Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 6880 - 6899)

  6880. MS LIEVEN: Well, my Lords, there has been correspondence between the parties and the statement I just read out is agreed between the parties. I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.

  6881. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: I just wanted to see it because I wanted to see whether it altered the weight of anything we had relied upon, and that was all.

  6882. MS LIEVEN: I completely understand that, my Lord.

1  Para 6177 [Ms Lieven] (LINEWD-DREC15-012); and Para 6193 [Ms Lieven] (LINEWD-DREC15-014)

The following Petition against the Bill was read:

The Petition of the London Borough of Bexley.

MR NEIL CAMERON appeared on behalf of the Petitioner.

Sharpe Pritchard appeared as Agent.

  6883. MS LIEVEN: We now move on to the Petition of the London Borough of Bexley. My Lords, Bexley are now raising just one issue, that is, the argument that Crossrail should extend from Abbey Wood further east to Ebbsfleet.2[1] Now, my Lords, before I turn to the substance of the point, there is, in my submission, no doubt that the issue goes outside the principle of the Bill and it extends the railway beyond Abbey Wood. Whether the Committee feel they should hear, and consider, the matters that Mr Cameron wishes to put before you is something that I am going to leave entirely to the Committee, so I will just make a brief, factual opening as to why, if the Committee do decide to hear this Petition, we say that no action should be taken upon it.

  6884. The Committee will remember that Abbey Wood lies at the end of the south-eastern branch of Crossrail, going beyond the Isle of Dogs, and Ebbsfleet and the stations in between lie further to the east, and perhaps we could put up our Exhibit 1 just to show that.[2]3 This is the rail map of the existing services, and Mr Berryman will explain the existing services to you later, but just so that you can see how the rail network works, Abbey Wood lies here (indicating) and the services at the moment on the North Kent Line run east of Abbey Wood, so they go from London Bridge in Central London down to Abbey Wood and then they run east, including to Northfleet and then further on to the east, and Ebbsfleet would be a new station very close to Northfleet, and there is a concatenation of new development in that area. That is just to put the factual context of where we are.

  6885. If we can go back to the first exhibit, the Bill scheme involves rebuilding Abbey Wood Station from two platforms to four platforms so that people coming from the east on the services we have just looked at on the North Kent Line can very easily interchange at Abbey Wood by getting off their London Bridge services and simply walking across the platform to get on to a Crossrail service, and it is worth noting that, because this is the terminus of Crossrail, there will, certainly in the peak period, usually be a train sitting there waiting for them, so under the hybrid Bill scheme we have a very easy interchange at Abbey Wood.[3]4

  6886. Now, just to give your Lordships a little of the history, it is right to say that the Crossrail scheme, as envisaged in 2002, did involve Crossrail going all the way to Ebbsfleet and that there would be four trains an hour running beyond Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet. However, as the scheme was worked up post-2002, it became apparent that there were severe operational difficulties in running trains to Ebbsfleet because of the interaction with the North Kent Line and there was a very severe risk that those operational difficulties would disrupt the Crossrail services. Now, I am not going to try and explain that rather complicated diagram we put up a few minutes ago, I am going to leave that for Mr Berryman, but the conclusion was reached that the risks to the overall operation of Crossrail by running to Ebbsfleet were unacceptable and, in those circumstances, it was decided to terminate Crossrail at Abbey Wood. We will show you later, or Mr Cameron will, an extract from the Montague Report before the hybrid Bill was submitted where the view was taken that the risks were very high.

  6887. CHAIRMAN: So that decision was taken before the Bill went to Parliament?

The Petition of the London Borough of Bexley

  6888. MS LIEVEN: Before the Bill was submitted, so the hybrid Bill scheme has always been that Abbey Wood is the terminus. Alongside that work and as work has progressed on the scheme, it has been shown that some, albeit not all, of the operational difficulties could be overcome, and Mr Berryman will explain how much could be overcome, by widening the tracks between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet, and let us put up Exhibit 3.[4]5 Again, I am going to leave Mr Berryman to explain the detail of this, but it would be possible to widen the tracks at various critical points between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet which would overcome a large proportion of the operational difficulties, and that is known as `the four-tracking scheme'.

  6889. However, that four-tracking scheme is extremely expensive. The total outturn costs, and the outturn costs are the costs that we have used in front of this Committee, they are the costs that it would actually be to the Secretary of State, they come out at something in the region of £500 million to take the four-tracking from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet in order to reach an acceptable operational level, so it is very expensive and it is also very complicated because one has to work out a service pattern that fits in with all these rather complicated existing arrangements. The position of the Secretary of State is that Crossrail is already a very expensive and very complicated scheme and we do not believe that it is justified at the present time to add on this additional cost and additional complexity, so, in those circumstances, we are firmly opposed at this stage to any commitment to extend the railway to Ebbsfleet.

