Below is the statement that Dorothy Thornhill, Elected Mayor of Watford, delivered at Council on Tuesday night.
Like most of you, I was shocked and disappointed by the Mayor’s announcement that Transport for London (TfL) were withdrawing from the building the Met Line Extension. This decision was completely unexpected.
I want to tell you why this is. This council and our partners (our MP, Herts County Council, the Local Economic Partnership and the Department of Transport) were working with TfL and genuinely believed that if we could raise the so-called funding gap of £73 million (the difference between “our” estimated cost of building the line and TfL’s estimates) then the scheme would go ahead.
We all worked very hard in our different ways using every channel we had between us to secure the £73 million. The total sum included a generous cushion for risk and overspends.
My last public communication on this issue was that I was “hopeful” the money would be found and that finally we would get green light to go out to tender and eventually work would begin. I was delighted when our local MP told me that all our efforts had paid off that he had finally heard the money was in the bag.
To be now told that a possible further £40 million is required to fully cover the risk is unbelievable.
This is for five miles of track on an existing disused railway line, with all preparatory works having been completed.
I am left feeling that despite the rhetoric coming from the Mayor’s office we are paying the price for two political decisions:
- The Government Transport Secretary’s decision to withdraw £700 million worth of funding from TFL.
- Secondly, the Mayor’s pledge not to increase fares. Of course I understand this politically but it does not make this decision right, morally or economically.
I have no doubt that TfL are between a rock and a hard place financially. But what I must be clear about is that between our partners we were funding this scheme. TfL’s role was to build and deliver it, and until the goalposts were moved last month, it was fully funded including a comfortable risk package.
At the very least I believe that TfL should allow this fully worked up scheme to go out to the market and see if someone else can build five miles of track for the budgeted amount.
With the public money already sunk into this project, the promises made over many years, the backing and support of private business of high calibre worth to the UK, surely it is still possible to at least take the next step so we know exactly what level of risk we are arguing over.
The good this scheme delivers is worth at least that.