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Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

The House will recall the extensive discussion in the Crossrail Instruction debate on 31 October about a station at Woolwich, adding £186 million to the cost of the scheme. This could simply not be afforded given the scale of the overall funding challenge. I said then, however, that I was willing to give Cross London Rail Links Ltd—the Crossrail Company—the time needed to explore with others, including the London Borough of Greenwich, whether there was a way of significantly reducing that cost.

I am pleased today to inform the House of important developments that point a way forward.

The key to this has been Greenwich Council's recent proposal for a major revision to its spatial plan, to allow a significantly higher density of development at Woolwich. This, in turn, has prompted Berkeley Homes to offer a means of enabling a station to be built at Woolwich but, crucially, without adding to the current cost of Crossrail.

In light of this, agreement has been reached in principle with Berkeley Homes under which they will build the basic box structure of a station at Woolwich and then construct their own development overhead. This will all be done at their own risk, using their own money, to the specification laid down by CLRL, with a payment back to Berkeley Homes of the saving CLRL will make through avoiding other works at Woolwich, when it constructs the line there.

In due course, Berkeley Homes would then arrange for the completion of the station box to full operational status. Both they and Greenwich Council recognise that the completion of the station would be conditional on receiving sufficient funding contributions from those developers and businesses that stand to benefit from a Crossrail station at Woolwich. The contributions would be in addition to any London-wide Crossrail funding arrangements that may be agreed and no additional public sector debt capacity would be made available. Fit-out of the station could take place only once sufficient private sector contributions had been received.

More work needs to be done to flesh out this deal but the House can now have sufficient confidence that Berkeley and Greenwich Council have the commitment and the right incentives to do that. This is a very significant change from the position last October as there is now a clear way forward that can deliver a station at Woolwich without adding to the costs of Crossrail already identified.

On this basis I am now able to bring forward an amendment to the Bill to provide powers for the station. In due course, the House will be invited to agree a further instruction to the Committee in respect of Woolwich.