§ 4. Mr. Tony Banks
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is his latest estimate of the likely increase of (a) road users and (b) public transport users in London as a result of the construction of the Channel tunnel terminal at King's Cross.
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo)
The Department is examining the impact of the proposed terminal on the surrounding road network. The impact on the public transport network is expected to be small.
§ Mr. Banks
Does the Minister recall that when I saw him nearly a year ago I reported that the Channel tunnel and second London terminal projects would be chaotic and that political intervention would be required? Is he aware that confusion is now upon us and that we are in great danger of having three quarters of a tunnel, half a fast rail link and no second London terminal? When does the Minister intend to intervene to bring central political decision-making into the free market chaos which now surrounds us?
§ Mr. Portillo
Decisions on all these matters will be made shortly. The hon. Gentleman is alway urging me to take a strategic view, but I believe that it should he for British Rail to propose the railway line and the terminal that it wishes to build, see whether it can get private sector participation and then take a Bill through the House. If that is not successful, it is for British Rail to consider the options. If a strategic view were to be taken, I am not sure that one would not conclude that King's Cross, with its good access to the north, would be a better proposition.
§ Mr. Gerald Bowden
As British Rail's half-baked ideas for a Channel tunnel rail link terminating at King's Cross are now in disarray, having failed to attract any private financial support, will my hon. Friend the Minister consider the available options where there is private backing for viable plans that will serve the entire United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Portillo
I am well aware of my hon. Friend's concern and the assiduous way in which he represents his constituents on these and other matters, but the project has not reached the stage that he suggests. We shall have to wait and see whether British Rail will make an announcement in the coming days and weeks about a partnership with the private sector and whether it will wish to propose a Bill. If it proposed a Bill and that measure was not successful, it would then be appropriate to consider the options. A proposal has been worked out with a great deal of time and effort and I believe that it should be considered fully.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
Does the Minister agree that King's Cross is already the most congested location in London both above ground and below? Is it not sheer folly to propose funnelling a further 10 million or 15 million passengers per year through an over-congested location by locating the second Channel tunnel terminus there? Is it not time to think again and consider other options?
§ Mr. Portillo
King's Cross is extremely well connected in terms of public transport. There are more tube lines there than in any other place in London. There are also extremely good connections to the north of England. In 6 that sense, it is very well connected. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to traffic congestion, he should remember that that problem will arise with any site that is chosen. My Department will be giving evidence to the Select Committee on Transport on the railway proposal and to the London borough of Camden on the lands development proposal, which will be a matter for Camden to consider.