British Railways (London) Bill

Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 6:49 pm on 15th March 1988.

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Order for Third Reading read.

7 pm

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Hon. Members will be aware that we had a very full Second Reading debate on 20 January, since when I am glad to report that considerable progress has been made. First, British Rail has reached agreement with the three remaining petitioners, and as a result the Bill was examined upstairs by an Unopposed Private Bill Committee. The Bill started in the other place. I hope very much that the House will give it a Third Reading so that it may go on to the statute book.

The House will remember that this small but very important measure provides for works on British Railways new Thames link route, which will join the rail networks of north and south London, through the City. The Bill comprises three different sets of works. The first is the realignment of the railway between Blackfriars and Farringdon, which will also involve closing Holborn Viaduct station, at the end of a short spur. There will he a new St. Paul's station on the through line. The realignment includes the creation of a shallow tunnel instead of the viaduct and bridge. Hon. Members will know that the existing bridge near Ludgate circus blocks the great prospect of St. Paul's cathedral from Ludgate circus, and indeed from the east end of Fleet street.

I am also glad to report to the House that, since Second Reading, the Corporation of London has given planning permission for the redevelopment proposals on the old Holborn Viaduct site, which will pay for these works entirely. The latest estimate of the cost for Work No. 1 of the Bill is about £46·5 million.

The second section of works involves the reinstatement of tracks and equipment in two short abandoned tunnels that are just to the north of King's Cross station, thus connecting the Thames link with the east coast main line. That part of the works will cost £3 million. British Rail believes that the cost can be justified because of the increase in passenger receipts.

The third section of works detailed in the Bill—

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington

Before my hon. Friend leaves Works Nos. 3A and 3B, which he is about to do, will he deal with one of the difficulties that was revealed on Second Reading—that the connections that would allow through trains to operate from the south would allow them to go only as far north as Stevenage, Royston, Cambridge or Peterborough, but no further? I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind that we are talking of a yuppie Bill and yuppie works for London commuters, rather than of through connections that hon. Members would like between the south-east and the north.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman), when replying, will remember that we are on Third Reading of the Bill, and that remarks must be directly related to the content of the Bill.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that reminder. I shall try to answer my hon. Friend within the provisions of the Bill.

The reason why InterCity trains cannot go directly from Darlington, to choose just one place that comes readily to mind, to Brighton, to pick another place out of the air, is that tunnels are not high enough to permit the large InterCity carriages arid engines to use them. Although the tunnels have the standard 4 ft 84½ in gauge, the tunnel routes are 18 in lower than usual. Therefore, only the shorter carriages, which are like underground trains, can be used.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

It may be a disgrace, but I must say to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) that it would cost about £100 million to alter the tunnels to provide for an InterCity through connection. The scheme would then fall. I hope that that deals with the problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) raised a separate point relating to long-distance trains from the north to the south. The reason why trains will not go further than Peterborough is that the carriages would not be economic to run when carrying fast services further towards the north-east. I hope that I have dealt with my hon. Friend's query.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my answer does not satisfy my hon. Friend, so I shall give way to him, and try to explain it again later.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. As I understand it, he is explaining the limitations of clause 10(1) and the definition of the bore. As I understand the Bill's promoters, the bore is 18 in narrower than is necessary to allow for the movement of trains from the north to the south, or the south to the north. Is that the position?

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I think that my hon. Friend understands it, but I shall try again.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but as the tunnel is in London, it is not really relevant to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon).

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I remind the House that we are dealing with Third Reading. I recognise that there are links in the Bill, in relation to the hon. Gentleman's question, but it is not in order to have such a wide-ranging debate as on Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We all respect your rulings, of course, and we will adhere to them. The only matter that I would point out to you, with great respect, is that, as the tunnel will be built to a certain size, as my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) has said, the size of the tunnels is surely relevant to our discussions about the size of the rolling stock passing through them. As the size of that rolling stock has implications for the routes that the trains will take in future, surely it is relevant for us to discuss the routing of those trains, insofar as that is affected by the width of tunnels through which they pass.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

We must not spill over our debate to the north of England, or anywhere else. I am sure that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman), who has moved the Third Reading, well understands that.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington

On a point of order—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I think it would be very much better if the hon. Gentleman were allowed to proceed with his speech. I will listen carefully to him, and I am sure he will not stray out of order.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

Within the provisions of the Bill, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) that it is a question not of building new tunnels but of reopening the existing tunnels. Those tunnels are built to a certain size, and that size will not take the InterCity carriages.

The third major section of works is to provide escalator sections at King's Cross, affording direct pedestrian access for people using the new Thames link service, connecting them conveniently to the main line station and the three LRT underground lines of Victoria, Piccadilly and Northern at King's Cross.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the new escalator connections which are to be constructed as a result of the Bill will have stricter protection in case of fire?

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

My hon. Friend raises a vital point. He would have heard the full explanation given in the Second Reading debate. The new escalator connections will be supplementary to the existing ones at King's Cross, which were the subject of that terrible and tragic conflagration last November, but they will not be constructed until the report of Mr. Desmond Fennell QC, who is inquiring into the King' Cross disaster, is published. The new escalators will incorporate any recommendations made by him and will be constructed to the highest possible safety standards. Access and egress in the area will be made easier as there will be more escalators, which will be to the highest safety standards.

That part of the project is estimated, on the latest figures, to cost some £3·75 million, and the principal works will be financed entirely through the receipts from the development of the Holborn Viaduct station site, which will become obsolete. The provisions of the Bill represent great improvements to the public transport system in that part of London. The improvements will benefit Londoners using the public transport system, as well as people moving from north to south and vice versa. The principal works will be of no cost to the taxpayer.

I commend the Bill to the House. If points are raised which I can answer, I shall seek, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to catch your eye at an appropriate time in the debate.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not want to interrupt my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman), but I would like clarification of the ruling you gave. As I understand it, you have confined the debate to the application of the tunnels to London. Whilst the tunnels are in London, they are being rebored for the purpose of traffic to and from London, which originates and terminates well outside London. There may be debate as to how far outside London that traffic should be facilitated, but, as I understand your ruling, you wish to confine the debate to London traffic, which places us in some difficulty.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

It would be easier if we were to get on with the debate. I am reminding the House that on Third Reading we can debate only what is in the Bill. I realise that whether tunnels can take traffic from the north-east is relevant, but on Third Reading we cannot have the wide-ranging debate that I remember we had on Second Reading, which was then in order. The Bill is somewhat complicated and it is difficult to control what is in order, but it would be better if we proceeded with the debate. I shall listen carefully, and I feel sure that all hon. Members will co-operate by keeping in order.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire 7:14 pm, 15th March 1988

I will, of course, abide by your helpful ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the House would like to have further details on one or two questions which relate directly to the Bill and which were discussed in Committee. I am sure that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) will be as helpful on Third Reading as he was on Second Reading in trying to answer the questions. I should then like to turn to the implications of the new, redeveloped terminal at King's Cross on services at the station.

The hon. Member said that the Corporation of London has taken decisions on some of the proposals for redevelopment of the area around the station. I may have misheard him, but I thought he related those decisions to the financial implications of the redevelopment. Perhaps, in winding up, he will confirm whether attempts have been made to consult the planning department of Camden borough council, which I think is the relevant planning authority, and the London Regional Passenger Committee, which has a locus in the argument.

On Second Reading, some hon. Members referred to the wider implications of the private legislation getting round some of the planning procedures and strict planning requirements. Perhaps the hon. Member could deal with that question and my previous question together.

On Second Reading we were told of a time scale of two to three years. I ask the hon. Member to confirm that time scale, because on Second Reading he was labouring under some difficulty, but I am sure that he would have taken advantage of the time between Second Reading and Third Reading to get more detail from the British Railways Board.

The hon. Member has substantially assuaged some of the doubts raised about the Fennell inquiry, but I ask him to confirm that neither British Rail nor anyone else will be required to come up with amending legislation if the inquiry were to make drastic recommendations about the escalators. Are there any circumstances where it would be necessary to introduce amending legislation or additional private powers? The House would be concerned if that were the case. I understand from what the hon. Member said that there are no circumstances in which British Rail would be required to make amendments as a result of the inquiry, but it is important for us to hear what British Rail has to say about that.

The estimated cost of widening the tunnels was said by the hon. Member to be £1 million, which is a substantial sum. If that figure is correct, it would probably rule out the prospect of a direct link, for commercial reasons. Has the hon. Member gone into that in any detail? Neither he nor I have any economic expertise in costing railways, so for him to give a figure of £1 million is a little bit casual. I should like to know how that figure was made up and satisfy myself that someone has not simply worked it out on the back of a fag packet.

