Heathrow to Canary Wharf
It took sixty years for the supporters of Crossrail, the new railway being built under London, to convince Parliament it was worth the investment. Recession scuppered the project twice, in the 1970s and 1990s, and slowed it down again in 2009: it was supposed to be finished in time for the Olympics, then budget cuts forced the completion date forward to 2018. Now, at least, construction is irreversibly underway, despite general indignation over the disruption it’s caused and who stands to benefit most from it – the City. By 2018, 21 km of tunnel will have been dug, linking the Great Western line at Paddington to the Great Eastern at Whitechapel. We’ll have spent £15 billion, we’ll have seven new London train stations, and we’ll finally be able to travel from Essex or Greenwich to Berkshire or Heathrow, via Central London, without getting off the train.
Vol. 34 No. 21 · 8 November 2012
From Jeremy Harris
Nick Richardson mentions the curious omission of the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow from the plans for Crossrail (LRB, 11 October). This isn’t an oversight. BAA owns the Heathrow Express – which does stop at the terminal – as well as the tunnel and stations under the airport, and charges £19 each way for the 15-mile journey from Paddington: the most expensive journey per mile on the whole railway network. Were Crossrail to take over trains to Terminal 5 too, it would undermine a big money spinner for the airport operator. More than half the trains due to arrive at Paddington through the new Crossrail tunnel will terminate there, so the opportunity to integrate the Heathrow Express is there. But it’s not going to happen, and BAA’s golden goose will continue to take up two dedicated platforms at Paddington while preventing other services from using the line, which suffers from some of the worst overcrowding in the country.
From Richard Bassett
Nick Richardson refers to the late David Barran as a ‘monocle-wearing, snuff-snorting industrialist’. This gives an erroneous impression of the man. As a product of Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge, two institutions then at the top of their game, he was if anything an intellectual meritocrat. He would never have referred to ‘riff-raff’.
Brooks’s, London SW1