Evening Standard comment: Crossrail disarray gives a warning on big projects; Moderate Labour has lost; Smithfield goes vegan

EVENING STANDARD COMMENT

Today brings the hugely disappointing news of a further delay to Crossrail.

This should serve as a warning to both the Conservatives and Labour following their grandstanding promises yesterday to invest tens of billions of pounds in major new transport schemes and other infrastructure projects.

Many of the schemes that the parties propose could, of course, bring benefits. But lessons must be learned from events in London where the inadequate oversight of Crossrail by Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is responsible for delivering it via his control of Transport for London, provides a salutary illustration of the disarray that can result when complex engineering schemes are not managed with the necessary close attention to detail.

The facts are stark: further delay means that the Elizabeth line, originally due to run its first trains last December, will not open until 2021 at the earliest.

An ambition to open the central part of the line, which will play a vital role in easing congestion, next year has been abandoned with Crossrail instead ominously only able to assert that services will start “as soon as practically possible in 2021”.

The extra bill will be up to £650 million, taking the potential final cost to £18.25 billion.

On top of this is more lost fare revenue for TfL, which is struggling to balance its books.

All this is bad news not just for London taxpayers, who are likely to bear at least some of the extra cost, and commuters, but also for the many businesses along the route that have made investment decisions based on the anticipated extra footfall that the new line should be bringing.

Homebuyers, too, who bought properties expecting a fast Crossrail commute have been let down by its non-appearance so far.

It’s time for the Mayor to get a better grip and ensure there are no more costly delays.

Our Westminster politicians, meanwhile, should take heed and ensure that when they start splashing the cash after the election, they do so with focus and planning to avoid it being squandered.


Moderate Labour has lost

When Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership in 2015, a lot of people in the party comforted themselves with the thought that it was a weird accident.

The party’s core, they said, was still in the solid mainstream — a bit to the Left of Tony Blair, progressive, mostly tolerant and often realistic.

When Mr Corbyn lost a lot less badly than they expected in 2017, they still hung on to that hope.

When he refused to swing his party behind a campaign to remain in the EU, on the not-very-secret grounds that he isn’t much against Brexit, they kept trying to believe it.

He played them for fools. This is the week they found out.

Exhibit one: the departure of Tom Watson, deputy leader, who kept wobbly Labour MPs in the party with the promise to take it back. He’s walked. His Labour party has gone.

Exhibit two: Ian Austin, former Gordon Brown tough-guy ally, says Labour supporters should vote Tory. He is scared of putting Mr Corbyn in charge of national security and sick of institutionalised anti-Semitism of the sort that today saw the Labour candidate for Clacton become the latest to fall in a scandal.

Exhibit three: John McDonnell’s plan to double investment spending to an unaffordable £55 billion a year alongside mass nationalisation and other spending.

The party which once won a landslide promising “prudence with a purpose” is gone.

Labour moderates have lost. The pretence that Mr Corbyn can be beaten from within is over.


Smithfield goes vegan

Vegan burgers are to go on sale at famous Smithfield meat market for the first time in an eye-catching attempt to keep up with modern tastes.

One secret of business success can, of course, be reinvention, so we congratulate those responsible and hope customers enjoy their planet-friendly new offerings.

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Crossrail delayed until 2021 and could be £650 million over budget