The question whether that £100 million is the right figure should sit cheek by jowl with an analysis of the cost benefits that would accrue, if the line was capable of taking wider gauge traffic. From my experience of using London and making frequent journeys through King's Cross, I have concluded that there would be a substantial benefit. I would take every opportunity to go round London, if I could avoid King's Cross, and I am sure that that would apply to many people travelling from the north.

I wonder whether British Rail has undertaken any survey to see what traffic would be generated by, and the additional benefit that would accrue from, wider tunnels, even if the proposal cost a substantial sum of money. If the Bill receives its Third Reading, I assume that British Rail will consider co-ordinating timetables so that trains which can go through the Thames link will be used and people will be encouraged to use the link. I understand that there are now no outstanding petitioners. That is a substantial improvement on Second Reading.

There has been some controversy about some of the redevelopment schemes envisaged in the works covered by the Bill. That is a constituency matter, and I do not wish to interfere in it. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), who represents the constituency concerned and is quite rightly in his place, can make his own arguments. However, the scale of the developments also makes this an important national issue, and I hope that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet will comment on that.

Many hon. Members have spent a great deal of time on the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and the hon. Members for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) have all been assiduous in giving it thorough scrutiny. There has been a substantial change of attitude in the way that British Rail has handled the matter. There is now a much more positive attitude towards considering the worries and fears of hon. Members on both sides of the House and of all parts of the country in respect of the issues underlying the Bill.

The Bill could have long-lasting repercussions for the scale and nature of the services provided on the east coast route from King's Cross. As a result of the alterations in the Bill, after two or three years of rebuilding, new levels of service will be provided. For example, the longer platforms that will result from the redevelopment will allow the use of larger and electrified trains, and services which were due for closure in two months' time may become profitable after redevelopment.

My fears about the Bill will he substantially assuaged if British Rail makes it clear that the opportunities provided by the Bill will be seized with vigour and enthusiasm. My fears will be assuaged if British Rail discusses with local Members of Parliament and local authorities the opportunities that will arise from the redevelopment of King's Cross. My fears will be assuaged because British Rail now gives me the impression that it will do everything possible to minimise inconvenience to east coast day and night passengers using King's Cross during redevelopment and that it will carry out a detailed study of the possibility of bringing back at least one night service when the King's Cross redevelopment is complete.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington 7:24 pm, 15th March 1988

The passage of the Bill through the House has shown that it cannot be regarded simply as a London Bill and that debate cannot be restricted to London Members. The financing of the works contained in clause 5 and the purpose of those works can he broadly described as national.

Let us consider the money required to facilitate the works in clause 5. Rather unusually for such a Bill, the money is being raised through a substantial property development in the heart of London, but it would he wrong to assume that Londoners alone have contributed to the asset sales from which the new resources are to be released. Indeed, the overall subsidy to the London and south-east area of British Rail from the taxpayer is the largest for any British Rail region. When my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) says that the figure of £100 million is too expensive, he should bear in mind that the overall subsidy each successive year is about £300 million from the taxpayers of the rest of the country to services and developments in the south-east.

We all have a financial interest in the Bill, because, as taxpayers, we have all contributed to the development and operation of Holborn Viaduct, whose redevelopment will finance the works in the Bill. For that reason alone, we are entitled to ask whether works Nos. 3A and 3B are sufficient for the national interest in linking up the respective regions.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

It may be helpful if I intervene now to deal with that point. I shall obtain justification for the figure of £100 million, which would be the cost of redesigning and rebuilding the tunnels and the bends and curves of the line to accommodate InterCity trains. My hon. Friend may have a point when he says that the additional money should be spent if it would provide a through link from the north to the Channel tunnel, but that can, and no doubt will, be provided by using the existing lines via Olympia to the west of London, rather than through the City. I hope that my hon. Friend is satisfied on that point.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. We must deal with the link in the Bill. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) is in order at present, but a slight temptation was opening up that he might widen the debate to include another link which is not in the Bill.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington

I was going to make the point that we can examine only this link and not any proposed future link that might be part of the arrangements for the Channel tunnel.

The Bill does something unique, as it links up two parts of the network. We are entitled to ask whether it does so satisfactorily, bearing in mind British Rail's national obligations laid down by statute.

Before giving the Bill a Third Reading we have to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet whether the promoters are justified in constructing a link in such a restrictive way. We have to ask whether, for the sake of l8in, the tunnel is being rebored and reopened in a way that limits the passage of traffic through it to certain parts of the rail network and to passengers from certain parts of the United Kingdom. I submit to my hon. Friends that we would be unwise to give a Third Reading to such a restrictive Bill at the first opportunity presented to us to link the southern, midlands and northern networks of British Rail.

If my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet can satisfy us on that point, if he can reassure those of us who are concerned to ensure that the new opportunities opened up by the development of the cross-Channel link, which we cannot discuss tonight, will be fully taken into account in all parts of the United Kingdom, and if he can show that the costs involved in satisfying us far outweigh any benefit to be gained to the midlands and the north, we shall all be much keener to get the Bill on to the statute book and proceed with the next business before us.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith , Islington South and Finsbury 7:31 pm, 15th March 1988

To myself and my constituents, many of whom live in the immediate environs of King's Cross, the proposals in the Bill are relatively unobjectionable. The reopening of the two tunnels that curve round either side of King's Cross station underground, the putting-through of new traffic to carry the Thames link services that will link places such as Bedford and Peterborough to the south of the river with no additional disruption of the surface, the construction of new subway links between the London Midland rail station, the underground and the main line stations at King's Cross are benefits. Therefore, we must give a cautious welcome to them. However, as hon. Members have already said, they are severely limited benefits.

The height of the existing two tunnels around King's Cross and the slope of the curve mean that it will be possible only for trains of a limited size and capacity to travel along the newly reopened lines. That is something about which my colleagues from the north-east and Scotland will undoubtedly wish to express considerable regret. The benefit of reopening the tunnels will be limited by those factors.

Having said all that, it is important to say that if the Bill were coming before us without anything else happening at King's Cross, it would be a welcome exercise. However, that is not the case. Only three weeks ago, after this Bill received its Second Reading and shortly before it was considered in Committee, the British Railways Board announced the public consultation exercise, which is now under way, in connection with major and dramatic redevelopment to the north of King's Cross and St. Pancras stations. Those redevelopments throw this Bill into a completely new light. I believe that it is important for us to ask some questions as the result of that announcement.

Part of the redevelopment packages to the north of King's Cross, which are being put before the public for potential selection as the consultation exercise proceeds, is the construction of what is called in the press handout of British Rail, a major new international railway terminus underground at King's Cross. The construction of an international terminus at King's Cross must entail the construction of new tunnels to carry InterCity traffic from King's Cross and areas to the north of London through to areas to the south of London and, potentially, through to the Channel tunnel.

I mention that simply because proposals of that sort, which form part of the consultation exercise that British Rail is currently undertaking for land and railway redevelopment around King's Cross, are completely incompatible with the measures proposed in the Bill. If major redevelopment takes place with a new international terminus at King's Cross and InterCity traffic travelling from the Channel tunnel to the north of London via new tunnels in the King's Cross area, the work to reopen the two tunnels in this Bill cannot possibly be cost-effective. Indeed, the line of new tunnels is likely to cross the line of the tunnels that are proposed to be reopened by the Bill. Therefore, the current major redevelopment proposals for the King's Cross area throw the provisions of this Bill into a new light.

The time scale is a long one. It may be up to 10 years before the line to the north of King's Cross is fully redeveloped. However, we are entitled to ask which of two things will happen in the event of that major redevelopment going ahead. Will all the work to reopen the two tunnels around King's Cross be instituted but only for a short time, and then be replaced by much more major development work? If that is to happen, we are entitled to ask whether British Rail will get value for money.

Alternatively, will the proposals never get off the starting block? Will we find that, we having passed the Bill, British Rail will decide in six months or a year, when it decides on the basic principles of its major redevelopment exercise, that it does not want to go ahead with the works in this Bill? If so, why is British Rail wasting valuable parliamentary time in bringing this Bill before us? I believe that important questions such as that need to be asked as a result of the new position that has been created by British Rail's recent announcements.

My constituents have expressed some concern about the impact of this Bill in the light of their general concern about the future of the King's Cross area as a whole. I do not want to trespass on the rules of debate, but I should like to put down four markers on issues which trouble my constituents and which I believe, in the context of the general redevelopment of King's Cross, British Rail ought to take on board.

First, if any new international underground terminus is to be contemplated, there should be the minimum disruption to the surface. Many homes and businesses are thriving in the immediate hinterland of King's Cross, especially along York road and Caledonian road, in my constituency. It is important that people's livelihoods and homes are not disrupted or destroyed.

