The Residents Society of Mayfair and St James's has come out against the Government's proposed Crossrail scheme. Using the comments section on this blog, the Association attacks the plans and questions why UK tax payers will subsidise a project that will primarily benefit Canary Wharf and the City of London - areas which are already hugely affluent and which are making only a small contribution to the overall costs.
The statement from the Residents Society of Mafair and St James's is reproduced in full below:
"The Residents Society of Mayfair and St James's believes that London deserves much better than Crossrail. The Society is supportive of public transport schemes provided they are lawful, provide value for taxpayers' money and do not cause unnecessary harm. The present Crossrail scheme fails on all these counts.
Many journalists are now beginning to question the funding of the Crossrail scheme as the Olympics has shown that taxpayers' require proper scrutiny of schemes seeking public funding in advance of being given the go ahead not afterwards. Indeed, the Society share the view of some in Whitehall as stated in the FT previously that: "the project's backers are likely to keep cost projections as low as possible to secure approval".
The backers of Crossrail want two-thirds of Londoners and tube passengers to pay for a Crossrail scheme that will alleviate congestion for passengers on the central line and benefit the UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s richest community, namely the City and Canary Wharf. MPs will vote on the Crossrail Bill at the Third Reading soon without knowing the true cost to taxpayers or tube passengers but the finances simply do not add up. Crossrail is presently estimated at £17 billion + and yet BAA, Canary Wharf and the City Corporation are offering to contribute less than a billion. Oddly, the Government claims the rest of the money will come from fares, a levy on London business rates but provide no details and make no mention of the burden of taxpayers. However, Crossrail fares will only raise £200 million p.a. and the proposed business contribution is ring fenced and time sensitive. So where does the rest of the money come from to pay for Crossrail and who will be left to pay for servicing the debt and the operational costs? It is clear that taxpayers will not be safeguarded from having to underwrite any additional costs unless Mr Brown offers the same protections afforded to the businesses set to benefit most from Crossrail.
As it stands, the Government has nominated UK taxpayers to subsidise and underwrite the present Crossrail scheme, which primarily benefits the City and Canary Wharf. Londoners will not benefit from the property uplift at Canary Wharf and the Corporation of London in Central London. Yet oddly taxpayers are being asked to subsidise the scheme.
Furthermore, independent analysts express doubts about the cost and economic viability of the Crossrail project. To this end, we asked the Treasury numerous questions about Crossrail on the aforementioned areas under the Freedom of Information Act on April 25, 2007 so that they could be analysed independently. We have received no response so it would seem the Government are reluctant to answer these questions. Crossrail appear to be short on facts. Indeed, the Parliamentary petition hearings have shown that when we ask for evidence or substantiation of claims of benefits and harm arising from the project - it is absent.
The Society also asked the Government about the financial structuring of Crossrail and why taxpayers, Londoners and tube passengers have not been consulted. No protection is afforded from from having to pay higher fares and taxes for a Crossrail scheme, which is flawed, unlawful and destroys historic parts of residential London unnecessarily while simultaneously protecting development sites. No response has been received in relation to these specific questions. But the Government should take note that Londoners and UK taxpayers have not been consulted about whether they wish to subsidise a £17 billion + Crossrail scheme, which some say could cost as much as £30 billion.
The railway planner, who helped plan and deliver the successful Jubilee Line and the lauded high speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link Michael Schabas, is sceptical about the benefits of the present Crossrail scheme. Mr Schabas should know as the Crossrail team retained him. In evidence, Mr Schabas says about the Crossrail scheme: “The analysis is so inadequate for a scheme of this size. Maybe if you are doing a garden shed, yes, but you are not supposed to do it this way.Ã¢â‚¬Â In evidence at the Crossrail petition hearings, Mr Schabas who is a witness-in-fact also revealed Crossrail had refused to consider alternative routes on the central section despite a legal requirement to limit harm and having spent £400 million of taxpayers's money. Mr Schabas has been denied the right to give evidence in public by the chair of the Crossrail Select Committee Labour MP Alan Meale. Mr Meale has given a variety of different reasons for preventing Michael Schabas from giving evidence in public. We understand Mr MealeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s last reason was he wanted to protect Mr Schabas as he was giving evidence on oath. Mr Schabas has said he has not asked or requested protection but he does want the right to give evidence on oath in public on CrossrailÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s refusal to consider alternative routes and not in private as Mr Meale desires. Mr Schabas went on to say that Crossrail claim to Ã¢â‚¬Å“systematically and carefully look at all these alternatives, and that to me is exactly what has not been done in going through these points, and when I read this, not only has it not been done, but it is laughable.Ã¢â‚¬Â Unfortunately, Mr Schabas has been denied the opportunity to give full evidence on CrossrailÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s refusal to consider alternative routes in public by the Crossrail Committee chair Labour MP Alan Meale on no less than two occasions, one of which disclosed Crossrail's own documents showing that a less harmful alternative route had been dismissed without justification. http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.com/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmcross/uc235-vi/uc23502.htm
A residents group in Spitalfields, the Woodseer and Hanbury Residents Association has disclosed a legal opinion, which says the Crossrail Bill is unlawful in its present form.
Soon MPs will be asked to vote on Crossrail at the Third Reading without having information on what Crossrail will cost, if it is lawful, the taxpayers's burden and the environmental harm it will cause. Former transport secretary Douglas Alexander quotes shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling as saying: "Privately: it is the wrong project (bad route, too expensive) and we wouldn't want to be associated with it." In contrast, the Prime Minister seems keen to back Crossrail.