Following on from Corporate Watch's coverage of how Channel Tunnel Rail Link contractor Skanska is ignoring the concerns of local Stratford residents about dust pollution, we have been contacted by local residents who report of similarly damaging proposals in the East End of London.
Crossrail and Spitalfields
Saturday, November 19 2005 @ 01:20 PM GMT-1
Cross London Rail Links (CLRL), Crossrail is 'a 50/50 joint venture company formed by Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT)... tasked with promoting and developing two new routes through London... Crossrail was allocated a budget of £154m in 2001...' (www.crossrail.co.uk/pages/whatiscrossrail.html) Crossrail had already spent £150 million. According to Business Online, Crossrail has since been forced to admit that the scheme is more likely to cost £17bn (cost of 34 new state-of-the-art hospitals or 340 new schools) by 2007 instead of previous projections of £10bn. But even the funding gap for the £10bn cannot be met.
Crossrail is promoted as an East West London publicly financed rail scheme. It is claimed Crossrail will have London-wide benefits even though it will primarily only serve the City and Canary Wharf by linking them to each other and Heathrow. Crossrail will leave poor communities in the East End of London with most of the harm from the scheme and taxpayers footing the bill for a flawed scheme that will cost £17bn according to the latest revisions by the promoters. Crossrail propose two worksites in Spitalfields, a twin-bore tunnelling and Emergency Intervention Point (EIP) and a spoil [rubble] removal site.
There is widespread concern about the likely harm from the Crossrail proposals, which plan to use the densely populated area of historic Spitalfields for two major worksites even though many buildings could be susceptible to subsidence or worse. Crossrail has failed to produce full environmental impact information or show any systematic comparisons of alternatives to Spitalfields despite negative impacts across the East End of London. The scheme will have damaging impacts in other parts of Tower Hamlets including Mile End Park, Bow, Whitechapel as well as Mayfair in West London and as far a field as Romford.
Crossrail are seeking wide compulsory purchase powers for land and property along the central section of the route with construction powers for demolition and construction for intervention and tunnel shafts as well as stations at Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street and Paddington with links to Heathrow and Romford.
The Government is using a hybrid bill process to push the publicly funded Crossrail Bill through Parliament. MPs were asked to vote for the second reading of the Crossrail Bill without even being presented any information about financing Crossrail and the implications for taxpayers in London and across England. The scheme was presented as costing £10bn during the second reading in July 2005. Crossrail has subsequently revised this figure to £17bn after three months.
Local MP for Bethnal Green & Bow George Galloway highlighted concerns about the likely harm from the scheme during the second reading of the Crossrail Bill in July of this year. Mr Galloway said: “There will be three major tunnelling sites and a two-metre wide conveyor belt will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for six years to carry spoil from the digging of those sites. It will go past people's houses, inches from their windows in some cases, and feet away in others. Ten-tonne lorries will come and go through this small, densely populated, poor, disadvantaged and multiply deprived area at the rate of one every five minutes, with consequent dangers for children at local schools and the health of local people—and male life expectancy in that part of London is already six per cent, less than that throughout London as a whole. Higher than average incidences of asthma, diabetes, blood pressure and other health problems are already present in this multiply deprived community.”
Crossrail have described the Spitalfields area as derelict. But local communities say it is far from derelict. Spitalfields is home to small businesses, creative industries and large numbers of council and social housing. It also has an important historical significance. It is the first portal for every immigrant community in the UK.
In November 2003, Crossrail began a so-called public awareness campaign and consultations but excluded Spitalfields even though it was the only densely populated area in London to have two major worksites. Local groups demanded a public meeting after becoming aware that the proposals would impact on the area. But Crossrail refused to hold a public meeting for all Spitalfields groups despite requests. This resulted in groups being given piecemeal information by Crossrail, some of which was often contradictory. This included claims that intermediate shaft was necessary as end-to-end tunnelling was not possible. Crossrail continued to misleadingly describe one Spitalfields worksite “the Hanbury Street Shaft” as an Emergency Intervention Point (EIP) when it was in fact a harmful tunnelling site. Crossrail also failed to mention the existence of a spoil site in Pedley Street, Spitalfields.
Local groups headed by the Spitalfields Small Business Association (SSBA) took it upon themselves to hold a public meeting to inform people about the Crossrail proposals on July 27, 2004. Hundreds of people attended the meeting along with the BBC TV and ITV news.
