Transport for London just released the results of its recent public consultation on the proposed Crossrail 2 rail route. The headline news is that 95% of respondents support the scheme in principle. 14,000 people filled in the questionnaire.
A bullish Mayor Boris Johnson said: "The key question now is not whether Crossrail 2 should happen, but how quickly can we get it built.” Whatever happens, it won't be very quickly. After assessing the feedback, transport planners will make recommendations to the Mayor in the spring of 2014. A more detailed public consultation would happen in 2015, followed by full planning and a construction start date somewhere around 2020. The route would open some time in the early 2030s.
The consultation sought public views on two options for the route: a 'metro' version, from Wimbledon to Alexandra Palace; and a 'regional' option, which would spread further into Hertfordshire and Surrey. The Metro scheme was supported or strongly supported by 73% of people, while the bigger scheme got thumbs up from 84% of respondents.
A ringing endorsement from the public, then. But this consultation presented the options at a very basic level. Given the (here paraphrased) question 'Do you want a shiny new cross-London train line to ease over-crowding and boost economic growth,' it's difficult to disagree. The devil and all his minions will be dancing in the detail.
Although the central route has been safeguarded from major developments since the early 1990s, this huge omelette will still require the breaking of many eggs. Land has to be found for ventilation shafts, depots, station buildings and other infrastructure. Compulsory purchases will be necessary. As soon as those facets are consulted on, expect local campaigns and a drop in support.
If London's population continues to grow as expected, transport capacity will also have to increase. Crossrail 2, or something like it, is essential. The response to this consultation will be a useful early lever for transport planners. We should keep in mind, however, that saying '95% of people support the principle of Crossrail 2' is akin to saying '95% of people support the principle of having a cleaner Thames' — until they find that a new pumping station is being built next door.