Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Promoters of the King's Cross Railways Bill may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with;
That the Bill shall be presented to the House not later than the seventh day after this day;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the last Session;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall he read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the last Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table.
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session.—[The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)
The House will recall that the Bill seeks powers for works in the area of King's Cross and St. Pancras stations to increase capacity for British Rail and, indeed, for underground customers and to provide new rail services across London using Thameslink. It will also give London its second international station for trains via the channel tunnel, whether they finish their journey in London or continue to the midlands, to the north of England or to Scotland.
There have been some important developments since the Bill was last debated in the House almost a year ago. Provided that the motion is passed tonight, there will, I hope, be a further opportunity to debate the scheme in more detail before long.
§ Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)
Is my hon. Friend worried—as I am—that the Bill will perhaps not get through to the next stage given the fact that this morning the Northern Region Councils Association—a Labour-dominated body—wrote to every Member of Parliament in the northern region asking them to be present for this important debate? As he can see, I am the only Member of Parliament from the northern region who is here apart from, I think, one Labour Member of Parliament who is a Whip. Is not that a disgraceful state of affairs?
§ Mr. Waller
It demonstrates how assiduously my hon. Friend serves his constituents, and I am delighted to see him here. He is a most welcome supporter of the Bill
It would be helpful if I brought the House up to date on what has happened during the past year, so that hon. Members can take recent developments into account when making up their minds if and when they vote later.
On 8 May this year the Committee debating the Bill met for the 53rd and final day under the chairmanship—on that occasion—of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns). It was to examine the amendments and the additional provisions that were required in the Committee's report which, the House will recall, was published in June of last year. The provisions were accepted and the Bill has returned to the House for consideration.
684 Concern has been expressed about the letter sent to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport by Senor Carlo Ripa di Meana. The letter refers to King's Cross and the channel tunnel rail link. It is essentially a matter for the Government and I believe that they will be able to demonstrate that the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988, which, it will be recalled, they introduced to meet European Community directive No. 85337, conform to that requirement. I also believe that the manner of Senor di Meana's intervention demonstrated to the full that the Government are right to stress the principle of subsidiarity which holds that the Commission should not become involved in matters that can more effectively be dealt with by member states. However, I do not wish to stray too far from the motion.
The last time the Bill was debated in the House I assured the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith)—whom I am delighted to see here —that a revised environmental statement on the project proposals would be available before the Bill was debated again. That environmental statement has now been published to conform to the Committee's requirements. Also, in May this year, British Rail submitted to the Secretary of State for his approval route proposals for a high-speed link from the channel tunnel to central London and a comparative analysis of other routes. After careful deliberation my right hon. and learned Friend made a statement on 9 October to the effect that he intended to ask British Rail to refine Ove Arup's proposed eastern approach to London sufficiently to allow public consultation to take place on that route and, indeed, for it to be safeguarded. At the time of that announcement, the Secretary of State also made clear his support for a King's Cross terminal, which he described asessential not only to meet the need of the travellers within London, but…also crucial to serve the requirements of those who live elsewhere in Britain".We come back to that point again and again. The new King's Cross scheme is vital as a national project, and for commuters and people living in the capital.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)
I am sure that my hon. Friend accepts that there is no mutual inconsistency in the two schemes. I fear that people in the north have been somewhat misled by the Yorkshire Post and by others. It has been suggested that the decision to go east of London to Stratford will be detrimental to people in the north. Far from being the case, that scheme is vital for freight traffic and the King's Cross delevopment links intimately and properly into that scheme.
§ Mr. Waller
My hon. Friend is right. There has been some misunderstanding about the position. From the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, it is clear that he regards it as vital that King's Cross should go ahead as an essential part of the entire project. It would be wrong not to move in that direction.
§ Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)
It is important for the north of England that King's Cross is allowed to proceed. One of the concerns of people in the north is whether sufficient finances will be provided to ensure that the project about which the Secretary of State spoke a few months ago will be allowed to continue. Can the hon. Gentleman prevail on his right hon. and learned Friend to 685 give us the assurance that there will be funds—public funds if necessary—to ensure that the King's Cross scheme goes ahead?
§ Mr. Waller
My hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport may say a few words about funding if he feels that it is appropriate.
I stress that King's Cross would offer advantages even if no rail link were built. It will offer advantages to international and to domestic travellers. When we debated the matter last year, some hon. Members opposed the Bill on the ground that they opposed the then route for the rail link. The fact that we are here again, just as keen to see the King's Cross project coming into being, demonstrates clearly that the two schemes are and always have been separate. As long as the Bill goes through Committee and receives a Third Reading, the King's Cross project will go ahead regardless of the timing of the link between the channel tunnel and London. It stands independently as a valuable scheme.
§ Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that since the decision by the Secretary of State on the channel tunnel route to London, British Rail has appointed consultants to advise on the possibility of building the Eurostation above ground, rather than building it underground as proposed in the Bill?
§ Mr. Waller
Is the hon. Gentleman thinking about the Alan Baxter scheme? British Rail did not appoint Alan Baxter to advise on that matter; the company was a consultant to British Rail on a different matter. British Rail had no knowledge that the company would produce an alternative scheme for an international terminal above ground. I will come to that matter a little later, as the hon. Gentleman will hear.
§ Mr. Dobson
It would help other hon. Members to know whether British Rail has asked consultants to advise on whether it would be possible to build a satisfactory station above ground rather than underground, as proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. Waller
To the best of my knowledge, there has been no such request by British Rail. I am sure that British Rail has considered all the options and it may have asked the consultants to study alternatives. I am clear that the proposal that we are discussing, which involves a two-level station, is the best for Londoners and the best for travellers, whether international or domestic. Let there be no mistake about that.
The needs of international and of domestic travellers dovetail at King's Cross. It is easily accessible by train, by tube, by bus and by taxi. As a result, most passengers arriving for international trains are expected to do so by public transport rather than by car, thus avoiding congestion on local roads. I know that such congestion has been a major concern among hon. Members.
The changes include longer platforms so that longer trains can be run, offering more capacity, and a new passenger concourse building to link the two stations. The other significant development is the new connections and platforms for Thameslink, allowing Network SouthEast to introduce trains from Peterborough and Cambridge across 686 London to Gatwick airport, to Kent and to Sussex. That will give London its first express route across the capital and it will be a boon to many travellers.
From the north of England and Scotland, the proposals provide for through and connecting international trains. They will also cut journey times to Gatwick and to the south coast. A first-class interchange at King's Cross is also important for passengers from the west midlands, from the north-west of England, from north Wales and from the west of Scotland using existing rail services at Euston. British Rail has decided to have a dedicated, high-quality link between the stations and is examining a number of options effectively to make Euston part of the international terminal complex.
§ Mr. Dobson
Exactly how will British Rail connect Euston and King's Cross stations? The British Library sinks seven storeys below ground on the other side of St. Pancras station. How can British Rail have an adequate link? During the previous debate, it was said that trains would be able to proceed from the north-west, with a bit of dodging about in Hampstead, to King's Cross. An arrangement allegedly involving Euston, King's Cross and St. Pancras was not mentioned. The stations are a long way apart.
§ Mr. Waller
I will come to the hon. Gentleman's final point shortly. All that I can say on the fixed link between Euston and the new complex—because I mentioned that a number of options are still being considered—is that it will be a dedicated link. Some of the roads in the vicinity which are owned by British Rail, for example, may be used and a bus may travel on a dedicated route or on a dedicated track. At this stage, I cannot say what the link will be, although I can say that it will be a dedicated, high-quality link.
§ Mr. Waller
I ask the hon. Gentleman to let me continue at this stage. I am sure that he will seek to make his own speech in the debate.
I will respond to the hon. Gentleman's other point. Interchange by the Euston-King's Cross link will complement the through international train services that British Rail plans to run from the north-west and the west midlands to Paris and Brussels. Initially, the services will operate through existing routes through west London. They will be diverted to run through the King's Cross low-level station when it opens using the proposed West Hampstead chord line for which British Rail seeks powers in the British Railways (No. 3) Bill.
A recent development that the House will wish to take into account is represented by the publication last month of a so-called "alternative strategy" document produced by consulting civil and structural engineers Alan Baxter and Associates. It might be considered surprising that the firm refused to supply British Rail with a copy of its report prior to publication, even though much of the information it used was obtained in its capacity as consulting engineers to the BR board in relation to a planning appeal for a location to the north end of the King's Cross site. One may ask what account the firm took of the duties it owed of confidentiality and good faith, bearing in mind that, far from inquiring whether the BR board would object, it did not even say what it was doing.
687 A detailed study of the strategic document reveals why it is not difficult to understand that there was some unwillingness to have it subjected to detailed transport analysis. If hon. Members plan to refer to that document, it would be helpful if they addressed its basic flaws. Unfortunately, they were neglected, except in passing, in the full-page feature article in The Independent by Gavin Stamp and Jonathan Glancey on 20 November. Those journalists may know something about environmental issues, but if they understand transport issues, they were jolly well doing their best to conceal the fact.
An overwhelming difficulty with the Baxter proposals for King's Cross is that they make no provision for any improvement to Network SouthEast's Thameslink cross-London services, which is an essential element of the British Rail plan. The position for the international station chosen by Baxter would make it impossible to provide any route between Thameslink and the east coast main line. It is only by placing the new station beneath the existing one that all the required rail connections can be made. Baxter, rather weakly, tried to find a virtue in separating the express and local services. In truth the main justification for the scheme is utterly dissipated.
The Baxter plan does not permit the operation of international trains to King's Cross before the completion of a new rail link from the channel tunnel. The completion date for the rail link is uncertain. Therefore, it is obvious that one of the most important features of the scheme—the fact that the rail link and the international station can be considered independently—would be lost. The disruption of train services during the work would be on a much greater scale than under the British Rail plan.
Major problems would also be caused to the high proportion of international passengers at King's Cross —perhaps they would represent as many as three quarters of the total of such passengers. They would be expected to interchange at King's Cross with London Underground and other BR services. However, the need for some form of travolator or form of fixed link would involve an extra change, which is avoidable and would be provided at the expense of convenience and journey time.
§ Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)
There is a risk of a misleading illusion being formed and I know that my hon. Friend would wish to avoid that. My hon. Friend said that the Baxter station would prevent the arrival of international trains at King's Cross before the creation of a rail link. He then said that about three quarters of all international passengers will end up at King's Cross. However, are we not talking about two propositions divided by a considerable number of years?
§ Mr. Waller
It is impossible to know. However, my hon. Friend may have misunderstood me. I said that three quarters of the total number of international passengers are expected to interchange at King's Cross with London Underground and other BR services.
§ Mr. O'Brien
Reference has been made to services to King's Cross for passengers who will travel from the north and other parts of England and from the continent. There is no InterCity link between London King's Cross and the Stratford terminal. Therefore, the link between Stratford and King's Cross is of great importance. Will the hon. Gentleman persuade the Secretary of State of the necessity 688 of that InterCity link going ahead, because it is important to the entire system? If the proposed scheme is to succeed, we must have that InterCity link.
§ Mr. Waller
My right hon. and learned Friend has said as clearly as possible that he regards the second London terminal at King's Cross as an intrinsic part of the scheme.
It may be of significance to hon. Members with constituencies in the King's Cross vicinity that, at the very least, the alternative Baxter scheme will be no less disruptive to homes, highways and places of work than the BR proposals. It is clear from an examination of the Baxter proposals in depth that many of the disadvantages have not been addressed seriously. I shall be interested to hear any arguments in favour of that proposal, for it would be easy to knock them down. I do not regard the Baxter alternative as a serious proposition.
§ Mr. Dobson
I understand from the hon. Gentleman that the station provided for in the Bill is intended to serve trains coming initially along a different route—not from Stratford—to the Euroterminal. Will that station then be fit, without any redesign or rejigging, to take trains that have come via Stratford?
§ Mr. Waller
That is an important question. The alignment of the station does not have to change at all to take account of the new east route into London in favour of which my right hon. and learned Friend has declared himself. There should be no misunderstanding about that. On previous occasions, hon. Members have opposed the Bill for that very reason, as they thought that, by bringing the Bill forward, it represented a commitment to the southern approach to London. That is not the case.
The Bill has been before the House for three Sessions. It has been debated on several occasions and it had its Second Reading in May 1989 when it was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young). In two previous debates similar to this one, it has enjoyed a substantial majority in support.
The Select Committee, under the expert chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), considered the proposals in detail over 53 days. That was the longest time given to any private Bill since the Great Western Railway Bill of 1835.
The scheme is of strategic, national importance. The House has given a great deal of detailed attention to the Bill, and the promoters and the petitioners have devoted a great deal of time and effort to the case. Surely it would be right for the House to consider the Committee's amendments as soon as possible in this Session. That requires the Bill to be revived tonight so that it can continue its progress.
I commend the motion.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I oppose the carry-over motion for the Bill, as I did when we debated it a year ago.
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) referred to the length of time and the detailed scrutiny that the Committee gave to the Bill. The Committee gave British Rail a ferocious roasting over the way in which it had introduced the Bill and prosecuted its case. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand if some of us treat with a certain amount of scepticism some of the assurances that BR has subsequently given.
689 Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves what this Bill does. It gobbles up 17 acres of land and property in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) to create a low-level box that will include platforms and railway lines serving the channel tunnel traffic, Thameslink and other commuter traffic. It involves the loss of 83 homes and the displacement of 326 residents, the demolition of four listed buildings and the loss of 168 work places providing 1,620 jobs. It will mean the loss of 58 shops, 38 of which provide key services to local people. It will result in the destruction of Camley street natural park, which is used by thousands of local school children. It will necessitate six years of construction work for 24 hours, seven days a week, which will render many of the homes in that district uninhabitable for substantial periods. It will also mean the diversion of two major traffic arteries over temporary roadways for three years.
Therefore, in the light of those consequences, it behoves the House to assure itself that there is no conceivable alternative to the British Rail proposals and that they will achieve the aim that we all want—the ability of channel tunnel traffic to serve the whole country, not just London. I do not believe that British Rail has got it right. I argue the same case this year as I did last year, but with greater justification.
A number of factors relating to the King's Cross proposals have changed. Last Wednesday the London Underground (King's Cross) Bill received its Third Reading. That Bill extracted from the King's Cross Railways Bill those items of work relating to safety improvements at the London underground station at King's Cross following the Fennell report on the King's Cross fire. London Underground correctly realised that it would be better for it to make its proposals as a separate Bill, which it has done, and the Bill has now passed through the House. Therefore, that section of the King's Cross Railways Bill relating to those works is effectively redundant and the relevant clauses will have to be removed.
In addition, the Secretary of State has recently made an announcement on the decision to bring the high-speed link in from the east via Stratford rather than from the south. It is extremely important to the case for assessing whether we should proceed with the King's Cross proposals as currently enshrined in the Bill.
The European Commissioner for the environment has said that he believes that there has been a failure to carry out a proper environmental impact assessment. That is also important.
§ Mr. O'Brien
I am following my hon. Friend's contribution closely and I appreciate his concern as a constituency Member. He referred to the European Commissioner's comments on the environmental assessment. Is the environmental assessment to which my hon. Friend referred the same one as that referred to by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) who I understood to mean the King's Cross project, while my hon. Friend was referring to the high-speed link? Will my hon. Friend clarify that?
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend has identified an extremely important point. The European Commission's principal 690 complaint is that, in order to be properly conducted, an environmental assessment should consider not only the station, but the high-speed link—the two should be considered together. British Rail has so far totally failed to do so.
There has also been a High Court decision on the rights of the trustees of St. Bartholomew's hospital in relation to a substantial portion of British Rail land at King's Cross. That decision found in favour of St. Bartholomew's and against British Rail, and has thrown some of British Rail's funding calculations into a degree of confusion.
In addition to all those new factors, several alternative proposals—including some involving King's Cross—have emerged. The hon. Member for Keighley mentioned the Baxter scheme. I hold no specific brief for the Baxter scheme, but it has attempted to demonstrate that alternative schemes could be produced that would retain the Government's proposal for a terminus—an inter-change—at King's Cross, but states that the plan would be more satisfactory if it were achieved without creating an enormous hole in the ground which British Rail proposes, with all the consequent destruction of homes, jobs and local neighbourhood.
My argument remains principally that King's Cross cannot cope with the proposed doubling of passengers at peak hours. Even if the Government and Opposition spokesmen are wedded to the idea of having King's Cross as an interchange for the channel tunnel, they do not have to use the scheme proposed in the Bill. I believe that we should not proceed with the Bill. British Rail should go back to the drawing board, look at the line and the station together, and produce a new, properly worked out Bill that addresses both the line and the station. In his article 169 letter, the European Commissioner stated that it was important that the rail link and the station should be considered together in terms of the environmental impact assessment if the European Community directive, signed by the Government and agreed to by this country, were to be met.
One of my constituents was in touch with my colleague, the European Member of Parliament, Ken Collins, who chairs the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection, to seek his advice on what the European Commissioner had done and the reasons behind his action. Mr. Collins's letter to my constituent, which is extremely clear, states:In the case of the rail link, there would have been no proposal to build a terminal, were it not for the need to provide one for the Channel Tunnel rail link. The Commission is of the view that by dividing the project into two, the requirements of the directive are circumvented … there will be no environmental impact assessment of the project as a whole, taking into account the direct and indirect effects of the rail link and terminal.The letter stresses that we breach the European directive in that we fail to consider the environmental impact of the station and the high-speed link together, as a whole, with all the direct and indirect consequences.
§ Mr. O'Brien
We could be accused of confusing the issue of environmental assessments. Such assessments must follow the planning application. As there are two separate applications—one for the King's Cross project and one for the high-speed link—it is difficult to see how the two environmental assessments can be taken together. My hon. Friend should consider that point carefully because people may be misled, as his constituent was.
§ Mr. Smith
The problem is precisely that the two applications, which will be the subject of two separate Bills, are being considered separately. It has long been my view, and I have argued consistently, that the two applications should be considered together. That would be preferable to the ridiculous procedure of considering a station in one Bill and a high-speed link in another. The sensible thing would be to examine the project in its entirety. If we did that, there would be much less of a problem and we would not be in such deep water with the European Commission.
§ Mr. Snape
I merely seek clarification. I am following carefully what my hon. Friend says and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), I am aware of the deep personal and constituency interest that he has in the matter. How would it be possible to take the two applications together when, thanks to the Government's incompetence, there is not yet a scheme to run trains to King's Cross? All that the Government have decided so far is to cancel the scheme which British Rail spent hundreds of millions of pounds of our money developing. Returning to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, those of us who have constituencies north of London are anxious to ensure that when the channel tunnel opens in 1993—that is the only certainty in the project—at least some attempt has been made to provide the essential services without which areas north of London will receive no benefit from this enormous project.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend identifies precisely the problem with which we have been landed by the Government and British Rail. They have made proposals for a station which are unattached to any proposals for a means of getting there. I should have thought that it was much more sensible to make proposals from the start for both a station and a link. If we allow the King's Cross Railways Bill to proceed and in the end no high-speed link or underground link between Stratford and King's Cross is built, we shall be left with an enormous white elephant at King's Cross with no means of getting to it from the channel tunnel. It is important to consider the link and the station together, and British Rail and the Government should have done so from the word go.
§ Mr. Snape
There is a small matter which I should draw to my hon. Friend's attention. I am sure that he saw the depressing report in The Sunday Telegraph that, with its customary foresight and thoughtfulness, the Treasury had decided to reject the Thameslink project. However, if that project goes ahead, we shall have some way, if not a particularly adequate one, of getting trains from the midlands and the north of England to the south of England, provided that the Hampstead chord line is also built. Temporarily for a few years trains could use that Thameslink line.
§ Mr. Smith
In theory my hon. Friend is correct. The same could be said of the routes around the west of London. Through trains from the north could be taken round that way. I shall come to through services in a moment. My hon. Friend must also recognise that the 692 Thameslink lines under central London would not be capable of taking the proposed high-speed trains which will come across from the channel tunnel.
