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Crippling cost of cancelling Crossrail

Stop the transport cuts: Crossrail

Transport minister Alastair Darling is this week digesting the latest in a long series of reports on London's proposed Crossrail. The case for the link is clear, argues Andy Bolton.

London's future as one of Europe's economic powerhouses is under threat from continued government indecision over the future of the £7bn Crossrail.

The project will provide a fast, direct link between the capital's eastern and western suburbs.

Official forecasts predict that employment in central London will increase by 420,000 over the next 12 years. But there is a serious danger that all these new, wealth creating jobs will bring the capital grinding to a standstill unless extra commuter rail capacity is built.

Initially, at least, Crossrail's central section between Paddington and Liverpool Street is needed to relieve pressure on an already overcrowded Underground.

If built beyond the centre of the capital, Crossrail will also help regenerate run down areas of east and west London currently deprived of good quality rail links.

The line and extensions into the home counties will also help serve these areas as they are redeveloped to meet deputy prime minister John Prescott's aims of increasing access to public transport.

Without it, many fear that London's Underground will start to seize up. The spectre of peak hour station closures looms.

And as commuters desert an increasingly unreliable and overcrowded Tube, there is the prospect of increased car use and even higher pollution levels in the capital.

More worryingly, there is a danger that blue chip financial institutions in the City and at Canary Wharf will become disenchanted with the government's continuing failure to improve transport reliability.

There is a genuine fear that this will prompt a mass relocation to London's financial competitors Paris or Frankfurt, where transport spending is taken more seriously.

As it is, London's creaking Underground system is already running at or above capacity and needs relief.

'On the national rail network, crowding is experienced on the approaches to most London termini, while large sections of the London Underground network around and within central London carry passenger flows in excess of their crowding standards, ' says the business case for Crossrail produced by the joint venture between the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) and the mayor's transport executive Transport for London (TfL).

Even though the Underground is undergoing a massive 30 year upgrade, this is unlikely to boost capacity enough to handle expected increases in London's population over the next decade and a half.

'Significantly more capacity is needed if London is to cope with rapid demand growth, ' says a report on Crossrail produced by the Arup/Aecom-led London Regional Metro group, which is putting together unofficial proposals for the project.

Despite these compelling arguments, the project is still waiting for the go-ahead from government. Over the last decade it has been subject to what seems like endless feasibility studies, appraisals and business case reviews, all of which appear to support the need for the line.

At the moment transport minister Alistair Darling is examining the latest report on the project. This report is itself an appraisal of the £154M government funded study carried out by TfL/SRA's Cross London Links joint venture. Once again it is expected to support the project.

If Darling and Chancellor Gordon Brown still find it in their hearts to cancel such a vital project, it would seem that they have wasted an awful lot of time and taxpayers' money coming to their decision.

Top 10 targets


M1 widening schemes.

A406 London North Circular Road improvements.

London to Scotland high speed rail.

M74 extension.

New Mersey Crossing.

New Tyne Tunnel.

Thameslink 2000.

East London Line.

A303 widening.

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