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Take a Look at the Crossrail Station Under Bond Street (ianvisits.co.uk)
142 points by edward 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

Crossrail is an incredible achievement by the British. $22 billion to build 26 miles of new track on a 73-mile train line, through some of the most expensive real estate in the world, including 13 miles of tunnels underneath downtown London. And delivered only two years late.

By contrast, New York’s second avenue subway will easily exceed Crossrail’s $22 billion cost, if it’s ever finished. For that price New Yorkers will get just 8.5 miles of downtown tunnels (versus Crossrail’s 13). And they won’t get the additional dozen or so miles of new above ground commuter railroad that Crossrail has managed to build for that price. Moreover, Crossrail started somewhat later (2009 versus 2007), but will be done by 2020, while New York will take until 2027-29 just to finish the first two phases totaling 3.5 miles. The remaining 5 miles may never be completed at this rate.

EDIT: As 'pcwalton correctly pointed out, about 2/3 of Crossrail's suburban rail was pre-existing, so my per-mile cost for Crossrail was too low. It's difficult to calculate the per-mile cost of new Crossrail track, because part of the $22 billion budget involves upgrades to the 45-miles or so of existing track and stations. But even assuming all that cost nothing, it's about $850 million per mile to build the new segments through downtown London. The Maryland Purple Line, by contrast, is $350 million per mile to build light rail on existing city streets through suburban Maryland. And the DC Silver Line is about $300 million per mile to build heavy rail on existing, reserved freeway medians through suburban and exurban Virginia.

This isn't a valid comparison. Underground rail is vastly more expensive than above-ground rail. And a lot of the above-ground Crossrail rails already exist. I could just as easily say that the Central Subway in San Francisco is only $147 million per mile, because the $1.5B 1.7-mile underground extension connects to the existing roughly 10-mile K Ingleside/T Third line.

This blog post [1] has a better comparison. By this measure, Crossrail is less expensive per kilometer than the new subways in New York City, which are abnormally pricey, but significantly less expensive than the SF Central Subway for example.

[1]: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2011/05/16/us-rail-constr...

Thanks for the correction. I've revised based on your comment.

Note that your link counts the non-tunnel sections as zero cost, which isn’t correct either. There is a significant amount of new above-ground track. Also, the project involved major upgrades to the pre-existing track and stations, which can be enormously expensive: http://www.crossrail.co.uk/route/eastern-section

On the eastern section, 43 miles of track was upgraded, 27 stations were "redeveloped" and 20 bridges were "renewed." These efforts were undoubtedly cheaper than building all-new track, but could cost billions on their own. So the real per-mile cost is somewhere in-between the $300 million and $850 million figures.

> These efforts were undoubtedly cheaper than building all-new track

Well, that depends.

Part of the justification for building HS2 (a high-speed railway from London to Birmingham, Manchester, etc) is that building a new line is much cheaper than upgrading the existing line (again).

Making changes to a railway that's being used is expensive: time is used preparing and restoring the area to be worked on, labour at night or weekends is more expensive, and it's much more important that the work is right the first time, so trains can resume on schedule.

HS2 is a special case because it is augmenting the West Coast Main Line which runs at-capacity almost 24/7. You can't shut it down for 30 minutes at 3am, let alone for years while it is replaced wholesale.

To do it piece by piece would take either unfathomable amounts of money or several decades of piecework.

An incredible achievement by London, for London, perhaps.

Meanwhile in North England...

Nope, not much to report.

We still have converted buses running on tracks, lack of electrification, extremely short trains/platforms, and train companies often on the verge of going bust (perhaps because everyone drives).

> Nope, not much to report.

Hey, we may* get rid of the pacers this year!

Also, they sucessfully managed to dodge upgrading the transpenine route for the 3rd? 4th? time since it's last upgrade in the 80s. That's a win.... for something.

> Hey, we may* get rid of the pacers this year!

They've been saying that since I was there several years ago.

They'll out live all of us.

They're coming. Slowly, but they are coming.


All gone by summer 2020 is their latest statement.

Training is their current excuse for the delay: "“They are in Yorkshire for one simple reason – that is that our train crew here can drive them now, can operate them now. If we introduced them elsewhere where they don’t operate them now, we would introduce a training need that could not be coped with."


