By Marcus Leach
Terry Morgan CBE, Chairman of Crossrail, delivered a keynote talk today (Wednesday) about the challenges of running Europe’s largest engineering project, as well as discussing the benefits that Crossrail will bring to businesses in the EC postcode area.
Speaking at Kingston Smith's East Central breakfast briefing, held at the Museum of London, Mr Morgan said that the Crossrail project, when complete, will add £42 billion to the UK's GDP, as well as creating 14,000 jobs directly on the project. Further to that, through indirect job creation, the project will have added close to 50,000 jobs during the full duration of the works.
"This is a very good example of the Government investing in the future, a project that will be hugely beneficial to the economy," Mr Morgan said. "If the Underground is a toy train set, then this is a big boy's train set."
The concept of Crossrail was first coined in 1974, but it is only in recent years that it has come to fruition, thanks in part to the work of Mr Morgan himself. A staggering feat of engineering, when complete, the project will have revolutionised transport in and around London on the west to east axis, as well as ensuring there is a 'green' element to it. The waste, thousands of tonnes of it, that is generated from the vast tunnelling machinery is being transported to Wallasea where it is helping create an extended wildlife wetland area.
Until you actually see the blueprints for the work that is presently going on, including those showing the tunnels that have already been completed, it is impossible to understand the magnitude and scale of this project. This isn't helped by the fact that most of the current work is underground, and therefore out of sight. However, the benefits of the work are starting to become clearer.
Research carried out by GVA Commercial Property Management has revealed that the project will add in the region of £5.5 billion in additional residential and commercial property value, including the construction of 57,000 new homes in the regions of the new stations. It will be, according to GVA, 'the catalyst for regeneration in key locations and a driver of London's economic growth, in particular from a property perspective'.
As with the Olympics last year the notion of legacy is hugely important within the Crossrail project, ensuring that once complete it delivers more than improved transport links.
"During this project I keep getting asked 'Is there a skills shortage?', to which the answer is simple; 'there is no skills shortage'. We are a global city and we have always been able to find skills by being in the global market," said Mr Morgan.
"Engineering growth is a key area of development for us and the Government and as such this project is as much about the development of people as it is a physical one. We have a skills academy and we are, for every £3 million worth of Government contract awarded, ensuring there is at least one apprentice working on this project. This is how we are trying to create our own legacy.
Despite the end benefits of the projects many people will have noticed the disruption caused by the ongoing construction, none more so than in the central London locations of the project. However, as Mr Morgan pointed out, the disruption is essential to the integration of Crossrail and London Underground (LU).
"One of the important things in the central sections is to ensure that London Underground is linked to Crossrail, as we want transitions between the two to be as smooth as possible. This is why we have been working with LU and they have been busy at Tottenham Court Road themselves," Mr Morgan said.
As always there will be those who ask why it is London that gets the largest allocation of investment in the UK, but as Mr Morgan pointed out, "by investing in London, you are investing in the UK economy." And it is clear to see that this project is clearly for the benefit of the UK, and not just London. The clearest evidence of this is that on the back of the initial benefits being seen from Crossrail the debate for Crossrail 2, running north to south, has begun.