TfL will also have to further investigate driverless trains under the terms of the deal to provide emergency funds to the capital, which has lost billions in passenger revenue because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The details of the six-month agreement, contained in a letter from the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, to the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, force TfL to end spending on Crossrail 2.
The new north-south line across the capital was described by the national infrastructure commission in 2016 as a national priority, and a department set up within TfL under Michèle Dix as managing director to drive it forward. Staff have already been seconded to other projects, it is understood.
While it had been previously hoped that construction could start in the early 2020s, Crossrail 2, costing an estimated £33bn, became a focus for anger at the imbalance on spending on transport infrastructure between the south-east and other regions, and lost its main champions in the government after the EU referendum.
Now the Department for Transport has demanded that TfL “brings an orderly end to consultancy work as soon as possible”, although it has agreed to continue to safeguard land, allowing the scheme to be potentially revived in the future.
Discussions are continuing over providing more funding to the original Crossrail, which has blown its enlarged £18bn budget and is expected to open in 2022.
TfL has also agreed to work with the government on a politically contentious study into implementing driverless trains. While technically possible – Docklands Light Railway trains are fully automated – TfL believes it represents poor value for money. A leaked internal report suggested converting the underground system and trains would require an initial capital outlay of £7bn.
Nonetheless, the Shapps letter commits TfL to “work with a government-led expert review on the possible implementation of driverless trains”. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has long pushed the idea, not least during his clashes with unions during his time as mayor.
The row over the bailout has been bitter, as Khan contrasted the money spent on rescuing national rail firms during the coronavirus crisis with the conditions placed on TfL, and accused Johnson of lying over the state of the capital’s finances.
The government has not insisted on an extension of the congestion charging zone, as had been signalled, nor on general fare increases.
However, the increased £15 daily fee and extended hours of operation of the congestion charge will remain in place, as will limitations on free over-60s travel.
Discussions will continue on longer-term funding, with TfL keen to secure a settlement that makes it less reliant on fare income and matches other world cities.
A TfL spokesperson said: “Although we have started to utilise the skills of the Crossrail 2 team on other business critical projects, the team continues to support the work of refreshing the 2015 safeguarding directions in order to protect the route from future development. This will ensure that the crucial infrastructure can be delivered at a time when a long-term sustainable funding model is in place.”