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Government to announce £12bn Crossrail package 'within weeks'

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The government is on the verge of giving the goahead to London's long-awaited and much-needed Crossrail development, the AJ has learned.

The secretary of state for transport, Alistair Darling, is expected to announce a raft of details on how the £12 billion scheme will be funded in the next few weeks.

Scheduling a White Paper - a move that is essential if the controversial project is to get the green light - has added new emphasis to decisionmaking in the Department for Transport on the project's future.

It is understood that Darling is keen to see the bill pass through parliament in the next session, a move that means his decision has to be announced before the House of Commons rises for the summer on 22 July.

A source close to the transport department told the AJ that funding for the project will be divided into three separate chunks.

Some £3 billion will come from the central purse, a further £3 billion from the Greater London Authority, and the remainder will be raised from a mixture of planning gain and private investment.

It is also understood that Crossrail - the feasibility company assessing the venture - has started retendering for station designs.

If the scheme gets the go-ahead it will mean a host of work in the capital for architects. Practices commissioned to work on station designs so far include Ian Ritchie Architects at the Isle of Dogs;

Weston Williamson with Aukett at Farringdon and Whitechapel; John McAslan + Partners at Paddington; Tony Meadows Associates at Bond Street; Wilkinson Eyre at Liverpool Street; and Hawkins\Brown at Tottenham Court Road.

John Smith - the project architect who worked on the original designs for Paddington's Crossrail Station while at Alsop & Störmer - said it was good news that the project is set to be given the thumbs up.

'This is pleasing for London and it is exciting that it might see the light of day. However, there have been a number of false starts before now, ' he warned.

Both Crossrail and the Department for Transport were unavailable for comment.

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