Secondly, the impact of traffic coming to any new development at King's Cross and to the north of King's Cross will weigh heavily on the residents of Islington, rather than on those of Camden, although any such development will be situated principally in Camden. The flow of traffic must be watched carefully.

Thirdly, because any such development will be located in Camden, it is principally the people of Camden who are likely to benefit from any planning gain from such a development. I put British Rail on notice that I shall be looking for gains for the people of Islington as well.

Fourthly, the consultation exercises that are being undertaken at present by British Rail and by its prospective developers concentrate on consultation with the people of Camden. Again, I put British Rail on notice that it must include in its consultation exercises the people of Islington as they will be affected almost as much as the people of Camden.

I mention those four issues because they are of considerable concern to my constituents. As I have said, the basic provisions of this relatively minor Bill are of themselves fairly unobjectionable. However, in the context of British Rail's proposals for overall development at King's Cross, and the prospect that much more major work might be envisaged at, around or underneath King's, Cross, and with the prospect of further private Bills relating to such matters coming forward in the next year or the next year and a half, we are entitled to ask British Rail what precisely it is up to, and how this Bill meshes in with its overall and further proposals for much more widespread developments at King's Cross, which will have a much greater impact on my constituents and those of many of my colleagues.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East 7:42 pm, 15th March 1988

I rise to speak briefly to give the official Opposition view of the Bill. I am not attempting to wind up the debate in any way, so I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the Minister with responsibility for roads and traffic, will not think that I am seeking to pre-empt the spot that he seeks to occupy.

I should like to put two points about the Bill to the representative of the promoter, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman), and to the Minister. My first point has not been raised so far. It refers to clause 9 in part II. It arises as a result of representations made by the London Cycling Campaign to one of its more famous cyclists, the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) who—

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

The hon. Member for Acton is perhaps not quite as famous as the right hon. Gentleman, but he is a well-known cyclist and, for obviously understandable reasons, he cannot be here to put these points tonight. I am asked to advise the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, who represents the promoters, that the London Cycling Campaign has expressed concern about the closure of Pilgrim and Apothecary streets and their replacement by footpaths. The campaign makes the point: Cyclists cannot legally use a footpath. If these two roads are cut off to cyclists use, there will be no east to west route between Ludgate Hill and Queen Victoria Street". The campaign then makes the point that Queen Victoria street has fast-moving traffic and is perceived as dangerous.

The campaign makes two suggestions arising from the difficulties that cyclists would encounter as a result of the Bill. It suggests that the two footpaths to which I have referred should be for "shared use" by pedestrians and cyclists, with a minimum laid-down width and segregation between the two users. The campaign also suggests—the Minister will be aware of this—that the policy of the former Greater London council, now adopted by the boroughs, is that where road closures are proposed, there should be an exemption for cyclists, unless there are overwhelming reasons against that. Shared footpaths are not that unusual and are neither expensive nor dangerous. There are at least two other such schemes in London at present, in which such sharing works successfully.

I should like to put another point to the Minister and the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, relating to the vexed question, if I might so refer to it, of Works Nos. 3A and 3B. We understand the ire of the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon), who is not in his place at the moment, but who intervened a couple of times during the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet.

Without rehearsing the arguments, and possibly provoking your ire, Madam Deputy Speaker, by straying outside the terms of the Third Reading, it appears strange, to say the least, that we should be discussing these works at the same time as British Rail is talking about the complete redevelopment of King's Cross and St. Pancras stations. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) has referred to that. My hon. Friend asked, "Exactly what is British Rail up to?" If the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet can answer that, good luck to him, because he will surprise us all. British Rail frequently gives the impression that the left hand is not only unaware of what the right hand is doing, but, if it found out, it would object anyway.

The contradiction in terms that arises from the proposals relating to Works Nos. 3A and 3B and the reality of the development at those two main line stations is pretty obvious. As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said, even if the Bill receives its Third Reading tonight we are not ensuring that the works can go ahead. British Rail often seeks permission for such works but does not proceed with them for a considerable time. For perfectly understandable constituency reasons, my hon. Friend and those of us who take an interest in railway matters generally are entitled to ask exactly what British Rail is up to.

I have here a statement on behalf of the promoters referring specifically to Works Nos. 3A and 3B, which states: Works 3a and 3b would not be physically compatible with any realigned route capable of taking InterCity trains. If it were subsequently decided to proceed with an InterCity route, works 3a and 3b would not be undertaken, unless the costs could be recovered before the larger scheme were implemented. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury is entitled to ask questions about British Rail's intentions. Understandably, if there is to be widespread dislocation in and around his constituency, to no apparent purpose, he is entitled to ask some straight questions of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, who represents the promoters of the Bill. However, I readily repeat that if the hon. Gentleman is unable to provide answers to those questions, I for one will well understand.

Returning to the vexed question raised by the hon. Member for Darlington of why original Works Nos. 3A and 3B are suitable only for suburban trains rather than for InterCity trains, and without rehearsing once again their various destinations, it is true that there is nothing to stop an electrical multiple unit train from travelling as far as is necessary, once the east coast main line is electrified; indeed all the way to Edinburgh if so desired. I hope that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet will agree.

I do not believe that the most comfortable way of making the journey to Edinburgh would be from somewhere south of the river, whether from Blackfriars, St. Paul's or even further south. However, I do not believe that British Rail's financial policy would stop such a journey from being embarked upon. Nobody knows what its financial policy is, least of all British Rail's management. What would stop it would be the uncomfortable nature of the journey, given the fact that suburban trains, as their name implies, are built merely for short, suburban journeys.

The difficulty in which the BR management finds itself as a result of the statement to which I have just referred is amplified by the difficulties that have arisen over the years with cross-London traffic, north to south London traffic and traffic from the east and west coast main lines to the south of England. There was a perfectly adequate route — albeit sparsely used — through Kensington Olympia. Some time ago BR decided to dispense with that line and considerably reduced facilities at Kensington Olympia station. BR then decided to boost north-south traffic by routing it through that station—albeit that facilities had been reduced. It then realised that the trains that it had provided to run via Olympia were not particularly popular—principally because their average speed was about 40 miles an hour.

I have sought to amplify the confusion that is found, all too often, in the minds of those who run BR. I confidently predict that if the current management of BR had been responsible for Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, the French army would have been lucky to pass through the outer suburbs of that city.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 7:52 pm, 15th March 1988

I had intended to withdraw the insult that I had offered to the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) on Friday during "Any Questions". We had been talking to a wider audience until the line was cut as a result of the hon. Gentleman upsetting someone by something that he said. However, having heard him offer to amplify any confusion that there might be on the part of British Rail, I am not sure whether he has found his true role. When the hon. Gentleman talks about the left hand not knowing what the right hand does, I believe that he is talking about the Labour party rather than British Rail. If anyone wishes to pick up on the remarks that he passed on from the bicycling baronet, I should say that my Department has some extremely good leaflets on the shared use of footpaths by cyclists and pedestrians.

It may be helpful if, at this point, I briefly restate the Government's view on the Bill. The Government have considered the content of the Bill and have no objection to the powers sought by the British Railways Board. Indeed we support the aims of the Bill. The Bill will enable the board to provide a new modern station on the Thames link line over which, starting later this year, commuter services will run directly between north and south London, for the first time since the first world war. The Department approved the necessary investment for the scheme in December that will enhance the quality of service to the passenger.

The proposed new station will be funded by redevelopment with the private sector of the Holborn Viaduct site. We are pleased that the board is involving the private sector in this way. I hope that this House will be able to give its support to the Bill to enable the board to carry out this exciting and worthwhile development.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian 7:54 pm, 15th March 1988

A number of hon. Members from various parts of the country are rather reluctant to see this Bill go through, given the withdrawal of services to and from King's Cross. This matter has been of considerable concern to the north-east of England and the south-east of Scotland. Indeed, BR has announced the withdrawal of overnight services from King's Cross to those areas.

I recognise that the Bill is relatively narrow, and it is right that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) should concentrate upon its local impact on his constituency and the surrounding areas. Obviously, a development of this nature has a national significance and I am sure that the promoter of the Bill will not object if hon. Members from further afield contribute to the debate.

Hon. Members have suggested their reluctance to sanction such developments in the context of the reduction in services to and from the capital through King's Cross. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) may be aware that discussions have taken place between BR, a number of my hon. Friends and myself who represent constituencies in the south-east of Scotland and the north-east of England. I was happy when BR issued a public statement stating: passengers will be able to travel via alternative routes at no additional charge with appropriate connectional arrangements … InterCity therefore undertakes to review the situation on the East Coast route and will restore at least one overnight service on that line in 1991". The electrification of the east coast main line will be completed in 1991.

