Crossrail will fail, say backers of rival plan

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The Independent Online

The £10bn government-backed Crossrail scheme linking east and west London was comprehensively rubbished by senior rail industry figures yesterday.

The £10bn government-backed Crossrail scheme linking east and west London was comprehensively rubbished by senior rail industry figures yesterday.

The experts, who are proposing the more ambitious Superlink project, say many Crossrail trains would run nearly empty, failing to relieve congestion on existing lines and the Tube.

Chris Stokes, a senior member of the rail regulation board and a backer of Superlink, even doubted whether a government-sponsored Crossrail Bill, due to be introduced early next year, would survive. He said the scheme, which had not fundamentally changed since its conception in 1945, was "in some difficulty" and unlikely to survive in its current form.

He said the western end of the proposed link at Maidenhead was particularly "weak" because there would be insufficient demand for the proposed 24 trains an hour. The route would go from the Berkshire townto Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London, with a link to Heathrow.

Superlink would connectReading and Cambridge, and have a link to Stansted. Its backers, whoinclude John Prideaux, the former managing director of InterCity, argue that although it would cost an extra £3bn, Superlink would carry four times more passengers than Crossrail. That would mean a funding gap of £3.2bn, which would be financed by taxpayers, compared with Crossrail's £8bn. Dr Prideaux said Crossrail's proposers, Cross London Rail Links - a joint venture between Transport for London and the Department for Transport - would have to explain this "huge gap".

Superlink and Crossrail would rely on a tunnel through central London extending out of the capital. While Crossrail trains would run mainly over existing crowded tracks and not beyond the M25, Superlink proposes new lines connected to existing track, which it says would lead to more and faster journeys to the Home Counties.

The London mayor, Ken Livingstone, warned against considering a fresh proposal, saying £150m had already been spent on Crossrail. "To halt the progress and consider a completely new and untested proposal is not helpful," he said. A spokesman for Crossrail described Superlink as "nowhere near as well developed" as Crossrail, and a spokesman for the Department for Transport said there was "little new" in the project.

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