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the old and the new: m25, crossrail and hs2.

Junction 28 Improvement on the M25

The M25, London's Orbital Motorway, took decades to deliver, from its proposal in 1944 and its planning stages in the 1960s through the opening of its first sections in 1975 to its completion in 1986. By the time it was finished, it was already struggling to accommodate the levels of traffic it was required to carry. Work to widen sections and improve others has been undertaken ever since.

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has recently given the green light to two new upgrades, one at Junction 28 which connects to the A12 into Essex and the other at Junction 10 with the A3 in Surrey. The granting of planning permission to National highways means that the two projects can finally get underway

While Balfour Beatty has been appointed to the Junction 10 upgrade, Graham has been awarded the £124 million contract for the major improvement at Junction 28 between Brentwood and Romford. It will involve the construction of four bridges and work will begin late in 2022. Completion is not expected for another two years.

The Essex scheme has not been without its controversies. The original cost estimate was £50 million but has increased by 250%. It was also strongly opposed by Network Rail which feared the work might have a detrimental effect on a nearby railway bridge.

The regional delivery director for National Highways, Chris Welby-Everard, clearly relieved at the decision, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome: "Our proposals to improve the M25 at junction 28 are good for business and jobs, good for road safety and good for the environment, making journeys safer and more reliable. We have listened carefully to the views of all stakeholders and are delighted with today's announcement."

The Crossrail Funding Gap

The Elizabeth Line, London's much delayed and keenly awaited new west-east Crossrail underground line succesfully opened in May, if only partially. However, there remains a funding gap of £174 million which the Department for Transport is looking to Transport for London to cover.

The effect of Covid-19 was to increase the expected cost overrun of £650 million to £1.1 billion but a funding deal concluded in November 2020 covered most of this amount. What remains outstanding is required to connect fully the separate parts of the Elizabeth Line network. In December 2021 TfL reported a £158 million underspend on capital expenditure projects so the signs are positive that the money will be forthcoming.

Originally scheduled to open in 2018, the project has had a troubled journey and will only be complete when the three sections, running from Reading and Heathrow to Paddington, from Paddington to Abbey Wood and from Shenfield to Liverpool Street, are connected. Despite the overruns and the delays, the finished project will be seen as a world-class feat of design, engineering and construction.

HS2's New Chair

For two months, Sir Jon Thompson, chief executive of the Financial Reporting Council has been the acting deputy chair for HS2 Ltd. It now seems overwhelmingly likely that he will be appointed as its new chair.

Since former chair Allan Cook handed in his notice over a year ago, the Department for Transport has been looking for a replacement and reportedly interviewed five candidates from 29 applications but were unable to find a suitable appointee. They relaunched their search in March 2022 with an updated job description to appeal to senior figures from a wider circle of backgrounds and industry sectors. Thompson was appointed to the board in April 2021 and took on the acting deputy role when the search for a full-time chair restarted. In fact, this made him the de facto chair.

If Sir Jon's appointment is confirmed, it will bring some very welcome certainty to the highest levels of HS2 management.

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