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I endorse every word spoken by my noble friend. It would be outrageous if the architectural glories of St. Pancras and King's Cross were sacrificed in this matter. It will be extremely difficult to provide a modern extension to St. Pancras which is as fitting as is the extension to Waterloo Station, about which I have certain reservations, but I shall not go into them now.
I welcome the Bill. However, my reservations about it go back quite some time. I think that the proposed railway line is in the wrong place and that this has been unduly delayed. As I have said in the House on a number of occasions, I think that British Rail's preferred route was much better than this one. However, I shall not go into that now because it is all in the past. We must deal with the proposal that is now before us. Indeed, now that we have it and now that some decision has been taken, it is to be welcomed. I do not want to get involved in the politics of this, as did the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, who is just leaving us. I will stick entirely to technical matters. (The noble Lord can go, because I will not say any more about him, except to say that I am glad to see him here.)
I welcome the Bill because it appears that, in the fullness of time, we may have something that will be a substantial feat of civil engineering and will give greater realism and authority to the Channel Tunnel as the main route between London and the Continent and, in due course, with any luck, between other regions of the United Kingdom and Continental Europe.
I raise one technical matter on the Bill which I hope the committee will investigate. At this point, the Minister can relax. He need not listen, because I do not expect him to reply to it at the end of the debate. My comments are directed entirely to the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, and his committee, not the Minister. The Select Committee in another place considered the question of ground-borne noise and vibration in the tunnels to the north and east of London. It is agreed by all that those tunnels have to be designed in such a way as to mitigate the effects of these vibrations on the houses and their occupants located above the tunnels. That is a crucial design question. The local authorities in the vicinity of these two tunnels were alarmed that under the conditions in the Bill they would not be consulted about the detailed design of the rail link in the tunnels. In paragraph 100 of the report of the Select Committee of another place it is said:
I do not know whether the local authorities intend to present any further evidence to the committee. They presented evidence to the committee in another place on noise and vibration and methods of designing the tunnel. For the information of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, that evidence was discussed on days 42, 43 and 45 of the oral hearings. I do not know to what extent the noble Lord can refer to these, but I hope that he can at least glance at them. He will know the position because he is a very experienced parliamentarian.
There are several solutions to the design problems. The promoters propose that the rail track in the tunnels should be supported on resilient mountings; that is, something like rubber pads under the rail track itself. That is a perfectly reasonable solution. However, the promoters argued that if the local authorities' requirements for noise and vibration standards were to be met as measured in decibels--with which I will not trouble the House because all of them appear in the evidence--a floating track slab might be needed. This is stated in paragraph 105 of the report. Whereas under the promoters' proposals the rubber pads are under the rail track itself, with a floating slab the rail track is supported on a concrete slab which forms a kind of bridge. It is that concrete slab which is supported on resilient bearings on the soffit of the tunnel. Technical problems may arise. Sometimes a slight adjustment to the shape of the tunnel is required. It will certainly be more costly than the other proposal. Nonetheless, the local authorities believe that that will provide a better noise and vibration standard and so less annoyance to inhabitants and ratepayers.
Either of those solutions will work. I believe that the floating slab is a better solution, but I do not advocate one or the other. I am alarmed by what the Select Committee of another place says in paragraph 107:
I have the greatest regard for colleagues in another place, but they are not always right. The floating track may solve a serious problem and should not be disregarded. Yesterday I was sent a copy of a letter from a consulting engineer experienced in these matters. He has been engaged in railway construction in places as far afield as Hong Kong. He has said that floating slabs are fully proven in service both for metro and express lines. The speed of the train is not particularly relevant.
I hope that this project is successful, but I do not want it to proceed on the basis that a proven design solution is regarded as inadequate. I hope that the committee of this House will bear these comments in mind in considering the Bill. I like to see things built, and I have spent most of my life trying to get things built. I go on about it in this House perhaps at tedious length. I hope to see this railway line built even if it is in the wrong place. I do not mind that too much. I want it even if it is in the wrong place. I wish the Bill a fair wind and I wish the construction of the railway line a speedy conclusion.