  6890. In terms of the benefits side of the equation, and it is just worth explaining the level of agreement because it may save the Committee a bit of time if you do hear these matters, we accept that there would be benefits in going to Ebbsfleet, and there is no issue about that. The line would go through areas of fairly high social deprivation and there would undoubtedly be regeneration benefits. Bexley are likely in the course of the morning to present evidence to you on the cost:benefit ratio for going to Ebbsfleet, weighing up the costs and the regeneration benefits. Now, although we do not accept all the detail of Bexley's figures, we do accept the principle that there will be a positive cost:benefit ratio and that it will be roughly commensurate with that for the scheme as a whole, so we are not going to argue in front of you about the level of what is called the `BCR', the benefit:cost ratio.

  6891. However, one important point to emphasise in opening is that, because of the very easy cross-platform interchange at Abbey Wood and because of the service to Abbey Wood, there will be considerable benefits to the people living between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet from the Crossrail proposal in any event, so this is not an all-or-nothing situation; there will be many benefits in any event from the hybrid Bill scheme.

  6892. Just before I finish, I should emphasise as well that there is nothing in the hybrid Bill scheme that stops some future extension to Ebbsfleet. First of all, in terms of the trains, the trains will have passive provision for dual voltage, and I do not want to get into the complexities of this because it is all agreed, but it will be possible for them to be upgraded in the future so that they can run to Ebbsfleet without any significant additional cost, so that is not an issue. The Secretary of State, as your Lordships will be aware, has safeguarded the two tracks to Ebbsfleet and the four-tracking solution, which I briefly explained to your Lordships, is currently being consulted upon for safeguarding purposes, so the safeguarding direction, which would ensure in effect that nobody could build something on the route that would make it much more difficult to four-track to Ebbsfleet in the future, that is being consulted upon at the present time, so there is nothing in the Bill that stops some further extension if that should be considered to be a sensible, economic and operational thing to do in the future, but we are clear that it is not a sensible thing to do at this stage.

  6893. My Lords, that is all I was going to say in opening, unless there is anything I can help the Committee with now.

  6894. CHAIRMAN: Mr Cameron, you realise that we have very limited powers in this respect. What is it that you want us to do?

  6895. MR CAMERON: My Lord, I do not know whether you and your colleagues have a copy of the exhibits which Bexley have put in.

  6896. CHAIRMAN: I have a copy of your case.

  6897. MR CAMERON: If your Lordship would go to pages 3 and 4, we have set out two options. Option 1 is our preferred option and Option 2 is an alternative if the Committee does not accept Option 1, so, in answer to your Lordship's question of what are we asking you to do, we are asking you to amend the Bill in the terms set out on page 3.[5]6 The purpose of that, my Lord, is to facilitate, so far as is possible and practicable at this stage, the future extension to Ebbsfleet, so we are not asking that there be any firm commitment to go to Ebbsfleet, although that is what Bexley would like, and we are not asking that any money be expended. What we are asking is that the provision be made so that, if a future Order is promoted under the Transport and Works Act, it is treated as if it were a scheme of national significance.

  6898. Can I just explain to the Committee that the amendment that we are proposing follows the wording that was adopted in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill, and what happened in those proceedings was that various Petitioners wished to support an international station at Stratford, which was not included in the Bill. Before the Select Committee in the House of Commons, the case was argued and what the Committee reported was in the broad terms set out as our Option 2 and we have taken the words from the Committee's Report on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill, apart from the reference to replacement procedure because that was not an issue at that time.[6]7 Then, following that report, at the consideration stage an amendment was introduced to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill in the terms set out at our Option 1 and at the time that that amendment was introduced, although the precise words were not used, the House of Commons took the view that that would not extend the scope of the Bill and, therefore, it was possible for that amendment to be introduced at the consideration stage. It is a rather long-winded answer to my Lordship's question, but that is what we are asking the Committee to do, and we are asking the Committee to do that on the basis of a precedent set by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill.

  6899. CHAIRMAN: Ms Lieven, I am not entirely clear about this. My recollection is that Lord Bassam at second reading said that the Government was considering safeguarding as far as Ebbsfleet, but you say they have already safeguarded two tracks.

1   2 Crossrail Ref: P49, Crossrail Line 1-Southeastern Route (LINEWD-OPN1-017) Back

2   3 Crossrail Ref: P49, North Kent Lines-Current Service Pattern (BEXYLB-44_04-001) Back

3   4 Crossrail Ref: P49, Crossrail Line 1-Southeastern Route (LINEWD-OPN1-017) Back

4   5 Crossrail Ref: P49, North Kent Lines-Proposed Service Pattern if Crossrail is extended to Ebbsfleet (BEXYLB-44_04-003) Back

5   6 Committee Ref: A35, Option 1-Recommend TWA Order plus amendment which designates scheme as scheme of national significance (BEXYLB-44_05A-003) Back

6   7 Committee Ref: A35, Option 2-Recommend TWA Order, with no amendments to the Bill (BEXYLB-44_05A-004) Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008