THE BLOG

Crossrail Is Changing London

07/04/2013 19:28 BST | Updated 04/06/2013 10:12 BST

At a cost of £14.8 billion, Crossrail is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and it plans to change the way that Londoners travel.

Once completed, Crossrail will deliver a high frequency, high capacity train service linking Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east - with 37 stations along the route that utilizes 21km of new tunnels under central London.

It's projected that around 200 million passengers will travel on Crossrail each year and that this new service will bring an additional 1.5 million people within 45 minutes commuting distance of London's key business districts.

Construction commenced in 2009 and over 7,000 people are now employed on the project. New stations are being constructed along the central route at Paddington, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, and Canary Wharf.

But what does this construction and the projected influx of additional commuters mean for these communities?

I spoke with Peter MacLennan, Crossrail spokesperson, to find out what engagement Crossrail has undertaken.

'Crossrail has an important role to play in supporting regeneration and the economy,' said MacLennan. 'A dedicated team of Crossrail community relations officers are responsible for direct engagement with communities along the route.'

In addition, MacLennan confirms that:

'Community liaison panels have been established throughout our central area and enable Crossrail's various delivery teams to engage on a regular basis with the local community.'

All sensible and necessary steps to ensure that people are kept informed of the construction going on beneath their feet.

In many ways it is difficult to predict, but I was specifically interested in what impact Crossrail might have on London's gay village of Soho.

Already the construction around Tottenham Court Road and Soho Square is changing the way that people access and move around Soho. But if we try to imagine that in just a few short years an additional 1.5m people will have increased and easier access to London, what that might mean for what Soho?

Spokesperson MacLennan believes that:

'Crossrail will act as a catalyst for urban regeneration, not just through the construction of major new transport hubs, but by delivering new customers for businesses and connecting people with job opportunities.'

While additional traffic may be good news for businesses, for the gays and lesbians that form the foundation of Soho's sense of community there is a danger that in this commuter boom Soho could lose its sense of place and identity.

What might this mean in practice? Soho's gay bars will be busy with tourists, but local gay and lesbians will be reluctant to travel far from where they live - why leave Shoreditch, Vauxhall, or Clapham if all you're going to find is an over-crowded and over-priced theme park in Soho?

At times London can already feel quite fragmented - there is a danger for London's gays and lesbians that the changes delivered by Crossrail will deepen the geographic divides of our community.

Construction of Crossrail is planned to complete in 2017 with services commencing on the central section of the track in late 2018.