MINISTERS SHOULD drop the hybrid bill for London's £9bn Crossrail scheme and examine new proposals, a new consortium of industry heavyweights said this week.
The 'Superlink' consortium wants to axe the largely underground spur to Abbey Wood in south east London and instead extend services north to Cambridge, east to Ipswich and west to Reading and Basingstoke.
It claims this larger scheme will generate four times the fare revenue and add just 25% to project costs. This would slash the government subsidy needed from £6.5bn to £3.2bn.
The Superlink consortium is led by former Union Railways chairman John Prideaux and also includes GB Railways founder Michael Schabas who successfully drove the Hybrid Bill for the Jubilee Line Extension. 'We have all learned the hard way that you don't rush in and put in half-baked hybrid bills that will fail, ' said Schabas.
'The government needs to pause and check alternatives as anything less than the best scheme won't get through parliament.'
Schabas added that Superlink had hoped to work its plans into the official plan being worked up by Cross London Rail Links (CLRL).
'We hoped they would listen, but all they've done is cut things off it, ' he said.
The new lines proposed by Superlink would tie into the growth areas in east and south east England set out by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in his Sustainable Communities plan.
Superlink estimates the total cost of its scheme at £13.2bn, built around the £4bn central section currently planned between Liverpool Street and Paddington. Fare revenue is expected to bring in £10bn.