With the launching of Crossrail, aka the Elizabeth Line this past summer, the discussion in London mass transit now turns to Crossrail 2. You might be wondering what exactly this means and how is this any different from the new Elizabeth Line? Well, the first Crossrail line was only one solution to London’s congested roads and Underground lines and Crossrail 2 is the next step towards alleviating the traffic. To fully understand what this means, we’re going to explain a little more about exactly what Crossrail 2 is, go over its history, and illustrate the current status and potential future of the new line.
Like Crossrail, Crossrail 2 is a hybrid commuter rail and public transit route that is going to use larger rail trains over the standard Underground stock while also forming a new line that runs from northeast to southwest London. Using the larger Class 345 train stock, Crossrail 2 will be able to carry even more passengers north-to-south at greater speeds than the London Underground. This ability to move a greater number of commuters faster through the city will help take pressure off other Transport for London services from the Tube to busses as well as decrease road traffic for drivers.
Crossrail 2 has long been part of Greater London’s transportation plans. It was first proposed in the 1970s as a commuter line to link Clapham Junction with Seven Sisters. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the proposed route was safeguarded, but other projects including line extensions and DLR took precedence. During the mayorship of Boris Johnson, who remains a major proponent of the new line as Prime Minister, Crossrail 2 got its first big push as the updated route was safeguarded from future development. In 2003, then-Transportation Secretary Alistair Darling asked the Cross London Rail Links Ltd to study the Crossrail proposals. While a 2004 spending review didn’t provide any funding for the new scheme, Parliament passed a bill that provided the necessary support to secure the funding and begin construction in 2005.
Actual construction on what became the Elizabeth Line then started in 2009 and took thirteen years to finish. During this process, London First published its recommendations for Crossrail 2 in 2013 and National Rail supported the plans. In 2015, Dr. Michéle Dix was appointed the managing director of Crossrail 2 having come from TfL’s planning department. A bill was put forward in 2019 with the hopes that construction might finish in the early 2030s, but this is where progress on the new line started to go off the rails (figuratively speaking, of course). While the bill remained in Parliament, the COVID-19 pandemic paused most infrastructure projects as stay-at-home orders racked the United Kingdom and public transport ground to a halt.
The lack of usage during the pandemic dramatically hurt TfL’s revenues and emergency spending necessitated moving funds away from Crossrail 2. This had the effect of shelving the progress of construction for the foreseeable future. In 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his continued support for Crossrail 2 at the opening of the Elizabeth Line. However, funding negotiations between the government and the Greater London Authority have had a breakdown, so it remains to be seen how this will affect projects such as Crossrail 2 going forward. At this point, further work on Crossrail 2 remains stalled until Parliament and the Greater London Authority can come to an agreement about funding.
In conclusion, while 10 Downing Street verbally supports continuing Crossrail 2, it will take actual support to get the next Crossrail line back in business, and it’s unclear when that will be.