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Prime minister and London mayor launch Crossrail construction

Prime minister Gordon Brown and London mayor Boris Johnson this morning launched the first pile for Canary Wharf station in London, signalling the start of major construction work for mega project Crossrail.

Transport minister Andrew Adonis, London transport commissioner Peter Hendy, Crossrail chairman Douglas Oakervee and Canary Wharf Group chief executive George Iacobescu also witnessed the first of almost 400, 18.5m deep steel tubular piles that will form the basis of the new station.

The new station is being built in the North Dock between Canary Wharf and North Quay and when complete will be one of the largest on the Crossrail network.

The newly named Canary Wharf station will be the first Crossrail station to be built, and includes plans for retail space and a roof-top park.

The formal start of construction signals the intensification of work on Crossrail and follows the confirmation of major funding agreements with BAA, Canary Wharf Group and the Corporation of London, the appointments of the new Chief Executive and Chairman of Crossrail and the appointment of the main contractors who will oversee the overall project delivery including design, tunnelling and construction.

Brown said: “Many people said it would never be built, but today we are celebrating a defining moment for London as Crossrail’s construction gets underway.

“Crossrail will not only mean faster journey times across the capital and beyond, it will also bring a massive economic boost to the city, creating thousands of jobs and adding at least £20bn to our economy.

“Investment into important projects like Crossrail, the largest construction project in Europe, is vital to create and protect jobs as well as supporting businesses, so that we can grow our way out of recession and ensure a strong future for London and the country as a whole.”

Johnson said: “The years of hesitation, irresolution and vacillation are over, the shovels have tasted earth and the construction of a railway that is crucial to the economic prosperity of this great city has begun.

“This amazing project will create and support thousands of jobs, relieve congestion and provide a high speed link between east and west of London. When the first of Crossrail’s chariots glide smoothly along its lines in 2017 it will change the face of transport in London and the South East forever.”

Crossrail is Europe’s largest infrastructure project and will employ some 14,000 people at its peak, providing a crucial boost to London and the UK’s economy. Another 7,000 jobs will be supported indirectly through project support services through items such as manufacturing equipment.

As a beginning, a Crossrail Tunnelling Academy will open in Newham in spring 2010 to train some 1,000 people up to 2015, providing the skills necessary for work in a variety of tunnelling roles.

Crossrail will run for 118km from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west through 21.5km of new twin bore tunnels through central London and on to Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Woolwich, Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east.

London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy said: “Crossrail will deliver a huge capacity boost as part of a multi-billion pound investment to improve and expand the capital’s transport network. When it is completed in 2017, the new railway will play a key role in relieving congestion on the Tube and extending access to key retail and business centres to passengers from all over London and across the South of England.

Crossrail Chairman Douglas Oakervee said: “The priority for Crossrail is to deliver this project on time and within budget. Following approval of the Crossrail Act last summer, the project has made significant progress with funding and governance agreements finalised and the appointment of the contractors for the key Programme Partner and Project Delivery Partner contracts. Today marks the beginning of the next stage.”

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