View from City Road: The prospects for a missing link

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The Independent Online
Apologies for being a damp squib, but the euphoria about Cross Rail has been overdone. John Major has merely promised that enabling legislation for this London link will survive until the second reading. Far from guaranteeing its construction, the Prime Minister has not even promised any cash for the project.

Anyone looking forward to a quick ride across town - the journey from Paddington to Liverpool Street could take as little as 10 minutes - should delay their journey by, say, 10 years. And that is not just because of the difficulties of construction.

Doubters should consider how hard it still is to get to Canary Wharf from central London despite repeated 'go-aheads' for the Jubilee Line extension. It has been heralded in four autumn statements and three Budgets but has still to be built.

Finance for public-private sector projects is hard to come by. Banks are worried about returns, particularly now that they have seen the costs of the Channel Tunnel double. And companies such as GEC want payment partly in the form of orders for trains and electrics. For all Mr Major's fine words, the problem of raising real money looms large.

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