Channel Tunnel

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th October 1973.

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Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam 12:00 am, 25th October 1973

That is not relevant to what I am saying but I take note of my hon. Friend's point. I posed the question: If the railway had never been invented, would we want to use it now? If the railways had not been invented, would we find rail to be a convenient method of transport now? If we are going to use imagination and think of the future we must think ahead. Today the railway has been invented and a vast amount of capital has been poured into the railway system. However, I must stress that a Channel link which provides the option of recognising that much freight is taken by road as well as providing the option of a movement to more traffic going by rail is required.

In conclusion, I want to make only a few points. Other countries are doing much to improve their land communications where sea intervenes. There is a concept of a tunnel bridge which is scheduled to be completed in 1978 and which is some four kilometres in length between Denmark and Sweden. There is the Chesapeake Bay road bridge, which is nearly the length of what will be the Channel Tunnel, and some 18 months ago General Sverdrop arranged for me to take a car from one side to the other. It is very convenient to cross that length of water in 17 minutes in a car. There are the great tunnels joining France and Italy and Italy and Switzerland. The Mont Blanc tunnel is the greatest road engineering project of them all.

We have before us a project which has been consolidated by successive Governments of different political views, which will serve the needs of this country in 10 years' time. There is talk of a fuel crisis, which could be but temporary. Then there is always the possibility that independent transport consignments will have immense advantages over bulk transport consignments, and that within 15 or 20 years another form of propulsion could replace the internal combustion engine. For our prosperity in this island, good communications and infrastructure are vital. The Channel Tunnel is the project that is put before us. In the short time available to me I have tried to show why I shall support this measure as a continuing step in a sequence of events where there has been an opportunity for consolidation.