THE CASE for building London's long-planned east-west Crossrail Line 1 is to be reviewed by a team of experts appointed by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling. The team, headed by Network Rail Deputy Chairman Adrian Montague, will report 'around the turn of the year', he said on September 9.

They will examine the business case for the latest 'Benchmark Scheme', an east-west tunnel under central London linking Heathrow Airport and Kingston in the west with Ebbsfleet on Section 2 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and Shenfield in the east. Cross London Rail Links Ltd submitted its proposals in July, and these will be scrutinised 'to see whether they are likely to be deliverable to time, scope and budget, and if so whether they are likely to provide proper value for money.'

Darling also asked the team 'to consider whether there are alternative ways of delivering a Crossrail project that would offer better performance'. This would enable the team to examine a rival London Regional Metro proposal, which is costed by Jones Lang LaSalle, Arup and others at £3·3bn, a third of the current estimated cost of Crossrail.

CLRL Chairman Sir Christopher Benson has said it will be at least 10 years before Line 1 would carry passengers, assuming a bill could be submitted to Parliament in November 2004 and Royal Assent was received two years later. Crossrail will not be included in London's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.