Examination of Witnesses (Questions 7340
7340. In my submission, this Option has a significantly
stronger effect, if your Lordships were to accept it, than Mr
Cameron perhaps suggested in opening. My Lords, the reason why
I, on behalf of the Secretary of State, am strongly opposed to
accepting this Option, or indeed the second Option, is that, as
I will turn to in a moment, in my submission, it is plainly not
justified on the evidence at the present time. But then, what
Mr Cameron is trying to do on behalf of his client is to bind
the Secretary of State's hands for the future. So he is trying,
effectively, to say that this scheme, the Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet
extension, should get a very high priority if not a top priority
in terms of being promoted as a TWA. In my submission, the question
of whether it should be promoted as a TWA post-Royal Assent is
one that should be judged at the time on the basis of a cost:benefit
ratio done at that time, but also, critically, by being judged
against, particularly, other transport schemes at that time and
other calls on the budgetwhether you look at them as a
transport budget or the more general budget.
7341. A great deal has been made in Bexley's
case that this scheme has a positive cost-benefit analysis, but
there may be many, manyindeed there areother transport
schemes around England and Wales that have a positive cost:benefit
ratio. That does not mean they are all going to be built, it means
that the Department of Transport or other funding bodies have
to look at them on a comparative basis and work out whether any
particular one should be taken forward or not. That will be a
judgment both of the cost:benefit ratio but, also, of what the
available pot of funds is.
7342. The effect of this Option is to try to
push Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet to the top of the queue, and in my
submission there is absolutely nothing to justify that in the
evidence that we have heard today.
7343. My Lords, that is my submission on the
effect of this Option and what Bexley are, in truth, trying to
do. Their second Option is merely a variant because it is, again,
trying to put pressure on the Secretary of State albeit only through
asking the Committee to make a recommendation. In my submission,
it would be quite wrong to, effectively, just sweep this in as
"a very good thing" when the Committee has no evidence
on the various different calls on the transport budget, and the
potentially greater benefit of other schemes judged up and down
the country by the Secretary of State for Transport. That is what
Bexley are trying to achieve, and, in my submission, the Committee
should step back from that and not, therefore, accept either option.
7344. Can I then turn briefly to the merits,
just to pull the various points together. The reasons that we
say extending to Ebbsfleet is not justified now on the evidence
is, first of all, the very high cost, over half-a-billion pounds,
which on any analysis is a very great deal of public money. We
are back to where we were on PRMs but on a grander scale. Even
in the cost of 16 billion for Crossrail, 500 million going to
Ebbsfleet is a vast amount of money when there are lots of other
things that 500 million could be spent on just within the transport
budget. The benefit:cost ratio does not mean that it is simply
a good use of public funds; what it means is there are benefits,
and significant benefits, but that is not in dispute. The first
point is very high cost.
7345. The second point is that there are very
significant benefits to the people east of Abbey Wood and to the
employment prospects east of Abbey Wood from Crossrail in any
event. I made this point in opening. This is not an all or nothing
situation for the people who live around those intermediate stations
because there will be a major benefit to them from being able
to go to Abbey Wood and make a quick and easy interchange. I do
emphasise that it is not just the time savings, it is also the
getting on to the direct service, the not having to go through
London Bridge and all the crowding that goes on there and the
very reliable service that Crossrail is intending to provide.
7346. The third point is that there are about
to be very significant improvements to the transport infrastructure
in this area in any event, and I would highlight three. First
of all, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link domestic service from Ebbsfleet
which, slightly strangely, Mr Donovan seemed to downgrade suddenly
on the grounds he was not terribly interested in Ebbsfleet, he
was only interested in the stations in Bexley. In terms of the
Committee asking itself how much benefit do we get from 500 million
in real terms, in my submission it is extremely relevant that
there is going to be this high-speed, high-quality link from Ebbsfleet
straight into Central London, nothing to do with Crossrail. The
second is the DLR to Woolwich because it will make it much easier
for people to just go straight through to Woolwich Arsenal and
then change on to the DLR. It is really to the employment areas
of the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf that that will make a critical
difference. So if you live in south-east London and you want to
work in Canary Wharf you can go that way; if you live in south-east
London and you want to work in the West End or the City then you
will have the option of going to Ebbsfleet or Abbey Wood. The
third upgrade is the one Mr Berryman mentioned, which is as a
spin-off benefit from Thameslink. There is going to be a considerable
increase in capacity around London Bridge which will, it is hoped,
improve reliability and service patterns in this area. We are
looking at major changes in any event. I would ask the Committee
to be very waryI have not gone through them in length because
I just did not feel it was worth the Committee's timebut
to be very wary of a lot of the material about how many people
can get where, with or without Crossrail, because there are all
these different things going on here. For instance, the figures
about 45 minutes from Belvedere will be affected by other proposals
in the area, so all those benefit:cost ratio material need to
be treated with significant care.
7347. CHAIRMAN: Ms Lieven, I was looking
at Bexley exhibits from 26 onwards and all seem to be based on
2001, for instance accessibility and so on. Have you got any comments
about the date upon which we ought to be trying to judge this?
