Senior Casework Executive Kevin Barry explains Land Registry’s role in delivering the £15 billion Crossrail project

Canary Wharf Crossrail station

Crossrail is the largest construction project in Europe – something brought home to me and my colleagues when we visited the Canary Wharf Station site in east London.

Seeing the six-storey building (pictured above) taking shape in its dry dock gave us a fresh appreciation of the sheer scale and significance of Crossrail and increased our pride in a job well done as we completed its registration.

More than 10,000 people on 40 sites are involved in building the 73-mile rail link, which will run through London from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east when it opens in December 2018.

It is expected to significantly reduce journey times across London, allowing passengers to travel from Heathrow to Canary Wharf in 44 minutes, and bring an estimated £42 billion boost to the economy.

Crossrail tunnelling map

The registration project

The Crossrail Property team, working with Transport for London who were the applicant, acquired the land for the project by way of 100 general vesting declarations.

Our colleagues at our Stevenage Office started the registration process in around 2007, processing the majority of the station sites.

Registration of the final underground sections from Paddington to Canary Wharf was handled by a dedicated team of caseworkers – myself, Andrew Casey, John Myles and Andrew Pritchard – at Wales Office.

These were particularly detailed subsoil registrations where numerous other interests, such as the extents of existing subsoil registrations, had to be considered.

Crossrail tunnelling

Under the Crossrail Act rights to acquire land ceased in July 2013 so it was important to complete registration in good time. In fact we achieved it by January of that year.

This allowed the Crossrail team to cross-reference registered titles and ensure all acquisitions were made within the scope allowed under the Act without the need to seek additional powers.

Crossrail Land Manager Harry Younger described the outcome as a milestone in their programme and a “job well done”. He said: “This is largely down to the good working relationship with your team and the excellent service that you have provided.”

Success factors

We gained a clear understanding of customer needs from regular meetings with Crossrail Property and the lodging solicitors, predominantly Eversheds and Cripps.

This allowed the early identification of potential issues which could be addressed prior to the lodgement of their applications.

We had support from our appointed Land Registry lawyers, Local Land Registrar Sally Cater and Assistant Land Registrar Ian Lloyd-Parry, in making pragmatic decisions while maintaining the integrity of the register.

Having a dedicated team allowed us to develop not only an in-depth knowledge of the project, including an understanding of its clear benefits to the economy, but also relationships with other stakeholders such as Network Rail, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway and LCR (London & Continental Railways).

Eversheds Principal Associate Andrew Burns said that from his perspective the registration process had been “fantastic”.

“The way in which Land Registry collaborated with not only ourselves but the end customer, Crossrail, was invaluable because it ensured that all parties understood their respective roles in the process, which was key from a project point of view, and ensured that we got things right at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Both ourselves and Crossrail had the benefit of the experience of senior caseworkers who were able to interpret instructions and provide guidance on what the final title would look like.

“Having that ongoing dialogue was very important because it showed a willingness to collaborate and to get into the detail of the project and its long-term needs.

“Kevin, Andrew and their colleagues were a fantastic team for us – they were always willing to help with the ad hoc queries, were willing to have constructive input into the title production process and became partners with ourselves in order to deliver to Crossrail.

“I would recommend this approach is used when undertaking significant sized projects.”

We will continue to work with our Crossrail partners on the redevelopment of the station sites, registering any additional land needed on an ad hoc basis, and sales of surplus land.

All photos © Crossrail Ltd

Kevin Barry
By Kevin Barry,
Senior Casework Executive at HM Land Registry