Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 4700 - 4719)

  4700. CHAIRMAN: You say "we", who is "we"?
  (Mr Schabas) I was retained by Union Railways which was the Government's Promoter for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project, and we were facing environmental legislation really for the first time, but we were very keen not to get, I guess, into this kind of debate here actually. We thought, "Let's just do our job, let's look at the reasonable alternatives. We don't really care that badly which route we go on. We don't have a set view. We would just like to build a railway, so, if there is a better route, let's find it". In the case of Ashford, for example, there was a strong view that we should go around Ashford and then quite late in the process actually we changed and went through the middle of Ashford because, although it turned out to be a bit more expensive, it was better in other ways. I do not remember the details exactly, but this was the case all along CTRL and we had a common point in that it had to come from the Channel Tunnel and it had to go to London. We even changed the terminal, as you know, from King's Cross to St Pancras quite late in the process, but again it was identifying alternatives and the job was, "Let's get them out, let's get the alternatives out so that people can see them. Let's expose what we can tell about them, how much they cost. Obviously if there is a fatal flaw, if the scheme means tunnelling under the NatWest Tower, then it is probably not going to work, it'll be very expensive, but, otherwise, let's tease out the alternatives and let's run with the ones that look serious". Obviously you could come up with hundreds of alternatives and that was not the point, but, "Let's try harder to find three or four realistic ones which have sort of the main differences, the dominant alternatives". Looking here, coming from Liverpool Street and going to Whitechapel, it is pretty obvious that Whitechapel Road is pretty straight—

  4701. MR HORTON: Just while you are saying this, I have put up a plan which I showed the Committee yesterday, taken from the Eastern Portal Bow Triangle Option Study dated 28 March 2001 and it may help if you speak by reference to it.[11]

  (Mr Schabas) Clearly, one alternative, which is the one the Promoters selected, swings to the north and uses as much of the old safeguarded route out of Liverpool Street as possible and gets it as close as they could to the railway and I think they were planning to use it for construction and to have the conveyor, which they eventually dropped, but of course it goes under an historic area. It is more low-rise buildings, but there are some buildings with pile foundations that it goes underneath and that is the route they selected. Whitechapel Station is not ideal actually. If you look at the model, you can see that the pedestrian interchange is quite poor and it is only the one connecting tunnel between the two stations and of course you have the curve at Liverpool Street which adds, I am told, three seconds which is worth a few million pounds in the lifetime of the project, which is probably not very important, but I am not sure, I do not see that written on a sheet of paper anywhere in the table. I would expect to have seen, and on Channel Tunnel Rail Link we would have produced, a table saying, "Now, there is alignment B which has a different interchange", and, looking at it, I think possibly a better interchange at Whitechapel could be created because you are right alongside the existing station, although you are underground. It goes under buildings of really little historical interest because the Whitechapel Road area was, I think, pretty much all cleared by the Luftwaffe. It does go under some buildings with pile foundations along Whitechapel Road, mostly four-storey buildings, and I guess in the extreme case you could even demolish one of these, but I think the engineers should be able to get through and under that kind of a problem. There are the issues right up at Bishopsgate about the Heron Tower and the other proposed towers which were just proposals at the time.

  4702. CHAIRMAN: One of them has got planning permission now.
  (Mr Schabas) Yes, one of them is under construction now.

  4703. MR HORTON: Mr Schabas, the one which has planning permission, if I may lead, is Heron Tower. Is that right?
  (Mr Schabas) I believe so. I believe it is under construction, but I think also the plan indicates that does not actually necessarily conflict with it even as it is now being built. It seems to me back when this study was done --- I am surprised they kept it secret, that would be the first thing. Why did they not—

  4704. MR HORTON: Can you just look at this plan on the screen.[12] The brown is the site of Heron Tower, I am instructed.

  4705. MR ELVIN: What was this map?
  (Mr Schabas) That was the Heron Tower site there, I believe, and the Alignment B is that tunnel there which goes pretty close to it but appears to miss it.

  4706. LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN: It goes under it.
  (Mr Schabas) No, that one (Indicating).

  4707. CHAIRMAN: Route C goes under it; Route B does not.
  (Mr Schabas) That is C and that is B (Indicating). Of course, it does go under Cutlers Gardens which has some eight and ten-storey buildings and some other old buildings.

