The Transit Costs Project Conclusion is Out!

Here it is. This is the result of many months and years of work, and a lot of editing, and it should not be viewed as my work but rather as joint work of mine with Eric Goldwyn, Elif Ensari, and Marco Chitti. People should read the report, which talks about how to build in-house capacity and institutional support that does not involve American-style micromanagement and politiciziation.

We’re going to present on this in person at NYU in a day and a half, on Wednesday 10/26, at 11 am (moderated by Aaron Gordon) and again at 8 pm for people who can’t make it during work hours; this is at Marron’s office at 370 Jay Street on the 12th floor, room 1201. (I’m also separately on this panel about through-running, online, 10/25 at 6 pm New York time.)

We’ve managed to decompose much of the cost premium of New York over low-to-medium-cost comparison cases, in the following manner:

Labor

Labor costs are a total of 20-30% in our comparison cases (Turkey, Italy, Sweden). Sweden is the most relevant, as the highest-wage example; Citybanan’s costs were 23% labor. In the Northeastern United States, labor is 40-60% of the cost. Picking 25% vs. 50% as the respective averages, this means that labor costs in the Northeast are three times what they should be, and the difference contributes to a factor of 1.5 cost difference. This includes both blue- and white-collar labor – this isn’t just overstaffing of unionized workers (although that exists too) but also different agencies such as utilities demanding that their own supervisors be in the tunnel during construction. In Boston, the overhead ratio was 40-65% higher on the Green Line Extension than the norm for Bostonian construction.

Soft costs and design

In New York, and as far as we can tell across the Anglosphere, design and management add a hefty additional share. Of note, what counts as soft costs differs by country. For example, insurance is a soft cost in Italy, but in New York it’s bundled into the regular contracts. British cost breakdowns list contingency separately, but American ones do not. Taking just the project management and design contracts – what counts as soft costs for New York contracting – they add 21% on top of the other contracts. The norm in France and Italy is 5-10%. However, 21% is on top of an inflated base: while extra physical construction means a roughly proportionate increase in oversight costs, the extra labor costs do not, and so, relative to a right-size labor cost (that is, overall project cost falling by a factor of 1.5), this is 31%. This contributes a factor of about 1.2.

Procurement

Procurement problems, including lack of competition, poor management of the contractors (called “the [name of agency] factor” where this can be any American transit agency), change order litigation, risk compensation, and contingency, overall double New York’s overall construction costs. Some of this is recent enough to only have been instituted when Andrew Cuomo was governor, like debarment, a heavyhanded attempt to blacklist contractors who run over the estimated cost that leads to higher initial bids for risk compensation. But the privatization of risk goes back earlier and the closedness to working like in the rest of the world goes back much earlier. Moreover, the tendency to privatize risk and alternate between micromanaging contractors and not knowing how to supervise them at all appears pan-US.

As a note of caution, it’s perhaps best to think of procurement and soft costs together as contributing a factor of about 2.5: under different definitions from New York’s, for example those of Britain, some procurement problems like contingency and excessive contractor profit (due to risk compensation – this isn’t a freeroll for the contractors) are folded into the soft cost account.

Overbuilding

Subway stations should be built cut-and-cover, in a box barely longer than the longest train that is expected to run through them. Italian and French examples are maybe 5-10% longer than the train, and Odenplan on Citybanan is 17% (250 m box, 214 m trains). American stations are often oversize: Second Avenue Subway’s two mined stations are on average about 100% longer, and cut-and-cover 96th Street is almost 200% longer. Moreover, designs must be standardized across each project, whereas in the US they are not, to the point that there were two distinct escalator vendors for the three stations of Second Avenue Subway.

This is not seen as nicer passenger spaces – those stations still look pretty crummy compared with the standardized stations of the Nordic countries or Italy or Turkey. It goes without saying that non-standardized escalator placement does not make stations more pleasant. Moreover, the extra space is just used for back offices with full segregation between different functions and work teams that no legacy station has anywhere, or unnecessary crossovers; Odenplan looks much nicer without much superfluous digging. Political insistence on signature stations in the United States leads to waste without any improvement in user experience resulting from it.

