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Business takes extra hit on Crossrail cost

Supporters of London’s Crossrail project now hope the £15bn project will be given the go-ahead in the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October after it was this week omitted from Gordon Brown’s Labour Party conference speech in Bournemouth.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly confirmed that government was still firmly behind the project and said would get the green light shortly.

“I would like to be the transport secretary that comes back next year having given the project the go ahead,” she said at a meeting at the conference on Monday.

But Kelly admitted that though funding package was nearly complete a few hundred million pounds still needed to be found and that businesses in London were being asked to plug the gap.

“At the moment we are looking at a funding shortfall, but we are completely committed to finding a solution,” she said. “At this point in time, the gap is quite small, and we are nearly there, and are in consultation to find a solution.”

Firms in London would face a hike in business rates of around 4p in the pound but Kelly has asked businesses to find extra cash in time for the CSR.

MP for Woolwich Nick Raynsford said the sticking point was the City of London.

“The City should pay,” he said at the ICE’s reception during the Labour Party conference. “If Canary Wharf can pay, if BAA can pay and even if little old Woolwich can pay, then certainly the City of London can contribute to the success of Crossrail.”

Meanwhile, 100 business figures and politicians gave their support to Crossrail this week including London’s transport commissioner Peter Hendy, managing director of London Underground Tim O’Toole and ICE president Quentin Leiper.

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