Making the cross from approval to reality

Posted: 3 December 2008 | | No comments yet

Cross London Rail Links’ proposals for the Crossrail project are well and truly on track. Douglas Oakervee, Executive Chairman of CLRL, reflects on the exciting developments over the past year and the challenging work ahead.

Cross London Rail Links’ proposals for the Crossrail project are well and truly on track. Douglas Oakervee, Executive Chairman of CLRL, reflects on the exciting developments over the past year and the challenging work ahead.

Cross London Rail Links’ proposals for the Crossrail project are well and truly on track. Douglas Oakervee, Executive Chairman of CLRL, reflects on the exciting developments over the past year and the challenging work ahead.

The past 12 months have been the most eventful in Crossrail’s history and a very satisfying period for everyone working on the project. We have made important progress in delivering the scheme which will be the largest single addition to London’s and the South East’s transport infrastructure in 50 years. The scheme delivers high capacity, high frequency main line rail services to and through the heart of the City and West End, providing a 10% increase in London’s public transport network capacity. Twenty-four trains will run in peak hours each direction through the main central section of the route.

It will have a direct and beneficial impact on the lives of Londoners and the economy. As well as relieving congestion on the existing rail and Underground networks, Crossrail will provide easier, quicker and more direct travel opportunities across the capital, linking existing Tube and national rail lines via newly built tracks and tunnels. It also creates key interchanges and boosts connections to airports.

Crossrail will create a step change in transport capacity into and across London, over and above the incremental improvements already planned or being delivered, and will play a key role in regeneration and social inclusion within Greater London. Overall, the benefits are estimated to be at least £36 billion to the UK economy, which means in the long term it more than pays for itself.

A major step forward came in October 2007 when the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Crossrail’s funding framework. The cost of delivering Crossrail, which amounts to £15.9 billion cash cost over the construction period up to 2017, will be met by Government, business and Transport for London.

The comprehensive funding arrangements for the project were laid down in the Heads of Terms agreed by Crossrail’s sponsors, and published last November. Transport for London and the Department for Transport are Crossrail’s major funders with funding from a direct government grant and TfL borrowing against future fare revenue. London’s businesses will play their part through developer contributions, and from April 2010, the business rate supplement (with legislation to enable this due later this year). Direct contributions have been agreed with some of the project’s key beneficiaries along the route, including Network Rail, the City, London business, Berkeley Homes, Canary Wharf Group and BAA.

On 22 July 2008, the Crossrail Bill was enacted when it completed all the Parliamentary stages and received Royal Assent to become The Crossrail Act (2008). Gaining the Act of Parliament was the most significant milestone to date, giving the powers to enable the railway to be built, operated and maintained. This followed much hard work by CLRL in supporting the Department for Transport’s Bill through Parliament. Like any other legislation, the Crossrail Bill had to be considered by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the longest stages of this process were the Select Committees in each house. It was here that objections (known as petitions) were heard from people affected by the project – individuals, businesses, community groups and local authorities. Four sets of Amendment of Provisions (changes to works) were made to the original Bill by the Government during the Select Committee in the House of Commons.

The Act that emerged from the Parliamentary process, particularly the House of Commons Select Committee, incorporated some changes in interests of petitioners. For example, the London Borough of Greenwich and others made the case for a station at Woolwich which was accepted by the Committee, as was the case for a modified entrance at Liverpool Street station. Many other undertakings and assurances were given to individuals and organisations – often acting on petitioners’ concerns and Committee recommendations in order to help minimise the effects of the Project.

Shortly after the Crossrail Act received Royal Assent, the Department for Transport made an Order to appoint CLRL the Nominated Undertaker for the Crossrail works, thereby transferring to us the powers to gain the necessary consents and to build the railway.

With the funding agreement in place and Parliamentary approval given, we have reached the end of the beginning. CLRL is now changing from a planning and promotional organisation to the Delivery Agent for this exciting new railway.

Our challenge now is to deliver Crossrail in 2017 on time and on budget. There is a huge amount of activity being undertaken on Crossrail, as with any major project, in getting from outline approval to when main construction works begin. This includes detailed design work, obtaining approval of planning details, mobilising land acquisition, negotiating agreements, developing the contracting strategy and strengthening project governance.

