A PROJECT to link east and west London is to get underway - without the connection politicians in Basingstoke have been calling for.

Crossrail, a £16billion scheme running from Maidenhead in the west to Greenwich in the East, received Royal Assent this week, paving the way for Cross London Rail Links to be transformed into a delivery agency with power to acquire land and build and maintain the line.

Councillor Horace Mitchell, Cabinet member for planning and transport, told The Gazette it was good the Government was building a railway but thought it was strange it was not being extended to Reading, which is a major transport hub, rather than the more provincial Maidenhead.

"I don't see a lot of common sense in it," he said.

He pointed out Basingstoke passengers would have to change trains twice to connect with Crossrail.

In March, the then Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Cabinet member Cecilia Morrison expressed support for a proposal to add a £3million extension to the scheme to link it with Basingstoke, Reading and Milton Keynes.

But the approved scheme has stuck with the planned terminus at Maidenhead.

Enabling work for Crossrail, the largest civil engineering project in Europe, will begin next year, with the main construction work scheduled to begin in 2010.

When completed, Crossrail is predicted to carry over 200 million passengers each year in trains running up to 24 times each hour at peak times.

It is expected to add at least £20billion to the UK economy.

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport, said: "This landmark project is of major significance to both London and the whole country. It will generate jobs and economic growth, help revitalise some of our most deprived areas and deliver major improvements for the travelling public."