Lord Cavendish of Furness: My Lords, I should be sorry to think that the noble Lord, Lord Howie, lost anyone's interest with the floating slabs. I only regret that I cannot contribute to the floating slab debate.
I should like to start by congratulating my noble friend the Minister on the clear and eloquent way in which he introduced the Bill. This is a colossally exciting project and I have no reservation about the main thrust of the Bill. Indeed, as one of those who has taken advantage of the Channel Tunnel I join those who will be impatient to see it on the statute book as quickly as possible. I join other noble Lords in wishing the Bill well and also the committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in the weeks and months ahead.
So as not to waste your Lordships' time, I shall move quickly from placing on record my sincere enthusiasm for this measure to dwelling rather sadly on its defects, as I see them. In doing so, I must at once declare an interest. I am a commissioner of English Heritage, and as such, was party to a decision to petition your Lordships in respect of various concerns it had arising from this Bill as currently drafted.
Those concerns, which I entirely share, relate to the inadequate provisions which have been made to safeguard the remarkable complex of historic buildings which survives at St. Pancras and the railway lands which lie behind the station. Those comprise the finest surviving area of Victorian townscape in London and a site of national importance in terms of its listed buildings and industrial archaeology.
I, like many others, was delighted that St. Pancras was selected as the terminus of the CTRL in January 1994, as it provided a permanent solution to the long-term preservation of the station buildings which arguably form the most important railway complex in Britain, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I, too, accepted, albeit reluctantly, that, given the national strategic importance of the project, in this particular instance a case could be made for the disapplication of normal listed building and planning controls, provided alternative safeguards were put in place.
In reaching that conclusion, I was reassured by the environmental appraisal prepared for the then British Railways Board by Union Railways, and subsequently published by the Government, when they announced their decision on the CTRL route and terminus in January 1994. This stated that:
The water point is a modest, but unique, structure designed in Gothic style to complement St. Pancras. It is listed grade II, which means it warrants every effort being made to preserve it. No attempt has been made, as far as I know, by Union Railways, or LCR to re-use it, even though that would be entirely straightforward. I am told that the costs of its dismantling and re-erection would be about £350,000, half the cost of re-erecting Yonsea Farm in Kent, for instance, where the principle of dismantling and re-erecting various listed buildings was established by the Select Committee on the Bill in another place. It is difficult to understand why listed buildings at the London end of the route should receive less favourable treatment.
Surely that delightful little building could simply be incorporated into the overall proposals for the new terminus as a kiosk, cafe or waiting room, or even as an operational building. I understand that English Heritage has investigated a solution to show how it could be re-used adjacent to the railway at the rear of St. Pancras churchyard for a variety of possible uses, and that that has the support of Camden Council. Its conversion and fitting out costs could be offset against a Heritage Lottery bid which is in preparation for the churchyard as a whole, as well as SRB funding for the regeneration of the railway lands, to which the Government have committed £37 million.
The triplet gasholders at St. Pancras with their inter-bracing are spectacular examples of Victorian engineering. They are a major listed London landmark of very considerable architectural and industrial archaeological interest. I revisited them only today. They are very remarkable.
It is the great circles of classical columns and lattice work beams which are the gasholders' main architectural interest. And it would be perfectly possible to re-erect them as the framework around a really visionary world-class building of the 21st century. Ideally, such new buildings would allow for the incorporation of the beautifully engineered guide-rails and should be of a scale that preserved the higher levels of the construction as a silhouette against the skyline.
I have in mind my noble friend's concern for regeneration. So what better icon for the regeneration of the whole of the St. Pancras area than a new building arising from within one of the most glorious monuments of the past. In the context of the development of the
Conservation is all about adapting the best buildings from the past to meet new needs. Where better for the Government to point the way than at St. Pancras, by insisting on the re-use of both the gasholders and waterpoint in the planning and heritage minimum requirements?