The environmental impact assessment has earned the ire of the European Commissioner because it divorces the station from the link. But we must also recognise that the assessment which British Rail has carried out is deeply inadequate. There was no contact or consultation with local residents who would be affected. In assessing the impact on homes, British Rail completely missed out an entire family whose home in Caledonian road would be destroyed. It carried out a survey of the noise and vibration likely to be caused by the construction of the project and concluded that noise and vibration would beunlikely to have a major impact.Yet British Rail says that it will have to offer temporary rehousing for an extended period to many people who will be next door to the works because of the extent and nature of the noise and vibration that they will experience. How can an environmental impact assessment state that there will be no likely impact when British Rail has to admit that people will have to be temporarily rehoused? That demonstrates the inadequacy of the environmental impact work that has been done so far.
The first principal reason for not proceeding with the Bill at this stage is that the European Commissioner rightly identified serious failures in the environmental impact assessment work which should have been carried out. The second principal reason is that the Government's announcement of the route from the east via Stratford throws the scheme into question. British Rail asserts, and the hon. Member for Keighley said so again tonight, that in physical terms the planned exit of the lines from King's Cross at the south-eastern corner of the new proposed station is such that lines could go to Stratford just as easily as they could have gone southwards. I remain to be convinced. Let us remember that that assurance comes from British Rail, who, it was discovered in Committee proceedings on the Bill, designed platforms that were too short to take the trains that would come in to them. I wait to see conclusive proof that it is possible in physical and geographical terms to bring the lines from Stratford into the proposed station at King's Cross without making any changes whatever to the Bill. I will believe it when I see it.
Perhaps more importantly, the Stratford decision must throw the entire financing of the King's Cross station completely out of kilter. Neither the Government nor British Rail have told us exactly what the status of the Stratford station will be. Will it be a major interchange? How many passengers is it envisaged will get on or off the trains at Stratford? The answers to those questions are crucial to King's Cross. If passengers join or leave the trains at Stratford rather than King's Cross, fewer passengers will use the King's Cross interchange than was previously anticipated, so the cost per passenger that British Rail will have to pay to construct the station at King's Cross will increase.
§ Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, particularly because I was not here at the beginning of his speech.
Those of us who live in south-east London not three miles from King's Cross know that if we were taking our children to meet a continental train, or if we were taking elderly parents or grandparents to meet the train, we would not take them to King's Cross, because we could 693 not park there or get them near the platforms. We would look for a station where we could park, say goodbye and then go home. King's Cross is not the right place for that sort of departure.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Gentleman is right, and for once he is on all fours with British Rail. British Rail has long argued that most passengers travelling to and from King's Cross will do so by public transport. That is an important point in respect of the public transport congestion that will ensue around King's Cross. The hon. Gentleman's point was valid; many people will choose to use Stratford in preference to King's Cross. That in turn will have an impact on the financial calculations that British Rail will need to do for the construction of the new station at King's Cross.
We are talking about an expensive operation. In May this year, British Rail estimated that the cost of King's Cross would be £610 million for the channel tunnel part of the project, £220 million for the Thameslink part and £570 million for the other works, a total of £1.4 billion for the construction of the interchange. If inflation continues at the same rate as it has maintained over the past couple of years, the estimate by the end of next year will be £2.2 billion for that construction.
Unless the Government start being rather more generous than they have hitherto said they will be, British Rail will not be able to secure the private sector funding that it would want, given the reduced passenger flows at King's Cross which it must anticipate.
§ Mr. O'Brien
I can see that this debate is developing into a north-south divide. The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) says that he wants to use Stratford interchange because of its better parking, but we from the north would find Stratford very inconvenient. We would want to use King's Cross. The channel tunnel is being developed supposedly to benefit the whole country, but I fear that a "them and us" problem is beginning here. I hope that hon. Members will view the issue objectively and constructively from now on.
§ Mr. Smith
That too is a valid point, but my hon. Friend anticipated me: I was about to discuss through services to the north, which are extremely important.
It seems to me that the choice of the eastern route—the decision to locate a major interchange of some sort at Stratford—means that fewer passengers will come through King's Cross, so financing it will be more difficult since a great deal of money is involved.
§ Mr. Snape
Although some of my hon. Friend's figures are valid, those of us with constituencies north of London objected to this proposal at the time because of the impossibility of getting from Stratford to anywhere north of London. My hon. Friend glibly says that many people will de-train at Stratford. Perhaps he will tell us where they will go and how they will get there.
§ Mr. Smith
Is my hon. Friend saying that the Government are wrong to have identified Stratford as the location for a major interchange? Does he wish to remove the possibility of industrial and economic regeneration in the east end of London—the whole purpose behind the campaign of the borough of Newham for the choice of 694 Stratford as a terminal? Even the Secretary of State for the Environment has claimed regeneration as one of the principal reasons behind the Government's decision.
§ Mr. Snape
If my hon. Friend wants to line up with the Secretary of State for the Environment, I consider that he chooses his enemies even more recklessly than his friends. It is obvious from the railway geography of Stratford that it will be impossible, without billions of pounds' worth of public expenditure on the railways, to get anywhere from there. Surely it is not the function of a transport planner to locate an interchange at Stratford just because there is a vacant space there. The function of transport planning is to enable the rest of us to move around the country as best we can. We will certainly not be able to do that from Stratford, which is why my hon. Friends and I are determined to have a proper terminal at King's Cross from which we and our constituents can benefit.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend goes too far in attempting to write off his agenda the possibility of a major interchange at Stratford. I remind him that he and I strongly support the construction of the east-west crossrail under central London, to link Stratford and east London with west London and to provide thereby the possibility of direct links from Stratford to the west and to lines running out of Paddington. My hon. Friend is wrong to say that Stratford will never lead anywhere; it can become an important interchange.
Of course I appreciate that some of my hon. Friends passionately believe these things because they believe what British Rail has told them—that King's Cross is the only possible way of achieving links through to the north. I do not necessarily accept that view, although I understand why some people may.
It is perhaps worth examining what British Rail has said in the past few years about through services from the north to the channel tunnel. It has always claimed that one of the main advantages of its plan for King's Cross is that it offers—I quote the briefing material handed out at British Rail stands at the party conferences this year —the ability to handle through trains to continental Europe from the midlands, the north and Scotland.The Channel Tunnel Act 1987 places an obligation on British Rail to provide such services. Section 40 requires British Rail to prepare by the end of 1989 a plan stating measures it proposes to take to securethe provision … of international through services serving various part of the United Kingdom, and an increase in the proportion of passengers and goods … carried by international through services.British Rail produced its plan as required in a report entitled "International Rail Services for the United Kingdom" published in December 1989. The report said that from the opening of the channel tunnel British Rail planned to run four through trains during the day from Manchester, Wolverhampton, Leeds and Edinburgh and four during the night from Swansea, Plymouth, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Before the station at King's Cross was built, the trains would run on lines through south-west London. When the station is completed all services, except those from Swansea and Plymouth, would run through King's Cross.
After meeting the requirements of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 with those somewhat confident promises, British Rail published papers in June on the routes review, and they were strangely non-committal about through services. 695 The six-page memorandum by the British Railways Board made only three brief references to services for passengers north of London. Paragraph 22 states:While it remains the Board's intention to run certain through trains the majority of passengers from the Midlands, the North and Scotland will travel on connecting intercity trains via London rather than through trains.Paragraph 31.6 states:There remains uncertainly about the through services from and to the Midlands, the North and Scotland.In July and August this year the reason for the note of caution became clear. It emerged that the specification on which British Rail had been working for splitting trains to serve Wolverhampton as well as Manchester on the west coast main line and Leeds as well as Edinburgh on the east coast main line had proved unworkable because costs had risen far above the original estimate of £150 million. As a result, British Rail is now examining the feasibility of running shorter, non-splitting trains on the two lines. It seems that, far from fulfilling the requirement of the Channel Tunnel Act to increase the proportion of international passengers carried by through services, British Rail has embarked on an exercise which will reduce the proportion of through services from the north.
§ Mr. Waller
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be convenient for most international travellers from the north to seek an interchange at Doncaster or King's Cross? As there will be only two trains per day serving west Yorkshire, the majority of people would choose other trains and look for an interchange. Therefore, a first-class interchange of the kind outlined in the Bill is essential.
§ Mr. Smith
I am coming to that. British Rail appears to be reducing through services from the north. It should provide much more frequent through services from the north directly to the tunnel and the trains should not necessarily stop in the middle of London. Proper opportunities must be provided for people in the north and in Scotland. British Rail takes refuge in saying that people can come to King's Cross and interchange there. The importance of the interchange facilities then becomes crucial.
§ Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)
What would happen to trains that left Sheffield on the midland main line? The line starts at Sheffield, which means that we shall get no through trains. However, we want an effective interchange. Will my hon. Friend answer the question posed by many industrialists in the north, especially in south Yorkshire? My hon. Friend spoke about impact studies. Economic impact studies carried out on our behalf clearly show that, unless decisions are made soon, investment that would come to the north of England will not come because of uncertainty. Decisions about interchanges at King's Cross and Stratford could lead to some stability about investment. That is important in terms of employment, the role of the channel tunnel and the through trains.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At the current rate of progress there will be time for only three more speeches. Are you able to impose the 10-minute rule.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Unfortunately, I cannot, and so far I have not heard 696 anything out of order. I hope that hon. Members, and especially those who seek to intervene, will bear in mind the point that has just been made.
§ Mr. Smith
I have been extremely courteous in giving way to everyone who has sought to intervene. I wish to make some other important points on behalf of my constituents, who are directly affected by the Bill. I trust that the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) will not seek to deny me the opportunity to speak on behalf of my constituents.
As I have said, interchange facilities are crucial. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) was right to draw attention to the economic impact of channel tunnel traffic. However, the Bill does not propose, nor does British Rail or the Government, that freight should come through King's Cross. It is even more important to get right the distribution of freight through the tunnel than it is to get right the movement of passengers to and from the tunnel. The Bill does not affect that one way or the other.