Drivers need to be competent on the specific type of train. This seems especially obvious for a driver who has spent the last decade driving Pacers and might now be given a Class 195 DMU. The handling characteristics are pretty difficult, it's not even like it was a small upgrade - as observed so many times a Pacer is basically a railbus.

If anything the anomaly is that we aren't expected to retrain on the roads. I am old enough to be "grandfathered" into the UK's old regime where a single pass, as a teenager, in a small hatchback, qualifies me for like 50 years to drive a 5 tonne truck even with a trailer. I've never driven anything with a trailer, no evidence I'd be safe doing it but hey, the rules used to be lax so...

The use of "excuse" was referencing the fact that these trains didn't just up from no where, that training on new trains isn't an unexpected thing for a train company to need to do.

It's like saying a product in a supermarket is delayed "because it needs to be put on the shelf"

And, unfortunately, majority of people in the North of England blame the European Union for this.

Edit: OK, the rather few people I know from the North are not representative.

Um, nope. Of all the many complaints I've heard against the EU, particularly in the last 3 years, many are wrong. Yet I've never heard anyone up here blaming the EU for the North and Scotland's public transport.

We almost entirely blame Westminster, all parties, and their London exceptionalism. Some will still single out Mrs T.

I think it's reached triple the transport spending per head in London compared to elsewhere. Then there's the subsidy of buses Thatcher permitted to continue in London, but nowhere else. So the regions pay double or more what London does on bus routes. West Coast main line electrification was put off for I guess 50 years! The cross Pennine route is a sick joke, still running those awful bus on rails trains. Those were supposed to be a 4-5 year, super-cheap fill in. Ooh 30 or 40 years ago.

Crossrail? Sure, give it a blank cheque and immediately talk about crossrail 2.

Andy Burnham has had a fairly remarkable transition from Westminster Minister after becoming mayor of Manchester. There's been a few enlightening media pieces about him and public transport. Course now he vocally realises where the problem is, he's no longer an MP...

> The cross Pennine route is a sick joke, still running those awful bus on rails trains.

Pacers are an amazing innovation that are best appreciated in the appropriate context: videos from Geoff Marshall making fun of them. They're completely useless outside of that and should be binned immediately.

Judging by the way the North votes it seems it's mostly the Tories that get the blame. Which creates a vicious circle as why would the Tories do anything for a region that doesn't vote for them anyway.

Not sure that works. London is overwhelmingly Labour, and the Tories do plenty for that region that doesn't vote for them. The Tories traditionally hold the shires who get almost as little done for them by Tory governments as the North. Seems more about where the City is and isn't. ;)

This opens the can of worms of how ridiculously unrepresentative and centralised our system has become. Particularly under FPTP with an electorate that increasingly votes for a multi-party system.

It goes much deeper than that. If we all voted for them they would still do nothing for us as I didn’t go to Eton, my uncle isn’t a viscount, I don’t own land and have no membership at any gentleman’s club.

You can judge how interested they are by their manifestos. They’re targeted towards their existing voters and rarely make any promises for infrastructure in the North.

They talked about the Northern Powerhouse for a few weeks. That's our lot for this decade.

I’ll join the other comment and add another “er, no”. The disdain for Westminster has existed far, far longer than than the EU has existed. You could probably go back hundreds of years at a minimum.

There's plenty of anti-Westminster and anti-London sentiment in Richard Cobbett's Rural Rides from around 1820 - all of it justified.


The text is on Gutenberg. It's too repetitive for a full read, but worth a scan to get the flavour.

There are some interesting challenges with projects like this in London:

"It's estimated that there's about 17,000 tonnes of bombs that were dropped on London in WWII and the rule of thumb is about 10% failed to explode,"


[I guess UXO must be an even bigger problem for German cities].

> Building a 73 mile train line through some of the most expensive real estate in the world

Apart from the 13 miles of tunnel in the middle, pretty much the entire above-ground train line existed already, so it's not a fair comparison -- the need for real estate purchases for Crossrail was comparatively very small.

Compare to the constantly expanding massive subways of Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, building the subway in sinking Jakarta, etc. After looking to these Crossrail is not that big and complex.

The major cost drivers the new stations, not the tunnels. The Second Avenue subway has 16 new stations; Crossrail is only building 10 new stations.

That said, it's not really a surprise that construction costs are cheaper in the UK. Mean wages are 40% higher in the US overall. That the major New York construction firms are deeply integrated with organized crime doesn't help, of course.

