§ 32. Dr. Starkey
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussion his Department has had with the local consortium promoting an east-west rail link. 
§ Mr. Prescott
The Government welcome any proposals that might contribute towards a better, more integrated transport system. Our policy of encouraging use of rail is already bearing fruit in terms of a 7 per cent. increase in passenger rail travel and a 5 per cent. increase in freight tonne kilometres last financial year. But it is important that a large, expensive proposal such as this is supported by a clear business case. My hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London met representatives of the East-West Rail Consortium and Railtrack in February, to be briefed on their proposals. Since then, officials from my Department and OPRAF, have had several meetings with representatives of the Consortium, and discussions on the detailed business case for the project are continuing.