Finally, I am gravely concerned at the inadequate safeguards in the Bill for St. Pancras Chambers. The chambers is a grade I listed building. I give much credit to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for spot-listing it when he did. It is arguably one of the most important railway buildings in the world. Under the recent restoration programme it received about £10 million of public money plus £250,000 in grant aid from English Heritage for the restoration of external details, and another £50,000 for the consolidation and restoration of some of the splendid interior murals.
At present under the planning and heritage minimum requirements, LCR has only to undertake to keep the building weathertight and waterproof. There is no commitment on it, despite what my noble friend the Minister said, to bring the building back into use or to dispose of it on the open market, without reserve, if it fails to do so. English Heritage believes that there is a high risk that unless the chambers are brought back into an appropriate use a listed building of this size and splendour will deteriorate rapidly if unoccupied for a further period of eight or nine years. I share that view.
I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will agree that St. Pancras Chambers is one of the nation's architectural treasures, and that the gasholders and waterpoint are unique, and irreplaceable parts of our heritage. Can we please have an assurance that the safeguards being sought by English Heritage and other petitioners in respect of these wonderful buildings will be added to the planning and heritage minimum requirements?
I very well appreciate that much of government is about trying to reconcile conflicting aspirations. It would seem likely to me that governments are uncomfortable when they are called upon to make decisions that involve aesthetic judgment. That is not really surprising; the machinery of government hardly lends itself to such a process. Whatever the reasons, the record of successive governments in this field is not entirely reassuring.
There is a story that as late as 1951 the MoD, or its predecessor, applied to have Stonehenge removed on the grounds, I believe, that it was in the way of manoeuvres. As regards London monuments there have been some real tragedies. The destruction of the Victorian Coal Exchange is now recognised as being a terrible mistake
The great project which is the subject of the Bill is hugely exciting. It is one that is worthy of a civilised age and it is one that should reflect credit on this Government. There is a seamlessness in the way in which each generation draws on the vision and experience of the past. Without the vision and experience of those who have gone before we would not even be discussing this Bill. How wretchedly diminished we would be if the Bill were to become law without robust protection being afforded to those exceptional monuments at St. Pancras. I urge my noble friend and the noble Lords who will serve on the Select Committee to reflect on those concerns.
Viscount Sidmouth: My Lords, in declaring an interest I must say that I have been a long-term believer in the need for a cross-Channel rail link not only as an important element in a European transport system but also as a physical and psychological link between this country and Europe. In other words, I am glad that the Continent is no longer "isolated", to coin a phrase.
Earlier today a Statement was repeated in this House which appeared to indicate an atmosphere of distrust and a lack of fellow feeling in this country for the European concept. I shall not go into the ins and outs of what was said, but it is clear that there is and always has been a strong undercurrent against Eurotunnel, for example, from the public, where it stems from xenophobia, and from the political side, where motives are probably rooted in constitutional and financial considerations. However, it should be pointed out that the Channel Tunnel was a project which arose from the building of the Common Market. That concept still has a strong following in this country, as was evident from the consensus between the parties during our debate.
At a different level, I believe that when the Eurotunnel scheme was selected there was a body of opinion, including the Ministry of Transport, which would have preferred a drive-through tunnel or a bridge. But both those alternatives were ruled out by technical problems. The effect was that the tunnel as built had a dual role as a road and rail undertaking and both sides of the project needed a different infrastructure.
The road element, which is the Shuttle and its related activities, depends on the road access. On both sides of the Channel an appropriate network was built up. On the British side that included extensions and improvements to the M.2 and M.20. That work was put in hand in time to be ready for the tunnel's opening and was of course paid for from taxation money.
