By Cllr Julian Bell
Last autumn I sat in a high-level Crossrail summit with representatives from all the stakeholders involved in this multi-billion rail project that has been decades in the making. The meeting was presided over by the Tory Rail Minister and quickly turned into a festival of self-congratulation and gushing self-praise. Every contributor spoke of the transformational nature of the project and the fact that it had been delivered on time and on budget.
As I sat listening to this I became increasingly irritated and annoyed, so when it came around for my turn to speak I didn’t hesitate to give a blunt message that all this talk was premature and my experience in Ealing was that the project hadn’t been delivered on time and there were serious doubts about whether it would be delivered on budget or that the budget even existed to complete our stations.
We were originally promised Ealing Broadway station would be built by the end of 2016. When this date was missed we were told that we would get all our new stations at Acton Mainline, Ealing Broadway, West Ealing and Southall by the end of 2019 when the entire line would be opened. The news this week that the opening of the central tunnel section of Crossrail will now not open this autumn but in autumn 2019 inevitably means the full opening won’t happen by the end of 2019.
For some-time my confidence has been low that Network Rail would build our stations on time. They have retendered the contract to build them and still haven’t told us which company has won the contract and what the construction schedules are. Two failed attempts to put in a staircase at Ealing Broadway adds to my distrust.
Worse still we are now having to crack heads together over the delivery of the Ealing Broadway station canopy design. Crossrail and the owners of Villiers House are backsliding over the design which the community and Council fought so hard for.
Over the coming days I will have meetings with Crossrail, Network Rail and TFL to fight Ealing’s corner and demand assurances but after the warm words I received at the summit last autumn and the reality of delays and overspends any promises I receive will be worthless.