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Crossrail finds cheaper way with Maidenhead extension

News

THE DEFINITIVE route for London's east-west Crossrail link was unveiled this week after intense pressure from the government and London businesses to pin down costs.

Project promoter Cross London Rail Links (CLRL) has dropped proposals set out in its 'benchmark' plan and favoured by the Strategic Rail Authority for a west London extension to Richmond and Kingston. It will instead drive the line due west further out to Maidenhead.

This avoids a head-on clash with Richmond residents, who were threatening to fight Crossrail on the grounds that it would have replaced London Underground District Line services.

The Maidenhead option is also far less technically challenging, CLRL chief executive Norman Haste told NCE this week.

To the east, Crossrail will fork at Whitechapel, with a northern branch connecting via Stratford to Shenfield, and a southern branch connecting with the Docklands en route to a new Eurostar station at Ebbsfleet.

The newly finalised route offers a £750M saving on CLRL's £9.74bn benchmark scheme.

'Fixing the route is about delivering a main railway that delivers the best benefits for optimum costs, ' Haste said.

'But we're still asking for a big figure, ' he conceded.

Transport secretary Alistair Darling ordered CLRL to make Crossrail cheaper following a review of its proposals by Network Rail deputy chairman Adrian Montague, published last Tuesday (News last week).

Haste said the final choice of route came after tough negotiations between CLRL and the Department for Transport (DfT) this week 'We now need to work closely with the Treasury, DfT and Transport for London to put together proposals for the way we think the project should be financed and funded, ' he added.

It is understood that increases in business tax in the capital will deliver £2bn towards the cost of construction, leaving the government to make up the difference.

Finance 'hinges on procurement', Haste said.

CLRL is to form a working group to study funding and procurement with the Treasury, DfT and TfL, to be up and running by September. But Haste ruled out major opportunities for the involvement of private sector finance in delivering the civils component of the scheme.

The extensive tunnelling and station construction works will probably be let as multiple civil engineering contracts.

These would be managed directly by the publicly owned client - it is expected CLRL will be reformed later this year with the DfT and TfL holding 50/50 stakes.

But Haste said signalling and communication systems could be procured using private finance.

'Signalling and communication systems have to be looked at on a line-wide basis, which has greater affinity to private sector finance than a number of discrete civil engineering projects, ' he said.

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