The Bill which we are considering today relates to the rail infrastructure. Of course the French, with their greater faith in railways, planned and installed a high speed passenger system giving access to Paris, with points south and east, and to Brussels, with future connections to the north, plugging in to the rapidly developing high speed network in Europe. On this side of the Channel a fair amount was spent on improving
All that can be said in favour of the delay is that, contrary to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, it has gradually led to an improvement in the selected route. It is certainly a great deal better than the original route proposed some years ago with the original British Rail single tunnel scheme.
It has been suggested that the Bill's provisions for financial help from public funds to a privatised concern is to be criticised. Certainly the issue of privatisation is contentious. Having once been responsible for operating a railway, albeit a small one, I can recall the benefits of having an integrated business. I find it hard to see the gain in dividing British Rail into a number of small units. That is not necessary for competition because there is plenty of that from other modes of transport.
The result of the Bill, which is quite a neat one, might be a useful combination for a joint enterprise between private management and the use of some public funds. Certainly as regards the competitive side of transport the advantage lies with the big battalions in private hands. One thinks of the results published today by British Airways which show what can be done in such circumstances and with such management.
However that may be, the nominated undertakers, as the Bill makes clear, will be involved in a competitive situation. I believe it is right that they should be given some physical clout and be spared as far as possible the situation which Eurotunnel faced of being, in effect, bankrupt before it could begin operations. Union Railways will at least have a cashflow from Eurostar and every incentive to turn that into a positive cashflow as soon as possible.
I share the view that has run through the debate that as regards the objects of the Bill there is consensus. I hope that the Bill passes through its remaining stages in Parliament and is put into operation as soon as possible.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, as a Kent resident I support the Bill. I have many reasons for doing so but I shall mention only two, the first being an undeniably selfish one. Until the new line is open, Channel Tunnel trains leave Waterloo on the existing track through Tonbridge and Ashford where they compete with commuter trains as far as Sevenoaks, which is my station. As there are four tracks on that line only as far as Orpington, delays are inevitable and, in my experience, frequent for those the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davies, described as the "beleaguered commuters".
I shall benefit from a new line, but so too will thousands of other Kent residents. The train journey from London to the furthest reaches of Kent is one of the worst in the country. It now takes one-and-a-quarter hours to reach Ashford, a journey of some 50 miles. Yet one can travel the 180 miles to York in less than two
My support for the Bill is also influenced by our export trade requirements. The UK is peripheral geographically. Therefore, the Channel Tunnel is of particular significance in overcoming that disability. There has been substantial inward investment to this country and export manufacturing companies need fast, reliable and low-cost freight transit to Europe. That will be provided by the new link and most regions should be integrated fully into the European freight network.
The new line will lead also to a massive transfer of freight from road to rail, to the benefit of Kent residents. Unfortunately, I disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, said about the freight issue. I agree entirely with the views of my noble friend Lord Aldington. I am advised that the new link will have the capacity for passenger and freight trains.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, mentioned also Central Railways which, I understand, is planning a brand new railway all the way from Redhill to Tonbridge, Ashford and Folkestone. I fear that that will cause enormous environmental damage in Kent.
I look forward to much greater use being made of the "piggy-back" concept where standard lorry trailers are carried on rail wagons. That is an exciting concept. I understand that there is a potential diversion of 400,000 trailers to rail over the medium term on a route running from the Channel Tunnel to Glasgow with links to the Irish seaports via Holyhead, Merseyside, Heysham and Stranraer. It must be right to get lorries and trailers off the road. I look forward to the end of this year when Railtrack will have completed its detailed study of the critical structures--for example, bridges and tunnels--and will have financing in place.
While I support the Bill, I have two specific concerns. The first relates to Clause 1(3)(b) which allows the promoter to deviate upwards by up to 3 metres from the centre line of the works shown on the deposited plans. Such flexibility is unnecessary with modern surveying and engineering techniques and although I understand that LCR may wish to amend the vertical alignment in certain locations to achieve a higher speed or a more cost-effective design, it should not do so to the detriment of residents or the environment.
