The sudden announcement that London’s expected new rail network would be delayed has led to growing concerns on what the implications might be for London’s cash-strapped transport body as it comes under increasing financial strain.
Last Friday (August 31) it was announced that the opening of the £15bn Crossrail line would be delayed until autumn 2019. Crossrail Ltd cited delays in fitting out the tunnel and testing software systems that control signalling, lighting and other essential services which in turn cut into the time available for safety testing.
The delay could cause more problems for TfL’s finances with the introduction of Crossrail planned to play an important part in its business plan.
At the start of the year, Val Shawcross, the deputy mayor of transport for London, warned of the network’s significance by stating any failure to deliver the project on time would be the biggest revenue risk to the organisation.
"Details of how we will manage the change will be announced as part of our annual business planning process at the end of 2018."
Transport for London spokesperson.
Although providing a stark warning while speaking at a London Assembly meeting, she looked to allay concerns by stating “all was well” with the Elizabeth Line.
In January, Shawcross said: “The business plan is completely reliant on tube income for our revenue expenditure, any failure to deliver the project on time would be a major revenue risk but so far looking at it every day as we do in detail, all is well on the Elizabeth line and things are moving ahead very well. It is a very significant project, 10% of London’s rail capacity will be lifted overnight and that is definitely one to watch.”
But assurances the railway would be delivered on time have not proved to be fruitful and bosses now need to reassess what impacts a delay might have.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that TfL was planning for a near £1bn deficit next year due to a fall in passenger numbers and thanks to government grants being axed that were worth £700m a year.
Bosses attempted to play down the deficit by highlighting Crossrail revenue as a key factor to ensure it remained on course to achieve an operating surplus by 2021.
Now questions are being asked on what this means for future investment in London transport infrastructure and whether the fare freeze imposed by Sadiq Khan will continue for Londoners against a backdrop of tightening budgets.
Responding to the impacts of a Crossrail delay, a TfL spokesperson told Infrastructure Intelligence that implications would be assessed following last Friday’s announcement.
“Details of how we will manage the change will be announced as part of our annual business planning process at the end of 2018,” the spokesperson added. “The predicted revenue from the opening of the central section was mainly attracted from other TfL services, for example customers switching from the Central and Jubilee lines to the Elizabeth line, rather than being brand new revenue from new sources.”