With that understanding, and in the knowledge that my constituents will be able to enjoy the new facilities provided as a result of the Bill, I am happy that it should receive its Third Reading.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough 7:55 pm, 15th March 1988

I wish to give a hesitant welcome to the Bill. However, as a result of what I heard on Second Reading, what I read in subsequent Committee proceedings and what I have heard today, I believe that it would be better if the Bill were completely withdrawn.

It is unbelievable to me that the House should be considering the passage of an important Bill, involving the expenditure of a great deal of money, without being able to apply the results of the inquiry into the King's Cross tragedy. On Second Reading, several hon. Members asked my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) about that. He said that nothing would be undertaken until the King's Cross inquiry had reported. Tonight, when I rather rudely interrupted when he was speaking, he said that the findings of that inquiry will be incorporated in the Bill.

The King's Cross tragedy was a major event, but the Bill was framed and finalised—down to crossing the last "t" and dotting the last "i"—long before that fire. It is inconceivable to me that it can go through without major surgery. In view of the significance of the works that are being included in the Bill, I believe that the best thing to do is to scrap it until the inquiry has reported. Indeed, I believe that its findings are bound to be most significant to any railway operator and that those findings should be incorporated in this measure.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

Perhaps this is a vain hope, but I might be able to avoid the confusion between my hon. Friend and myself. First, I hope that I am correct in saying that the undertaking that I gave on Second Reading was that the escalators would not be constructed until any recommendations made by Mr. Desmond Fennell, as a result of his inquiries, were made known to BR. That commitment stands. Whatever Mr. Fennell recommends will be taken on board—if I may use that phrase—by BR.

I believe that only Works No. 4 in the Bill, the escalator connection at King's Cross, has any relevance to the inquiry. However, if Mr. Fennell makes more wide-ranging recommendations about approaches to overground and underground stations and so on, presumably they will be incorporated in the new St. Paul's station and any other relevant works. Presumably those recommendations will also be incorporated by any other urban station in the country. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend's fears can be allayed on that point.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

My hon. Friend always deals with these matters in a conscientious way, but he has not satisfied me at all. There is far more in the inquiry which is now taking place than the type of escalator used. As my hon. Friend will know, serious questions have been raised about the position of fire-fighting points at King's Cross. They were not concealed, but grave doubts have been expressed about whether they were in the best position.

Even more significant is the length of the access passage. In Work No. 4 it is 82 m. In that regard, statements made by the London fire brigade about the length of hoses and the abilities of men in smoke-laden atmospheres to travel more than a few yards are significant. I believe that I am right in saying that the passageway at King's Cross where the tragedy took place was considerably less than 82 m. The inquiry may make stringent recommendations on the length of underground or enclosed passageways. It will certainly make special recommendations on the access of fire brigades and firefighting crews, as well as on instructions to make sure that any future fire-fighting points are not only known but centralised, and so on.

Many other matters are coming out of the King's Cross inquiry which do not affect the Bill so much, such as the training of staff, which will no doubt be acted upon. As I have already said, the inspector may well conclude that sprinklers should be provided. The evidence of senior fire officers who were at the scene shortly afterwards was that, if sprinklers had been provided—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The subject is the rebuilding of King's Cross. The hon. Gentleman is going into the inquiry. Will he bring himself back to the Bill?

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I was trying to point out that it will be difficult to proceed with the construction in the most effective way. If sprinklers are to be provided, that should be done when the building is being constructed.

In Work No. 4, there is to be a passageway of 82 m and the provision of escalators is included in the Bill. The King's Cross inquiry should give a ruling on the exact cause of the fire and we should see whether it is possible to incorporate an escalator which does not accumulate litter, is of a certain length, and so on.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight , Derby North

There is a motion on the Order Paper which suggests that the Bill should not be proceeded with until the British Railways Board gives an undertaking to electrify the London midland main line as far as Leicester. Has he received—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. We are not debating that at the moment. The hon. Gentleman is out of order.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

The Bill should be delayed until we have the benefit of the inspector's findings, so that we can proceed with confidence with these works, which otherwise might have to be radically altered as soon as they are constructed.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight , Derby North

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is the motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) likely to be debated this evening? Some of us are interested in the electrification of the main line, particularly as far as Derby.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

The instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) has not been selected this evening, but the points raised by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) earlier will be relevant to our forthcoming debate.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle 8:05 pm, 15th March 1988

This is an important debate and I want to take up some of the points so skilfully made by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon). I pay tribute to the careful and assiduous way in which my hon. Friend has studied the Bill. The House will be grateful to him for what he has said this evening. He highlighted what must be apparent not just to London Members of Parliament but to northern Members such as myself.

I represent the constituency of Gainsborough and Horncastle, in the county of Lincolnshire. Although the Bill concerns London, it is of interest and concern to everybody, whether they represent constituencies in London or Lincolnshire. We are talking about the expenditure of £100 million—a large sum of money—and the House will want to debate the matter in some detail. There is a feeling of vexation and irritation among northern Members about the way in which British Rail is promoting the Bill.

The Bill will undoubtedly be of benefit. My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington referred to it as the yuppies' Bill. I would not be so disrespectful as to append such a name to it, but there is a feeling among county and northern Members that British Rail is placing too much emphasis on investment in the London region and not enough in the provinces.

I do not want to stray from the narrow remit that you have set for our debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, by talking about the fact that British Rail has failed to invest anything in Market Rasen station in the past 10 years. Therefore, I shall pass on rapidly to deal with the Bill.

We have heard about Works Nos. 3A and 3B. I do not claim to be an expert—[Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) thinks that I am making a brave attempt to look after the interests of my constituents.

I was most impressed by the comment of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) that we may be spending a large sum of money, but for just a little more we might be able to do very much more to make InterCity services truly inter-city, not just, as my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington said, a yuppies' service. I am not convinced by what my hon. Friend the Member for—I cannot think of his constituency—

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Perth and Kinross

Will the works at King's Cross enable those of us who travel on InterCity from Scotland to England to go on the east coast route so that we do not have to go on the west coast route, which is such an inconvenience for those of us who live in the east?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I should like to take up that interesting point.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I ask the hon. Gentleman not to do so, as the intervention was quite out of order.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

As usual, I am impressed by the concern and eloquence of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn). I hope that he will forgive me if I do not reply to his interesting point because I wish to remain in order. I am glad to see that my hon. and learned Friend has a copy of the Bill. He may like to look at it in some detail because, like me, he is a lawyer. It is important that Parliament should consider these matters in great detail because to do so is in the public interest.

If my hon. and learned Friend turns to page 7 of the Bill, he will see provisions relating to a new ticket hall at King's Cross. I appreciate that I am touching on a sensitive area, but there is concern in the nation following the recent tragedy at King's Cross that the utmost consideration should be given to safety.

Clause 10(11) of the Bill provides: the Board may on any part of the land numbered on the deposited plans 10 in the London borough of Camden construct and maintain a ticket hall at concourse level within the Board's King's Cross station with all necessary works and conveniences connected therewith. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet sums up he will give the House assurances about the ticket hall works.

The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury made an interesting speech and I tried to make careful notes of what he said. Quite rightly, he spoke about the interests of his constituents. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has just entered the Chamber because he also takes a great interest in these matters. I am sure that he will want to talk not about Market Rasen station but about the new ticket hall in King's Cross that is mentioned in page 7 of the Bill.

As the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said, there is great concern among the residents of Islington that there should be consultation not just for the people of Camden, but for his constituents because they will be affected by these works. We want full consultation. British Rail is nationalised, and I am afraid that the record of nationalised industries on certain matters of consultation is not always what it should be.

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

It is different in the private sector then?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

If the hon. Member wishes to intervene, I shall give way. I am sure that the House will welcome his intervention.

