NEWS the Crossrail project has finally been given Parliamentary approval after three years of wrangling has been welcomed by Bexley Council.

But the council has pledged to carry on fighting to get the cross-London rail route extended through Bexley.

The £16bn project, which was given royal assent last week, will give direct train access into central London and Heathrow and run from Maidenhead in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield, Essex, in the east.

Despite efforts including a Bexley Council appeal to a House of Lords select committee, hopes the route would be extended to the international station at Ebbsfleet and take in several stations in Bexley have been dashed for the forseeable future.

But the current plans bring the new rail service to the edge of the borough, ending at a new expanded Abbey Wood station.

Bexley's cabinet member for transport, Councillor Peter Craske, said: "We are very pleased with the Crossrail announcement, as we have always wanted to see Crossrail built."

He added: "We will be continuing to work hard to get an extension from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet, so as to gain the much needed transport links for the people and businesses of Bexley."

Construction is due to begin in 2010 and the first trains are expected to start running in 2017.

When completed, Crossrail will provide 24 trains an hour in each direction through central London at peak times.

The expected 200 million passengers a year will travel in new dedicated, air-conditioned carriages, which will be lighter, quicker, greener and able to carry more passengers.

Its stations will also be step-free, giving easy access for people with disabilities, pushchairs or heavy luggage.

It will also cut journey times, bringing London's West End within 25 minutes direct travel from Abbey Wood.

Crossrail is forecast to create 30,000 new jobs and add at least £20bn to the UK economy.

It will also add 10 per cent to London's public transport.

Co-ordinator of the Knee Hill-based Abbey Wood Community Group June Milner said: "It's going to be wonderful.

"Having lived here for quite a few years we've seen a decline in the area.

"I think Crossrail will lift it back up. This is what everybody is waiting for."

Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin, secretary of the all-party Parliamentary group for Crossrail, said: "It's a great confidence boost.

"It will transform this area in terms of travel times for people going to their jobs and will bring jobs here as well."