£230m boost for cross-London rail project

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The Independent Online

A £16 billion cross-city rail scheme got a welcome boost today when airport operator BAA agreed to inject £230 million into the project.

This will enable the cross-London Crossrail route to link with Heathrow airport in west London.

There will be four fast-train services for the majority of the day with passengers being able to travel from Heathrow to central London, the City, Canary Wharf in Docklands, Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south London.

Transport minister Lord Adonis said: "Crossrail is the largest addition to the transport network in 50 years, and today's announcement... represents a major step towards its delivery. Business has long been a strong advocate for Crossrail and this is borne out today.

"This is a hugely important scheme for the country. Its implementation will help to generate new jobs, and so support the economy, as well as assist the revitalisation of some of London's most deprived areas by offering them a fast and reliable connection to the rest of the city."

Mike Forster, BAA's strategy director, added: "We are delighted to support the Crossrail scheme, which demonstrates our commitment to improving public transport access to Heathrow."

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "The agreement with BAA is very welcome news and underlines the commitment that businesses, as well as Transport for London and the Government, are showing towards delivering the funding package for Crossrail.

"This is another significant step forward in preparing for the construction of this landmark new railway. Works have already begun at Tottenham Court Road station and the contracts to design and build the multi-billion pound project are all on track to be awarded by spring 2009. All parties are committed to Crossrail's success, and together we will deliver it on time and on budget."

After years of delay and following a scrapping of the scheme in the 1990s by the Conservatives on cost grounds, Crossrail was finally given the go ahead by Prime Minister Gordon Brown days before what everyone expected would be the announcement of a general election in autumn 2007.

There has been speculation that with the UK facing a deep recession, Crossrail will be postponed or even scrapped, depending as it does on £5 billion from the Government and huge contributions from TfL and the private sector.

Due to be operational in 2017, the new line will run from Maidenhead in Berkshire and Heathrow in the west through new tunnels under central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

New stations will be created at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and the Isle of Dogs (Canary Wharf). Passengers will benefit from reduced journey times to Heathrow as Crossrail will provide direct rail services for the first time from the key business centres across central London.

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