British Rail has repeatedly claimed that one of the great advantages of its proposal for a low-level station at King's Cross is that it will provide easy interchange facilities for passengers using Euston as well as King's Cross and St. Pancras. I accept that King's Cross and St. Pancras and the lines that serve those stations will be able to provide an interchange facility of a kind. However, British Rail also claims that passengers coming to or going from Euston will be able to use King's Cross as an interchange. Those stations are approximately 1km apart, and even on British Rail's estimate the proposed travolator between King's Cross and Euston would take 20 minutes for the journey. That assumes that the travolator will be built because, as we have heard, between St. Pancras and Euston is the six-storey basement of the new British Library.
When the British Railways Board member responsible for this issue gave evidence on the matter to the Committee in July 1989, he could only say that the engineering feasibility of a travolator was being investigated. He said:I very much hope that before this Committee finishes its deliberations we will be in a position to be more positive about it, and I personally hope we find it can be done, and for a reasonable price.The Committee finished its deliberations a year and a half ago and there is still no news about how it will be possible to interchange between King's Cross and Euston. The King's Cross projects office was approached by one of my constituents last week and he was told that the engineers were still assessing possibilities. We are entitled to ask how on earth there can be good, proper, efficient interchange between Euston and King's Cross when, after two and a half years, British Rail has still been unable to come up with any detailed explanation of how it will be achieved.
Even if the interchange facilities operate well, there will be an impact on congestion at King's Cross itself. In 1987, the Piccadilly line westbound at peak hours was 10 per cent. over its maximum acceptable capacity. The Victoria and the Northern lines southbound from King's Cross and the Metropolitan and Circle lines eastbound from King's Cross were all very near to capacity. At that time, 19,900 passengers were arriving each day at King's Cross and St. Pancras between 7 and 10 o'clock in the morning. British Rail's expectation is that, with the new station being built at King's Cross, an additional 15,208 passengers will use 697 the facilities during that period. That is almost double the number of people trying to force themselves on to an already overcrowded underground network.
Above ground, the congestion is likely to be as bad. British Rail's original traffic estimate—that there would be no perceptible impact—was risible. Even the Department of Transport is now recognising that people will come in taxis, buses or cars to meet people arriving at King's Cross. It is proposing a six-lane highway up Pentonville road to replace the existing Pentonville road, but rather than solving the problem that will only maintain the slow-moving traffic status quo.
§ Mr. Wilson
Is there not another side to the coin? The huge numbers of people arriving at King's Cross and Euston and wishing to travel on to the continent will create a fair amount of additional and unnecessary congestion if they all have to find a way to get out to the alternative that my hon. Friend seems to support.
§ Mr. Smith
I am not sure what point my hon. Friend is making. If a passenger comes to King's Cross to transfer immediately to the channel tunnel train, there is no question of having to go out to Stratford.
The problem is one of traffic and congestion impact, which will spread well beyond the immediate environment of King's Cross. Therefore, it is important that British Rail goes back to the drawing board and thinks again. There is a possible breach of European Community law if the station is proceeded with without any recognition of the environmental impact of the high-speed link leading to it. The financial viability of the King's Cross project must be in serious question now that the decision to create an additional station at Stratford has been taken.
As yet, there are no answers from the Government or British Rail about the status, size and impact of Stratford. It is possible that the potentially £1.5 billion project at King's Cross will pre-empt other important expenditure on which British Rail should be embarking, and that will have serious implications. There are no guarantees of frequent through services from the north and Scotland. We have no information on what will happen to freight. There is an expectation of serious congestion at King's Cross and there is a real possibility that, even if King's Cross is chosen for the location for channel tunnel traffic, rather than being in the precise location and form set out in the Bill, the station could be located elsewhere at King's Cross.
For all these reasons, the House should not proceed, at this stage, with the Bill in its present form.
§ Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)
It is my intention once again, as I have so often in other debates on this subject, to put down parameters and markers for those who come from the north. When I say "the north", I do not mean only 250 miles north but 50 miles up from King's Cross. The problems are the same no matter how far up the country one comes from. 698 This matter first came to my notice under your Chairmanship, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the Court of Referees. We had an entertaining three or four days with the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) who has a deep interest in the matter. We looked at the back ends of King's Cross and found wildlife in abandoned nooks and crannies, and discovered that double, if not treble, the number of people that the British Waterways Association thought were living on the canal actually did so. It was a fascinating hearing of the court.
We are debating a matter of deep importance to the north.
§ Mr. Miscampbell
Let us be fair. My hon. Friend agrees with me on most occasions.
It has been said that this is a matter of them and us, but it is not. It is them, but it is not us. We are speaking for the whole country and for a far bigger constituency than that of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. We can hardly overestimate the importance to the north of the decision that we are making. If there is to be a high-speed link, it must come through to King's Cross and it ought to come through—so that we start at both ends together, so that we know that it is there. The Bill will allow that to happen. Nothing needs to be changed to allow that to be done.
However, this is basically a decision for the Government. It is most desirable that we have a clear and unequivocal decision. As has been said, if the link terminates at King's Cross, all is not lost. We may be able to have the Stratford complex as well as King's Cross, but this will all cost money. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) will agree with me when I say this. The Labour party may be saying it anyway, but we must also say that money must come from the Government. We cannot get it from private enterprise, and there is no way round that. It should be made clear that if the north is to be looked after, money must come from the Government.
§ Mr. Miscampbell
It may be that if the money does not come from the Government, others will retire as well.
§ Mr. Dobson
Although King's Cross station is in my constituency, I have always believed that it was right to have the Eurostation at King's Cross. However, I am extremely dubious about the underground proposals that are before us. If British Rail were confident in its assertion that it can deliver an adequate service to the north through its proposals, why did it advise the original promoter of the Bill not to accept my instruction to the Committee that it should assure itself that this proposal would guarantee a fast, frequent and reliable service to the north and Scotland?
§ Mr. Miscampbell
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I shall not take up the content of it, because I am not in a position to comment on the burning constituency problems of the hon. Members for Islington, South and Finsbury and for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). We all, of course, understand the arguments that 699 they advance, but surely an overall decision must be taken. I accept that that will cause great trouble in Islington, and on that basis there may be potent arguments for an overground or underground system. It is not for me to interpose my views on that matter at this moment. I am merely saying that we need the development.
The truth is that Stratford is no substitute for King's Cross. Indeed, it can be only an adjunct to it. At the end of the day, it is King's Cross that will let us through into the entire network.
It is surely relevant to embrace in our consideration the area 50 miles up country and areas beyond all the way up to Glasgow. It is relevant also to consider what has happened in the north of England over the years. For example, about 100 years ago Liverpool was as large a port as New York, and had a far better dock system. In the context of the Bill, I am not all that fussed about passengers. After all, passengers can put themselves on a travolator, if necessary. I am more interested in the fact that the high-speed link will extend from King's Cross to both sides of the country, where millions live. It will extend to the manufacturing heart of the country.
I return to Liverpool, which is the first western port. It will never return to its days of glory, but I feel that it 'would double, treble or perhaps even quadruple its present throughput if were known that freight could be handled more efficiently at the docks. The problems with Liverpool have been largely cured and the complaints have been met. Liverpool is all right in its docklands; it is not too bad at all.
§ Mr. Miscampbell
I shall not argue that matter now. I merely say that Liverpool is able to take its chance internationally. If the goods came into Liverpool and were able to enter the system by means of high-speed lorries, there would be beneficial consequences for us all. As I have said, there would be a transformation of the area 50 miles north of London. That is what we should be considering.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)
I shall be brief because I know that others wish to speak. I support the carry-over motion. I appreciate the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and I congratulate him on the way in which he has argued the interests of his constituents. I am sure that he will not be surprised, however, if I lake a different view.
We must consider the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury along with the interests of many other people. Whenever there is a controversial development we find that there are many who want it, but not in their back yards. That is often the position in my constituency, and I am sure that many hon. Members have shared the experience.
King's Cross must be London's second international passenger terminal, but construction there is not yet secure because of the decision to route the high-speed rail link via Stratford. I am sure that the entire House appreciates that. It is crucial that the Bill continues on its way if we are to enable the development at King's Cross to take place.
What is the importance of King's Cross? It will be a nationally important facility for international passenger 700 services to the north of England, to regions beyond London and to London itself. I shall quote some information that has been sent to Members representing northern areas over the past few days by the North of England Regional Consortium, which states:King's Cross will be the key terminal to link the North of England to the Channel Tunnel, allowing international trains to run directly along the Key Main lines beyond London.King's Cross will provide an excellent interchange for passengers from the North of England, the Midlands, Scotland, Wales and Ireland wishing to catch high-frequency London Channel Tunnel trains.King's Cross could be operational for significantly faster Channel Tunnel services providing a much-needed north-south link (via Thameslink line) as soon as the terminal is constructed—it does not have to wait for the HSRL to be built.That is extremely important in this context. The consortium continues:King's Cross could be implemented with minimum delay because powers for its construction are being dealt with now.King's Cross will provide excellent access to London itself.In October, when the Government announced their decision on the high-speed rail link route, the British Rail-preferred route direct to King's Cross—the best for the north—was rejected in favour of a longer route via Stratford. All of us in the north were disappointed when that decision was made, but that is what happened. The announcement committed the high-speed rail link to terminate at King's Cross. On that basis, the passage of the Bill is the immediate test of the Government's commitment to secure a terminal development at King's Cross. We hope that the Government are sincere and that they intend pushing forward the Bill, which will meet channel tunnel demands.
The consortium believes that notwithstanding the commitment the Government's decision creates a real risk that the high-speed rail link will terminate at Stratford, and that because of the extra costs involved the project at King's Cross will never be built. To prevent that happening, three main objectives must be achieved. First, I take up one of the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), which the consortium puts in this way:King's Cross international must be developed at the earliest possible opportunity. The … Bill does not need alteration in view of the HSRL route decision and should now receive a swift and uncontroversial passage through its remaining stages.I sincerely hope that it will. The consortium continues:Public money should be put into the King's Cross to Stratford line because this connection is of national strategic significance, recognising that from a commercial point of view the private sector cannot be expected to share the objective of connecting the HSRL to the rest of the UK network.It is essential that public money is forthcoming.
