The first phase of Crossrail is currently under construction across Greater London and the South East, scheduled to begin operation in 2018. As Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, it is expected to cost about £14.8 billion in its construction phase, and may have a GDP impact of £42 billion. At the same time, London is abuzz about Crossrail 2 after business group London First’s recent publication of its proposed route in support of business and employment growth.
Although a primary function of Crossrail is increasing transportation capacity, economic aims have also been central to the project. The project is expected to bring an addition 1.5 million people within 45 minutes of central London and its key business districts, resulting in agglomerative and employee time-saving benefits. While access to central London is at the heart of this agenda, the Crossrail business case acknowledges its regenerative capacity across the entire route:
“Crossrail can also enable the regeneration of areas around other stations along its route through improving accessibility with shorter journey times, and giving employers located along the route better access to a larger, more highly skilled labour market with more choice of skilled employees. This is likely to attract new private sector development, and increased employment densities, near Crossrail stations.”
Strategic investment is required to realise this aim, but financial constraints have reduced Crossrail plans for station improvements.Stations were preliminarily designed prior to the Crossrail Act’s Parliamentary introduction in May 2005 to give scope to what Crossrail might be able to deliver, and to enable preliminary impact assessments, with the understanding that design would continue to develop as the project progressed. When design work formally began following the Act’s Royal Assent, it became apparent that there would affordability challenges in delivering the programme exactly as it had been indicated in the preliminary design phase, and so some financial savings were realised by ‘downgrading’ planned station improvements.
Central London is the primary recipient of financing for station improvements, with six new stations under construction (for example, at Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon). This relative concentration of money for station improvements contrasts with Crossrail’s surface section. 11 of the 27 existing surface stations will undergo major reconstruction, nine of which are in outer London: West Drayton, Hayes & Harlington, Southall, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway, Acton Main Line, Abbey Wood, Ilford, and Romford. The remaining stations will receive a smaller scope of station improvements, such as minor architectural work or platform extensions.
Although much of the research on Crossrail is oriented towards central London, outer London has a significant position in the scheme; early estimations of the distribution of economic benefits attributed to Crossrail suggest that outer London may stand to experience more benefit than the city’s centre. Given that proposed station improvements have been curtailed in many locations, making the most of Crossrail investment is crucial. Maximising this investment is even more important given that communities in receipt of Crossrail stations may also be considered less suitable for other strategic investment or regeneration funding schemes such as the Outer London Fund. As contracts to deliver these upgrade projects will be awarded shortly, there is a pressing need to investigate solutions for maximising regeneration potential through these station investments, including considering detailed design in applications, as well as the importance of integration with the urban realm.