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Prescott's pick

WHAT ARE the construction options for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link?

Build the line from near the Channel Tunnel portal to Ashford.

For a relatively low cost this would remove a bottleneck for through freight traffic and perhaps shave a minute of two off the Eurostar schedule.

Build the line from near the Channel Tunnel portal to Ebbsfleet.

For £1bn this would cut the Eurostar Waterloo-Paris timetable by 15 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes. It would also solve the problem of insufficient capacity on the Channel Tunnel to Ashford section, freeing up train paths on the existing railway for through freight.

However, it would not have any benefit for fast through passenger traffic beyond Waterloo; Kent commuter traffic to London; regenerating the Thames Estuary; regenerating Stratford; freeing up commuter train paths in south and south east London.

Add Ebbsfleet Station, the Kent Lines connection and the twin tunnels under the Thames at Dartford.

There would be some additional benefit from these new links but hardly enough to justify the extra £300M or more it would cost. New powers would be needed to link into the existing rail network north of the Thames which is an overcrowded maze.

Tunnel as far as Stratford to connect to the City and West End via the Jubilee and Central Lines plus the Docklands Light Railway, and possibly Crossrail.

At around £2.5bn the rout would be cheaper but through routes to the North and West on existing railways are relatively slow. The location as an international terminal was being argued very strongly by rival bidders for the project in 1990. It would take about 2 hours 20 minutes Stratford to Paris. Stratford would become more important still if the CrossRail main line Underground railway was built from Stratford to Paddington.

Fund the complete scheme.

It is the refined version of the most successful project from dozens of variations planned since 1972 and as such represents the best balance of capital costs against overall transport benefit.

Mike Winney

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