I shall continue to quote the recommendations of the consortium. The next paragraph reads:Construction of the HSRL should begin at both ends, working towards the same time scale, so the link operates from day one of its completion from King's Cross. The chosen route is expected to cost £750 million more than the BR route and, considering that the original BR funding package of last year was rejected because it did not provide an adequate commercial return for the private sector and for financial reasons alone, is a severe threat to the Stratford to King's Cross Link.It is British Rail's view that the link will be needed by 1998, and the Government's announcement suggests a 701 possible delay until the year 2005. Early high-speed rail link construction will ease congestion on existing lines while providing much-needed capacity.
Rail plans for Stratford should be made clear, if there are any. Any passenger facilities at Stratford must not dilute the full development of the King's Cross terminal project as proposed. Likewise, any freight facility at Stratford must not undermine the proposed development of freight facilities in the north. That is a factor which concerns me. In the areas that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton represent, there is delay at a freight station because a planning application has been called in by the Secretary of State. If a Berne gauge high-speed rail link capable of carrying freight to Stratford is proposed, northern firms will use road transport to Stratford—causing further congestion and environmental damage. The full impact of such a proposal on the rest of the United Kingdom must be considered, must be evaluated.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
My hon. Friend spoke cogently and with due emphasis about the importance of the evidence put to the House by the North of England Regional Consortium. He will be aware of my close connections with that organisation since its inception. My hon. Friend has worked hard to stress to right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House how important it is to listen to the authentic voice of the north of England. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that the interests of the north are bound up with the Bill's success. It is a test of representativeness—as to whether, if one comes from the north, one backs the Bill.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
I agree with my right hon. Friend. Some northern areas are depending on the King's Cross development. Certain areas of Yorkshire have been devastated by the decline of the mining industry, and hope to attract alternative manufacturing industry. Their success may depend on the King's Cross development.
Opposition to the Bill runs counter to the objectives of the main political parties. The route decision has already caused longer journey times between the north and continental Europe, additional costs to the high-speed rail link, and further delay and uncertainty. Before that decision was made, proponents of the Stratford scheme argued for further development King's Cross as well as at Stratford. They must not now be allowed to argue that there is no alternative.
We all recall the argument that Stratford was not an alternative to King's Cross. Having heard some of tonight's speeches, I hope that some people do not have it in mind that the King's Cross development should not go forward and that the main development should be at Stratford.
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)
Perhaps it would be convenient if I addressed the House very briefly at this point. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) on the manner in which he presented his motion and spoke to it so eloquently. The Government support the revival motion, and I find myself in agreement with many of 702 tonight's speeches about the importance of King's Cross and of the links, via not only the east and west coast but the midland main lines to the north of England.
I will comment briefly on five points that, although they do not directly affect the Bill, are relevant to the revival motion. As to the Commission's comments on the environmental assessment procedure, I confirm that the Government and British Rail do not seek in any way to circumvent the Community's requirements in terms of preparing a full environmental assessment. That applies not only to that stretch of the line for the new high-speed rail link between Detling and King's Cross that is under way—British Rail has already completed the work from Detling to Folkestone—but to the work on King's Cross station itself. There is no intention in any way to frustrate or to circumvent the rules. They are clearly understood within the whole Community, and British Rail and London Transport will honour them.
I agree with the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) in his reference to the implications of a station at King's Cross being opened before a high-speed rail link is completed and opened. That matter is for British Rail, but it ought to be possible for trains to run—instead of via the west London line—on Thameslink, through King's Cross, and on to the north.
That would require engineering work not only in the tunnel but in south London, but it should be possible in railway terms. If the station is ready before the rail link, that would bring an extra benefit.
The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) referred to the London Underground, and he is right to say that the low-level interchange work is the subject of a separate Bill. I visited those works myself last Friday. However, the major part of London Underground's works at King's Cross are contained in, and depend on, the passage of the Bill before the House. They concern the widening and enlargement of the ticket hall, which is extremely crowded. Even London Underground's low-level interchange work will not solve that particular problem. That is another reason for reviving the passage of the Bill.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell), who is temporarily absent from the Chamber, and several other hon. Members alluded to the scheme's funding. The Government have no specific proposal before them, but I confirm that it will be an extremely expensive project. It will include at least three elements of funding. The first is that portion due for the improvements to London Underground, which will be expensive; I have referred already to the larger ticket hall at King's Cross. Secondly, there will be improvements to Network SouthEast's Thameslink services. Anyone who has visited the Thameslink station at King's Cross knows that it is wholly inadequate. The platforms are small, and the tunnel is too narrow to take intercapital, channel tunnel trains, and is rather winding.
Network SouthEast will gain some benefit, so our investment appaisal for that portion of the work will follow the normal procedure in respect of new Network SouthEast investment. We will take into account cost-benefit appraisal techniques in assessing Network SouthEast's advantages, the channel tunnel services, and InterCity services. Several different elements of the heavy and underground railway combine in the project, so it will be difficult to appraise. Planning permissions will be 703 needed from Parliament, so we will have a clearer idea of what is feasible and possible. The Government will then give applications urgent consideration.
We are providing British Rail with sufficient funds to ensure that the necessary design and other work necessary to keep the project properly planned and prepared can be undertaken.
§ Mr. Dobson
Can the Minister throw any light on what is meant by British Rail's reference to a dedicated link between King's Cross and Euston stations? The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) spoke of a dedicated road, but none exists. The only road between Euston and King's Cross stations is Euston road, which is dedicated to traffic. An underground travolator would have to negotiate the six underground storeys of the British Library, and five tube lines between the two stations. There are no British Rail-owned roads that could contribute in any way to a dedicated connection between the two stations. Any such line would have to be underground, at ground level, or overground—but British Rail has not come up with any real answers.
§ Mr. Freeman
I share to a certain extent the hon. Gentleman's interest in how passengers are to travel between Euston and King's Cross. We must wait to see whether British Rail has in mind an elevated pathway, or something at ground level. Despite the hon. Gentleman's scepticism about the aspect, he must concede that it does not in any way invalidate the importance of a brand new station at King's Cross and St. Pancras—or the fact that those coming down the west coast main line will—through the benefit of the chord for which British Rail is seeking permission in the British Rail (No. 3) Bill—find that their trains can run into King's Cross station.
The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras makes a valid point, and I am not seeking to make light of it. However, the answer to his question—which is in the gift of British Rail, not me—does not in any way invalidate the Bill's importance and significance.
§ Mr. Freeman
I would like to make my fifth and final point, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras will again catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The question of the rail link was raised by the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse). My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport never said that he does not anticipate the completion of work on any high-speed rail link to be in 2005, or that construction will not begin before the year 2000. That was a misunderstanding. My right hon. and learned Friend was referring to the time when capacity would run out on Southern region, according to British Rail. What we have said is that if construction takes five years and planning permission and further work on the environmental assessment of the rail link takes three, the rail link cannot be completed before the end of the decade. We have also said that we want the private sector to be involved as much as possible in the financing of it.
The Wakefield terminal was not mentioned. I understand that the matter is subject to inquiry, so I am unable to comment, but the nine channel tunnel freight 704 terminals are extremely important to British Rail. Stratford, if it were the terminus of a Berne gauge railway, could not possibly be a substitute for them. They are needed to carry freight from the regions, which are also important in passenger terms.
§ Mr. O'Brien
Will the Minister give us a commitment that public funds will be made available to ensure that the high-speed link from Stratford to King's Cross goes ahead without any hitches or disappointments? Will he also tell us whether the two environmental assessments will be dealt with together or separately?
§ Mr. Freeman
We have made it plain that we do not favour a high-speed rail link that terminates at Stratford. We want the link to run through Stratford, with a station to take trains on to King's Cross. There is no question of passengers being stranded at Stratford—although Stratford is, of course, an important interchange, which will become more important as the years go by. The necessary links are within London—on crossrail, the Jubilee line and the docklands light railway.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley should respond to the question about environmental assessments. As I have said, however, both British Rail and London Regional Transport will comply with both the letter and the spirit of Community law, and will appreciate that the implications of the King's Cross assessment and those of the rail link assessment are inter-related.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
Does my hon. Friend plan to say anything about the burning issue of the electrification of the midland main line, which is of great concern to his constituents, among others? He has already written to me, and I am grateful to him for that; but can he now say whether the decongestion benefit that might result from electrification—which was referred to by the midland main line consortium—has any bearing on his current thinking? The question is very pertinent to the spur line link, which is mentioned in the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think that the Minister will need some ingenuity if he is to deal with that question while remaining in order.
§ Mr. Freeman
I appreciate that my hon. Friends the Members for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) have long been interested in the prospect of the electrification of the midland main line, but I do not think that it is directly relevant to the Bill. I assure my hon. Friends that I will write to them.
By the time that the high-speed rail link is completed and is running into King's Cross—the end of the decade —British Rail may well have electrified the line, in which event the trains will run through not only my constituency, but the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth.
I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support the revival motion.
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
We are discussing a revival motion. The principles of the Bill were agreed on Second Reading, and it was discussed in detail in Committee. If the House passes the motion, amendments made in Committee can be discussed further, and, no doubt, the Bill will be given a Third Reading.
705 There is a degree of cross-party support for the Bill —and, of course, some cross-party opposition. The scheme will benefit domestic as well as international passengers. It is fair to mention the benefits that will be experienced by Londoners, and those living and commuting in the south of England. For example, the longer platforms at King's Cross will allow longer trains to be run, which will relieve the overcrowding problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has pointed out that the platforms were originally not long enough to accommodate the trains that are now proposed. Despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) may think, I do not set myself up as an apologist for British Rail; BR did not pay me very well in the days when I worked for it, and now that it does not pay me at all I certainly do not intend to rush to its defence. However, I liked BR's rejoinder—that the trains were longer than originally planned because of the requirements of Customs and immigration in regard to drink. My hon. Friend sniggers. I remind him that a good half coach may be taken up by such provisions, and that, regardless of whether they are essential, they will be included in the through trains if and when they are introduced.