The House would welcome true consultation. I have dealt with the new ticket hall at King's Cross. Clause 10(12) talks about York way. Those of us who have knowledge of the environs of King's Cross will know that York way is a busy thoroughfare. We will want assurances from my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet that traffic will not be unduly disrupted. While we welcome the British Rail proposals, we want to be reassured that during the course of these works undue irritation or inconvenience will not be caused to the people of London or to the residents of Islington.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith , Islington South and Finsbury

I understand that part of the construction work for the new ticket hall in the King's Cross concourse will involve the relocation of the present exit for royal mail vans going from King's Cross station on to York way. That in itself will mean the relocation of the bus stops alongside King's Cross station in York way. It is a dangerous enough place at the moment, and if the stops are pushed further up York way it is likely to become much more dangerous and less convenient for people who have to wait for buses. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will concern himself not just with the amount of traffic in general on York way, but with the impact on bus passengers interchanging on the rail and underground links at King's Cross, which are also important.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has admirable local knowledge and we all respect him as a good constituency Member. He makes a point that I could not have made as strongly as he has.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

My hon. Friend surprises and disappoints me because, like me, he uses the service into King's Cross. I am horrified at what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) has just told my hon. Friend, because when I alight from my train at King's Cross I come to the House by means of a 77 or 77A bus and, on average, I have to wait about 20 minutes from the time I get off the train until I get the bus.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

The Bill is not concerned with the number of the red bus that the hon. Gentleman takes.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The point that I was trying to make is that if what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury has told us about bus stops happens as a result of the relocation of the ticket office and the exit of the royal mail vans—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order I have heard the hon. Gentleman's intervention and it is not at all relevant.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I think that it will be in order to say that if Work No. 4 on page 7 of the Bill—and I shall stick to what is written there—results in what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury reports, it will cause inconvenience not just to his constituents but to mine. In that sense my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes was right to intervene because those of us who represent northern constituencies have a perfect right to be interested in these matters, because I and my constituents regularly use King's Cross. Incidentally, we are dissatisfied with the possibility that the 125 service may be withdrawn, but I do not want to go into that in any detail. I am sure that the people in British Rail who follow debates such as this will look at that matter.

I should like to return to the question of the construction of the new ticket hall at King's Cross. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury spoke about the London Cycling Campaign. That is of concern to the House. Clause 10(14) talks about stoppage. If there is to be a temporary or permanent stoppage—and it is not entirely clear from the Bill whether it will be temporary or permanent—the London Cycling Campaign has a bone fide interest and is right to make its view known to the House. Clause 10(14) provides: The Board during and for the purpose of the execution of the works may temporarily stop up and divert, and interfere with, any road or footpath and may for any reasonable time divert the traffic therefrom. The Bill therefore gives considerable powers to British Rail and we should be concerned about that.

Clause 10(14) goes on to say that the board will prevent all persons other than those bone fide going to or from any land". We should ask ourselves what is meant by "bone fide".

Will British Rail inspectors stop innocent members of the public using public roads and footpaths? The clause says: The Board shall provide reasonable access for persons on foot bone fide going to or from any such land".

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

The point with which my hon. Friend should concern himself in clause 14(2) is that it specifically excludes bicycles.

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

If the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) wishes to enlighten us further, he should encourage a few more interventions so that he can read the Bill before he makes such a fool of himself.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

The hon. Gentleman may think that I am making a fool of myself. I assure him that this is a matter of great importance. If the hon. Gentleman knew what was worrying my constituents, he would know that these matters are of great importance to them. I am determined to make my point, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. We shall do so, and we shall go on doing so, until British Rail realises that investment in the north-east and the north and east midlands is as important as investment in London. We are perfectly entitled to use Parliament to make our point, and we shall do so.

I am not in the business of making a fool of myself; I am in the business of making British Rail aware of my concern. In my experience, the only way to do that is to speak at some length on Bills such as this. Otherwise, British Rail will steamroller over us, which is not good enough.

This is no joke. It is a serious matter for my constituents and for me. We are determined that there should be a truly national inter-city service, and we shall fight for that every inch of the way. We shall not be steamrollered by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East or anyone else.

Clause 14(4) states: The Board shall not exercise the powers of this section with respect to any road unless they have given not less than 28 days' notice in writing of their intention so to do to … the traffic commissioner". It seems that 28 days' notice may not be adequate. I know not. I am not sure whether it is the period normally laid down in Bills of this sort. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister can tell us whether it is a normal provision, or whether on occasion more, or fewer, than 28 days are allowed.

Clause 14(4)(a) mentions the traffic commissioner, constituted for the purposes of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981, in whose area the road is situate". We should like to know who is the traffic commissioner, and whether he is aware of all the local problems that might he involved in blocking a road, or not blocking it. These are matters of serious concern, as the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury has made plain.

Clause 14(5) states: The exercise by the Board of the powers of this section in relation to any road or footpath shall not prejudice or affect the rights of the operator of any telecommunications code system". We should like to know exactly what is meant by that. After all, telecommunications are vital to all of us. We should like an assurance that the Bill will not result in any undue interference with such a vital national and local service.

I do not wish to delay the debate unduly. I want to give my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes the chance to speak—to make the same points that I have made—

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East is a past master at speaking at some length. I do not claim to have his skill, but I am prepared, if necessary, to do it for the sake of my constituents.

Clause 15(2) relates to works involving any available stream or watercourse, or any sewer or drain of a relevant authority". This will be a matter of some concern to the public, who will want to receive reassurances about flooding and such like. After all, clause 15(2)(a) states: the Board shall not discharge any water into any sewer or drain". We should like to know how they can be sure that that will not happen.

Clause 15(2)(b) provides that the Board shall not make any opening into any such sewer or drain save in accordance with plans approved by, and under the superintendence (if given) of, the relevant authority in whom the sewer or drain shall be vested and approval of those plans by the relevant authority shall not be unreasonably withheld. That, in my view, gives draconian powers to the board. In saying that approval of the plans shall not be unreasonably withheld", the Bill is really saying that British Rail can do what it likes.

The clause continues: Section 31 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 shall apply to, or the consequence of, a discharge under the powers of this section into any relevant waters for the purposes of the said section 31". The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East may understand that, but I certainly do not.

Clause 15(3)(b) provides that the Board shall not damage or interfere with the bed of any watercourse forming part of the main river of the Thames Water Authority or the banks thereof within the meaning of section 116 of the Land Drainage Act 1976". We should like an assurance that there would indeed be no such damage. Obviously the matter is of some concern to the people of London.

Part III of the Bill deals with the purchase of land. Clause 23(1) lays down that the Board may purchase compulsorily and use such of the land delineated on the deposited plans". Here again, we are giving considerable powers to the board. We are effectively giving it compulsory purchase powers, which must be a matter of some concern to Parliament. [Interruption.] I shall sit down shortly, but. I am determined to make the point.

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

The hon. Gentleman is making the same point.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

No. I am going through the Bill, and I am in order. I will make my point so that British Rail is aware of the worries of people who live in the provinces.

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

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member who has obviously not read the Bill before coming to the House to keep reading chunks from it, and then to say that either his constituents or Members of the House are concerned that the provisions are abided by? If we all do that, the debate will not get very far.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. That is not a point of order for the Chair. However, I remind the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) that we are all capable of reading the Bill, and it is therefore not necessary to quote great chunks of it.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I shall not quote great chunks of it, Madam Deputy Speaker. I feel that I have made my point.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I think that my hon. Friend should bear in mind—I am speaking as one who has served on Committees on many private Bills affecting British Rail and the London railways—that deposited plans have an uncanny nack of changing. It is all very well when a deposited plan is put before a Committee, but we often find that it has changed significantly by the time that powers have been given for the enactment of the legislation sought by the promoter. That is why it is so important to beware of the phrase "deposited plans".

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

The hon. Gentleman has not read those either.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

As my hon. Friend says, whatever the present plans may be, we are not sure whether they will change. But I see that I am irritating the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East, so I shall draw my remarks to a close.

Let me say this to the hon. Gentleman, and to British Rail representatives who are following the Bill. We are talking about a £100 million investment. It may be an excellent investment for the people of London, and I do not wish to hold up the Bill's passage for that reason. Having said that, however, I feel that my constituents will want to know why, although we have asked repeatedly for an assurance that a through-train service to King's Cross will be retained, British Rail has been unable to give that assurance. Why is it necessary for provincial Members to come to the House and speak on London Bills to make British Rail aware of their problems?

We shall go on speaking, and we shall go on fighting for our constituents' interests. We shall do it any way that we possibly can.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 8:28 pm, 15th March 1988

I am sorry that I was unable to attend the earlier part of the debate, because of matters arising from the Budget. I was, however, very much involved in the Second Reading debate on the Bill.

I am happy to be able to support the Third Reading of the Bill. The Second Reading debate was very useful, identifying a number of problems—some arising directly from the Bill, and others arising less directly from it. We discovered something to which I hope that British Rail will give more attention: that the works provided for in the Bill, particularly the opening of the tunnel, will not solve the problem of direct access to the Channel tunnel. We still await a definitive statement from British Rail about how direct rail links from the north-east of England to the Channel tunnel will be achieved. That is an important issue for the north-east, and we want answers to it soon.

The Second Reading debate concentrated the mind wonderfully. It also made British Rail realise that the improvements at King's Cross which the Bill will secure go naturally alongside the use of the newly electrified line in 1991 to restore overnight services from Scotland and the north-east down the east coast main line to King's Cross, from which passengers could then take advantage of the services provided by the Bill. I am glad that British Rail has made a statement showing its desire to do that, subject to the satisfactory conclusion of the study. I am grateful to my hon. Friends and hon. Members in other parties who helped to secure that happy outcome, and I wish the Bill success.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes 8:30 pm, 15th March 1988

I did not speak on Second Reading, but I was here for the debate and voted to give the Bill a Second Reading because I was impressed with the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) presented his case. To my regret, I failed then to recognise how the powers in the Bill will adversely interfere with my constituents who use trains into King's Cross and then make onward journeys to central or southern London.