Crossrail is a MASSIVE project. It's actually really impressive that it's getting delivered at all. I hope we see a lot more of these large scale projects - they don't just change commutes and travel, they change places and lives.

This is a topic very close to me because I live and work on the Crossrail route. I've seen how this has affected house prices and, frankly, I can't wait some of the burden is taken off the Central Line.

You're absolutely right about how significant a change a project like this is in terms of towns, communities and lives.

and the Tideway project. Huge feats of engineering. Although I doubt a considerable sewerage pipe is going to increase your home value.

I live close to one of the tributaries that is significantly affected by the sewage issues in London at the moment, not far from the Three Mills area. I've looked at flats around there and they are a good 15-20% cheaper than I'd expect... with the main caveat being that much of the area kinda smells. I would expect many of them to increase in value once Tideway comes online and that area smells less.

I also walk along the Jubilee Greenway in East London quite a lot, and much of that is built on top of the old above-ground sewer pipes that lead down to the old Bazalgette sewage pumping station in Abbey Mills. Hopefully once those pipes are decommissioned the Jubilee Greenway should be much nicer to walk along!


I suppose if the sewage pipe isn't there it would have a dramatic affect of reducing your home value :)

In 2015 I remember seeing billboards around construction sites saying: "Biggest construction project in Europe". Not sure what the claim was based off.

Crossrail has added billions to land values (and thus house prices) along the route. This is a wealth transfer from income tax payers to land owners.

Income tax payers are already at breaking point - especially those who don't own land.

Don't expect many more "rob from the poor to give to the rich" schemes until tax is reformed.

Remove the word "income": it's all tax payers, from income to VAT to road tax. It all goes in one pot.

The UK could desperately do with some land taxation, but it's hardly reasonable to say that "income tax payers are at breaking point". It's the people on low incomes that are closer to breaking.

Besides, since Brexit, nobody cares about the deficit or credit rating. We can just debt-fund everything!

The UK does have land taxation, but it only happens at the point of sale - we have very high 'stamp duty' (sales tax on houses), but no yearly land tax. The net difference in my opinion is that it reduces liquidity on houses and the burden falls more heavily on people who move around more.

At the same time, Crossrail removed land prices (and thus house prices) in other areas.

Because workers can now use Crossrail to live farther from the city centre (along Crossrail route), thus reducing the price of other houses in the city (which are not along Crossrail route).

Honestly, I think Crossrail is one of the most efficient spends of tax, beneficial for both poor and rich people.

Also note that the UK has progressive taxation, so it was actually rich people who paid for Crossrail.

> Also note that the UK has progressive taxation, so it was actually rich people who paid for Crossrail.

You're using the definition of rich that is "high paid"

I uses the definition of rich that is "high wealth"

High wealth people who don't have a high income, quickly become poor.

High wealth people don't have 'income', they have 'further wealth acquistion' which is normally structured to be tax free.

Well, it's hard for me to say, how good they are at evading taxes, but I'm sure even when evading they pay much more taxes than average Joe (in absolute numbers).

Even if that were true, how is it relevant? The point being made is that many, or maybe most, people with high income do not have high wealth.

It was my response to the original statement that rich landowners do not pay taxes, but benefit from Crossrail, thus Crossrail is "rob from the poor to give to the rich".

My objection to that statement is that rich people also pay taxes.

Nowhere near as much - especially when it comes to accommodation.

To pay a £1500pcm rent on a modest house in outer London while commuting to work, I would have to earn about £60k more than someone who owns it outright and lives off dividends with the same disposable income, and therefore I’d be paying £25k more in taxes.

On top of that the owner would see their wealth increasing at a further £50k a year, which would require even more income to match.

In the UK income is taxed at 30-75% (including NI, income tax, student loans, and child tax). Capital gains is 18%-28%.

I am in no position to judge whether UK taxation is fair and reasonable, but will the increase in property value result in increased property tax collections over the following decades? That is one way the beneficiaries will contribute to the expenses.

Most urban transit systems are publicly subsidized in order to keep down the cost to riders, which is of most benefit to the less well-off. Even people who do not live or travel in a big city benefit from the economic activity and revenue they generate. Public transport, if implemented reasonably efficiently, can justifiably be called an investment.

