Crossrail Bill (carry-over)
October 23, 2007
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): For a project that is unlikely to cost less than £16 billion, ongoing questions about the need for Crossrail are legitimate. At a time when the Government have slashed plans for large-scale tram and train-link programmes outside London and the south-east, the amount being put into London might seem perverse. As a London Member, I have always supported Crossrail, but it is important that we go through the arguments at this juncture. My constituents ask, ?Why on earth do we need to have a further link running across central London?? There are relatively few votes in this issue for me or, I suspect, for any other London Member. Constituents who live in the firing line are perhaps rightly fearful of disruption, damage and inconvenience when the project is finally built.
I believe, however, that there is a great need in central London for the project, not least because of the big problems with capacity. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) pointed out, the project has been mooted for well over half a century, and only the Bakerloo line is running at less than full capacity. To return to the point made by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), a number of other tube lines have been extended north and south over the central area in the past 30 or so years. However, it is not practical simply to extend branch lines and bring more people into central London without the capacity-building that Crossrail will offer. It will be a proper addition to the infrastructure within the central district of the City and the zone 1 area, including the west end, which is increasingly important in commercial terms.
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington rightly makes the case about funding, but in previous Sessions the funding package was by no means in place. Indeed, the numbers being bandied around at that juncture were £10 billion to £13 billion, which makes me all the more sceptical about whether the project will necessarily remain within the budget of £16 million. That is the way of things with large-scale infrastructure projects.
I am sure that the Minister will have something to say about funding, but it appears that it is finally in place. The City of London corporation provided the vital piece in the jigsaw at its meeting at the beginning of October, although I appreciate that there are concerns about the precipitate decision that was required by the Treasury. However, it was always clear that a fairly substantial financial contribution would be required. My understanding is that there will be a one-off lump sum of £200 million and that the City of London corporation will lead efforts to raise a further £150 million from the City?s financial sector.
I also pay tribute to Canary Wharf, which is putting up a considerable sum?a rather larger sum than the City of London corporation, if rumours are to be believed. It will receive the benefit of a station in the Billingsgate market district of Canary Wharf, and that will undoubtedly make an immense difference to Canary Wharf?s capacity to build to the south and on South Quay. There will be a proper transport network for all those who wish to work or, indeed, play in that part of London.
The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) pointed out the immense value of getting the transport infrastructure right. Although I am reasonably sceptical of the figures being bandied about, there are estimates that City businesses lose more than £1 million a day because of transport delays. The net benefit of Crossrail will apparently be £30 billion over the next 60 years, and that does not even include its contribution to taxation. I accept that the figures might have been plucked from the sky, but it is essential to compare them with the large costs that will be incurred. The project will also help to create great prosperity and, as others Members have pointed out, the economic success of central London is essential. All recent surveys of businesses within central London have put transport failings and, in particular, public transport failings at the top of the wish-list of problems to be overcome. Crossrail is a positive step forward.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will forgive me for touching on one last point. I have ongoing concerns, on behalf of my constituents, about the route. I have discussed my concerns on many occasions, and many petitioners have had the opportunity to put their case during previous deliberations. The process will, no doubt, continue as the Bill goes to the House of Lords and proceeds through its stages, assuming that the carry-over motion is agreed today.
Without the funding, there was a big risk of a blight on the entire area?a risk that predates our discussions on the Bill. In many ways, it goes back to 1994, when various reserved areas were put in place. That has made life difficult for people living in Mayfair, the Barbican and Bayswater in my constituency, and, I suspect, for people in many other parts of London. They felt that the prospect of those works would lessen the value of their properties, and that a great deal of disruption was likely in the districts in which they lived. I hope that the Bill will move on with great speed. Clearly, there will be great inconvenience for many people who live in central London, or in the other parts of London that will be affected, but the benefits will be terrific in the years ahead. I am glad that Members of Parliament across the House, who perhaps recognise that there will be relatively few votes in the issue come election time, accept that there will be a greater benefit to the capital, and to the commercial and economic interests of the country.