Crossrail is (almost) complete but the battle for TfL funding is far from over
The ‘Lizzie Line’ is good news for London – but it might be the last for a while without a funding settlement for the transport network
It says something that the relationship between London’s mayoral leadership and Westminster is now so toxic that both sides are attempting to claim credit for a project three years late and billions over-budget.
While that is more Whitehall’s fault than Sadiq Khan’s, that this (eventual) good news can be drowned out by politicking sums up the growing gap between this great city and the government just a few stops down the District Line from the Square Mile.
Anyway, in better news: Crossrail is to open, sort of, and what a boon it will be. The sheer speed of the thing is staggering – revolutionising how Londoners get across the river and opening up whole new swathes of particularly south east London to new development. It is unequivocally good news.
Much of the credit for its opening has to go Andy Byford, the Transport for London Commissioner. Whilst TfL will get much of the blame for the delay, it was Byford who demanded that the body be given full control of the project in 2020. That brought real grip to a process that had to that point been beset with more problems than the Circle Line has delays.
Byford will be cheered by Crossrail’s opening in the week that his beloved Plymouth Argyle just narrowly missed out on a chance at promotion, but even the unveiling of the Elizabeth Line will only be a temporary salve before the hard work of extracting some cash out of central government to keep London moving.
It is fair to say the Mayor Sadiq Khan was no vocal supporter of the government during his first term, and much of the pandemic. But the tone has softened notably in the last eighteen months, with offers to work constructively for the benefit of London and therefore the UK. Post-election the olive branch is obvious. A deal to properly fund TfL is on the top of his wishlist. A series of short-term deals is simply not good enough for the nation’s capital and the only global city this country has.
It says little for central government that on the day London had something to celebrate, it instead spent its time having a pop at the Mayor for playing politics.