The Conservatives may scrap Crossrail if they win the election, their Shadow London Minister admitted today:
Speaking this morning, Justine Greening said that it was "possible" the project would be canned before adding that she "can’t give a guarantee that it will continue."
The comments came during an LBC debate between the London representatives of the three main parties:
LBC Debate: Thursday, April 15th 2010 09.25Speakers: Nick Ferrari, Justine GreeningNF: Let’s go the Conservatives first. Your stance on Crossrail? Justine Greening.JG: We’ve always been very supportive of Crossrail. We recognise how important it is for London as well but what we can’t do before the election is finished is write a budget when we’re not in government. And so we, we can, we’ve said that we know it’s important, we know that the tube infrastructure and investing in, that’s important, but we can’t do a line by line budget because we are in such a parlous state with public finances.NF: So Crossrail will continue but you don’t know how?JG: What, all I….NF: So it won’t continue?JG: We, we can’t, we can’t give a line by line budget on projects across government, including Crossrail. Everything’s up for review but we think it’s important.NF: I’m sure this is my stupidity. Will it continue or won’t it continue?JG: I can’t give a guarantee that it will continue.NF: So it might not, it can go the other way? The Conservatives could scrap Crossrail?JG: It’s possible but at the end of the day we’ve always said that we think it’s important project and, and actually the reason this is important is we, we want to be responsible so we can’t pretend that we can write an entire budget outside of government. We’ve said we’ll do one within 50 days of getting into government if we get elected and we will then provide some clarity and certainty.
Greening's comments come within two days of a Tory manifesto commitment to "support" the project.
Labour's London Minister Tessa Jowell who took part in the debate with Justine said today:
"It is now clear that Conservatives will not commit to the construction of Crossrail, which is vital for business, jobs and economic growth in London. This in stark contrast to Labour's clear and unequivocal commitment to Crossrail which will add ten per cent to London's transport capacity, create 14,000 jobs in the construction period alone and add an estimated £20billion to London's economy."
Liberal Democrat London Transport spokesperson Caroline Pidgeon said:
"The Conservatives are all over the place when it comes to Crossrail. The Conservative Mayor of London never tires of boasting about his support for the project and Conservative run Kensington and Chelsea Council are even demanding a further new station which will add to the cost of the project. Yet at the same time a London Conservative MP, speaking on behalf of the national party, is simply unable to provide a clear assurance that this much needed project will be completed."
Boris Johnson has repeatedly failed to get Cameron to commit to the project, even pushing Cameron live on air last week.
Until recently I had assumed that there was no way they would can it, not least because of the huge embarrassment it would cause Boris.
However, it now seems more and more likely that they will at the very least scale back the size of the project.
David Cameron should now spell out exactly where he stands before London goes to the polls.