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Thameslink doubts cloud Crossrail future

BACKERS OF the £3bn eastwest Crossrail project this week voiced fears that the project could be undermined if Railtrack drops its long delayed £800M north-south Thameslink commuter rail upgrade.

The fears follow signals from Railtrack last week that it could be preparing to withdraw from Thameslink to allow private investors to take over.

A Railtrack spokesman said it was carrying out an interim review to look at recent cost increases and to examine the best way of taking the project forward. 'We all want Thameslink. We just need to find the best way to deliver, ' he said.

The massive Crossrail scheme will link the rail network at Paddington station to Liverpool Street station. Its supporters say that a central London interchange with Thameslink at Farringdon is vital to the project's financial viability.

Last week the government gave the go ahead to the project and announced that £150M would be spent on studies to determine its exact scope. It also approved the start of a feasibility study into a line linking Wimbledon in south west London with Hackney in the east.

The government has set up a working group comprising London mayor Ken Livingstone, transport minister Lord MacDonald and Strategic Rail Authority chairman Sir Alastair Morton to drive Crossrail forward.

However, consultants Maunsell and Arup are working together on their own plan for the project. Maunsell chief executive Peter Head said he believed there was growing support for setting up a private consortium to promote the scheme, raise the finance and even push the necessary enabling legislation through parliament.

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