Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill First Special Report


CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSION AND THE FUTURE OF THE PROJECT

250.  The House of Commons' Committee, in their First Special Report (HC 235-I) left a number of matters outstanding, not least the Railway clauses. These we have addressed elsewhere in the Report. They also drew particular attention to the need to enable members of the public to understand this enormous project and the way in which it may affect their community, their property, their businesses and their homes. We endorse that concern and, at the end of our proceedings, we wonder whether the material which had been made available by the Promoter has been assimilated by members of the public.

251.  There is a huge range of information in the form of the Information Papers, the Environmental Minimum Requirements, and the Register of Undertakings and Assurances. All these documents can be seen by any interested party—they are all online and have been updated throughout the Parliamentary proceedings in both Houses[36]. We urge the Promoter to continue to ensure that all information provided to the public is clear, accessible and comprehensive.

252.  We wish to stress that Petitioners' dialogues with the Promoter do not end with the publication of this Report. It will be important for both parties to continue to communicate with each other through construction and beyond to ensure that Crossrail is built with minimal disruption to those directly affected by its' construction.

253.  The Committee's view throughout proceedings has been that there are clearly many and continuing problems likely to encountered by those with properties or businesses above the running tunnels or adjacent to surface works but that machinery is in place to resolve these. We agree that the members of the public particularly affected by the works must have recourse to remedies to mitigate the nuisance they will suffer but we also believe that such remedies should not place an undue burden on public finances. There is a balance to be struck and where Petitioners sought our recommendation for measures which would overload the impact on public funds we had to decline.

254.  Petitioners will be protected by the Crossrail Environmental Minimum Requirements, Crossrail policies (as set out in their Information Papers), settlement deeds and other undertakings, assurances and deeds negotiated in specific cases with individual petitioners. Those affected by Crossrail will have access to the 24 hour Information and Helpline Service and, in some instances, to 'one stop shops'.

255.  We expect the helpline service to be an effective means for individuals with complaints and concerns to channel their views. In particular we expect the nominated undertaker to ensure that the staff employed on the helpline are sufficient in number and expertise and are able to deal tactfully and helpfully with callers. Above all, we expect that there will be no resort to a system of disembodied voices and call queuing.

256.  A Complaints Commissioner will be appointed to act as a form of Ombudsman and investigate any cases forwarded to him/her. The Commissioner will be a person of suitable stature and relevant qualifications and will be independent. Local Authorities will also be active in taking measures to protect their residents and will ensure that the Construction practices, which have been agreed by all local authorities along the route, are observed.

257.  Community Liaison Groups also have an important role to play in ensuring that those affected are fully informed and have an opportunity to discuss their concerns and frustrations with the Promoter. As was noted by several Petitioners, such a device proved very useful in the case of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link construction in the King's Cross area of London—the London Borough of Camden set up and chaired just such a Group which was successful in giving satisfaction over many issues. It is proposed that such groups should operate along the Crossrail route. It has to be said, however, that to be of any use the Group must include members of the local community who are fully prepared to participate. Such an organisation cannot be imposed and will never function without the element of trust and cooperation respected by all concerned.

258.  Our Committee was presented with far fewer Petitions than the House of Commons' Committee; not least because we did not have to deal with any Additional Provisions and their accompanying new rounds of petitioning. Before us a great many Petitions were settled as a result of diligent and patient negotiation by both parties; in other instances a compromise was reached before the scheduled hearing date or after the hearing. In such cases the basis for agreement was often another undertaking or assurance which will now appear in the Register.

259.  With the publication of this Report the Committee has formally reported the Bill. The Bill will now go through its remaining stages in the House of Lords (Committee on re-commitment, Report and Third Reading) before being returned to the House of Commons for consideration of amendments. When both Houses have agreed the provisions of the Bill the Bill will gain Royal Assent and become an Act. A nominated undertaker can then be appointed, contracts can be let and Crossrail construction can then commence.

260.  We have made some minor, technical amendments to the Bill and have amended clause 16 (for an explanation of why we have amended clause 16 in this way see Appendix 13). When the Bill returns to the House it is proposed that ministers will move amendments to omit clauses 23-34 which have been overtaken by the decision of the Rail Regulator in early May to grant an Access Option to Crossrail under the Railways Act 1993. There remains some concern over clauses 40-41 (especially clause 41(3)) and their retention can be discussed in the Chamber. For the benefit of the House a note on clauses 40 and 41, presented by the Promoter to the Committee, is published as Appendix 12 to this Report.


36   These documents can be found online at: http://billdocuments.crossrail.co.uk/ Back


 
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