Crossrail project 'should include Norfolk'

Calls to extend the recently agreed £16bn Crossrail scheme to Ipswich and Cambridge will be welcomed in Norfolk today - but officials also want Norwich to be included in the plans.

Calls to extend the recently agreed £16bn Crossrail scheme to Ipswich and Cambridge will be welcomed in Norfolk today - but

officials also want Norwich

to be included in the

plans.

Crossrail, first proposed in 1989, will run from Heathrow Airport and Maidenhead west of London to Paddington through the West End, the City to Canary Wharf and East London, Essex and Kent.

It is the biggest rail project in the northern hemisphere and is expected to cut travel times from Liverpool Street station and connect the capital's key economic centres, which between them provide about 850,000 jobs.

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Now Superlink, a group of experienced railway managers, wants to see a £3bn extension to Crossrail so that it benefits more people, including Ipswich and Cambridge.

Superlink chairman John Prideaux - a former British Rail InterCity boss - welcomed the funding deal agreed earlier this month which will see work on Crossrail start in 2010 and be completed in 2017, but said: "We remain concerned that so much money is being spent on a rail scheme that does so little for so few.

"Extending Crossrail to Basingstoke, Milton Keynes, Reading, Stansted, Cambridge, Ipswich and Southend would add about £3bn to the cost but would be more than self-financing, generating much greater passenger revenues.

"We believe that now is

the time to study these proposals in order to implement them following construction of the core Crossrail tunnels."

Superlink also said it was questioning the rationale for running half the Crossrail trains via Stratford to Shenfield over the Great Eastern line.

It said this part of the railway worked well already, and proposals to link it into Crossrail would, arguably, make services worse for many passengers.

It is a concern echoed by Norfolk officials, who also believe if Ipswich is included in an extension then Norwich should be too.

Adrian Gunson, chairman of the Norfolk Rail Policy Group, said: "It would be a concern if the proposed extension to Crossrail were to cause any further congestion on the Norwich to London mainline which already has problems at rush hour.

"But we are in favour of extending Crossrail as it would help people in Norfolk link into major towns to the north and west of London. However, if it is extended to Ipswich then why not Norwich?"

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