§ Mr. Dobson
That was not the reason given by the Committee, in three successive sittings. It argued that the platforms were long enough on the ground of measurements that had already been made.
§ Mr. Snape
I leave the House to decide whether the platforms were too short or the trains too long. Certainly British Rail has advanced a number of interesting explanations for the problem.
The scheme also authorises a link from the east coast main line into St. Pancras to take additional Network SouthEast trains from the Great Northern Line, as well as high-speed trains running between St. Pancras and the Bounds Green depot. It allows an enlargement of the underground station to meet the recommendations of the Fennell report; and, perhaps most important, it allows the extension of the Thameslink network. I hope that all of us who take an interest in railway matters will see the significance of that.
At present, the northern and southern railways, and those running through London, are constrained by capacity problems. The new station would allow two 12-car Thameslink platforms to replace the present cramped eight-car King's Cross Thameslink station, to which the Minister of State has just referred. Two weeks ago I visited that station for the first time. The fact that so many additional trains could go from Peterborough, Huntingdon, King's Lynn and Cambridge in the north to —[Interruption.] In the case of Huntingdon, I am not sure whether there would be cut-price fares on that line to Thameslink, but that is one of the places where services would be improved by the scheme. Trains would run through to many points in the south. The scheme would also allow more cross-London local services to serve other inner London areas.
In a speech that was as relevant as it was comprehensive my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said that he thought that Stratford was a suitable alternative terminus. I made my disagreement plain during 706 my hon. Friend's speech. I do so again now. It is inconceivable that through passenger trains could run to Birmingham, or to other places in the midlands and the north, via Stratford. My hon. Friend mentioned the east-west crossrail and suggested that that would be the way for our constituents to complete their journeys. The purpose of the east-west crossrail is the alleviation of congestion on the underground and on roads in London. It is neither fair nor reasonable for my hon. Friend to suggest to those of us who represent constituencies north of London that our constituents should leave a trans-Europe train at Stratford and make their way, via the east-west crossrail, to the London terminus from which they wish to continue their journey. That is hardly the benefit that many of us envisaged when we supported the channel tunnel project.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
The east-west crossrail provides the potential for direct links from Stratford through to Paddington, Reading, Bristol, Cardiff and the west. That is not possible from King's Cross. If we were to accept my hon. Friend's argument and agreed that King's Cross should be a location for channel tunnel traffic because of its potential for links to the north, does he agree that it would not necessarily have to be this exact scheme at King's Cross? Does he agree that it is not the only possible option for a terminus there?
§ Mr. Snape
This is the only scheme that is before us. I have been in this place long enough to know that if one wants to knock a project on the head one merely produces on the back of an envelope—or, in the case of British Rail, through tracing paper on the kitchen table—a scheme that guarantees that there will be years of controversy to follow. Unacceptable though this scheme may, in part, be to my hon. Friend, it is the only one that provides us with any reasonable degree of security that there will be any service at all north of London after 1993 when the channel tunnel opens.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
The hon. Gentleman is busily telling the House what we ought to be doing. Can he tell the House what he would do, if he were in Government, about electrifying the midland main line north of London?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have to tell the hon. Member, as I said to the Minister for Public Transport, that he will find if very difficult to keep in order in answering that question.
§ Mr. Snape
In that case, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps I may use the same ingenuity as did the Minister for Public Transport. It is important that the hon. Gentleman's constituents and all the people who live alongside the midland main line should benefit from the project. I agree that they could best do so through electrification. Given, however, that all the signalling on the midland main line would need to be immunised prior to electrification and that all British Rail's signalling resources appear to be devoted to improving boat train routes Nos 1 and 2 in the south of England, we are still some way off that happy time when electrification could take place. I support the hon. Gentleman's demand, but it does not look as though electrification could take place without detailed preliminary work that would take a considerable time to complete.
Proper and direct Government involvement from the first day would have been the ideal solution in the case of 707 this vexed project. This is the greatest civil engineering project in the United Kingdom this century. It is, I am sad to say, typical of the Government that every detailed question that is put to Ministers receives virtually the same answer—"these are matters for British Rail." They shuffle off responsibility and deprive the people whom they blame of the resources to do the job. That makes many of us despair of the Government and their transport policy—to dignify the present shambles with such a name. It is no good the Minister shaking his head. He is as guilty as other Ministers. We would not be in the current mess if the Government had accepted their responsibilities from day one.
Although the motion is far from ideal, it is the only way forward. Responsibility for the mess should be placed fairly and squarely on transport Ministers and on the mandarins and Ministers at the Treasury who work the glove puppets to whom all too often one listens and who have got this country's transport infrastructure into the mess that it is in today—a mess that only the election of a Labour Government will go some way to turning around.
§ 9.5 pm
§ Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)
I shall be very brief.
The last time that I spoke in the House, I said that, although I had not always been as charitable towards British Rail as I could be, the time had come to pass on beyond my complaints and to bury the hatchet.Hansard recorded that without the word "beyond", so it appeared as to pass on complaints about British Rail. We must make as positive a contribution as we can. In that spirit, I suggest that if it could come to an accommodation with the British Library for a travolator to pass through the basement, there would be amazing possibilities for improving the literacy of a whole number of passengers since the speed at which the train would be allowed to proceed would be unquestionably quite slow.
Since the Bill was last before the House, we have had several changes. If we confine ourselves to the high-speed rail link alone, we find that whereas before it was not to be of European gauge it is now to be of UIC gauge. Before, it was lamentable to imagine that it would go to Stratford; now, it is going I o Stratford. Before, as the former Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo) said, it was highly unlikely that freight would use the new line; now, it is to be worked up for freight—changes that I greatly welcome and are absolutely sound. I congratulate the Government on having been persuaded, after a great deal of time, that we were not as daft as we appeared.
§ Mr. Dobson
All that has happened is that it has been decided that the route will not go through south London; no firm decision has been made that it will go to Stratford or anywhere else.
§ Mr. Rowe
My understanding is that there is a firm decision that it is going to Stratford. How it will get there is as opaque as it always has been.
That brings me to another point that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), who temporarily is not in the Chamber, made about the Baxter scheme for King's Cross. He said that it has no less impact on houses, buildings and the environment than the present scheme. My understanding of the Baxter scheme is that, apart from anything else, it would have preserved the Great Northern 708 hotel. Whether that is germane or not, if that is so, it shows clearly one of British Rail's continuing weaknesses—that it has an extraordinary inability to count the number of buildings that will be affected or to identify them. British Rail persuaded the Government that a change to the safeguarded part of the route would not have any consequences for any listed building. It is wrong. If the final freight route is one of a number of highly likely routes, the change required in the corridor passing through my constituency will directly affect a listed building. If British Rail wishes to carry conviction in this place, it must be much more accurate.
We have been informed that the project will cost £1.4 billion. The new high-speed rail link—we are not sure where it will go—will cost about £4.2 billion for 55 miles of new line. I understand that the Germans can build a new railway for about £20 million a mile. My point is that, even after all this time, there is little certainty about any of British Rail's cost predictions. When there is, the projects seem to be very expensive. There should be a much closer look at the costs, both of the King's Cross terminal and of the line to it.
Given the fluid situation and the fact that nothing is the same as when the Bill was first presented, we should compare the costs of the present scheme with those that Kent, for example, will have to pay. There is a danger that there will be no international station at Ashford, which would be absurd. I took some comfort from my hon. Friend the Minister when he said that it was manifestly a benefit to have a station before a line was built. That is true for Ashford as for King's Cross.
My hon. Friend the Minister could do a lot worse than turn British Rail's attention to the new buildings that Kent county council's education authority has commissioned for schools. Such buildings have an estimated life of 60 to 70 years, but they can easily be uprooted and moved elsewhere. They can be clad so that they fit into almost any environment. I was impressed by the quality of those buildings and by the fact that they can be moved. Given that British Rail is always uncertain about where its stations will be, it may find that buildings that can be moved around the country are of great benefit.
§ Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and neighbour for giving way. He makes an extremely good point about fluidity with regard to the channel tunnel rail link and particularly the need for the King's Cross terminal. Would not British Rail be better served investing money in the appalling service that it provides in north Kent which causes our constituents such inconvenience and discomfort? Our constituents have been asked to pay about 8 per cent. more for their season tickets next year, taking the cost of, for example, a Chatham ticket to more than £1,700. They have been told that they must invest for the future—for what future, that of King's Cross or that of the north Kent line?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am sure that, in responding to that intervention, the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) will direct his remarks to the Bill and the revival motion.
§ Mr. Rowe
As I understand it, the Bill is to be revived because of the intention to proceed without delay to the building of the station. We contend that, in the highly fluid situation in which British Rail finds itself, it would be much better off attacking the problems endured by 709 commuters in our part of the country than building a railway station, the line to which has not yet been designed or put out to tender. That is a powerful argument. If building were postponed, it would enable a certain amount of relief to be given to Kent.
The new national road transport forecasts had a high-growth and a low-growth scenario for Kent. The high-growth forecast has already been exceeded and traffic growth in Kent is almost double that predicted in 1984's national forecast. Before British Rail embarks on an enormously expensive and only partially designed chimera, we should give the unfortunate travellers of Kent a number of benefits, some of which could be easily provided.
First, there should be modern communications technology in the trains. There are no phones in the cabs, but there is no reason why drivers should not have portable phones. It is bizarre in this day and age that when trains break down—as they frequently do because of leaves on the line—the driver must stop the train and get out to ring up. Secondly——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but he must direct his remarks to this Bill and in particular to the revival motion. It is not in order to discuss another Bill which he might like to see before the House.
§ Mr. Rowe
I understand what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I do not think that what I am proposing requires a Bill. If the Bill were not revived, the money that it is intended to spend would be made available to be spent on what I seek. However, I accept your correction.
Another change has been that the property market has collapsed. I understood that one of the reasons why the King's Cross station project was suggested was that British Rail expected to make a killing on the land that it would be able to develop as a result of its improvements to the railway station. That is known as making a more aggressive use of assets, as Mr. Chris Green wrote recently in the Financial Times. My concern is that under an aggressive use of assets one of his policies for Network SouthEast is to cut the back-up for trains to such a low level that should anything go wrong with a train—and our trains are the oldest on the network and are more likely to break down than any others—there will be no back-up provided.
