Whatever went wrong? I suspect political ambition and calculation have intervened
A strange thing has happened. George Osborne adores Crossrail - he actually approved it despite its gargantuan price-tag of £14.8bn at a time when the coalition was desperately trying to get a handle on public finances.
He was going to approve at least £100m for its sequel, a Crossrail 2 that has an even greater budget of at least £27bn. The estimated cost had already gone up by almost one-third but still the chancellor was happy to provide the funding that the team behind Crossrail 2, led by managing director Michele Dix, needs to get the scheme ready for parliamentary approval. But then the money didn’t appear and, as the main piece points out, there are now rumours that Osborne is only willing to give Crossrail 2 about one-tenth of the money it needs.
Whatever went wrong? I suspect political ambition and calculation have intervened. Osborne is not Crossrail’s only fan; London mayor Boris Johnson, now an MP again, wants the government to pour £13.5bn into the second line, which would be recouped through extra tax revenue.
Osborne and Johnson are the favourites for the crown and Osborne could well be enjoying thwarting BoJo’s hopes of a rail-based legacy in London
By announcing before polling day that he would not run for a third term, David Cameron has kicked off a leadership race years before it formally begins. Osborne and Johnson are the favourites for the crown and Osborne could well be enjoying thwarting BoJo’s hopes of a rail-based legacy in London that would give him a record of achievement he could present to the Conservatives in a future contest.
Just as likely, though, is that Osborne does not want to be seen as granting London preferential treatment at a time when Conservative MPs from elsewhere in the country are demanding investment in their own constituencies.
Best for Osborne not to upset those guys when he will need their support for the leadership soon enough.
Mark Leftly is deputy political editor at The Independent on Sunday and associate business editor at The Independent and “i”