Local people say the public consultation carried out by Crossrail was a sham as The Labour-led Tower Hamlets Council and Crossrail made an arbitrary decision to locate harmful worksites and Whitechapel Station in Tower Hamlets. Crossrail did not even produce information about the proposals in the predominant local languages, Bangladeshi and Somali in Spitalfields. A Tower Hamlets Council officer apparently “forgot” to give the contact names of local groups to Crossrail for two years. The Council and the officer have been in negotiations with Crossrail since 2001. Crossrail has never published the findings of an internal enquiry into consultation and continues to refuse requests for a public meeting in the Spitalfields area.
Local people fear that the siting of Crossrail is part of a wider plan to build office blocks and turn Spitalfields and so-called other “Opportunity Areas” into an extension of the City. Both the Mayor’s London Plan and Tower Hamlets Council confirm plans for high-density development in Spitalfields. The Council is promoting Local Development Frameworks (new planning policy development plans) with high-density office blocks running alongside so-called transport nodes such as Crossrail. The development plans have bigger footprints than Canary Wharf. By law, public interest schemes must show that interference with property rights such as compulsory purchase is necessary but not in addition to the execution of a successful scheme. This prevents promoters and developers acquiring land unnecessarily. However, Crossrail is using the Crossrail Bill to seek compulsory purchase powers without producing such evidence. Local people have not received any evidence that acquisition or interference with property interests is necessary for the successful completion of Crossrail despite persistent requests.
The core strategy of the Mayor’s London Plan allows large-scale negative development in order to safeguard London’s role as a key International Business location. But the London Plan does not give equal recognition to the economic need and success of small businesses, street markets and creative industries, which thrive outside of City-based interests. The London Plan imposes negative development pressures without considering or evaluating the harm to London’s communities, market traders and small businesses.
Local people have expressed concern about the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s support for Crossrail and his lack of accountability to London’s communities. In the case of Crossrail, the Mayor previously justified Crossrail on misleading grounds. Mr Livingstone, similarly to Crossrail, claimed the siting of the Hanbury Street shaft in Spitalfields was a legal requirement. But this was misleading as this legal requirement only applied to Emergency Intervention Points (EIP) not harmful tunnelling sites as proposed in Spitalfields. In a meeting with local groups this year, Mr Livingstone refused to discuss the negative health impacts from spoil and tunnelling sites in Spitalfields and even claimed people were overreacting. Mr Livingstone then claimed he was building Crossrail to help the poor but did not give any information or evidence of how the poor would be helped by the Crossrail scheme. Mr Livingstone also claimed that Crossrail were adopting the highest environmental standards but was unwilling to discuss the devastating environmental, social and financial impacts of the proposals.
Local people are angry that Tower Hamlets Council only began to express concerns about Crossrail’s lack of information about impacts after public pressure. The Council is spending £500,000 to petition against the Crossrail Bill. But local people believe the basis for the petition is weak. The Council support for a Crossrail scheme is dependent on the existence of a Whitechapel Station, for which, there is no public support. In turn, Crossrail claim the location of harmful worksites in the densely populated Spitalfields and the route alignment is directly linked to the siting of nearby Whitechapel Station.
The present leader of the Tower Hamlets Council Michael Keith, who was previously head of regeneration, participated in negotiations over Crossrail despite a conflict of interest. Mr Keith publicly admitted to negotiating the damaging Crossrail scheme in Spitalfields in return for a Whitechapel station even though he cannot show public support for the proposal. In 2003, a report a report in Newstartmag stated the Thames Gateway Partnerships, for whom Mr Keith is a chair, threatened to withdraw backing to a communities plan if the Government rejected Crossrail due to the lack of private investment.
Chief executive of Tower Hamlets Council Christine Gilbert is married to Tony McNulty, who prior to the reshuffle was the minister in charge of Crossrail. Since, Derek Twigg has replaced Mr McNulty. Ms Gilbert wrote to local residents group the Woodeer Hanbury Residents Association in response to a complaint about the council’s handling of Crossrail. Ms Gilbert says: “We cannot provide specific ‘evidence’ of the likely regeneration benefits at Whitechapel, but clearly the proposed redevelopment of the Royal London Hospital and the emergence of a, still embryonic but nevertheless growing health campus in Whitechapel will stimulate the regeneration of the area.” Mr Keith also claimed Crossrail would bring regeneration benefits to the area even though there was no evidence to support this assertion.
