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I won't dump Thameslink for Crossrail, says rail minister

News

RAIL MINISTER Tom Harris this week denied that London's £10bn Crossrail scheme will be built at the expense of the £3.5bn Thameslink commuter rail scheme.

He said that funding already committed by government showed its commitment 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.' But Harris also said that the Treasury's Comprehensive Spending Review and the next five year rail investment plan known as the 'High Level Output Study' would determine whether either or both projects will go ahead.

Speaking at NCE's London Rail conference this week, Harris said that the £280M invested by government in Crossrail so far should send a 'clear signal' about the government's intentions, as should the £30M allocated to Thameslink (News last week).

The Thameslink project was first proposed in 1991 and has been through two public inquiries. It involves upgrading the north-south corridor through London Bridge, Blackfriars and Farringdon.

Crossrail is a £10bn east-west rail link connecting Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west with Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in Kent.

Harris told delegates that Thameslink is often considered to be Crossrail's 'poor relation'.

But he confi med that government has still not made any decisions on funding Thameslink.

Conversely Crossrail has a clearer funding strategy.

Crossrail director of corporate affairs Clinton Leeks, told delegates that funding for Crossrail was clearer, with one-third from government, one-third from London businesses and onethird from a private fare-backed finance 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 before contingencies down to £6bn, at 2002 prices. The contingency sum is estimated to be £2bn.

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