I speak particularly of the period during which the works foreshadowed in the Bill will be under construction. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) touched on the powers that are given in clause 11, and I want to deal in some detail with the way in which they will affect my constituents who use King's Cross station.

Many of my constituents come down to the station on the train from Cleethorpes that arrives at 9.20 am, and I cannot imagine what life will be like during the construction of Work No. 4. In the deposited plan No. 10, it is proposed that in the London borough of Camden there should be a new ticket hall at the concourse level. We have heard this evening, and on Second Reading, that the period during which the works are under construction may be from two to three years. It is likely that revamping a station and reciting a ticket hall could occupy a large amount of the total construction period. I am trying to envisage what life will be like on that concourse when the works are under way.

I have the fortune—or misfortune—to have to use King's Cross ticket office and concourse now. I use it at rush hour when I go to catch the 18.04 train on Thursday or Friday nights from King's Cross to Cleethorpes, and I have to queue there with many other people. Even without the works, it is a small concourse. Between 17.45 and 18.30 about six or seven InterCity high-speed trains depart from King's Cross to destinations in South Humberside, Yorkshire, Newcastle and Lincolnshire.

At that time, about 400 or 500 people are queuing for their trains and using the services of the ticket office and concourse. What will life be like for the departing passengers when the new concourse is under construction—not to mention the fact that in the earlier part of the week many passengers arrive at that time on long-distance trains? If no provision is made during the transitional period for some improved access to a temporary ticket and concourse facility, things will be even worse.

I hope that British Rail and my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to tell us what discussions have taken place in British Rail management about temporary ticket and concourse arrangements. We already know what life is like when temporary work is going on at King's Cross. For example, on Monday of this week I alighted from the train that brings me from Cleethorpes to King's Cross—I had had to change at Newark — at 4.30 in the afternoon. I tried to get to the Victoria line underground by means of the escalator, but could not, for understandable reasons.

British Rail and London Underground have failed to establish a temporary ticket concourse and queuing area to cope with the emergency. I accept that that was an unplanned-for emergency, so one can forgive British Rail and London Underground for failing to take appropriate action, because the emergency was nothing to do with them, but I was prevented by British Rail and London Underground personnel from gaining access from the King's Cross concourse area to the Victoria line underground station, so I could not catch a Victoria line train.

Unless British Rail is prepared to guarantee that its understanding of clause 11 will ensure arrangements being made for a temporary ticket office during the construction period, there will be a tremendous passenger traffic jam of people arriving at, and departing from, King's Cross, particularly at rush hour.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

My hon. Friend is quite rightly dealing with the problems of congestion around ticket offices. Does he accept that at one particular part of the day there is heavy congestion — when people queue up to take the 18.04 direct train to Market Rasen and Cleethorpes?

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

My hon. Friend is right. He and I experience those problems. I am concerned about the problems for passengers departing on the 18.04 train and other trains at or around that time. At rush hour, people will arrive and possibly purchase tickets in a non-existent ticket hall or, at best, some sort of temporary ticket hall. We do not know what the arrangements for that will be. We do know that there is limited space even without the works envisaged in clause 11. We know that there is tremendous congestion at present. When the two-year period of the works arrives, the congestion will be horrendous.

British Rail needs to be a little more forthcoming about what it will do to deal with this problem. I have not yet touched on the problem of the purchase of tickets. Often, passengers departing for Lincolnshire, Humberside, Newcastle, Sunderland and Yorkshire have to go to the ticket hall to alter their tickets, especially on Fridays in the summer months, when they are not aware that they cannot use their blue saver ticket and must obtain white saver tickets. There is already tremendous congestion on a Friday — it is worse in the summer — when departing passengers are reminded over the intercom that their blue saver tickets are not valid. There is a mass rush to the ticket area as they seek to upgrade their tickets from blue to white savers.

I know that, because I use those tickets on various occasions— [Interruption.] Yes, I do. I do not always use the first-class facilities provided for me by the Fees Office. I use blue and white saver tickets, and if the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) doubts that, I have here in my pocket the blue saver ticket that I purchased — through the Fees Office — to travel from Barnaby to King's Cross yesterday. That is my contribution to keeping public expenditure down.

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

The hon. Gentleman could stay at home and save us all this nonsense.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

It is not nonsense, because we are talking about many passengers who do not always recognise when they get to King's Cross on a Friday that they are not allowed to use the blue saver tickets that they have purchased from the railway station of departure perhaps a day or two earlier. They then go to that ticket concourse, causing, even at the moment, the most tremendous congestion, to upgrade their tickets to white saver tickets.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith , Islington South and Finsbury

I think that the hon. Gentleman may be under a misapprehension. Loth as I sometimes am to give the benefit of the doubt to British Rail, it seems to me from a careful study of the plans and this Bill that the existing ticket sale, exchange and provision facilities at King's Cross station will not be affected at all by any of the provisions in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

Of course, the hon. Gentleman knows more about his constituency than I do. All I can say is that I fail to understand how it is going to be possible to enact the provisions of clause 11 without some disruption to passengers arriving at and departing from King's Cross. I have had experience of works undertaken by British Rail in my own constituency. It says that there is no problem and that the temporary provisions will ensure that there will be no queueing problems. It says that, while the major works are going on, passengers will be able to purchase their tickets and there will be no failure of service at ticket halls. I simply do not believe the assurances that have been given to the hon. Gentleman, who is not a gullible Member of this House and would, I am sure, have pressed British Rail on that point. I am very surprised that British Rail has been able to give him that assurance.

One only has to look at the way in which British Rail and London Underground, even some three months after the tragic fire, have been unable to establish proper facilities that do not prevent passengers from using the underground ticket concourse area. As I have explained, yesterday, when I came off the train at King's Cross, I was forbidden by British Rail and London Underground personnel to use the ticketing facilities underground. We have had three months' experience since the fire, during which British Rail has failed to establish any temporary provision. If that experience is anything to go by, we cannot believe what British Rail has told the hon. Gentleman.

This is something that we must be concerned about. Passengers departing for Lincolnshire and South Humberside have only one train that they can catch. If they are caught up in passenger congestion, they may miss that train. The hon. Gentleman says that there is going to be no problem. I do not accept that. There will be a delay to any passenger departing from King's Cross at 18.04 pm while those works are going on. There is a risk that, when passengers are told over the intercom that they will have to upgrade their tickets, there will be delay. In my opinion, that delay will cause some of them to miss their trains.

If they miss their trains to Leeds, York or Newcastle, there is no problem; they can catch another train half an hour later. They cannot do that if they wish to travel on the 18.04. If they are caught in massive passenger congestion and miss that train, they have had it until the next day; they will have to wait 24 hours—unless they are prepared to go and cool their heels on Newark station for an hour or two, which people sometimes do.

I simply do not have confidence that clause 11 gives British Rail the power to maintain and construct a new ticket hall without the most massive disruption of service to the customers of British Rail who live in Lincolnshire and South Humberside, in particular.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend. Would he not concede, however, that for British Rail to make any sort of improvement of necessity means temporary disruption to passengers? Is my hon. Friend not being entirely unreasonable in criticising British Rail in this respect? In complaining that its efforts to improve its service to his constituents mean that for a temporary period there might be a certain amount of disruption or that his constituents might have to make alternative arrangements for a short period to bring about in the longer term a genuine improvement in service, he is surely being somewhat unreasonable.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

No, I will not concede that, because in the long run, as a famous economist once said, we are all dead. I do not accept that a two-year period is temporary. It is a lifetime of eternity, particularly for constituents such as mine, who already see the writing on the wall for the present service. I do not think that the long-term arrangements will be of benefit to my constituents. My experience tells me that, in the case of many road or rail improvements, it is not worth putting up with the temporary disruption because the service at the end is not always improved. I would dearly love British Rail to give me an assurance that, if my constituents are prepared to put up with the temporary arrangements that will arise from clause 11, two years afterwards we shall have better facilities for getting from King's Cross to my constituency. It has not done so.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

My hon. Friend is now making quite a serious allegation against British Rail. I have to ask him whether he has done British Rail the courtesy of asking that question and getting an answer. If he has not, I think he should withdraw what he has said.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I have, Madam Deputy Speaker. In order to answer my hon. Friend, I am running the risk of going out of order. I have asked British Rail whether it can guarantee that there will be a high-speed 125 service from King's Cross to—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. That is totally out of order. Will the hon. Gentleman now come to the clause in the Bill to which he was referring?

