Glimmer of hope for Crossrail emerges

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A GLIMMER of hope emerged for the Crossrail project yesterday when an MP who had voted against the Bill said he may have been been given misleading advice when he opposed the scheme.

Dr John Marek, Labour MP for Wrexham, has written to the Speaker to question the advice he was given by the clerk to the committee of four MPs which earlier this month rejected the Crossrail Bill for a pounds 3bn railway across London from Liverpool Street to Paddington. Dr Marek was one of the three MPs who opposed the Bill because the scheme as put forward in the Bill did not include a junction with the proposed Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL).

Although the committee which also included Labour MP Ken Purchase and two Tories, Tony Marlow, who opposed the Bill, and Matthew Banks, who supported it, refused to give reasons for turning down the project, the lack of a connection with the link weighed heavily in their decision. Now, however, Dr Marek has told the Speaker he was not aware that the committee had the power to impose conditions on the Bill, such as ensuring that it included a connection. He told the Independent: 'If there is any chance that we were wrongly advised and there is a chance that the Bill would now include a link, then the committee should be recalled. However, it was made clear to us at the time that there would not be a link with the CTRL.'

Frank Dobson, the Labour transport spokesman, was incandescent with anger at the two Labour MPs' decision to vote against the Crossrail Bill, even though serious doubts have been put forward by many transport experts.

For the Bill to be reconsidered, John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, would have to table a motion in the Commons to send the Bill back to the committee. He is currently seeking legal advice over this but it would only be worthwhile if the Bill, which was jointly promoted by British Rail and London Transport, were amended to include a connection with the CTRL and with the new Heathrow Express.