services, the delay is also a blow to Transport for London (TfL) and its squeezed finances. TfL will presumably have to stump up extra cash and miss out on several months’ worth of fares, a double blow.
The situation is portentous for passengers in London and beyond, hoping for an improvement to services. In the capital, it is difficult to see how TfL will square the need for Crossrail 2, the Bakerloo Line extension, and so on, with its growing deficit. Fare hikes would be a necessary evil, yet could prove politically unfeasible with a mayoral election campaign on the horizon.
In other parts of the country, modern connections are badly needed, such as the proposed line from north west to north east once known as “High Speed 3”.
However, such schemes remain in the balance while the government blindly presses on with plans for the bizarrely expensive High Speed 2 (HS2). If Crossrail is anything to go by, don’t be surprised if the cost of HS2 heads towards an eye-watering £70bn, as predicted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which today sensibly calls for better ideas on how the government could spend the money.
Crossrail, when complete, will represent a remarkable feat of engineering, and provide a much-needed boost to Londoners and visitors landing at Heathrow. Better late than never, for sure. It is just a shame that our transport authorities seem incapable of seeing through more of these projects at a reasonable cost.