I am disappointed at the Minister's reply. Will he give an assurance that on the day when the tunnel opens there will be a direct link to areas such as the northeast of England? Does he accept that if that is not the case, areas most in need of economic recovery will be further disadvantaged?
Clause 39 of the Channel Tunnel Bill requires British Rail, by the end of 1989, to produce a plan for the dispersal of passenger and freight traffic to various points in the country, subject to various commercial criteria. At present, planning is naturally at a very early stage and the pattern of services will depend on British Rail's assessment of demand.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government are investing £300 million in electrifying the east coast main line, one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken, for the benefit of the north-east? Is he further aware that industry in the north-east welcomes the Channel tunnel because it will provide a cheaper, faster freight transport link to European markets of a kind never before enjoyed?
Does the Minister accept that the link is especially important for freight traffic and that it is vital that freight and inland Customs clearance depots be provided in the north-east in the short term so that rail-based traffic patterns can be established well before the tunnel opens in 1993?