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Lawrie Quinn: Will the Minister update the Committee on the ongoing negotiations under the Vilnius protocol, which concerns international carriage by rail? Is he in a position to update the Committee on the progress of those important discussions, and tell us when they will be concluded?

Mr. Jamieson: I would like to give my hon. Friend information about that, but I do not have at my fingertips the detailed information that he would

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require. If he would like me to jot him a line, I should be happy to do so.

Mr. Hoban: Will the Minister comment on the extent to which the interoperability provisions apply to trains that will not run on trans-European routes? I suspect that there are trains used on the lines in Scarborough and Whitby that will not be used on the Scarborough to Seville route, the prospect of which was held out to us earlier. Will there be derogations from the interoperability criteria for equipment, as there are from the applicability of the Berne gauge?

Mr. Jamieson: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I was not thinking so much of Scarborough and Whitby, but of that nice little line that goes from St. Erth to St. Ives in Cornwall. I do not think that that will ever form part of the trans-European networks. I do not think that a rail link between Madrid and St. Ives will go ahead. The point is important, and it would be absurd if the interoperability rules operated across the whole network. Who knows? They may have resonance in some areas. I know the rail lines around Scarborough and Whitby well. I spent my childhood years in places such as Grosmont and Egton Bridge, which the rail line runs through.

The difficulty with the proposals as they stand would arise if some of the lines were upgraded and interoperability had to be considered. At that point we would seek derogation when there was no economic case for interoperability. Where no cost-benefit analysis showed economic benefits, we would want the ability for derogation within the directive.

Lawrie Quinn: I am sorry to make Scarborough and Whitby the theme of the morning, but the Minister will know that my constituency is famous not only for its fish and chips, but for exporting them. Many of the exports from the McCain chip factory in Scarborough go to Europe—in heavy goods vehicles, unfortunately. Equally, fish caught off the coast in Whitby, especially shellfish, are exported to the main fish markets in places such as Barcelona and Paris. The people involved in such activities would benefit greatly from improved railway links, especially when stock is refrigerated. Those industries are important to my constituents, and there are other similar industries around the country. How will they benefit from interoperability?

Mr. Jamieson: That very important question goes to the nub of the issue. The ability to move freight from one place in the EU to a distant part of it without having to unload and reload trains is what the debate is all about. There could be huge benefits for Scarborough and Whitby and many other parts of the country. My hon. Friend will see that the benefits will come in the long term rather than the short or medium term, because many issues and costs need to be tackled. As he pointed out, some expensive changes would probably have to be made to the gauge—I use that word in its broadest sense—of the system in this country. In terms of the technical standards and the rolling stock, refrigerated wagons

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are expensive. Some advantages could be derived from economies of scale, and a more efficient system might be created in the long term.

The Chairman: I congratulate the Minister and other hon. Members on their discipline, as there have been 21 questions and 21 answers. That seems to have exhausted the questions, and if no hon. Members want to ask any more, we can proceed to the debate on the motion.

11.13 am

Mr. Jamieson: I beg to move,

    That the Committee takes note of European Union documents No. 5721/02, Commission Communication `Towards an integrated European railway area', No. 5744/02, draft Directive on the safety of the Community's railways, No. 5723/02, Draft Directive amending Council Directive 96/48/BC and Directive 2001/16/BC on the interoperability of the trans-European rail system, No. 5724/02, draft Regulation establishing a European Railway Agency, No. 5726/02, Recommendation for a Council Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate the conditions for Community accession to the Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF), and No. 5727/02, draft Directive amending Council Directive 91/440/BBC on the development of the Community's railways; and endorses the Government's approach to negotiations on these proposals in the Council.

In essence, the Government's stance is to support the proposed further liberalisation of the freight market, and to seek to ensure that it is progressed at the same time as further technical harmonisation. The further harmonisation proposals should be shaped to deliver benefits to rail passengers and freight customers rather than to impose additional costs on the industry, which would largely be borne by Europe's taxpayers.

11.14 am

Mr. Pickles: The liberalisation of freight is extremely welcome, and we support it, so there is no need for me to say anything more on that subject.

However, whether someone is a purveyor of fish and chips in Scarborough or is sitting on the 8.20 from Shenfield, in my constituency, to Waterloo, he has a right to ask, "What's in it for me? What will I get out of interoperability?" I can think of no better answer than to quote paragraph 9.72 of the Cullen report:

    "The proposals appear not to have been framed with specific reference to the position in Britain. It is not clear whether they are based on any comprehension of the nature, range and application of Railway Group Standards in regard to safety or non-safety matters, and it may be that they are intended to address matters in other counties which have no counterpart in Britain."

The debate so far has been noticeable for several reasons. First, I am indebted to the Minister for introducing an entirely new concept into the costing of interoperability by suggesting that the changes involved would require the Government's budget for an entire year. Previously, the highest estimate was £45 million, which is the size of a district council's budget. The highest estimate, from the Railway Forum, was £3 billion, but that has been resisted

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until now. No doubt the Minr will now be asked lots of parliamentary questions.