If you own your home, you only pay tax ("stamp duty") when you sell it - there isn't a land value tax or similar. There's also a local council tax based on property value, but that has a cap.

Not even that -- you pay tax when you buy the home.

Buy a house for £300k with a 270k mortgage, pay £5k stamp. Crossrail increases it to £600k. Sell the house, repay mortgage, buy new house elsewhere for £300k, pay £5k stamp, and you've suddenly changed your £35k into £325k.

I thought I heard that Crossrail was being funded by value capture.


the expensive bit is the tunnel and stations under central london where there aren't any houses

Maybe so, but that cannot be separated from the project as a whole, as there is no point to it if it did not go there.

That's not really the point.

1) Crossrail cost billions

2) Income tax payers in the UK had to pay for that

3) Income tax payers have had enough and don't want to pay for infrastructure that benefits others

Those who benefitted the most? The land owners in London who have made billions

If the price increases -- the portion solely due to crossrail -- was taxed at 42% like income, then there would be far more money available for useful projects (like crossrail)

Therefore the OPs hope ("I hope we see a lot more of these large scale projects") would be answered

I'm an income tax payer in the UK and don't mind a reasonable percentage of that going to infrastructure. I've suffered being stuffed sardine style into the central line often enough to think Crossrail makes sense. Also with interest rates close to zero it makes financial sense for the government to borrow to build this sort of stuff. (The interest rate on 15 year bonds is 0.86% per year currently).

That said I can see the argument for a property improvement tax but it would be messy to figure out - London projects effect huge swathes of property in differing ways.

Those who benefit most from Crossrail will be those who will ride it every day. Increased property values around the route is just the visible effect of the benefit of being able to ride it.

Secondary benefits will also fall on riders of other lines and street transportation that become less congested by riders diverted to the new Crossrail route.

Majority of people near these stations don't use them. Half of them bought their houses for 2 years salary in the 70s and are now retired on a final salary pension with more money after tax and housing than people on 70k a year (or perhaps they rent out those houses and look forward to the higher income that crossrail will let them charge - in addition to the land value increase)

You know that taxation from London supports the regions along with EU money which is ironic considering that areas that are net beneficiaries from the EU (and have less immigrants) voted leave.

> Income tax payers have had enough and don't want to pay for infrastructure that benefits others

Had enough? What does that mean exactly?

The people who will benefit from crossrail the most are the main income tax payers who go to work every day on the tube. Salaries in London are 2-3x higher than outside and income tax gets disproportionately higher the more you earn.

Can you imagine if the tube was never built because it would benefit rich landowners in London more than other people?

Large parts of the Tube and UK rail network were built privately before the 20th century. Most of them lost money and consolidated before nationalisation.

Quite. The metropolitan railway was funded buy buying cheap land, building rail to it, then profiting from the increase in that value.

That no longer happens.

I can imagine if rich landowners in London had to pay for the society that gives their assets value.

if you bother to look at the funding you'll see something like 40% comes from increased business rates in the areas expected to benefit, plus loans which will be repaid from ticket revenues from the new line

> If the price increases -- the portion solely due to crossrail -- was taxed at 42% like income,

Not 42%, but most properties will attract capital gains tax when sold.

You only pay CGT on a house if it's not your main residence - that is, if it's an investment rather than a home. There certainly are plenty of landlords in London, but i suspect that in the areas where Crossrail is increasing prices, it's mostly homeowners.

Won't they be paying Stamp Duty?

You pay stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on the purchase of land or property, not sale.

But for every sale there is going to be a purchaser so the tax is going to get paid whether it is the seller or purchaser paying.

Sure, but arguably thats penalising the wrong party. Also depends on who purchases, if you're a first time buyer you get significantly reduced stamp duty for example.

The noise dampening efforts are the most interesting to me. They mentioned to fan noise as still being very noticeable with efforts to minimize the impact on those living in the surrounding areas. My question is, is that hard to mask the noise of fans?

My experience only being having a central air AC unit on top of my building, the noise is only part of it. With fans this large you can feel their movement if not perfectly maintained.

What's fascinating about reading this is the parallels to technical debt and slowdowns in large software ecosystems within mature and maturing companies.

This would be a good read for someone non-technical to better understand similar software engineering challenges because a rail station and the delays described are far easier for a layperson to relate to.

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