My second concern relates to the importance of fully co-ordinating the rail link construction and the widening of the A.2/M.2 which is dealt with in the Bill. That is a vital issue for the many thousands of commuters, holidaymakers and Kent residents who will not only face the construction upheaval of the rail link but also the considerable disruption involved in widening one of the two main road corridors between the capital and the Continent. Obviously it makes sense to try to co-ordinate the work so that we have one period of grief rather than, for example, the roadworks being completed only to be followed by further disruption at the commencement of the work on the rail link, or vice versa. I should be grateful for reassurance on those two points from my noble friend.
Finally, I must declare an interest. As an unpaid governor of Cobham Hall School I have a responsibility to help to protect the beautiful Grade I listed house and grounds where the proposed route runs on the surface along the northern boundary. My noble friend Lord Darnley is also a governor. His family, with a little help from that genius Repton, created the outstanding park. That historic landscape is arguably the most important environmental issue outside London of the whole route, particularly bearing in mind the restrictive covenants granted by the government in 1961 which empower the National Trust to veto any development which it believes will damage the landscape.
The school will be petitioning against parts of the Bill, and I should like to emphasise two crucial points relating to security. First, the proposal to take extra land from the park in order to provide a new bridleway far too close to the school must be looked at again. After the Dunblane tragedy, noble Lords will be well aware of the need to minimise access to schools, and particularly girls' schools.
Secondly, despite the matter being raised on numerous occasions with Union Rail, no assurances have been given that security will be maintained during the construction period to protect the girls and the school buildings. Having said that, the school fully supports the rail link which, with Ebbsfleet station nearby, will create exciting opportunities in terms of access to the Continent and much greater contact with London.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I feel that it is only right at the beginning of my remarks that I should declare an interest. My interest is that I am a citizen of two fair cities in this land, Manchester and London, and I speak from that perspective.
This evening we are debating a Bill which is about building a very small section of the trans-European rail network. In the early days of railways, the Russian Tsar put a ruler on the map between St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. He put his thumb on the ruler to keep it steady and drew a pencil line between the two. His pencil went over the thumb and that is the way the railway was built. I do not argue that we should build railways now as they were built then, but that gives an indication of some of the differences which now pertain.
This new link in the trans-European rail network must be seen primarily as a link between major European cities. I was rather concerned to hear the Minister say that it would provide a reduction in commuter time for people in Kent and so on coming into London. I wonder whether that is a sensible way in which to approach this project.
In the 19th century, Britain obtained a steel backbone that links Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London--the major manufacturing urban conurbations of our land. What we now call the west coast main line was unfortunately built cheaply. It has too many curves and rough sections and the speed of transit is too low. It must be upgraded and modernised.
That reminds me of when the M.1 was constructed. I am not sure how many noble Lords are familiar with the M.1 but near Luton it describes a bit of a dog leg; that is, a fairly tight curve. I can remember talking to someone who used to work for the Jaguar motor company. That company raced E-type Jaguars at Le Mans in the 1950s. The cars were driven from Coventry to London and then over to Le Mans on the roads. When the drivers drove down the M.1 the only time they had to touch the brakes was when they negotiated the corner near Luton that I have described. That tells us something about modern motorway standards. For various other reasons we restrict the speed on motorways to 70 miles an hour and therefore that dog leg on the M.1 does not have a significant effect. However, it would have had a significant effect for the drivers of E-type Jaguars travelling at 130, 140 or 150 miles an hour.
Not only do we need to improve and modernise the steel backbone that is so important to our whole national life, but we also need to extend that backbone to German, French, Italian and Spanish cities. We need to have that fast rail link between the major cities in this country and the major cities on the Continent. Therefore there is a lot riding on this Bill. I am glad that we have the opportunity in this debate to influence the Select Committee and to ask it to ensure that certain criteria are met when it considers the detail of the Bill. First, we need to advise the Select Committee that one of the key aspects of this Channel Tunnel Rail Link is that it should be a high speed rail link and a permanent way for high speed in the 21st century. It also needs to have smooth and well designed links to the west coast main line. I was glad to hear the Minister say in his opening remarks that that was a feature of the Bill. The Select Committee will have to consider the Bill closely to ensure that the fine words of the Minister are met in reality. I have to emphasise again that high speed will be of the essence.
