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£150 million funding gap and no certainty when - or what - services will run on Crossrail

29 October 2021

By the time passengers can travel the full length of the Elizabeth line, Crossrail will have cost around £19 billion, including nearly £2.9 billion in loans from the taxpayer to TfL and the Greater London Authority (GLA) to fund Crossrail Ltd’s costs.

But Crossrail Ltd is unable to give passengers or businesses a clear timetable for the opening of the Elizabeth Line or even what services will run on the line when it does open, says the PAC in a report published today. Critical works still need to be completed before the company can provide any certainty on when all remaining works, including many stations, will be completed.

Since the Committee last reported on the Crossrail programme in July 2019, the forecast cost has increased by a further £1.9 billion to £18.9 billion, and the opening date for the central section of the Elizabeth line has also been delayed by a further 10 to 20 months.

Even with the Government bailout, the collapse in passenger numbers owing to the pandemic leaves a potential £150 million funding shortfall for the Crossrail project. The Department for Transport also expects £750 million of loans to Crossrail - separate from over £4 billion of loans from government to support TfL during COVID - to be financed and repaid from TfL’s own revenues.

Fare revenue is critical to TfL’s finances, with 72% of its income coming from fares before the pandemic which have since collapsed, and TfL estimating an ongoing 18% drop in demand for rail by 2031 compared to pre-pandemic forecasts. The Committee says it therefore remains very uncertain where the shortfall in funding for Crossrail or the loan repayments will come from, and TfL must identify new revenue streams.

Passenger demand for the Elizabeth line itself will be difficult to predict, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the possible future changes in people’s working patterns. It is therefore The Committee says it is “critical that DfT and TfL focus on how to achieve all of the benefits of the line, particularly encouraging passengers to use the line and enabling wider, economic regeneration.”

Chair's comments

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said

“We are finally, thankfully seeing a clearer sense of ownership, responsibility, and determination to complete the Crossrail programme from those in charge but there remains a serious, £150 million funding gap to finish the programme. There must be a focus now on finding real solutions to this.

With fares down because of the ongoing impact of Covid we also need more clarity on the plans and timescale for repaying the significant government loans.”

Further information

Image: PA