This factor also absorbs conflict with utilities, which is seen in decisions to dig too deep and build mined stations, avoiding cut-and-cover even when the costs are more favorable. (Utility relocation costs should be reduced too, but those are second-order in New York.)

In New York, stations are 77% of the hard costs; systems and tunnels are 23%. Cutting station costs by a factor of 3 (or slightly more, counting utility conflict) means cutting overall costs by a factor of a little more than 2. In fact the overall cut should be bigger because there’s some overdesign in the systems as well. The paused, restarted, and budget-overrunning Paris Metro Line 1 extension budget is split as 30% stations, 55% tunnels and systems, but that’s for trains half the size of New York’s, and Länsimetro Phase 1, with trains three quarters the size of New York’s split about evenly between the two. With systems and tunneling made cheaper as well through scale and standardization, the overall cost difference is a factor of 2.5-3.

What does this mean?

It means you should read the report, linked at the very start of this post. But mostly it means the causes of high American (especially New York) costs are institutional, and fixable, without a revolutionary upending of the legal or social system. We can’t tell you how New York can build for the costs of Nuremberg or Turkey, both around $100 million per km, but $200 million per km, slightly higher than Italy and slightly lower than Sweden, is achievable. Moreover, because institutional problems with procurement and soft costs occur throughout (and also conflict with utilities, a bigger issue for smaller projects than subway expansion), the same reforms that should bring down tunneling costs should also bring down the costs of non-tunneling improvements like elevator accessibility and platform edge doors.

68 comments

  1. Eric2

    Great work.

    My impression is that costs for other transit modes (light rail, surface/elevated metro, and so) on are just as inflated in the US as costs for underground metro. And yet, you assign a huge fraction of the underground metro cost overrun to the choice to dig oversized stations. This suggests there should be design decisions with similarly large impacts for other transit modes. Do you have any thoughts on what they are?

    • Sassy

      Is the cost premium for surface/elevated rail as big as it is for underground rail? It doesn’t seem like it. So I wouldn’t expect design decisions with similarly large impacts. The relative cost of underground vs surface/elevated in the US might just be higher than in other countries, due to bad design decisions that only affect underground rail.

    • Alon Levy

      Thanks!

      The light rail premium is less certain, because the overbuilding there, while extensive, comprises other things, some of which can be disaggregated. These include betterments, like the planned Somerville Community Path, in which a pedestrian or bike or street project is bundled into a megaproject and then ends up costing a lot because of OPM.

      However, some extras cannot be so unbundled and are pure construction costs. We were told that conflict with utilities contributes a 2x factor to the construction of elevator accessibility in New York; the utilities contribute a smaller share underground, since utility relocation is a real but secondary factor in costs, and much of the conflict is absorbed into labor costs.

      • df1982

        Streetcar lines in non-legacy cities in the US seem to have little to no premium over comparable projects in other countries, often coming in as low as $25-30m a km (including stabling and rolling stock). What is the reason for this? Are they so small in scale that they fly under the radar of the various rent-seekers?

        And what is a reasonable downtown premium for subway construction. Say if NY managed to have Nordic-level costs, how much more should the Second Ave Subway cost than, say, Utica or Nostrand (not to mention lines through truly suburban areas)?

        • Alon Levy

          Which projects are you thinking of? Because the light rail lines do have large premiums, albeit smaller ones than the subway premium.

          I wish I knew the exact city center premium; I’m assuming around 1.5x but it’s not especially rigorous. If Berlin actually gets off its ass and extends the U-Bahn out then we’ll know.

        • AJ

          Perhaps because most US streetcars (unlike the few US light metros) are mixed traffic, so the ROW costs are low?