Local people say past development so-called regeneration schemes show the Crossrail will harm rather than benefit the borough of Tower Hamlets. During the second reading, MP George Galloway said: “A vast number of people commute into the Tower Hamlets to work and then commute out again. There are huge areas adjacent to Tower Hamlets where local people cannot get a job. There are great citadels of wealth in Canary Wharf and the City of London, with hardly a local person working in them. In the City of London, where tens of thousands of people work, there are only 88 Bangladeshis working in white-collar jobs. Less than 10-per cent of the people who work in Canary Wharf [London business district] come from Tower Hamlets, and no one is able to give us a demographic breakdown of that 10 per cent. We already have a problem with local people not being able to get jobs in the area, and a Crossrail station at Whitechapel will merely make that problem worse.”
Experts are also concerned about the likely harm from Crossrail. Leading engineer Mark Whitby of engineering firm Whitby Bird in Building Magazine, says: “the project [Crossrail] is a solution to a problem that has not been properly understood, which will turn the centre of London into a ghetto for the poor.”
Experts at alternative London rail scheme promoter are also concerned about the impacts from the present Crossrail scheme. Superlink state: “The surrounding area [Whitechapel] is a stable inner city area. A Crossrail station would put pressure for change, displacing low-income residents and small businesses. There would also be substantial disruption to local streets during construction.”
Superlink add: “A Whitechapel station would hurt rather than help local residents. The area already has excellent transport links with the District, Hammersmith & City and East London Lines and a nearby DLR station…Apparently the £400m Whitechapel station was suggested as “compensation” for the use of Stepney Green as a worksite...however the costs and local disruption will be substantial while the benefits are likely to be very small.”
Tower Hamlets Council is not prepared to consider Superlink because it claims the scheme would also lead to disruption and it will not offer Whitechapel Station. The council has not produced any evidence to corroborate such claims.
Crossrail do not have the relevant funds for the £17bn scheme + interest for 30 years, for which taxpayers are expected to foot the bill. Crossrail chairman Adrian Montague produced an ostensibly independent feasibility report on the scheme before becoming chairman in July 2004. Montague report states the Crossrail scheme ‘appears to deliver value for money’. But goes on to state there is ‘significant uncertainty’ and ‘cannot be satisfied that Crossrail’s Business Case fully meets the tests in the Terms of Reference’. There is concern whether taxpayers will ever receive value for money from Crossrail and their future liabilities.
Montague has a history of involvement in PFI/PPP schemes. Many of which have relied on huge amounts of taxpayers’ money. In 2000, he was made Sir Adrian Montague “for services to the private finance initiative” but little was said about his services to taxpayers. Under “New” Labour, the ex-City lawyer Montague became the £160,000 a year head of Gordon Brown’s Treasury Taskforce on PFI. Montague extolled the virtues of PPP at an annual conference for Public-Private-Partnerships in 1999. He proclaimed: “It is not enough for public authorities to decide what sort of deals they want, they must also be aware of what sort of deals the private sector is willing to do”. According to Red Pepper, Montague helped John Major draw up the privatisaton of British Rail. In 2000, John Prescott made him a member of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), which was designed to help fix the privatisation of British Rail.
During a House of Commons debate on the Strategic Rail Authority in May 2004, Joan Walley, MP asks “Why is the SRA not accountable for the way in which it runs its services? Paul Marsden MP asks: “Why has he not been able to find a way to stop the apparent abuse of taxpayers’ money? ” At a later date, the National Audit Office stated: “the taxpayer could be exposed to further financial risk of £360 million”. Montague is also chair of British Energy. Montague received a bonus of £100,000 for restructuring funded by the taxpayers. The £5bn restructuring plan leaves the taxpayers open to take on further liabilities to the tune of £1.7bn with a further £3.9bn for the decommissioning of nuclear power stations. The National Audit Office blamed the Government for leaving taxpayers holding the liabilities for decommissioning its nuclear power stations. The total cost of cleaning up over 50 years of nuclear waste from UK power stations and military projects will rise to over £56bn according to Sir Anthony Cleave, who is chair of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Mr Montague is currently promoting the use of nuclear energy instead of other viable alternatives.
Crossrail has failed to make the case for why two-thirds of London should pay for a line that will support a third of London’s richest community most of whom are commuters. The City and Canary Wharf, who are the major beneficiaries, previously offer to contribute towards Crossrail. However, support has been lukewarm since the Crossrail Bill has been presented to Parliament and the Government has assumed responsibility for the publicly funded scheme. The last reported offers from the City and Canary Wharf included a surcharge of 9million for 30 years with options to reduce the duration if fare revenue exceeds expectations. The Government claims it will not contribute more than £2billion. But a study produced by the Department for Transport proposes to use council tax rises. This will leave Londoners paying £8billion over 30 years. Crossrail has failed to prove the viability of what is fast becoming an exclusive scheme beneficial to City personnel, which means it, will be producing an annual £350-400m deficit. Claims that the likely revenue will be £200million a year still leaves the public to pay for the interest payments on a shortfall of at least £4-5billion with little or no mention of operational costs.