Crossrail will be taken forward as a single programme with preparatory work starting in 2009 and main construction starting in 2010. The first Crossrail services will come into operation during 2017; for operational reasons, we are planning on an incremental build up of services, over the following 12 months or so.

This summer we have restructured and strengthened the CLRL Board with the appointments of four new top-tier non-executive directors; Michael Cassidy, Patrick Crawford, Sir Joe Dwyer and Heather Rabbatts. Recruitment is also underway for a non-Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. CLRL, currently jointly owned by the Department for Transport and Transport for London, will shortly become a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. This development will change the dynamics of the company’s current operation and support a more unified and efficient approach to construction works, although the project will remain the joint responsibility of the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for Transport as Sponsors.

CLRL wishes to be seen as an attractive client and is very keen to attract the best quality suppliers who can work in a partnership approach to help us deliver the project. We have already begun the process of selecting those companies and consortia who will work alongside the CLRL team. We are seeking a programme partner who will assist CLRL in managing the relationships with all our delivery partners, and a project delivery partner who will construct the central tunnelled section. We have also invited tenders for seven design framework agreements. Following a request for expressions of interest earlier this year, Crossrail has now announced the short listed consortia and companies. Appointments are likely to be made for all these contracts by early 2009.

We have been enormously impressed by the quality and experience of the companies that expressed an interest in these major contracts for Crossrail. It is clear that Crossrail has excited the construction industry and we look forward to working with the very best talents to ensure that Crossrail is delivered on time and on budget.

Network Rail and London Underground are both key works partners that will have binding agreements to complete their portions of the project. We have held extensive talks regarding interface issues with these partners. Network Rail will be responsible for the delivery of the on network, or surface, sections and CLRL will deliver the underground section, while working with London Underground where the route interfaces with the existing underground network. These interfaces will provide substantial challenges and will require a first class team.

We aim to integrate all areas of the project holistically, meaning the whole system will have greater emphasis than the separate parts, such as ventilation, drainage or signalling. Crossrail is establishing a series of expert panels that are committed to help deliver the best project, through best practice.

Our construction teams will be following a rigorous Construction Code which has been prepared in consultation with affected local authorities and other statutory bodies to ensure that standards and safeguards are put in place to minimise disruption. From my experience of other major projects, I am acutely aware of the importance of being part of the community both during, and following construction. We will be making every effort to mitigate the major earthworks and construction impacts that Crossrail will generate, aiming to minimise disruption and, ultimately, to deliver Crossrail as smoothly as possible. We do not underestimate the scale of this challenge but we do believe that, through proper planning and preparation, we can get this right.

The construction of Crossrail will create thousands of jobs. At its peak, around 2013-14, some 14,000 jobs will exist on what will be Europe’s largest civil engineering project. Crossrail intends to establish a National Skills Training Academy for Tunnelling to ensure that local people can work on the project and that opportunities are created to equip them with the right skills to work on the project.

Ensuring that jobs are made available to local people and they have the skills required is an important part of Crossrail’s approach to construction. Crossrail goes through some of the boroughs with the highest levels of deprivation in the UK and we aim to give people the opportunity to be trained to work on projects like this. We are working with professional institutions including the Institution of Civil Engineers, training bodies and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to ensure that appropriate training is in place for professional staff.

We endeavour to make people aware of the variety of career opportunities that construction and engineering can offer. Our Young Crossrail programme visits schools across the entire route, raising the profile of both the project and a career in engineering. We believe that if industry works in partnership with schools, colleges and universities to raise awareness of the variety of jobs available and the skills needed, then the industry will not only have access to a larger pool of potential labour, but we will also be able to work with the schools and colleges to develop courses that meet current and future project needs.

I consider myself very fortunate to be leading the Crossrail project at this exciting time. It is not just a crucial project for the UK, but one which has the eyes of the world upon it. I am confident that, with the backing and momentum we now have, we can look forward to bringing the benefits of Crossrail to reality. For London, for the UK, and for everyone involved in the project, this is going to be an exciting challenge and a major test for the UK construction, engineering and rail industries.

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