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I feared that you would say that, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I regret that I gave way to my hon. Friend, because you are absolutely right. The point is that disruption is going to be caused to departing passengers.

Clause 14 gives British Rail the power to divert traffic and to stop up footpaths and roads because it is undertaking works. Under clause 14(4), the board is going to give 28 days' notice of its intention to stop up a road or a footpath to the traffic commissioner and the operator over the road as defined in the Transport Act 1985. It is not prepared—I am surprised that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) did not pick up this point—to give notice, as it is prepared to do under clause 26 when it comes to protecting the highway authorities, to the London borough of Camden.

Clause 26 specifically says that British Rail is prepared to give the mayor and burgesses of the London borough of Camden some 28 days' notice of any intention to stop up a highway, yet it does not seek the power in clause 14 to give any such notice to the local authority. That is something which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury should certainly be very concerned about. It is prepared to give a protective provision to the local authority of Camden when it comes to any public highway — for example, the A501 and the A41 — yet it is not prepared to give the same protective provision when it comes to general works. Surely that is something that we ought to be concerned about.

Stopping up roads causes great inconvenience to local residents. I do not live in that part of London, but I come into it on the train. Over the last half mile into King's Cross, one is immediately aware of the congestion in that part of London, the number of private dwellings, and how many of them are older properties. If British Rail stops up roads without giving any notice to local authorities, and if it insists on those powers, it could be taking a slightly cavalier attitude.

In one clause, BR seeks powers that the local authority should be given notice, yet clause 14 does not seek powers to give that notice. That is very unfair, because if a road or a footpath is closed and no provision is made except for those who are going directly to their places of abode, quite severe inconvenience can be caused to a large number of residents.

There must be thousands of people who live in the area of King's Cross. When I come into King's Cross on the train, I am aware of the large number of properties. It is likely that a large number of people will not realise the inconvenience to which they will be put. After all, private Bills are often enacted without individual constituents knowing exactly what will happen.

I should not like to be the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury or a councillor for any of the wards that are to be affected under clause 14(4). When many constituents find out that they cannot go about their normal daily business, they will start to shower their councils with complaints. If they are delivery men, they may not have access by many of their usual routes. I can see a large number of councillors and the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury being inundated with many complaints from constituents when they are told what is to happen.

It is the responsibility of British Rail to be a little more forthcoming about the way in which people are to be affected. I speak with some feeling on the matter, because I have served on a large number of private Bills promoted by British Rail and by the London Docklands development corporation. I have seen how petitioners who have been alive to what the promoters have suggested have not taken on board what is to happen. Only under cross-examination have they become aware of some of the detrimental effects of private Bills.

Ordinary constituents are often not aware of the existence of such Bills, and do not petition against them. This Bill was not petitioned against—or if it was, the petitioners have been sorted out and discussions have taken place. In any case, the Bill went through the private Bill procedure unopposed.

I can guarantee that individual constituents of the hon. Gentleman and individual electors will press their councils and ask, "How is it that suddenly I am inconvenienced and cannot go about my normal business and do not have access to roads where I have made deliveries for a number of years?" They will be told, "It was private business. You had the opportunity to petition against the Bill, but you did not do so. You lost the opportunity, and now you will have to put up with all the inconvenience."

We should not expect ordinary citizens to rely solely upon the House of Commons to make sure that all is well when it comes to their rights. British Rail has a duty to advertise more widely before it seeks such legislation and to make clear exactly how inconvenience will be caused by such private legislation.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

My hon. Friend will see that the board may purchase compulsorily and use such of the land delineated on the deposited plans. Is my hon. Friend convinced that all those who are potentially affected, whose land is covered by those plans, have already been informed?

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall come to the question of compulsory purchase in a moment, as that issue gives rise to concern in its own right.

I wish to address myself to the way in which British Rail uses powers that it has been given in private legislation to bamboozle the general public. It can say, "We have these powers. They were presented to Parliament and debated in Parliament, and people have to put up with those powers. We are giving you 28 days' notice. We do not have to advise local councils in the case of general works provisions, and we are doing everything legally." Of course it is doing everything legally. If the Bill is passed tonight, as it might well be, British Rail will have the right to defend itself and acquit itself of any need to consult the local populace. However, the local populace have some rights which transcend the enactment of private legislation.

British Rail should have given an undertaking that it would ensure that a leaflet would be sent to every resident in the area affected by clause 14(4) and that it would provide a leaflet, with more than 28 days' notice, detailing the way in which it will use its powers to construct the necessary work.

I have had experience of a highway authority exercising powers that have been legislated for in this House. In 1981, I took a great interest in the private Bill promoted by Humberside county council, which was given powers by this House. It used the minimum legal powers to use stop-up works orders. The local population were told simply, "We are exercising powers given to us under private legislation. We do not have to give you any notice, and even if we did, it would be only 28 days. There is nothing that you can do about it." That is wrong.

Ordinary people seeking access and egress to and from their homes, going about their business and going to and from work in the rush hour in heavily congested areas of London with a high concentration of people moving about during the rush hour should have the right to more than 28 days' notice. If it is to be only 28 days' notice, it should be given specifically to each householder. There is nothing worse than a householder, a tenant or a landlord being confronted with "access only" signs to the street that he normally uses when he might have made arrangements for tradesmen, and when tradesmen cannot seek access—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been tedious in his repetition. Will he now move on to another clause in the Bill?

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

It may be tedious, but I am simply trying to suggest—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has made a number of suggestions about clause 14, which we have heard very carefully. He is being very tedious. I am absolutely serious in suggesting that he should move on to another clause.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I shall now move on to clause 26, under which the highway authorities and the local councils are to be given notice that the A501 and the A41 trunk roads may be affected by works which are to take place. The clause says that it is for the protection of the highway authorities. I am not sure that, it will be for the protection of the highway authorities. What will happen is that the A41 trunk road, a major road into London, carrying traffic from the A1

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

—and from Lincolnshire, will be affected by the works that will take place.

I should like to know what kind of assessment British Rail has given or is likely to give to the London boroughs of Camden and Islington of the transitional arrangements that will be made for the works taking place there.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

Perhaps it will be helpful if I tell my hon. Friend that the London boroughs of Camden and Islington were of course consulted on all aspects of the provisions of the Bill and fully consent to what is in it.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but it is interesting that British Rail seeks to give notice only to Camden and Islington when it intends to carry out works that affect the A501 or the A41 but will not give that notice, except for the general 28 days to which I referred, when it comes to clause 14(4). So I am very unhappy about clause 26 and the fact that there is likely to be severe traffic congestion.

I do not know what assessment has been made of the likely effect of traffic congestion. My hon. Friend says that the boroughs of Islington and Camden have been fully consulted and that they are, I assume—I am prepared to accept his assurance — happy with the likely consequences of any traffic congestion that may arise. I can only suggest to my hon. Friend, with regard to those of my constituents who are worried about the pedestrian congestion arising out of the works under clause 11, that those who might otherwise have used British Rail to come into King's Cross may, during the enactment of the provisions of the Bill, decide instead to use their cars. They will come in on the A1 and use the A41 into London.

I am not sure that my hon. Friend will be able to give the same assurance that he has just given, that the London boroughs were consulted, when it comes to those who do not live there but who will be affected by the traffic congestion that is bound to arise on the A41. It does not take much for traffic congestion to arise on the A41 now, and there will clearly be more, because powers will be sought to protect the highway authority.

I do not think, therefore, that my hon. Friend can give an assurance that will cover all the people who will be adversely affected by the provisions of clause 26 when it comes to the certain congestion that will arise on the A41.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

If I may say so, my hon. Friend is on to an important issue here. He is touching on whether the traffic implications of the works which are envisaged will spread beyond the authorities mentioned in the Bill. It would help the House if he could suggest to us which other authorities might be affected and perhaps suggest in what way the Bill is defective—because this could be a serious defect in the Bill and one which may affect the constituents of many hon. Members other than those already mentioned. Does my hon. Friend not agree that, in that case, the Bill is seriously defective?

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

The point that my hon. Friend has just made is that the Bill gives the local authorities in which is situated the A41 trunk road the right to be consulted in the event of highway work. That is perfectly reasonable. What my hon. Friend draws attention to is the fact that large numbers of people make their journeys from all parts of the United Kingdom, certainly from eastern England and a large number of counties elsewhere. They come into London on the A41 trunk road. One cannot get into London without using it. I know, because occasionally I use it myself. What British Rail has failed to do is make any provision in the Bill for other local authorities or people who live in other local authority areas and who use the A41 to be given notice that there is likely to be traffic congestion.

