Channel rail link decision this week

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The Independent Online
THE route of the pounds 3bn Channel tunnel rail link is expected to be published on Wednesday along with the go-ahead for the Ashford International station in Kent as part of a series of announcements on transport infrastructure.

Publication of the route is bound to arouse controversy, particularly in Kent. However, Kent residents will be delighted that the Ashford International terminal, reduced in cost from pounds 140m to pounds 80m, will be given approval.

The proposed route is largely as expected, from Ashford to Detling and Boxley, then through a tunnel to the Medway towns. It crosses the Thames between Dartford and Gravesend to Rainham, Essex, and Stratford in east London. The Government is to postpone its decision on the route from Stratford to King's Cross.

As revealed exclusively in the Independent, the DoT favours a cheaper route using St Pancras as the terminus rather than a new low-level station at King's Cross. The St Pancras route would run alongside the North London line and through a new tunnel at Dalston.

This was only proposed late last year by Union Railways, the BR subsidiary devising the route, and a final decision awaits an engineering survey expected in October. The original route would have involved a tunnel all the way from Stratford to King's Cross.

The proposed route gives no indication of where stations will be built, except for Ashford, King's Cross-St Pancras and Waterloo, which is almost finished and out of which trains will run (scheduled for 15 December) until the line is completed, probably not until 2000.

There will be connections to the east-west London Crossrail - if it is built - the London, Tilbury and Southend line, North Kent and, at Ashford, Kent Coast services. It has not yet been decided whether there will be a link to Waterloo - if not, the Waterloo terminus will become something of a white elephant.

The announcement of the pounds 300m Heathrow rail link to Paddington, which is to be mainly financed privately, is expected to be in the Budget. It had been held up by a dispute between the developer, the Heathrow operators BAA, and BR over track charges. The announcement of the widening of the London end of the M2 from three to four lanes each way is expected to coincide with the publication of the route of the Channel tunnel rail link.

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