Privatisation particularly transport projects have proved to be poor value for money for taxpayers and users alike. Londoners have endured 226 delays caused by privatised companies Metronet and Tube Lines. Both were fined only £15.6million despite receiving subsidies worth more than a billion from taxpayers. Montague also led the finance team, which signed the Metronet London Underground Public Private Partnership. This is on top of £109 million paid to consultants and lawyers involved in the part-privatisation of the tube. The Government has already paid Crossrail start up subsidies of £300million to ensure it obtains necessary powers and meets a timetable for a bill deposit. Crossrail previously received £144 million from then Conservative Minister for Transport Paul Channon in 1989. Money was spent on an office block in Victoria and well-paid consultants.
The flaws of the Crossrail scheme are outlined in detail on the alternative rail scheme promoter Superlink, who state: “Crossrail's £6.5 billion funding gap can only be funded with additional taxes. Superlink £3.2 billion funding gap is only half as large, and could be funded without special new taxes. It only delivers 2.3% additional commuters into London. It delivers a 7% to 10% increase in commuting capacity. Crossrail only relieves congestion on a few routes, and actually worsens congestion and may affect performance on some National Rail routes. [Crossrail] has not even figured out how they will share tracks with existing freight and passenger services.”
The Government is presently trying to push a flawed Crossrail Bill using a hybrid bill process through Parliament even though it denies objectors equal rights to that of the promoter. There is even doubt about whether ordinary Londoners adversely affected by the project will be eligible to submit a petition opposing the bill. Petitions have to be filed separately. The cost for each petition has been set at a prohibitive cost of £20 for each petitioner despite the fact that the worst harm affects poor areas.
The Spitalfields community is not prepared to turn the area into a derelict site as has happened previously. Bishopsgate Goodsyard was host to small businesses and traders. A “Community Plan” to retain the existing structure of the historic Bishopsgate site and deliver 6,000 local jobs and a maximum of 700 homes was drawn up after extensive community consultations and with the support of over 75 local groups. Experts acknowledged an existing “highly engineered” viaduct structure could carry the community’s alternative East London Line extension but it was still demolished. But Tower Hamlets Council backed a developer based East London Line Extension (ELLX) scheme over a viable community development plans for Bishopsgate Goodsyard.
The historic Bishopsgate Goodsyard has been demolished, businesses moved, people’s lives disrupted and the land left derelict even though money for the ELLX project had not been secured. But at the time, the Council, the Mayor and Government blamed local people of thwarting plans for the ELLX. The Bishopsgate Goodsyard site is presently derelict but has been earmarked for future office development.
London Underground has already spent or committed £74 million to the £1.2 billion ELLX project but failed to secure any PFI bidders making the project unfeasible. The Mayor has since made it clear that Crossrail instead of ELLX is now his priority.
The present Crossrail Bill is flawed. It does not justify interference with the property rights of residents or show any proper consideration of alternative alignments. The communities presented with harmful proposals do not have any confidence in the viability of the Crossrail scheme or value for taxpayers’ money as the Government is not prepared to say who will underwrite the liabilities.
Communities across Tower Hamlets are preparing for the petitioning phase of a Crossrail Bill, which has been presented despite widespread concerns about harm, financial viability and cost to taxpayers. Around 80 of the 358 petitions against the Crossrail Bill come from the borough of Tower Hamlets. Other Councils across London support end-to-end tunneling and are pursuing better designs for vent shafts and better compensation terms from Crossrail. The Spitalfields Community Association and the Woodseer and Hanbury Residents Association have put in a joint submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights as it has received advice that Crossrail violates human rights. The submission is yet to be considered.
For further information about the anti-Crossrail campaign to protect London’s communities and taxpayers – see or contact the following:
Please see URL www.superlinklondon.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ for further information in relation to the harm, flaws and likely cost to taxpayers from the Crossrail scheme.
Get in touch with London anti-Crossrail groups at [email protected] or
See a full list of objectors to the Crossrail Bill at the following URL www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmbills/001/001pet.htm
For the CTRL Skanska in Stratford story see August 24th news update, News in Brief: Channel Tunnel Vision www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=2006)