Rail Minister Tom Harris this week denied that Crossrail would be built at the expense of Thameslink and said that funding already committed by government showed its dedication to both schemes.
'If I was asked to predict, I would like to see both Crossrail and Thameslink going ahead,' he said. 'I don't see it as an 'either-or' at all.' Speaking at NCE's London Rail conference, Harris said that the £280M so far invested by government in Crossrail should send a 'clear signal,' as to the government's intentions, as should the recent £30M invested in Thameslink.However, Harris took care to say that the Comprehensive Spending Review and following five year rail plan known as the 'High Level Output Study' will eventually determine whether either or both projects will go ahead.The £3.5bn Thameslink project was first proposed in 1991 and has been through two public inquiries thus far. It would upgrade the north-south corridor into London, through London Bridge, Blackfriars and Farringdon, north towards Kings Lynn and Peterborough. Crossrail is a £10bn east west rail link connecting Heathrow in the West with Shenfield in Essex.Harris echoed comments made by ICE High Speed Rail Panel chairmain Graham Montieth in NCE last week when he told delegates that Thameslink is often considered to be Crossrail's 'poor relation,' but confirmed that government has still not made and decisions on funding Thameslink.Conversely Crossrail has a clear funding strategy in place. Crossrail's director of corporate affairs Clinton Leeks, told delegates that funding would be one-third government, one-third from London businesses, and one-third from fares or a PFI deal. Harris confirmed that a tax on London businesses could be introduced. Leeks also hinted that Crossrail executive chairman Douglas Oakervee was close to bringing Crossrail costs down to £6bn, before contingencies, at 2002 prices. The contingency sum is estimated to be £2bn.