When British Rail considers its assets, it would do well to wait to build the King's Cross station until it knows what it wants and what lines it must serve and until the property market has recovered. It should also spend the money that it proposes to spend on improving the travel-to-work life of many commuters, especially those in Kent, who are paying over the odds for a lousy service.
§ Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)
I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes, but it is important to stress that this is not a parochial debate and far less a debate about the merits or otherwise of local lines in Kent. The issue of a channel tunnel should be a great national debate and should have been a great national project. The tragedy of the past few years is that it has not worked out that way.
710 Having initiated the tremendous engineering project which we all admire and look forward to seeing come to fruition, the Government appear to have left it at that and the question of how the rest of the country is to be served by and benefit from that project has received pitifully little consideration.
The alternatives do not stand still or have benefits for all parts of the country. The alternatives are the positive approach which I advocated and the approach that ensures that all parts of Britain benefit from the channel tunnel. Otherwise, there will be a relative loss to the rest of the United Kingdom as more and more trade and commerce is drawn to the south-east by the lure of the channel tunnel. However belatedly, we must get out of the rut and begin—as a Labour Government will certainly do —to treat this as a huge national project to be undertaken seriously.
The motion is crucial for those of us who come from points north of London. It surprises me that no other Scottish party is represented on Conservative or on Opposition Benches—
§ Mr. Wilson
My hon. Friend is in the same party as I am, as far as I understand. No other Scottish party is represented on Conservative or on Opposition Benches. I am delighted to be joined by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster).
The project is of immense importance to Scotland. If one looks across the channel, as some of us have, and sees the way in which the matter is approached there, it is humiliating to consider what has gone on in Britain over the past few years. Around Calais, construction work will create a massive new rail terminal and a road system to lead to the tunnel at Calais. Where is the comparative development in Britain? Huge development is taking place in the centre of Lille to create a rail hub for the whole of northern Europe. Where is the comparative thinking in Britain?
We are struggling tonight to achieve the first tentative step in Britain's planning, not for two or three years hence, but for the better part of a decade hence, and to achieve at King's Cross the equivalent of what has been under construction for several years at Lille. We are struggling for a terminal at which trains can come in from all parts of the country, at which there can be an interchange for the continent and at which people can move on relatively quickly.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) has said, it would be better to have more direct trains to the continent. I hope that that will evolve in the fullness of time, but it will do so only when the electrification programme is extended to all parts of the country. For many years to come, there will be greater dependence on a good interchange than there can be on the prospect of direct services between Scotland, the north of England and Wales, and the channel tunnel and beyond. We must have the interchange.
As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) said, it is true that better schemes may be available. The King's Cross scheme may not be perfect and I respect the views of local Members who say that it is far from perfect. However, it is the only scheme on the table. If the project does not get into gear now and if we go back to the drawing board, it will be decades before we get 711 another scheme that is worked through to the present level. In the meantime, all the benefits of the channel tunnel will be lost to my part of the country and to many others.
Let us get on with the scheme because there is no reason for further delay. My hon Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, when he argues against the disruption of his own constituency, is on stronger ground than when he tries to prove that King's Cross is not the best available option for an interchange. I will elaborate on the point that I made about the disruption that may be caused when additional tens of thousands of people are brought into the area, if the development at King's Cross goes ahead. Surely the best answer is to get most of them out again as quickly as possible. My hon. Friend conjured up images of people coming out of taxis and meeting friends. The best alternative is for people to cross the platform and to get away to where they want. That is the most efficient way.
I am not prepared to accept for the rest of the country the idea that, from now until the year dot, either everyone will have to struggle across London to get to Waterloo, which is how things will start, or worse, under the new madness that has been conjured up, everyone will have to struggle out to Stratford to catch the connections for the continent. Where is Stratford? That is an unreasonable expectation.
I regret that the link will not come through south London. I have no wish to tread on the toes of col leagues who have legitimate local interests, but from the national standpoint, I think that it is regrettable that the link will not take that route. Half the decision has already been taken and it seems that the link will come to Stratford. The moment that that was decided, however, the fear was that we would never hear anything again about the link between Stratford and King's Cross. That would be a disaster for the rest of the country. That must not be allowed to happen.
We must have this Bill as it is the only one before us. It is absurd that we have to be tied up in private Bill procedure in order to allow railway developments of the type that we are discussing tonight. If the Government want such a project, they should be able to make a strategic, infrastructural decision. They should not have to rely upon the private Bill procedure, because the issue is too important. The whole thing is anachronistic.
If the channel tunnel is ever to be a genuine national undertaking that brings benefit to all parts of the United Kingdom, and if that is to be achieved within our lifetime, it is important that the Bill goes ahead. I hope that the first step towards that will be taken tonight.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
I will be brief, but I must take issue with the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). A comparison between the north part of the Calais region and central London is ludicrous. If the hon. Gentleman had ever been there, he would know that the Calais region is like the surface of the moon. One could build not only a railway terminal there, but the fifth London airport and no one would notice. We are talking about a terminus in the heart of a great city and some proper consideration should be given to that.
§ Mr. Gale
No, I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) suggested that, because this is the only Bill on the table, we should settle for it or we will not get anything. That is an equally ludicrous suggestion.
I listened with great care to the lengthy argument put forward by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). I do not rebuke the hon. Gentleman for the length of his speech, as he is defending and promoting the interests of his constituents fiercely and properly. The environmental arguments that the hon. Gentleman has set out are also extremely valid. I not only listened to the hon. Gentleman's arguments tonight, but I have read the other speeches that he has made throughout the passage of the Bill. I studied his arguments at great length over the weekend and I have come to the conclusion that much of the hon. Gentleman's argument is extremely valid and needs a great deal of further consideration.
I shall not cover the ground already dealt with by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury; instead, I shall consider the credibility of the promoter of the Bill, British Rail. The House will recall that during the passage of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987, British Rail stated that there was no need for a high-speed line. Apparently it was convenient for BR to say that, because, had there been such a high-speed line included in the Channel Tunnel Bill, it is possible that that Bill would have fallen.
Now we are told that BR must have a high-speed line. Those of us who serve Kent constituencies agree with that. I believe that a London terminus of the right kind must be established to provide the right links to the north and the rest of England. Above all, it must be built in the right place.
On Second Reading on 8 May 1989, at column 617, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) was asked why British Rail had changed its mind about the need for a high-speed rail link. He said simply: "Forecasts have been revised". Tonight we are entitled to ask how many more times those forecasts will be revised and in which direction.
It has already been suggested that if a terminus were built at Stratford East, it would have a major impact on the financial viability of the terminus at King's Cross. I want to know the answers to the questions. It is not good enough for my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr.Waller), who is the sponsor of the Bill, to come here without those answers. That has continually happened when other hon. Members have sought to move the carry-over motion.
The most recent edition of the Kent county council's "Railing Update" ran the headlineKCC to help sort out shambles".The first line of the article stated:Kent County Council has pledged to help sort out the shambles surrounding the International Rail Link.The leader of the county council, Tony Hart, is reported as saying:at the moment it appears to be little more than a line on the map, and a pretty thick and crude one.If that is true, further consideration needs to be given to precisely where the London terminus will be located. In an earlier debate, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) suggested that if the terminus were built at Stratford, East, it could save as much as £1 billion on the project. I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will consider it in order if I state precisely what that £1 billion 713 could mean to those or us who live in the Network SouthEast region. We are continually being told by British Rail that how it spends its money depends on priorities. The priority for those of us who live along and use the north Kent line is that line itself, and the £1 billion saved on the project would go a devil of a long way to sorting out the line.
I have a piece of paper listing one traveller's journeys during the first fortnight of this month. Of the 20 trains travelled on from north-east Kent—Herne Bay, in my constituency to Cannon Street—two arrived on time, 17 were late and one was cancelled because no crew were available due to a clerical error in the rostering. That shows the standard of the management that we are being asked to endorse if we pass the Bill. I do not believe that the current management at British Rail is capable of building the project, although I believe that it needs building. We have a right to say that, if such a major project is to go ahead, we should not—as the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) said earlier—settle for whatever is on the table, but should ensure that it is the right project and that the correct amount of money and no more should be spent on it. The rest of the money that British Rail has available should be spent on projects that are desperately needed to provide jam today, not tomorrow, for the commuters who are paying British Rail for the services it offers today.
§ Mr. Snape
The hon. Gentleman has for some time been against the original fast rail link through Kent and south London, and we have learnt tonight that he is against the current project, apparently because he believes that all British Rail's money should be spent on saving his neck by improving the lousy commuter service that his constituents have had to tolerate for 13 years of Tory misrule—to use a well-known phrase from a couple of decades back. Which projects should British Rail propose and where will it find the money to pay for them?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I hope that the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) will resist the temptation to depart from the Bill under discussion.
§ Mr. Gale
I certainly will, but I shall correct one error of fact in the statement of the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East. I have never opposed the fast link from Kent, which does not run through my constituency. Those of us who live in north-east Kent have always believed that there should be a fast link, and we have been perfectly happy for it to go through south London, to where our constituents who will benefit from the link wish to travel. I am on record as having said that on many occasions in the House—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East spent more time listening and less time intervening from a sedentary position, he might hear what Conservative Members have to say, some of which is not entirely contradictory to what he wants.
I want the link to be built and the priorities to be right. A couple of years ago, British Rail spent millions of pounds building a link between London and Stansted airport that currently carries virtually no passengers. I am not saying that that link is not necessary or will not be necessary at some time in the future, but the-priority must be to serve the passengers who are paying now. I believe that the money should be spent now on the services used 714 now, and we must ensure that the planning is right so that the terminus is built in the right place. If that place proves to be Stratford East, that is where the terminus should go. But it should not be built somewhere simply because a Bill is lying on the table. The arguments of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury carry much weight and the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East would do well to give them slightly more attention.
§ Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)
The hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) referred to the issue of management and targeted his criticism at the management of British Rail. I am not in a position to defend British Rail, but when we analyse the problems with commuter services in the south-east and the problems that British Rail faces in general, we must remember that they are caused because the Government will not allow British Rail to introduce the schemes that it wants, including electrification of other lines, in order to improve services. The position with the Bill is similar.
One of the reasons why I pressed the Minister to give an assurance about the link between Stratford and King's Cross is that it is feared that money will not be available to build the link. Several hon. Members have said that £1.25 billion has to be found for the King's Cross development and that other resources must be found for other British Rail projects connected with the channel tunnel. When we examine cost, I remind the House that it is not 12 months since we heard a statement from the Dispatch Box that the Government had found £4.5 billion to prop them up on the poll tax. So money can be found when the Government feel that it is necessary for them to sustain their vote throughout the country.
If the Government are sincere about the Bill, they should not hesitate to give assurances to the House and the country that the money will be found to ensure that a link will be provided and that services will be available to the communities in the regions, and particularly the north, from the channel tunnel.
When the Secretary of State announced in August this year the route that would be followed by the high-speed link, it was a tremendous disappointment to the local authorities and consortiums in the north of England that the link would come from the east through Stratford to King's Cross. That decision created tremendous doubt about whether facilities will be made available to service the regions north of London. Such doubts exist in Yorkshire and Humberside, which I know best, and in other northern and western areas.
I do not apologise for raising the matter on more than one occasion in interventions and again in my own speech. We want assurances from the Government. I said earlier that the debate seemed to be developing into a north-south divide. I understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) made the comments that he did. The Bill affects many of his constituents. Other hon. Members intervened and I thought that the debate was developing along "them and us" or north-south lines. I hope that the decision taken tonight will be to the benefit of the whole nation.
In the north we consider that King's Cross is needed nationally. It is an important facility for international passenger services to the north of England and the other regions beyond London. I sometimes feel that north of 715 Watford does not matter in debates in the House. Several hon. Members from the north have stressed tonight, with all the determination that we can bring to bear, the need for the northern region to be considered in this development.
The Bill should be accepted by the House because King's Cross will be the key terminal linking the north of England with the channel tunnel. We would prefer, of course, a direct link from the towns and cities of the north straight through to the channel tunnel, but that cannot be achieved. The best alternative is the King's Cross terminal.
We plead with the House to allow the Bill to take its course and reach the statute book. It would allow international trains to run directly into the key main lines beyond London. We are pleased with the services from west Yorkshire and south Yorkshire which terminate at King's Cross. This Bill will directly link such services to the channel tunnel and on to Europe.
The development at King's Cross will provide an excellent interchange for passengers from the north and the regions beyond London. The north of England, the midlands, Scotland, Wales and Ireland will be served well by the facilities at the new interchange.
We want a fast link between the north and south of this country. If the construction at King's Cross goes ahead with the fast lines from the north meeting the high-speed link to the channel tunnel, that will be ideal.
Given a fair wind the development could go ahead with minimum delay. The powers allowing the construction are being dealt with already and, as I have said, King's Cross will provide excellent access to London.
I offer my wholehearted support to the desire of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury for accuratge environmental assessments. They must be correct down to the last detail, in the interests of those who will be affected and in the interests of the project. People need to be satisfied that the environmental assessments for King's Cross and the high-speed link are accurate.
§ Mr. O'Brien
The environmental assessment will be submitted along with the planning application. It is up to the people considering the planning application to deliver a judgment on the assessment. I consider the hon. Gentleman's remarks a little premature. He may oppose this measure but he should not pre-empt the results of the environmental assessment. Environmental assessments are important and they should be truthful and comprehensive. I feel sure that we shall get such an assessment.
The Government must be pressed to accept the British Rail view that the link is needed within the next six or seven years. The Government's announcement suggested a possible date beyond 2000 and said that it could be delayed up to 2005. That is totally unsatisfactory. The Government must co-operate with British Rail and should give the programme full support because it is important to every region in the country.
Given the right resources and planning, the King's Cross project in association with Thameslink 2000 will improve rail links between Kent, Sussex and Hampshire 716 and the north-east of England and will allow travellers from one region to visit the other with only a single change at King's Cross. The development will allow passengers from Yorkshire, Humberside, the north-east and Scotland to travel to the south-east and to Europe with one change at King's Cross. Because of its importance for passenger services and the economic development of the northern region, we ask the House to support the project.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
I support the motion and I bring to the House the support of the North-West Channel Tunnel Group, which consists of a vast range of north-west commercial interests, and of the North of England Regional Consortium, which consists of many local authorities from the north of England. We say that the proposed second international passenger terminal at King's Cross is essential to the development of the north-west of England. It avoids peripherality and is essential for major passenger contact with the mainland of Europe.
I agree with the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) that if the fast link goes through the east of Kent it should not finish at Stratford; it must come to King's Cross. Through services must be provided via King's Cross to the west coast main line to serve the north-west of England. In that way fast passenger links to the north-west will be available shortly after the tunnel is opened. We look forward to the arrival of trains from Europe which will stop at King's Cross and then travel to termini in the north-west at Manchester or Liverpool. Those trains will travel on to Glasgow and, we hope, beyond.
I strongly emphasise the importance of the scheme to people in the north-west. I have pressed for better freight links, which is another argument, but we must start with a reasonably fast passenger link to Europe. The rival proposals for Stratford are totally unacceptable. The first problem is that Stratford is totally dependent upon the construction of the fast link to the tunnel via the east coast and Kent. If that is not built, Stratford will be useless. In the short term, King's Cross is already there and the links to it exist so that, from the start of the operation of the tunnel, people from the north can go into Europe, stopping at King's Cross, changing trains without difficulty.
Stratford is also badly connected to the United Kingdom's railway geography, with inferior capability for through international trains to the north-west and other regions beyond London. It has no existing direct links to the tunnel and could not function until a high-speed rail link was built, and that could be as late as the next century. Stratford is a total non-starter.
§ Mr. Dobson
Is it not the case that the connections to the tunnel will be in existence long before the scheme before the House can be completed or, knowing the way British Rail manages to cock things up, probably before it starts digging any of the soil?
§ Mr. Hind
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. He must bear in mind that, for the north-west, the interim proposal of Waterloo is not acceptable either. The sooner that the terminal at King's Cross is built, the better for the 717 north-west. Even before the main fast link to the tunnel, via Stratford has been built, the proposals in the Bill will have been implemented.
The Stratford terminal serves London poorly. King's Cross is in a central position with easy access to the centre of London. People from Europe will want to come directly to the centre, so King's Cross would bring greater benefits from tourism.
I commend the Bill to the House. It will bring the north-west of England major advantages. We must have the proposals in it, so I hope that all my hon. Friends will support the motion.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
I support the carry-over motion, as does the midland main line consortium, which is made up of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire county councils and Sheffield city council. They believe, as I believe, that if the Bill goes ahead, it will give much stronger grounds for electrification. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and I tabled an amendment linking the motion to the electrification of the main line from St. Pancras to Sheffield.
My short contribution will centre on the spur link set out as work No. 5 of schedule 1, between the midland main line and the old Great Northern line, and on the importance of speedy electrification of that line.
The evidence from the consortium that supports the Bill is that electrification would meet the 8 per cent. return on investment requirement of British Rail immediately. Given the importance to the region of such a project, and the facts that 90 per cent. of businesses in the region use the line and that it would take seven years to electrify from the date of commitment, it is essential that this project is linked into the Bill.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his hint of a commitment to electrify the line within the next 10 years. I draw his attention to the fact that a private consortium, the Central Railway Group, is proposing to build a private line on the old great central railway from the channel tunnel up through Buckinghamshire to Leicester. If it can raise a vast amount of capital— £1.8 billion—and believes that it is worth while to do so, surely it is possible for British Rail to commit the £100 million that is needed to electrify the main line. I say to my hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I know that the hon. Member is trying to keep in order, but he must direct his remarks to the Bill and the revival motion.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The last thing that I want to do is stray out of order. May I draw your attention, however, to work No. 5, which is abouta railway commencing in the London borough of Islington by a junction with the Great Northern Railway at a point immediately below the southern portal of the western bore of Copenhagen tunnel"?That is the very point to which I am referring. If electrification is linked to the spur line, it will not be necessary for me to do what my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) had to do only recently, which was to get the chairman of British Rail to 718 attend another terminus in London and to make quite a row in order for some action to be taken. I am beginning to wonder whether it will be necessary to get the chairman to come to St. Pancras before we can elicit the funds for the project. A few days after the action that was taken by my right hon. Friend, a magic wand was waved and somehow money was found to improve the Southend line.
Finally, I draw the attention of the House to the arguments that have been deployed against the reopening of the Snow Hill tunnel. That is the Thameslink line, which is a part of the Bill and which has been referred to this evening. British Rail argued long and hard that it was not possible to open it. When it was opened, British Rail argued that it was important because it would not be necessary to improve the lines around London. British Rail should consider again the arguments for electrification of the midland main line. If it goes ahead with the project, it will find that it has a reward for the investment that exceeds its wildest dreams.
§ Mr. Waller
With the leave of the House, I wish to say a few words in reply.
I have listened carefully to the arguments that have been advanced both for and against the revival of the Bill. Despite the length of one or two of the contributions of Labour Members, I do not think that they matched the significance of other speeches. I have heard strong arguments from hon. Members on both sides of the House for continuing with the Bill, in the interests of Londoners and in the national interest. If we are talking about a rail infrastructure that is suitable for the next century, we must have in mind the sort of measure that is the subject of the debate. I am confident that the House will support the motion. I ask it to do so to enable the Bill to be revived in the form——
§ Mr. Dobson
I had not intended to contribute to the debate but the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), who introduced the motion, was asked several questions during his introductory speech and he failed stoically to produce any answers. We wanted to know—
Mr. Waller rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to
§ Question put accordingly and agreed to.
That the Promoters of the King's Cross Railways Bill may notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with;
That the Bill shall be presented to the House not later than the seventh day after this day;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the last Session;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting
of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the last Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table.
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session.
§ To be communicated to the Lords and their concurrence desired thereto.