Blair urged to back £10bn Crossrail scheme for London

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair was warned yesterday that the Government's vision of regenerating the Thames Gateway to the east of London will remain a "pipe dream" unless it allows the £10bn Crossrail project.

More than 50 organisations ranging from business lobby groups and tourist bodies to housing trusts and football clubs have written to the Prime Minister urging him to give Crossrail the green light before Parliament breaks for the summer recess on 17 July.

The letter comes ahead of a key Cabinet sub-committee meeting tomorrow to discuss the Thames Gateway initiative which will be chaired by Mr Blair. Signatories include Sir Brian Williamson, the chairman of Liffe, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, chief executive of the King's Fund, the architect and new Labour supporter Lord Rogers of Riverside and the chairman of West Ham football club Terence Brown.

The Crossrail project has been on the drawing board for more than a decade but has failed to get the go-ahead, largely because of the daunting cost. Its supporters put the cost at £7bn-£9bn but the Treasury has estimated it at anywhere between £10bn and £15bn. The letter, organised by lobby group London First, says that without Crossrail, the Government will not realise its ambition of creating 300,000 new jobs and building 200,000 new homes in the Thames Gateway area.

The project consists of two lines crossing the capital - one linking Stratford and Liverpool Street stations in the east with Paddington and Heathrow to the west and the other a link between the north-east and south-west running from King's Cross to Clapham Junction.

Crossrail's supporters say it could be up and running in time for the 2012 Olympics and would "turbo-charge" London's bid for the Games.

Transport for London and the Strategic Rail Authority are jointly developing proposals for Crossrail with the aid of £154m of government money. A London First spokesman said that the business community was prepared to "play a part" in funding the ambitious project but only if the Government decided to support Crossrail.