          • df1982

            I’m thinking of all the dinky little streetcar projects opened in the mid-2010s that are of dubious actual transportation value in places like KC, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, etc. They run to low frequencies in circuitous alignments and therefore draw modest ridership, but in terms of project management they might have lessons to learn, at least in terms of how not to let costs explode. Here is a list of systems and budgets, which almost always includes stabling and rolling stock:

            Salt Lake City: 3.2km (mostly single track), $55m (2013 opening)
            Atlanta: 4.3km single track, $90m (2014 opening)
            Tucson: 6.3km (mostly double track), $196m (2014 opening)
            Dallas: 3.94km (double-track), $79m (2015 opening)
            Charlotte: 6.4km (double-track), $180m (2015/2021 opening)
            Kansas City: 3.5km (double-track), $102m (2016 opening)
            Cincinnati: 5.8km (single-track), $148m (2016 opening)
            Detroit: 5.3km (double-track), $137m (2017 opening)
            Milwaukee: 3.4km (double-track), $124m (2018 opening)
            Oklahoma City: 9km (single-track), $136m (2018 opening)

            So budgets of between $20m and $50m per double-track km equivalent, and mostly in downtown or inner-urban areas. Which is fairly close to what equivalents projects cost in Germany or France (in fact France is often more expensive).

            Compare this to the disasters of the DC streetcar or Boston Green line extension. What are these cities doing right? Or is it more that they haven’t yet “learnt” how to do things wrong? Or that, in a transit-hostile political environment, they have to be as lean as possible to even get up in the first place, so there’s no leeway for rent-seeking?

            P.S. These are indeed mostly mixed-traffic lines, but I don’t think that would make much of a difference to the raw construction costs of a project. A streetcar with its own lane doesn’t require property resumption if the lane is simply taken away from general traffic. That’s a political decision more than a construction issue.

          • AJ

            Mixed traffic doesn’t have a different is raw cost, but presumably the overall project is much cheaper in terms of soft costs because the political capital spent is much lower?

            Are there equivalent lines in Europe?

          • Alon Levy

            Europe doesn’t build new streetcars in the American way. It does build new streetcars that are largely in dedicated lanes, often in grassy medians, and sometimes these lines have short sections of mixed traffic, but these are not the same projects as the every-18-minutes-when-on-time American streetcar.

          • df1982

            Most European projects still involve putting down tram tracks in city streets though, which in terms of construction is essentially the same type of project as what these American cities have done. Little to no property resumption is involved either way. In any case, I thought you’d be interested in these projects as a counter-example to cost explosions in the Anglosphere.

  2. Martin

    Great job, I think this kind of comparative work is very useful. I think it is really to way to go to understand international construction costs.

    Just a small note, Odenplan has giant amounts of useless mining (though through cheaper dynamite I presume, but I think it was still connected to a 6 or so year long cut-and-cover hole), on top of the actual platforms, in the intermediate platform area. Stockholm City, a bit but not as extreme. Both are also (correctly) generously provided with a large set of connecting and wide tunnels to existing systems.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, Odenplan has a lot of space above the platforms; this is normal – cut-and-cover stations (as used in the rest of Europe, if not in Stockholm) have to dig that part out anyway, so the back office spaces are placed there.

  3. Tiercelet

    Awesome. I’ll look forward to reading the full report at some point–thanks for such carefully researched and incisive work.

    I’m a little confused about the math–you say “Picking 25% vs. 50% as the respective averages, this means that labor costs in the Northeast are three times what they should be.” That isn’t immediately obvious. I guess you’re saying–suppose a Swedish project cost $100 ($25 labor and $75 other); to get $75 worth of “other” the US project would’ve had to spend $150 ($75 labor/$75 other); $75 is 3x $25, so US labor is overpriced by a factor of 3? Is that the idea?

    Tangential question, since you were talking about oversize stations: is there a world in which oversize stations in major junctions/dense destinations could be made more financially reasonable through intentionally creating rentable retail space, a la Taipei (or Columbus Circle)? It seems like an ongoing revenue stream for the agency would be a good thing, but I have no idea what the time-to-recoup would be or if the extra logistical challenges of running a sideline business would make it not worthwhile.

