The Rail Minister yesterday announced that London’s Crossrail has run £600m over budget - a revelation critics said would be would be “poorly received” in the North.
Jo Johnson slipped out the announcement that the rail scheme’s budget has been increased from £14.8bn to £15.4bn on the last day of the parliamentary term, alongside a raft of other ministerial statements.
The £600m increase is 10 times the initial £60m funding provided for Transport for the North to develop the so-called HS3, or Crossrail for the North, scheme to boost links across the regions.
Luke Raikes, of think tank IPPR North, said: “(This) will be poorly received by people in the North of England who are yet to see the investment we need to unlock our economic potential.
“The North has been underfunded by £59bn compared to London over the past decade, and prior to this announcement London was already set to receive 2.6 times more per capita transport spending than the North of England. We need to see much more power devolved to Transport for the North.”
It came as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling claimed it would have been “irresponsible” for him to halt the introduction of new train timetables which caused misery for passengers on Northern and Thameslink services from May 20.
At the Commons Transport Committee, Mr Grayling said he is “not a specialist in rail matters” and “I don’t run the railways”.
But it came after Lord Adonis told The Yorkshire Post in May that Mr Grayling could have stopped the timetable changes, claiming that is what he did when serving as Transport Secretary under Tony Blair.
Transport Committee chair Lilian Greenwood yesterday told Mr Grayling she had obtained an extract from an unpublished document which showed he was “at the very top of the timetabling decision tree” for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) services.
She asked him whether he accepted he was accountable for the “timetabling fiasco”, but Mr Grayling replied: “I don’t.”
Earlier, Mr Johnson said “cost pressures have increased across the (Crossrail) project but the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London (TfL) “remain committed to the successful delivery” of the new east-west railway.
But Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram claimed the increase in Crossrail’s budget could fund “a significant amount of a new west to east rail line to Manchester”, and questioned whether there was a conflict of interest with Mr Johnson’s role as London Minister.
The DfT and TfL are each providing £150 million of additional funding to Crossrail Limited, while an extra £290 million for the completion of work on the national rail network is being paid for by the DfT and Government-owned Network Rail.
Crossrail said the cost increases were “disappointing”.
Meanwhile, official overcrowding statistics released yesterday showed that morning commuter train services into Leeds had the fourth highest rate of overcrowding in the country in 2017.