Channel Tunnel

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1987.

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Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin , Gateshead East 12:00 am, 20th July 1987

asked the Secretary of State for Transport how advanced the plans are for a direct rail link from Newcastle and the north-east of England to the Channel tunnel.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

British Rail is well aware of the commercial opportunities that the Channel tunnel will bring to provide services from the continent to many parts of the country, including the north-east. It will be making detailed plans over the next two years.

Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin , Gateshead East

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?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

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.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington

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?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

Electrification of the east coast main line is the biggest investment by British Rail in 25 years, and it will bring substantial benefits to the north-east, as will the link with the Channel tunnel.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

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?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

I am expecting the director of British Rail Freight to give me some guidance this summer on the pattern of freight depots that he expects will be required. I shall take into account the point that the hon. Gentleman has made.