Cross-Channel Link

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th March 1969.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne 12:00 am, 10th March 1969

asked the Minister of Transport (1) what revision he is considering of the estimates given in the 1963 White Paper, Command No. 2137, on the Channel Tunnel; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what further studies he is now initiating into a cross-Channel link other than a tunnel.

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Woodside

The British and French Governments are satisfied that among fixed Channel links only the rail tunnel is a practical proposition. But the final period of study will include an up-to-date reappraisal of the tunnel as an alternative to continued reliance on other forms of transport.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Will the Minister accept that many are unhappy about the assumptions in the White Paper, and particularly that assumption which suggests that road traffic on a bridge will be only 10 per cent more, than that through a tunnel? When one bears in mind that a bridge will have not only the same number of railway lines as a tunnel but six road lanes as well as two emergency lanes, this assumption is obviously nonsense.

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Woodside

When my hon. Friend last put down a similar Question, my right hon. Friend told him that, while there were some advantages in having a bridge, those advantages were very heavily outweighed by the disadvantages, such as that a bridge would cost almost double. In addition, there is the very important fact that international agreement would be required between all the maritime Powers for the structures in the English Channel. This could take such a very long time as to make the bridge project almost unfeasible.

Photo of Mr Fred Blackburn Mr Fred Blackburn , Stalybridge and Hyde

With aeroplanes, ships and hovercraft, why do we need another very expensive link?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Woodside

The whole assumption is that there will be a very great deal more traffic. Obviously, the final studies will have to be ratified by the House before any final decision is made. In the final stages, the latest forms of transport will be assessed, all the figures brought right up-to-date, and a total assessment made of the expense related to the various possible forms of transport, including a tunnel.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

What opportunities will the public have to express an opinion when a final decision is being reached?

Photo of Mr Neil Carmichael Mr Neil Carmichael , Glasgow Woodside

The public will have a very important opportunity, through their Members of Parliament, to make their opinions known to the House. There will be final studies by the private financing groups, forerunners of the operating authority, as well as by the Government, and there will be a very big public discussion, in which I am sure hon. Members will not be slow to join in the House.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

asked the Minister of Transport if he will now announce the financial arrangements reached between the British and French Governments and the consortia concerned for the construction of the Channel Tunnel.

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

Not yet, Sir. Further discussions must take place with the private groups before the French Minister of Transport and I can reach a decision.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

There has been a long delay, but will the right hon. Gentleman give a firm undertaking that before we are committed finally the public will get a comprehensive evaluation of the technological, financial and political factors involved?

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

Yes. I have always said that before a decision to go ahead with the Channel Tunnel the House would be entitled to a proper debate upon it, and this, I think, will be a very good way in which the issues can be publicly seen.