    • Alon Levy

      I guess you’re saying–suppose a Swedish project cost $100 ($25 labor and $75 other); to get $75 worth of “other” the US project would’ve had to spend $150 ($75 labor/$75 other); $75 is 3x $25, so US labor is overpriced by a factor of 3? Is that the idea?

      Exactly.

      is there a world in which oversize stations in major junctions/dense destinations could be made more financially reasonable through intentionally creating rentable retail space, a la Taipei (or Columbus Circle)

      There may be such a world, yes. We’re really interested in seeing how South Korea works, since unlike Taiwan it has low construction costs. But often, these underground malls are just wastes of money that will never be recouped; this happened at some stations in Naples, like Municipio with its grand mezzanine transfer.

      • Bryan Anderson

        I was quite surprised at the size of the stations in Seoul, which often felt excessive, in light of what I know (from your work) about their costs. Not once did I feel like the access/transfer time was a design principle that anyone had considered. Really my only complaint (aside from payments, which is much more fixable) with an excellent system. I look forward to hearing more if/when you find out how and why Korea builds stations the way they do.

  4. Reedman Bassoon

    The San Francisco Central Subway opens in January 2023. Any cost/construction thoughts?

    • Alon Levy

      I outsource most of my takes on the Central Subway to Richard Mlynarik.

      (The thing I think about it that I don’t think he agrees with is that I think that it would not be a bad project – at something like one quarter its actual cost per km – if it went farther north and northwest; as it is, not only is it supremely expensive, but it’s so short that it doesn’t save riders any time net of station access time deep underground, making it a rare case in which the German Green critique of rapid transit is correct.)

      • Bryan Anderson

        This is the correct take on the Central Subway, and fortunately the short route length is fixable, so there is a chance it could be a useful transit line one day.

        There are other problems that will be much harder to fix, however.

        One issue that will never be fixed is access: the Powell BART/Muni transfer distance is way too long and the Chinatown station is too deep.

        Another that’s unfixable is the route through the city center: it should’ve gone down 3rd and Kearny (and on to Columbus) instead of 4th and Stockton, with the Market Street connection at Montgomery station, which is much more central than Powell. A Chinatown/FiDi station on Kearny and a Chinatown/Barbary Coast station on Columbus could’ve arguably served Chinatown better than the single station on Stockton, while also serving the northwest part of the financial district and a popular commercial area—but alas, the actual route was drawn on a napkin by incompetent and corrupt politicians in a smoky room in the 1990s, so it’ll have to do.

        An issue that might be fixable at considerable expense is the platform length. Despite extremely long station boxes, the platforms can only fit two-car (150 ft) trains, likely leading to crowding if the line is ever extended as it should be. A lot of potential platform length is blocked by full-platform-width staircases, so I do wonder if it would be possible to add mezzanines above the platforms (I know) and have 2x the sets of half-platform-width staircases/escalators instead. I have no doubt this would be super expensive, but it might be possible to extend the useable platform length without actually expanding the station boxes. I have never found true engineering schematics of the stations, but some low-precision measurement using available cutaway images indicates that 225-foot trains and MAYBE 300-foot trains could be possible.

        I still have hope that the Central Subway could be a useful automated light metro line someday, but for now it’s pretty bad.

        On topic, great work, and I can’t wait to read the full report!

  5. plaws0

    Started to read this and went down a Jay Street Connecting Railroad rabbithole. Sorry. Didn’t even realize that building was built by the TA. I will RTFP now and promise not to be distracted again.

  6. Matthew Hutton

    One of the issues that certainly applies to Britain and not to France is the need to tunnel into London to add more capacity.

    The lines into Paddington, Waterloo, Marylebone, Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras are all close to or at capacity. Now sure if you put the Euston freight and/or cancelled the Heathrow express you could gain a handful of slots – but in contrast Gare de Lyon and Gare d’Austerlitz alone have 10 tracks between them – so assuming you could put the small number of regional trains onto two of those tracks you could put in a brand new high speed line with 14 trains per hour and perhaps more without any new infrastructure in Paris itself.