7348. MS LIEVEN: I think I know the answer
to that, my Lord, but could I have a moment. (After taking instructions)
My Lord, I very strongly suspect, although I cannot absolutely
say, that the reason it is 2001 is that those are the Census figures
from 2001. To be fair to Bexley, the figures will change over
the years. I was going to make the point on the London Plan that
you cannot simply assume that the changed figures from the earlier
London Plans of the 2007 London Plan are related to Crossrail
because large numbers of assumptions will have changed: transport
assumptions, house building rates, employment rates, all these
things change. To be fair to Bexley, I suspect on the instructions
I have received that these changes will not make a very material
difference to the benefit:cost ratio. They will make some differences
undoubtedly, but it is not part of our case that if you change
these variables you are likely to significantly change the benefit:cost
7349. CHAIRMAN: But if a safeguarding
decision was taken up-to-date figures would be used, would they?
7350. MS LIEVEN: Absolutely, my Lord.
If we go through the sequence of a safeguarding direction being
made in the winter, I think it was, and then the Secretary of
State sitting down to think, "What am I going to do next?
Am I going to make a TWA", she would then get an up-to-date
BCR based on all the up-to-date figures. So all of this would
have to go back into the computer with all the assumptions changed
to get the up-to-date figures. As I have said, it is not part
of our case but that is likely to produce a wildly different BCR.
We would clearly do that exercise before any decision was made
to commit £500 million.
7351. CHAIRMAN: I am looking at your
point about "without delay" and this occurs in both
Options 1 and 2. That means to say we would be recommending to
Parliament to carry out this whatever it is that is proposed by
BexleyI equally want to be fair to themwithout waiting
for up-to-date figures.
7352. MS LIEVEN: Yes. Your Lordships
are being asked to make this recommendation on the basis of material
which is clearly outdated. I have to repeat, we have not sought
to argue before your Lordships and, indeed, there is a letter
which says that we will not, that we fundamentally disagree with
Bexley on the BCR. We have no material that would suggest if we
did do the exercise again with all the up-to-date figures we would
come out with a fundamentally different figure.
7353. CHAIRMAN: Except for the other
7354. MS LIEVEN: My Lord, even there.
It is a complicated issue as to precisely what other transport
schemes on what assumptions would have been fed into the figures
that went into the BCR. It is difficult to over-emphasise how
complex these models are. Take the example of Ebbsfleet: There
will have been assumptions about the date it was going to come
on-stream, the level of service, the cost of the service, the
frequency of the service. All of those things will have gone into
the model and may well have changed somewhat by now, but which
schemes went in at which frequency and at what dates is not by
any means straightforward. I certainly would not want your Lordships
to think that the BCR will have ignored all other service improvements
because I know as a fact it will not have done. For example, Thameslink,
I just have no idea whether or not Thameslink would have been
assumed to have happened eight years ago, given that it was called
Thameslink 2000, or assumptions were made about it not happening
at all because that would have depended a lot on exactly when.
I do keep coming back to the point we do not believe there are
changes in there that will make a fundamental difference.
7355. CHAIRMAN: That is very fair, I
hope Bexley appreciate that.
7356. MS LIEVEN: I think it is only right
to say that, my Lord. I was on the point `why not confirm it now'.
The other one that Mr Berryman made strongly is that this is an
incredibly complicated bit of railway and the four track solution
is not a magic wand that can simply be waved, put a bit of infrastructure
in and there is your answer, there are very complicated and difficult
negotiations to be undertaken if we did go ahead with four track
at some point as to how the service pattern fits into that and
we would be back in the world of the ORR and timetabling work,
which your Lordships are familiar with on the railway Petitioners'
issues. We would have to fundamentally change the structure of
services in the area to even make four tracking work, so it is
not an easy solution in any event.
7357. That is `why don't do it now and don't
make the recommendation now'. As far as `why don't commit now
to doing it in the future or don't try to tie the Secretary of
State's hands as to doing it in the future', as I have already
said she would have to redo the BCR at the time and she would
have to consider how the proposal matched in priority against
other schemes and other calls on the budget at the time.
7358. Finally, my Lords, just to deal with questions
that came up with Mr Berryman. It is important that the Committee
do not think that because the Secretary of State is proposing
to safeguard, and that has gone out to consultation, that means
we have accepted the money should be spent for building the extension.
There is a very big step between safeguarding something, which
is literally about preserving its possibility for the future,
and actually deciding that you are going to spend the however
many millions or billions that it takes. The clearest example
in my mind is Crossrail Line 2, the old Chelsea-Hackney line,
which is safeguarded, and has been for some time, but there is
certainly no Government commitment that the money is going to
be spent to build it. Mr Berryman talked about the North Circular
which went through safeguarding, much land was blighted, and then
eventually the scheme was abandoned. It is by no means the case
that because we are promoting safeguarding it will necessarily
follow at some stage that the Secretary of State will decide that
it is actually good value for money and should be built. Those
are two very different stages.
7359. My Lords, the final point, if we can put
up Option 1 again, although I suspect this is probably a drafting
point rather than a detailed one, is that it talks about the construction
of "an extension" to Crossrail.56
At the moment this would cover any extension to Crossrail, including
that to Reading. That could be amended by a small drafting change.
Clearly if this option was to be accepted it would need to be
amended. My Lords, I do not know whether there is anything else
I can help your Lordships or your Ladyship with.
55 56 Committee Ref: A35, Option 1-Recommend TWA Order
plus amendment which designates scheme as scheme of national significance