The marvellous fish and chips in Scarborough and Whitby, of which I had far too much in my youth, bring to mind another question: who will pay for the changes and for work on interoperability in Iberia and on crossing the Pyrenees? My understanding is that the trans-European network—TEN—was largely based on the Essen list, and the Commission has now added six more schemes, one of which relates to Iberian interoperability. The taxpayers of Europe will pick up the tab, which might have been reasonable had the original TEN been implemented. The best estimate that I have, however—perhaps the Minister can comment on this—is that only about 20 per cent. of the original infrastructure has been tackled. I also understand that when the Commission first considered the issue, it said that it should tackle problems on existing routes, not create new ones such as routes through the Pyrenees.

I have several concerns. I said that we welcomed the treatment of freight in the directives, but there seems to be an emphasis on working towards introducing a designated freight network alongside dedicated high-speed passenger services and the trans-European network. The problem is that 50 per cent. of passenger miles in this country are travelled on the commuter network in the south-east. The Railway Forum says that such networks are at saturation point, and the creation of freight-only corridors or lines is impossible.

I cannot understand why the problems of rail freight in Britain cannot be tackled. The Minister was right to say that there has been a considerable increase in traffic, and that that is a good thing, which is largely due to liberalisation. In tackling problems here, however, we should remember that more practical solutions could achieve considerable savings. We should think more sensibly about passing loops for freight trains, and consider expanding freight yard development and reopening certain lines.

As for high speed, a lot of member states, and particularly Britain, seem to be missing the point. We have problems with interoperability around local bottlenecks, particularly the London terminals, most of which must be reached over viaducts, which is a problem. Another good example of the bottleneck problem is Leeds. I was interested to see that on the lines planned for the trans-European network, the east coast line to Edinburgh specifically excludes Leeds. It would make a significant difference to the line if something were done about the approaches to Leeds. It is an irony that the city has a beautiful spanking new station, and the line is terrifically fast, but, as hon. Members who have used it know, one often travels in enormous comfort and at enormous speed, only to spend 20 minutes outside Leeds station waiting to go in.

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Lawrie Quinn: I may be able to give the hon. Gentleman information of which he is unaware. Under the current project, £140 million is being spent on Leeds, a substantial part of which is being used to treat the problems of the bottleneck to which he refers. Some 10 years ago, under a Conservative Government, I did some work on the approach viaducts to bring about those changes. By the beginning of the next timetable the bottleneck problems will have been dealt with. I am sure that Railtrack will be only too pleased to show the hon. Gentleman what it has achieved.

Mr. Pickles: I am pleased to hear that, but I have talked on that subject with Richard Bowker, who takes a less sanguine view of it than the hon. Gentleman does. Anyway, I was using Leeds as an illustration of a larger problem—although if Leeds' problems are sorted out in the medium term, so much the better. My substantive point is not about Leeds, however, or King's Cross or Paddington for that matter; it is about the effect of local bottlenecks.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): May I reinforce what my hon. Friend says? I am sure that he knows from his personal experience of coming in from Shenfield that Liverpool Street station has a similar bottleneck problem. One can have a reasonably good journey until one gets close to Liverpool Street, and then spend several minutes crawling in or sitting static. Leeds is not by any means a one-off in that respect.

Mr. Pickles: That is a common problem with all London termini—they all face the problem of viaduct approaches. A good network often comes down to a narrow point at which trains are backed up. If the White Paper showed greater understanding of the need to eliminate bottlenecks, it would have a greater effect in creating interoperability. That is why I am so worried about moving on to the six new projects, and the reference to the problems in Iberia.

Then there is the question of safety. I hope that the Minister will forgive me—the problem with railways is that there are so many acronyms and we end up falling over ourselves—but I think that he was mistaken in suggesting that the TPS, or train protection system, would reduce capacity. It is true that the ERTMS, certainly at level 1, would reduce capacity; there is no doubt about that. Mr. Jamieson rose—

Mr. Pickles: I shall develop the point before giving way to the Minister.

My understanding about level 1 is that train drivers will tend to ride the brakes, thinking along the lines of, "You're as good as the last signal you got." That would have an effect on capacity—or at least, that was how it was explained to me.

The big debate is about whether to make the change to level 2, which offers digital radio and real-time planning for railway safety. Given that we shall not get a penny of European money unless we have

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some form of ERTMS, the question is whether we will go for level 1, as was suggested by Cullen, or for level 2, as suggested by the Strategic Rail Authority.

Mr. Jamieson: I could, perhaps, have spared the hon. Gentleman the last two minutes of his speech if he had given way to me earlier. May I now tell him that it was not me who made the point about TPWS reducing capacity? I think that it was the hon. Member for Ludlow.

Mr. Pickles: I forgive the hon. Gentleman. That is, of course, the case. However, the record will show that he agreed, because he went on to say that that was connected with the point that I made about the shift from rail to road. I am certain about that, because it caused consternation on this Bench and eye rolling in other parts of the Room by those who are experts on the matter. I am sure that the record will show that the Minister agreed with the hon. Member for Ludlow about TPS.

I shall move on to further questions of safety. Our railways have a good safety record. Improvements are planned and put together where practical. I approve of what the Minister said about ensuring that such things are cost-effective and that there is a proper balance. However, worries and warnings have been expressed with regard to the creation of the European body, in particular by the Railway Forum, which says that

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