It is less than 18months until the start of Elizabeth line services in the capital. Ahead of the curve, 7 days before the BBC’s Fifteen Billion Pound Railway programme (like Top Gear for train fans) started, RTPI London in conjunction with WSP organised a seminar to look at some of the lessons learned from Crossrail. This was together with a review of
the Hybrid Bill process; DCO’s and a review of what projects are coming next.
Andrew Dorrian (immediate past chair at RTPI London and Principal Planner at TfL) reviewed the latest position on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Due for consultation post election, Andrew presented some of the emerging key themes including a focus on healthy streets, cycling Crossrail 2, Bakerloo Line extension and maximising existing assets including national rail services. The plan predicated on the continued future growth of London will potentially set even more ambitious mode share targets to manage demand in London. Andrew further summarised the Mayor’s priorities for the London Plan with a review of the City for All Londoners document. This starts to look at where potential new growth will be centred including within town centres and around our stations.
Julie Davis (Land Use Planning Manager at Crossrail), reviewed progress of the construction of the Elizabeth line and presented the consenting route with some of its advantages and challenges. Julie noted the Hybrid Bill whilst with a long lead in time enables a package of consents to be achieved for a scheme. It usually comes with a schedule of conditions and it is for the promoter working with the contractor to ensure these conditions are abided by. This can become quite challenging depending on the arrangement of contracts. Crossrail set up a delivery mechanism so that the contractors were responsible for preparing the detail for conditions / any variations and Crossrail themselves signed off any details prior to submission to the LPA. Julie noted that partnership working with Local authorities across the route has been achieved through a forum, whereby such matters have been achieved. In developing the project Crossrail have amassed a wealth of information as part of their learning library. This is available at. http://learninglegacy.crossrail.co.uk/.
Siobhan Wall a former project manager for Crossrail, explained the innovative approaches Crossrail used to recycle materials. Thinking of the excavated material from the tunnels as not waste but a vital resource they worked with the RSPB to identify a project at Wallasea Island in Essex to create a new Nature Reserve. Excavated material was transferred by train and trucks to three jetties along the Thames, Northfleet, Limmo Peninsula and Barking Riverside. From there material was loaded onto ships for the onward journey to Walllasea. Siobhan explained that early partnership with the RSPB was critical to the success for the project and understanding what the material could be best used for. This project was part of a wider strategy for reusing material excavated at a number of sites across London and the South east and contributed towards 98% of Crossrail’s material being beneficially reused. This has profound impacts for an Environmental Statement for a project and critically a plan which is deliverable as to how material will be sorted, transported and reused is necessary from the start. For more information, please see, http://www.crossrail.co.uk/sustainability/environmental-sustainability/materials-and-waste.
Colin Turnbull (Associate Director) at WSP, shared lessons learned for the delivery of major rail projects under Hybrid Bills. Some of the top tips shared included the recommendation to start conversations early and get cross political support with both houses. The duration of a Hybrid Bill process means that it can often cross one or two political cycles and there is a challenge that a project can be ‘derailed’ by a change in Government. The length of an Environmental Statement was called into question. Crossrail’s ES was significantly long with a number of volumes. HS2’s has eclipsed this at 50,000 pages. Ultimately there needs to be a call on the length of the assessment and how user friendly these documents are, without impacting on the necessary assessment. Working with the LPA’s and stakeholders from the off was a seen to be a key way of agreeing the scope of assessment and smoothing the delivery process.
It is clear that Crossrail has given us a vast amount of knowledge and key lessons learned around delivery of a major project through a Hybrid Bill process; this can be applied on major infrastructure projects going forward of which there will be many. Our thanks go to all of our speakers and to WSP for organising and for their kind hospitality.