    America possibly does have enough tracks, but the question is how fast they are. The lines into Paris still do 140km/h which is perfectly respectable for the first 10-15km and won’t slow things down much. The question is whether the fast American tracks could be sped up to a similar speed – I’m not sure.

    • fjod

      This is mostly true*. I’ve made this argument in these comments before wrt putting Crossrail 2 on the surface between Clapham Junction and Wimbledon, which also isn’t possible unless you do a lot of demolition and engineering.

      * = with the exception of Paddington, which totally does have enough tracks (or enough space to put new ones with minimal digging

      • Eric2

        I don’t understand this. Victoria and Waterloo stations (essentially the only two serving the southwest) served a total of 170 million passengers per year pre-pandemic. RER A serves 300 million passengers per year – roughly speaking 150 million living in the east and 150 million living in the east. So RER A, on a single pair of tracks, provides roughly equal service to all the Victoria and Waterloo lines put together. Which makes it hard for me to understand how the roughly 6 pairs of tracks leading up to Victoria and Waterloo are can be considered full. It should be easy to take a couple of those 6 pairs for Crossrail 2 with little impact to existing services (those not replaced by Crossrail 2).

      • Matthew Hutton

        Paddington only has 13 platforms which for a European reliability railway probably isn’t enough to support 6 tracks. So you’d need to demolish quite a few houses to support more platforms.

      • spencepatrickj

        That’s not true. In fact, Crossrail 2 doesn’t even need to be tunneled under the Thames. At Victoria, you can build a cut-and cover station just west of the mainline station, like what exists at Paddington. Crossrail 2 can exit its tunnel immediately south of the station and take over the existing westernmost two tracks through Pimlico and across the Thames on the Grosvenor Bridge. Six tracks into Victoria would remain–four onto the Chatham Main Line/South London Line and two onto the Brighton main line. These converted tracks become the westernmost two tracks of the four-track Victoria-Brighton main line (platforms 12 and 13 at Clapham Junction.) Past Clapham Junction, Crossrail 2 can dive-under and take over the two local tracks of the SWML while the corresponding tracks from Waterloo can take over the two local tracks of the Victoria-Brighton main line.

        You end up with this service pattern into Waterloo and Victoria:
        Waterloo: Windsor Lines (2 tracks)
        SWML Fast services (2 tracks)
        London-Brighton Slow services (2 tracks)

        Victoria-Mainline:
        Chatham Main Line services. (2 tracks)
        South London Line services. (2 tracks)
        London-Brighton Fast services. (2 tracks)

        Victoria-Crossrail:
        SWML Local Services (24 TPH) stopping at:
        -Victoria
        -Battersea Park
        -Clapham Junction
        -Earlesfield
        -Wimbledon
        -Raynes Park Split:
        8 tph to Teddington
        8 tph to Motspur Park
        8 tph to Surbiton

        What is the point of six tracks between Clapham Junction and Wimbledon? Moving the SWML local tracks to 24 TPH 9-car Crossrail service increases train throughput by 50% and seats by 142%. Does London really need more than that? Save the money and add a station at Piccadilly Circus. That’s actually useful.

        • fjod

          Yes, I suppose mild oversight that the first 1km out of Victoria does have enough tracks and I agree you could maybe use these to cross the Thames if you’re minded to build Crossrail 2. The problem is what you do with the other trains which use the tracks after that.

          Firstly you have a problem between Clapham Junction and Wimbledon – there are too many trains which need to run on the remaining two tracks once you devote two tracks to Crossrail 2. Unless you also propose service cuts to non-Crossrail trains out of Waterloo, the proposal isn’t a realistic one.

          You also have the same problem coming out of Victoria through Battersea Park – what service do you propose to cut from the Brighton Main Line such that it can be forced into two tracks (the ones which feed into platforms 14 and 15 at Clapham Junction) ?

