Brown backs London's deadlocked Crossrail

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LONDON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has put his personal clout behind plans to build a 32 billion dollars rail link across London, but he said business had to pay its fair share for Crossrail.

''I want the project to go ahead immediately, subject to the satisfactory conclusion of detailed negotiations for additional contributions from all beneficiaries,'' Brown said today.

''The City of London will need to make a significant contribution,''he added.

Brown was speaking at the Reuters headquarters in London alongside former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and finance minister Alistair Darling.

Crossrail would be one of Britain's biggest ever building projects, exceeding the 7.5 billion pounds spent on digging the Channel Tunnel and the 9.3 billion pounds budgeted for the 2012 Olympics.

''A comprehensive package is now needed to fund the 16 billion pounds required, largely from the public sector, but also from the proceeds of the business rate and a contribution from certain London businesses and developers who will be benefiting significantly from Crossrail,'' Brown said.

The proposed Crossrail route stretches from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, passing under the capital, to Essex and Kent in the east.

The rail link was first proposed in the mid-1980s, but has since produced nothing more than endless planning meetings and parliamentary debates, despite business clamour to ease the capital's clogged transport network.

It would add 10 per cent more capacity to London's underground rail network, improve the business districts' links to international airports and support the urban regeneration expected around the site of the 2012 Olympics.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone estimates the rail link would benefit the economy of London and the southeast by over 30 billion pounds.

In central London the trains would run through deep tunnels, with stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel.

Reuters SKB RN1532

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