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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Will Crossrail beat the Tube?
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Online

The 10bn Crossrail project aims to ease congestion on journeys across the capital, but how hard is it to travel from east to west London on the Tube?

Getting from Canary Wharf to Heathrow Airport looks quite a daunting task on the Tube map.

Canary Wharf Tube station, designed by Lord Foster
Will Canary Wharf's Crossrail station match the Tube?
But this is a very civilised start - Canary Wharf is often described as the cathedral of stations, designed by Lord Foster.

The new kid on the block, in nine years, will be a Crossrail station called the Isle of Dogs.

It will be a couple of minutes' walk from the foot of the skyscrapers and created by its own award-winning architect Ian Ritchie.

And the excitement is already building.

Ron Venn, 60, who works in Canary Wharf supplying security equipment, flies from Heathrow about once a month and thinks Crossrail would be "brilliant".

Ron Venn
Mr Venn welcomed the go-ahead
He said: "It can take an hour just to get from Heathrow to the West End. Your feet are flattened when you get there and you're not popular with a suitcase."

Irene Skeels, 50, lives near Canary Wharf and gets driven to Ealing once a month to visit relatives.

She said: "It can take up to two and a half hours, so a train journey there would mean I can go on my own in less time."

We're off

Crossrail estimates a journey from the Isle of Dogs station entrance to Heathrow's will take 43 minutes.

So, stopwatch activated, I set off at 12.30pm.

Tube
Even the new Jubilee Line gets full
The first leg on the Jubilee Line to Green Park was quite bearable until London Bridge, when the train suddenly filled up.

Saxophone player Brian Edwards, 40, who lives in Surrey Quays, was on his way to a rehearsal in north London.

He often uses Heathrow Airport when he tours abroad and said it can be a nightmare journey from his home in Surrey Quays, changing at Canada Water and Green Park.

"With suitcases and my saxophone, it can be tough going up stairs, plus it's usually packed with people in the mornings."

The difficulty of changing Tube trains was underlined at Green Park, where there was a five-minute walk to the Piccadilly Line and several people struggled with their luggage.

Rochelle Dodge
Luggage-laden Ms Dodge said: "We'd love Crossrail."
An announcement on the public address system warned of severe delays on the Central Line, but a "good service" on all other lines.

That's questionable, I thought, as the packed Tube train to Heathrow pulled in and I just about squeezed on.

It emptied a little at Hammersmith, enabling a group of American tourists with several items of luggage to get a seat.

Rochelle Dodge, 35, from Philadelphia, said: "It's crowded and they could do with more storage for the luggage.

"I would love a direct train because the only train [at Paddington] wasn't convenient for our hotel."

Kelvin Manswell
Mr Manswell is happy on the Tube
Waqar, a 25-year-old immigration officer at Heathrow, spends three hours travelling to and from Finsbury Park in north-east London.

He said: "The travelling time is a nuisance and I don't always get a seat, so it sounds great, although I don't know if I'll still be here in nine years. I hope it doesn't flop."

Not everyone is set to desert the Tube. Kelvin Manswell, from Hounslow, is happy with his 40-minute journey to Knightsbridge, where he is a security guard.

"I usually get a seat but if it takes people off the Piccadilly Line, that would help me."

Tube poster
"You can't beat the Tube." Until 2013....
The train eventually arrived at Heathrow Terminals 1-3, five minutes after Terminal Four.

My watch said 1hr 20mins - double the time a direct Crossrail train would take.

A poster plugging the Piccadilly Line caught my eye. "You can't beat the Tube", it said.

Ten billion pounds says you can.




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