Way is open for Crossrail extension

THE government today signalled a possible extension of the £16 billion Crossrail scheme.The cross-London scheme is presently earmarked to run 30 miles west of the capital to Maidenhead in Berkshire, but rail minister Tom Harris has announced that he is safeguarding additional land between Maidenhead and Reading, some 15 miles further west.

THE government today signalled a possible extension of the £16 billion Crossrail scheme.

The cross-London scheme is presently earmarked to run 30 miles west of the capital to Maidenhead in Berkshire, but rail minister Tom Harris has announced that he is safeguarding additional land between Maidenhead and Reading, some 15 miles further west.

He said there were no plans at the moment to extend Crossrail to Reading but that the safeguarding of land would give "the flexibility to be able to extend Crossrail in the future, should there be a business case".

The Superlink consortium - a group of rail professionals - is trying to get government backing for an extended Crossrail which would run as far east as Ipswich as well as to Reading in the west.

Mr Harris said: "This safeguarding of the route would also protect the possibility of undertaking electrification works on the route to Reading, even without the extension of Crossrail.

"Again, this keeps this option available should a decision be taken to electrify the railway beyond Maidenhead.'

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Last year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally gave the go-ahead for Crossrail which will see trains running from Maidenhead, through central London and as far east as Shenfield in Essex.

The government is providing around £5 billion of public money for the scheme, with the first trains expected to run in 2017.