When I started my remarks I questioned why London commuters should see a reduction in their journey times because of the building of what I would hope would be a high speed rail link. I wonder what is the justification for that. I have heard on the grapevine that some supporters of the Conservative Party will do nicely out of the new stations at Ebbsfleet and Ashford. The Minister looks askance. I am glad that he does so because that suggests that he does not agree with that rumour which has been circulating. Why do we need intermediate stops on what should be a high speed rail link between major conurbations? I pose that as a question. I hope that the Select Committee will consider that and ensure that while there may be stations on the line that might be used on occasion, there will be no restrictions on the traffic passing down that line which requires it to stop at those stations.
I wish to recount another little tale about our current railway system. Stockport is about five miles from the centre of Manchester. Every train that leaves Manchester heading for London stops at Stockport station. I asked officials why that train always stopped at Stockport, and I was advised that when the railway was built in the middle of the 19th century, as a
Lord Pender: My Lords, this Bill should be broadly welcomed. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link has had a long route march since conception in 1972. The vicissitudes encountered along the way would have broken those not of the hardest resolve. There is one aspect that I should like to comment on; that is the M.2 widening scheme. The A.2/M.2 trunk road forms the strategic highway link between London, the Medway towns, north Kent and Dover. This is my "home road". I live five miles off the A.2 and eight miles from Dover. I am another Kentish peer. The M.2 is a two-lane dual carriageway road opened to traffic in 1963.
The busiest sections currently carry in excess of 60,000 vehicles per day, with a high proportion of goods vehicles. The traffic flow is already substantially greater than the design standard for the existing motorway and is forecast to increase by about 70 per cent. by the year 2015. During peak periods Junctions 2 and 3 of the motorway become overloaded. As a result vehicles wishing to leave the motorway at these junctions have to queue on the exit slip road. That is hazardous and creates a potential for accidents. What is proposed?--the widening of the A.2 from dual three lanes to dual four lanes between Cobham junction and Junction 1 of the M.2; widening of the M.2 between Junctions 1 and 3 from dual two lanes to dual four lanes; and further improvements at Junctions 2 and 3. Most of the M.2 widening will be achieved by constructing a new London-bound carriageway alongside the existing road. The existing road will be modified to provide a new coast-bound carriageway. The scheme will require the construction of a new motor road bridge across the River Medway just upstream from the existing bridge. The new bridge will carry London-bound traffic and the existing bridge will be modified to carry the widened coast-bound carriageway. These proposals have been forthcoming following close consultation with Kent County Council and numerous other bodies.
Kent County Council has consistently supported the CTRL and welcomes the M.2 widening from Junction 1 to Junction 4. I am not sure whether I have a declarable interest in that my wife is a county councillor of 15 years standing. Kent County Council is aware of the particularly difficult period for those affected by the section of the CTRL that parallels the M.2 widening proposals between Junction 1 and Junction 3. In addition, there are two new road bridges to be constructed over the River Medway. It is absolutely imperative that these two schemes be closely integrated. That requires the two schemes to be funded and built
The Bill comes to us following 11 months in another place and with more than 1,000 petitions considered. The Select Committee has 293 petitions to contend with. Let us hope--it is, indeed, a plea--that it takes no notice of those petitions outside the limit of deviation. The Bill needs a fair wind. The House of Commons has been the tortoise. Let this House be the hare and speed the Bill to the statute book.
Lord Sefton of Garston: My Lords, as I listened earlier to the debate, I felt like saying, "Hooray for Kent". It seems to have a loud voice in this Chamber. I wish it well. However, there are other places in this country apart from Kent. The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, said that the Bill is supposed to improve communications between Europe and this country. I come from the North, as some noble Lords will no doubt know. I have always pursued the idea that, compared with the remainder of the country, the South East of England is a prosperous area. It is very congested as anyone who travels on the transport system will agree. It is congested because of its activities.
