MPs back Thames railway tunnel: Pounds 300m link would lift road threat to historic wood

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The Independent Online
MPs FROM south-east London yesterday urged the Government to consider a new rail tunnel under the Thames as an alternative to the planned East London River Crossing road which will damage the ancient Oxleas Wood.

The rail tunnel at Woolwich would cost about pounds 300m, roughly the same as the six-mile dual carriageway ELRC, which will cross the river via a new bridge. It could carry an extension of the Jubilee Tube line and British Rail track. The tunnel scheme is being advocated by Friends of the Earth and People Against the River Crossing, the local group which is leading the campaign against the ELRC. They claim it could carry 10,000 people across the river each hour at peak capacity.

Launching the report yesterday were MPs John Austin-Walker (Labour, Woolwich), Peter Bottomley, (Tory, Eltham) and Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, Southwark and Bermondsey). The document says cross-river rail and Tube links enabled by a tunnel 'would do much more to improve the travel opportunities for the people of the area than . . . the ELRC'.

It suggests the Jubilee line - already due to be extended to Stratford, east London - should continue through the new tunnel to Abbey Wood on the south-eastern fringes of the capital. The North London Line would also be extended through the tunnel to join the existing Greenwich to Dartford track at Plumstead. This would enable an above-ground 'outer circle' British Rail line to be created circling London through the suburbs.

The Department of Transport is reconsidering the need for the ELRC because of its continuing unpopularity, public spending restraint and legal objections from the European Commission. But it is unlikely to favour an equally expensive public transport alternative.

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