          There are definitely ways to avoid *some* tunnelling in London, but you do have to get into major civils (e.g. tunnels or demolitions) at some point on every route out of central London – otherwise you have to cut services.

          • spencepatrickj

            You don’t have a problem between Clapham Junction and Wimbledon. You currently have 16 tph on the fasts and 16tph on the slows. I would move every single service that currently uses the SWML slows to Crossrail 2, increase train lengths to 9 cars, and increase frequency by 50% to 24tph. What’s the problem with that?

            I wouldn’t cut any services from the Brighton Main Line. It would have four platforms at Clapham Junction, two of which would feed Victoria (current BML fasts) and two of which would take over the wholly released two tracks into Waterloo (SWML slows), now that 100% of SWML slow trains route into Crossrail 2.

          • Matthew Hutton

            You can’t run 16tph on a long distance line. Even the Japanese don’t manage that on the Shinkansen.

          • Eric2

            Because the Shinkansen operates at 285km/h. If the trains are chugging along at Clapham Junction speeds, long distance or short distance makes absolutely no difference.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Britain does run our infrastructure hotter than anyone else in Europe. So to be fair if it’s a bit much for us it’s probably a bit much.

            I mean Heathrow airport was the worlds second busiest international airport in 2019 on only two runways.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Yeah but to be fair even with RER C the drivers are probably signed to drive on the whole network and Munich probably half the network so you can switch the destinations up if you need to and have a delay.

          • Eric2

            “Britain does run our infrastructure hotter than anyone else in Europe.”

            That’s not my impression, nor Alon’s apparently. Can you give some examples of usage in the UK which are particularly “hot” so we can check if those are actually the hottest in Europe?

          • fjod

            spencepatrickj – ah ok this starts to be realistic. I had misinterpreted your previous pattern as being 8 trains either terminating at those points or running to the usually proposed four termini of Crossrail 2 (Hampton Court, Epsom, Chessington and Shepperton) – rather than your idea of running to all points served by the existing slow lines. Under your proposal, there are significant problems with interactions with other services at Woking (Crossrail trains terminating in platform 3, in the middle of the fast lines) and between Epsom and Leatherhead, but nothing that can’t be solved with some money or service reconfiguration. It’s not free but it’s almost definitely less expensive than tunnelling. Maybe there’d be residual problems with reliability with that number of branches but, hey, you can just run maybe 20tph to start and then iron any issues out as you go along.

            Eric – figure 3 here partly backs up Mathew Hutton’s point on ‘hotness’ of use, but worth noting the Netherlands runs it hotter by that metric. Of course the metric there omits number of tracks per route (intuitively I feel NL has more 4-track than the UK but I can’t back this up beyond personal experience) and some other factors like flat junctions (UK probably worse in this regard too) so, on a system-wide basis, Matthew isn’t too wide of the mark. Alon’s point on capacity *on specific lines/routes* is still true though – the UK isn’t anywhere near the frontier on this sort of thing on mainline rail.

          • Matthew Hutton

            That document is talking about route km and not track km 🙂. Plus it’s kinda misleading.

            The through platforms at Oxenholme Lake District probably have ~3tph, Oxford’s have ~5-6tph and Newbury’s have ~4tph – so there’s some capacity spare away from London for sure – it’s the London bit that’s super intense.

          • Eric2

            @fjod
            That diagram is useless, it’s basically a diagram of population density. Sweden, with vast areas of low population, naturally has low ridership per km due to its rural lines. Denser countries have higher ridership per km in proportion to their density, with Netherlands naturally highest. What really matters is not the overall usage, but the usage at chokepoints (like Clapham Junction).

          • Eric2

            And it says something about the competence level of the report authors that they think this is a meaningful graph.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Public sector central government bureaucrats are useless unfortunately. It’s the same in most countries.

          • Eric2

            Somehow, in certain countries like Italy and Spain those bureaucrats manage to plan and execute transit projects efficiently and at low cost. In the UK they don’t. I think this is a UK problem rather than a universal truth about government workers, and the fact that people erroneously accept the UK situation as unavoidable is a large part of why it persists. Isn’t half the discussion on this blog about this very topic?