I have always considered that factor from the viewpoint of Merseyside. It created a strangulation on the proper development of the whole country, because one has to travel through that congestion to get to Europe. Therefore, I welcome the Channel Tunnel and, as a firm supporter of Europe, I strongly welcome the Bill. I give it a fair wind.
However, there are other issues to consider arising from the Bill. It is the third time that I can remember engaging in a debate on important and large-scale developments in the South-East. I sat on the committee considering the Jubilee Line development, and attempted to persuade that committee and this House to consider the consequences for the national interest of building the Jubilee Line. By national interest, I do not simply refer to the provinces; I include London. I pointed out that the development of the Jubilee Line was not a priority for London Transport. It was only third in order of priority. London Transport wanted to consider some of the other needs for London. I wonder whether the people travelling on the Northern Line and other lines of London Transport now wish that the Jubilee Line had not been completed. All the investment which should have gone to other lines went to the Jubilee Line.
Ebbsfleet has been mentioned. The Minister looked aghast when a noble Lord suggested that that proposal had something to do with the Tory Party. I shall not suggest that. However, I shall suggest that that development came about because a private enterprise firm was keen to get rid of land and sell it for development; and no one will deny that.
I am concerned that there is no proper link. Let me correct the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. He did not hear from the Minister that the Bill proposed an improvement. He would have heard from the Minister that, outside the Bill, permission would be applied for to build the link that I want. It is not in this Bill, and I am concerned about the briefing document. Perhaps the Minister can tell us when we will have a Bill for it. The longer the link is left without being built, the longer we are left in limbo in regard to communication with the Continent; the more development continues in the South East, the worse will be the situation for Liverpool, Manchester and Scotland. The private sector will go where the profit is greatest, so it will go again to the South-East. It is essential for us to have the link. I pleaded for it at least 10 years ago and begged that something should be done.
On another occasion, an extension was planned in a Bill for the London Docklands Light Railway. I asked the committee at the time to examine the consequences on the rest of the community and our economy. My suggestion was defeated in this House; we did not consider it.
I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, express his concern about the rest of the country and the Bill's consequences for it. That does not prevent us both supporting the Bill, but it means that there is doubt about the Bill's consequences on the rest of the country, not only for direct communications but also for development. A limited amount of development, especially economic development, can be carried out in the country. If it takes place in the South-East because that area is nearest the tunnel, it will not take place elsewhere. A glaring example of that is the two Docklands corporations established by Mr. Heseltine, who called himself the Minister for Merseyside. Docklands in London is chock-a-block, it is so full that the ordinary people who used to live on the site have not been properly looked after. All the yuppees have gone there, the offices are there, with Canary Wharf and now more are being encouraged to go there. That is London.
Now let us look at Liverpool. We have one government office with, I think, 700 people when there were supposed to be 1,300. There are wide open spaces. An article in the Guardian on Monday described Liverpool as having had a vision of building a city before it had the problems of the 1960s. The article described what happened to Liverpool and it said, at the end: "We should not ask what happened to Liverpool people. The way we have allowed that city to go down tells us something about ourselves because we refused to move some of the activities from the South-East which did not need to be there out to the rest of the country". That is our problem, we do not consider matters from the viewpoint of the national interest.
On what grounds could anyone suggest that MI5 should be at Vauxhall Bridge? What is it doing? Spying on the Russians? Are all the spies coming down here? Is this where MI6 should be? Of course not, it has no need to be here, it could have been in Birmingham or
Perhaps I may conclude with a story. I was chairman of the economic planning council in the North-West and we had a meeting with Ministers. We said to them: "What we will do is to send a letter out to all the industrialists in London and Manchester asking them to come along and tell us what is wrong with industry". We did that and received a letter from Manchester and one from London. The letter from Manchester was posted that night and delivered to us the following day. As for the letter from London, it was five days before it was posted. It takes weeks for documents to get from one office to another in London. The whole of the Civil Service could be outside London with communication by modern technology, saving money and improving the rest of the country. That would leave plenty of empty office space so that the private sector could do what it wants to do in the South-East. It is a simple solution, but it needs someone with a sense of purpose to consider how we distribute our resources. Fundamentally, resources are jobs.