  4708. MR HORTON: Just pause there. Is Cutlers Gardens an entirely new development?
  (Mr Schabas) This part is new, this part is old (Indicating). If this route did not exist --- I worked with engineers on rail projects in different cities and projects that have been built, they would have found a way to go through here or under here (Indicating). I would have thought that if you were promoting this scheme back in 2000, 2001, 2002, you would say, "I want to go from Liverpool Street to Whitechapel. What are the pros and cons of the different routes?" But it does not appear they did that.

  4709. MR HORTON: Can we compare that plan which shows the actual Heron Tower site, which is now under construction with a public highway on the north side—I am pointing with my pen, if that is acceptable there—with a plan which the Promoters produced to a letter dated 4 March 2007 from my learned friend, Mr Elvin?[13]

  4710. MR ELVIN: Can I have the reference of it?

  4711. MR HORTON: Yes, it is page 16 in the Petitioners' bundle of documents. Has that road been shown on this plan of the Promoters (Indicating)? Does it help to compare the two?
  (Mr Schabas) Yes, they are showing the development as blocking up their road.

  4712. Whereas, as you understand it, in fact does the Heron Tower site extend over that roadway, which I point to with that pen (Indicating)?
  (Mr Schabas) I do not think it does.

  4713. MR HORTON: No, thank you. May I ask you a question on a matter you spoke to a moment ago. It may be helpful for this purpose to go to—I have it put up on the screen—the passage in the March 2001 report. Sorry, it is so heavily marked, my Lords and my Lady. We know that Alignments B and C are set to pass below known piled buildings, proposed developments and then there is a reference to a planning application, Stone House and Staple Hall, subsequently withdrawn. In your experience, is the fact that a site happens to be the subject of a planning application, let alone a withdrawn planning application—

  4714. CHAIRMAN: Mr Horton, it does not matter. We are dealing with the situation as it is today.

  4715. MR HORTON: Certainly, thank you, my Lord, but of course such a situation could recur. I am just taking the point of principle.

   (Mr Schabas) It would, though. I think it is right to put that in there because you try to design your project not to interfere with likely or proposed development as well. To me that is a perfectly valid thing to say, "There is a development site there, we'd like to avoid it", because, although they have withdrawn their application, they are going to come back and try again. I would like to see that on a table where somebody says, "Oh, but by the way we can go over the other route, we go under Spitalfields". There is nothing comparative here. Everything is absolute. They are saying what is not right about this route and they are not weighing it with the alternatives. It goes under known pile foundations, so does the route that they are proposing to build. Is one better or worse, that is the comparative work and nowhere—and this applies to the other places on Crossrail where they are being challenged on the route—they do not make a comparative evaluation, they just tell you what is wrong with it. Of course any railway under an urban area is going to have lots of things wrong with it, but I cannot tell whether this is better or worse than the one they are promoting and, frankly, I suspect this may be better than the one I have seen.

  4716. Why do you, as you say, suspect that B might be better?

   (Mr Schabas) I think the reason they went the other way was to be near the tunnelling site, it was to do with their tunnelling strategy. They got into that strategy and they have changed the tunnelling strategy and they do not want to go back and start re-opening a can of worms. That is one of the risks you always face in these projects: you make a decision early on that sends you down one route and you say, "Oh my God, you know, the reason we did it has changed. Maybe we should have gone the other way". Honestly, I cannot tell. I think they rushed the early stages in the process.

  4717. Do you know anything about comparative lengths?
  (Mr Schabas) I believe Route B is shorter, it is more direct, it would have less speed-restricting curves, it would cost less to run and it does not go under a historic area.

  4718. On the face of it.
  (Mr Schabas) On the face of it, it looks like something --- Its disadvantage is it appears to go near to some development sites with substantial buildings that were planned, one of which is now being built, but it does not appear that it necessarily even conflicts with that now.

  4719. You referred the Committee earlier to your view that if a route, in fact, has to go under buildings with piled foundations, in certain circumstances Promoters will consider purchasing that building. What is the reason for that?
  (Mr Schabas) I am saying that in the worst case that is what you can do. If it is not a major building—

11   Committee Ref: A28, CrossRail Eastern Portal-Bow Triangle Option, CrossRail Tunnel Alignments between Liverpool Street and Bow Triangle (SCN-20080313-014) Back

12   Committee Ref: A26, Alignment Options A, B and C (SCN-20080313-015) Back

13   Committee Ref: A26, CrossRail Tunnel Alignments between Liverpool Street and Bow Triangle (SCN-20080313-016) Back

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