Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 10:39 UK

PM hails 16bn Crossrail project

Artist impression of Crossrail train
Critics say the money could be better spent on the London Underground

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has marked the start of construction on a new £15.9bn rail route across London.

Crossrail will link towns to the east and west of the city with Heathrow, the West End, and Canary Wharf.

The project's supporters say it will bring better transport for London and create jobs when they are badly needed.

But Crossrail has been criticised by some commentators as a waste of money, given the extreme pressure on the public purse.

Given the go-ahead in 2007, Crossrail will involve digging tunnels from the east of London to a point close to Paddington station in the west of the city.

Boris Johnson says Crossrail is crucial to London's future prosperity

The tunnels will link to existing rail stations, providing train services to Maidenhead, Heathrow, central London, Docklands, Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south London.

Mr Brown joined rail minister Lord Adonis and London Mayor Boris Johnson at Canary Wharf in London Docklands as a foundation for a new Crossrail station was laid.

Mr Brown said: "Investment in important projects like Crossrail, the largest construction project in Europe, is vital to create and protect jobs as well as supporting business, so we can grow our way out of recession and ensure a strong future for London and the country as a whole."

There have been concerns that the Conservatives could abandon the project because of the economic conditions should the party win the next general election.

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds said: "Critics say it's far too much when public spending is expected to fall and some say the money would be better invested in the tube system."

See details of Crossrail route through central London

But Conservative mayor Mr Johnson said the project will change the face of transport in London and the south-east forever.

"The years of hesitation, irresolution and vacillations are over," he said.

"The shovels have tasted earth and the construction of a railway that is crucial to the economic prosperity of this great city has begun."

At peak times 24 trains an hour will run on the route, carrying up to 1,500 passengers.

The first trains are expected to start running in 2017 - more than four decades after the concept was first recommended.

The Department for Transport has provided £5.6bn of funding for the project with Transport for London paying for another £7.7bn.

Airport operator BAA is funding the project to the tune of £230m and the Corporation of London is providing a further £200m.



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SEE ALSO
Mayor unveils 'tunnel academy'
20 Apr 09 |  London
Crossrail to add 1.2bn benefits
25 Feb 09 |  London
Crossrail station work to begin
10 Jan 09 |  England
Union concern over TfL jobs plan
12 Dec 08 |  London
Has Crossrail hit a delay?
03 Dec 08 |  Business
Sites purchased in Crossrail move
17 Oct 08 |  London

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