I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mention the regions. Other speakers mentioned the necessity for ensuring that the regions share in the prosperity that we are all supposed to achieve from the tunnel link and the mighty vision. I was pleased to hear that. Now let us get down to facts. It is no use asking this government to do anything about planning for the good of the nation. They will not do it. They have had plenty of opportunities.
There will not be any more opportunities; very shortly there will be a change of government. I am glad about that. Now we shall know what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and his colleagues will do; namely, set up what I was tempted to ask this Chamber for tonight. I was tempted to table a Motion to instruct the committee to take into consideration the possible consequences of the tunnel on the rest of our economy. I did that once before in relation to another Bill, and it was turned down. I intended to do that tonight, but I thought it would be a waste of time. So I express my hope that, when the new Labour Administration comes in, it will set up a body to look sensibly and practically at the whole question of the national economy, and find out in particular how the South East is starving the rest of the country of resources that it badly needs.
Lord Mountevans: My Lords, I declare a non-financial interest as honorary secretary of the all party West Coast Main Line Group. As such, I am delighted to support a Bill which finally links one of our great assets, the Channel Tunnel, with another, the railways of Britain, in a state-of-the-art manner. My only regret is that it has taken so long to get this far.
Back in 1984 we were debating whether there should be a fixed link to the Continent and, if so, what form it should take. Some of us were in favour of a tunnel, added to a high-speed link. Subsequently we settled for the former. It is now up and running, and I agree with
Either way, one has to assume speedy Royal Assent; detailed design work; progress with local authority planning and other statutory body consents; and last, but not least, the raising of finance. One cannot overlook the slippage on the Jubilee Line extension which arose as a result of problems in getting the finance in place.
I welcome the Bill, however much I regret the timescale. I should welcome it the more if our Select Committee could ensure decent and prompt access from the link to the West Coast main line to give the true network benefits that many of us have sought this evening. I very much hope that such a link will be available when the Channel Tunnel rail link itself is opened. I urge the committee to pursue that point.
I also welcome the fact that the Government will be paying grant to the CTRL project in return for benefits accruing to the domestic traveller. That is another idea that was floated in this Chamber as long ago as 1984. But it is one which in the future will throw up a problem in connection with the franchising of the existing domestic train operator--Southeastern Train Company, or SETCO for short. I understand that the franchise for SETCO is being offered on a 15-year basis in order to encourage the successful bidder to renew some existing stock by 1999 and to replace all the old first generation slam-door stock by its life-expired date of 2005.
My problem is this. Does the bidder go for stock with the high-speed capability required by the new route, for which government grant is being paid to secure paths? Or does it go for a dual mode vehicle capable also of running on existing routes? Noble Lords who have used Eurostar will know how relatively weak its performance is once the train emerges this side of the Channel Tunnel. I see a three-fold problem here: the length of the franchise; the purely technical problem of traction; and that of potential conflict between London and Continental and the franchisee of SETCO. That seems to me to be compounded by the fact that Clauses 16 to 21 of the Bill disapply the powers of the rail regulator, which surely could pose problems in the resolution of conflicts between the high-speed link operator and other operators.
Lesser concerns include decent road and underground access to St. Pancras International, a concern that is familiar to those of us who were involved in the King's Cross Bill and indeed in the Bill enabling us to construct Waterloo International. I am also concerned about the viability of Stratford. I hope that the viability of Stratford is not allowed to penalise or damage the viability of the link as a whole. Despite those matters, I feel that Union Rail's proposal is a worthy one. I hope that it will be completed as speedily as possible.
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