Prime minister Gordon Brown has given the green light to the Crossrail project, with £16 billion of funding secured.

The initiative will link Maidenhead and Heathrow in west London with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Key city locations such as Bond Street, Farringdon and Canary Wharf will also be incorporated into the project, which is expected to carry 200 million passengers a year.

Construction of the network will be Europe's largest civil engineering project but trains are not expected to run until 2017.

The prime minister said that the project will be of "enormous importance" to both London and the UK.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly added: "Today's announcement paves the way for a rail link that will give a lasting transport legacy to London for centuries to come."

As a result of the Crossrail initiative a direct 43-minute link will be available between Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf.

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Tony Hill Helen Gillilan

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(Tony Hill and Helen Gillilan)

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