          • fjod

            @Eric2 – firstly, it’s not a diagram of ridership. What it shows is number of trains per length of route. It merely was an illustration that adds support to Matthew Hutton’s claim that the UK runs its infrastructure on ‘hot’. And it does show this, with the proviso that we both made that the denominator is route km rather than track km.

            The motivation for this is to some extent population density yes, but I didn’t claim that wasn’t the case and am not sure why you are using this as some kind of gotcha. It is also clear that factors other than population density must have some effect – otherwise Sweden would be far, far lower than France in line with the fact that it is one-fifth as densely populated. Much of the rest of the motivation can be explained by different operating practices, such as France’s penchant for infrequent but high-capacity trains.

          • Eric2

            @fjod you wouldn’t expect a country with 1/5 the population density to have 1/5 the trains per km, because unpopulated regions have fewer tracks on average than populated regions. But there are still *some* tracks in unpopulated regions, and they drag down the average. So what you would expect to see based on population density is exactly what you see here.

        • Matthew Hutton

          @Eric2.

          The Parisians are typically building line extensions in the suburbs. I took a look at the line 11 extension. That extension doesn’t cross any existing underground railways and the nearby stations typically had 2 million passengers a year pre Covid. On top of that the terminus currently had 6 million passengers a year pre-Covid and might perhaps have a total of 10-15 million passengers after the line 11 extension is built.

          This is a different animal from something like the Jubilee line extension. That is a line where the weakest stations had 10 million riders a year, the strongest en-route station had 50 million riders a year and the terminus had a total of 120 million riders a year. Additionally the Jubilee line extension crosses half a dozen other metro lines and crosses the Thames five times.

          So the fact that the Jubilee line extension was built for merely twice as much as the Paris line 11 extension after adjusting for inflation makes it look like pretty good value to me.

          I also don’t think Crossrail (twice as much as the Jubilee line extension after inflation but also even more complex and with twice as long trains) or the Battersea Northern line extension (the same as the Jubilee line extension after inflation) are particularly bad either.

          Once we try and take complexity into account the Spanish, the Scandinavians and Milan look to be building stuff cheaper for sure, but a lot of the other players are spending about the same.

          • Alon Levy

            At the time the Jubilee line extension was being built, Paris built the very urban M14 for half the cost. Since then, the UK:France ratio has remained about 2, with London building the Northern line extension for about twice the per-km cost of GPE and budgeting the Hayes extension of the Bakerloo for about twice that of Paris Métro extensions like M1.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I fully agree that the M14 was built cheaply in the 1990s and likely given the complexity it was among the cheapest in the world.

            I dispute that the northern line extension to Battersea is straightforward. It plugs into the Kennington loop presumably not in a planned way and has separate tracks for the first kilometre or so, plus it crosses two metro lines. Plus the expansion of Kennington for interchanges was likely significant as it needs to support Battersea Power station and Clapham Junction for the future which could pull in perhaps 15-20 million and perhaps 20-30 million respectively. Also both a potential Albert Bridge station and Nine Elms could get up to 10 million passengers a year given they are inner London.

            I do agree that London doesn’t seem to be cheap for the simpler projects – probably because it hasn’t done any since the 1940s. The Croxley rail link, the Bakerloo extension to Lewisham beyond Elephant and Castle itself and the Northern Line extension on from Battersea to Clapham junction should all be relatively straightforward and they are expensive/not done. I mean to Albert bridge road from Battersea you could go cut and cover through the park.

  7. Pingback: I Gave Two Talks About Construction Costs Yesterday | Pedestrian Observations
  8. TransAn

    It would be interesting to do this comparison with Asian countries as well. I did a course in Shanghai and spoke with a transit engineer about why their subways costed 1/3 of Toronto’s. It’s a combination of a few factors like this article mentions: Labour for one thing but also cheaper materials and land. Land in China is leased from the State, so the government does not need to pay for costly expropriation and public consultation.

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