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Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 20:49 GMT
Serious setback for cross-London rail route
Thameslink route map
Plans for an improved cross-London service on one of Britain's most overcrowded railways have suffered a serious setback.

The government has asked Network Rail to come up with new proposals for its Thameslink 2000 project to link Bedford and Brighton by way of key London stations.

The plan to introduce an extra five trains an hour at peak times would provide more spaces on the network, which carries 80,000 passengers a day.

It was due to start this year and be completed by 2008.

This is a puzzling and disappointing decision and affects tens of thousands of passengers

Strategic Rail Authority spokesman

But it means rebuilding parts of Blackfriars and London Bridge stations and demolishing buildings in the Borough High Street conservation area in south London to make way for a new viaduct.

The government has asked for new proposals concerning the design of new concourses at Blackfriars and London Bridge Stations and for better protection for the historic Borough Market.

Chris Leslie, a minister in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said the scheme could bring "substantial benefits" for commuters and for regeneration.

'Bad news'

But he added there were still "serious deficiencies".

He said: "Railtrack (now Network Rail) will need to have another look at their plans, but I do not expect them to delay unduly in bringing new proposals forward."

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) described the announcement as "a serious setback and bad news".

Commuters also reacted with dismay.

Brian Davey, of the London Transport Users' Committee, said: "There is going to be a great need for this link because we have got two major airports, Gatwick and Luton, on this route and the new interchange with Eurostar that will be happening at St Pancras.

"So all we can see is more and more people using this."

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BBC London's Yvonne Hall
"Commuters will have to put up with increasingly overcrowded trains"

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See also:

04 Dec 02 | Business
22 Nov 02 | England
12 Nov 02 | England
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