A large number of people in Lincolnshire and South Humberside might decide to come to London by road. They will not know, when they set out on their journey, that when they get to the other end there is likely to be trouble on the A41. How can they be helped to know? It will be said that 28 days' notice will have been given to the London borough of Camden and 28 days' notice will have been given under clause 26(1) to the London borough of Islington. These boroughs know that there will be problems, but I will not know, and nor will my constituents. The constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle will not know.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

If, of course, the through service to King's Cross from Cleethorpes and Market Rasen is done away with, there may be many more people on the A41 and they will suffer double inconvenience because of British Rail.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I have a horrible suspicion that my hon. Friend is tempting me to stray out of order, but one of the things that I try to do when I am speaking in the House is to keep within the rules of order.

Of course, if fewer passengers come into King's Cross station, there are likely to be more people using their motor cars to come into London. We all wish to discourage that practice. If commuters come to London by car, they have to pass along the road for which British Rail seeks the power in the Bill. The use of that power will disrupt the highway. That can only mean traffic jams and congestion in the boroughs of Camden and Islington. It is highly likely that traffic congestion will be caused throughout central London.

I recall that, just before Christmas, a water main burst at Swiss Cottage. That isolated event caused the roads of central London to seize up. The point is that, if traffic congestion is likely to result from works undertaken by British Rail that disrupt traffic on the A41 trunk road in Islington and Camden, there are inevitable consequences for traffic flow in central London as a whole. We cannot escape that. It does not matter where the traffic comes from, whether from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) or anywhere else.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I must press my hon. Friend to answer me. I think he has edged towards the point, although he has not conceded it yet. Is he suggesting that the Bill is defective because it does not refer explicitly to other local authorities that might be affected, directly or indirectly, by the sort of traffic problems that my hon. Friend describes?

I hope that my hon. Friend agrees with me that the Bill is defective in this way. Indeed, I believe that the House should have serious reservations about the Bill generally, and the fact that other local authorities that might be affected are not mentioned in the Bill. Will my hon. Friend concede that point?

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

Yes, I concede that point. Equally, I accept that it would be unreasonable for British Rail to be forced to give legislative notice, in relation to a Bill of this sort, that there is likely to be traffic congestion on, say, the A41 trunk road. It would be unreasonable to expect British Rail to advise all local authorities whose residents travel by road to the A41 that road works are likely to be undertaken there. It would be unreasonable for British Rail to give legislative notice to, say, the borough of Cleethorpes, or West Lindsey, or East Lindsey. However, I believe that British Rail should ensure that notice is given in some way, as it is by the Department of Transport when major road works are expected on motorways. In that case, notices are displayed clearly in national newspapers saying that there will be road works in a certain part of the United Kingdom, or in London.

Only the other day, notices were put in The Times by my right hon. Friend's Department. As a result of such notices, sensible people will read about road works and likely congestion on the M1, M6, or M25. They will make decisions about journeys accordingly. Such notice is given without resort to legislation.

The Bill does not require British Rail to do the same thing. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) suggests that the Bill might be defective and should contain a power to notify the public. That is unreasonable. However, British Rail should be required to give some indication of works to be undertaken in a hub of central London—whether it is a hub for motorists or railway travellers. For example, it might say that there is likely to be traffic congestion on the A41 or severe congestion because of construction of the new ticket hall at King's Cross station, which is referred to in clause 11.

The Bill should ensure that British Rail takes the general public into its confidence. I am not referring just to, say, the constituents of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. British Rail should not simply give 28 days' notice to the mayor, burgesses and corporation of the borough of Camden. Surely there should be a requirement to give notice to the travelling public of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

My hon. Friend mentioned the difficulty caused by a burst sewer on the A41, which is used by his constituents and mine. Clause 15(1) gives very wide powers to the British Railways Board to discharge water from any works carried out. That may also cause problems, and perhaps my hon. Friend will deal with that matter.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I will deal with that point in time. I am dealing with the need for British Rail to give notice to the wider travelling public, which does not stop at the boundaries of the two London boroughs mentioned in the Bill. The travelling public are those people who use trains running into King's Cross, not just those people who travel in London. Some people think that the only people who should he consulted about transport in London are London constituents, London Members and London authorities. That is not the case.

Apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet, who is steering the Bill on behalf of British Rail, almost all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate represent constituencies outside London. I resent the charge from the Opposition Front Bench and some other hon. Members that only London Members have the right to be concerned about the Bill. What happens at the King's Cross railway station affects hon. Members from the north-east, the east and Lincolnshire, and affects all constituents who drive into London on the A41.

British Rail must ensure that the travelling public are made aware, with more than 28 days' notice, of temporary construction work. The powers given to British Rail in clause 26 are not sufficient to protect the interests of the wider travelling public, so British Rail has a duty to be less than cavalier in giving notice about undertaking works.

British Rail has a bad habit of undertaking work without giving notice. Recently a Minister was in my constituency and wanted to travel back to London on a Sunday. British Rail failed to give more than 24 hours' notice of a major works, for which it must have made provision long before it decided to embark on it. No notice of the work was given, and my hon. Friend the Minister found that he could not catch a train to London. With that experience, I am sceptical of British Rail's power under clause 26 to give adequate notice to the travelling public.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet and the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury may have received assurances that satisfied their constituents, but I have not received assurances that satisfy my constituents. The many people who travel on public transport in and around London, particularly on Fridays and at weekends, are not confined to people who live in London. Many people are affected by works at King's Cross or on the A41, and they have reason to be concerned about British Rail's cavalier attitude.

I am not confident that British Rail will give adequate notice of the work. Why should the period of notice be 28 days, when four weeks' notice is given to local authorities? Most local authorities have cyclical council meetings to consider matters such as this, so that they can make objections if they wish.

I know why British Rail has selected 28 days. It is obvious. It knows that the average local authority will not sit between one meeting of the transportation committee and the next. It will tell the London borough of Islington, "We're exercising our powers as laid down in section 26 of the Act. We're going to do this work and we're giving you the required 28 days' notice." The local authority will not necessarily have the chance to comment on British Rail's intention. 'The local authority will work on a cycle of 35 to 45 days. It will receive notice of British Rail's intention, saying, "We're going to undertake the works which the Act has empowered us to do, and we are giving you 28 days' notice."

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

My hon. Friend is dealing with an important point, and I hope that he will expand on it. Does he accept that two different sorts of works may be involved? One sort of works could be long foreseen and may be part of a major new project which must be planned months, if not years, ahead. However, there may be other works which could come up at short notice. Has my hon. Friend made any distinction between those two sorts of works? Does he think that the Bill deals adequately with both kinds of works?

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I should like to comment on the point raised by my hon. Friend, but you, Mr. Speaker, would call me to order. I can comment only on the specified works in the Bill. In fairness to British Rail, it is reasonable to assume that it will have set out in deposited plans what the specified works will be. If I were to speculate idly on my hon. Friend's comments, I would be outside the terms of the debate.

British Rail is seeking powers to give notice to the London boroughs of Camden and Islington about when it intends to undertake specified works. Specified works, which will be detailed in the deposited plans, will need to have been drafted, planned and trailed for a long time in advance. The Bill is not concerned with matters that might suddenly arise during construction. In all fairness, British Rail could not anticipate those and is not seeking powers in respect of such matters. We are concerned about specified works and about the intention in the Bill to provide a new highway.

Twenty-eight days' notice is unreasonable, because British Rail knows well in advance what those plans will be. It could tell the House now what those plans are. We know what British Rail's intention will be. However, at a time of British Rail's choice, within the two years' estimate of construction, British Rail can suddenly say, "Now we're going to exercise the powers to undertake the specified works in the Bill. Now we're going to bounce Islington council and Camden council. Now we're going to bounce the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. Now we're going to give them all 28 days' notice. We've kept this lot up our sleeve for a year or 18 months."

I do not know the London borough council scene as well as I know county council structures. In a county council, we have a transport policies and planning committee. I assume that, since the demise of the GLC, London boroughs must have an equivalent committee that would consider anything of this sort from British Rail. That is why 28 days is unreasonable. I would have thought that at least 56 days or even three months would be a much more reasonable period of time for giving notice.

I am not suggesting that no work should be undertaken by British Rail simply because there is a risk of disrupting someone at some time. I accept that it has the right arid the duty to improve its services in such a way as will lead to the long-term future benefit of passengers. However, I do not believe that within 28 days it is possible for local residents to put their affairs in order without disruption. In my view, we have to give serious consideration to clause 26. We cannot amend it now, and that is one reason why I am not happy about the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle tempted me to talk about sewers and watercourses. That is not my speciality, and I shall rest my case on that basis.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet 9:21 pm, 15th March 1988

With the leave of the House, I shall seek to reply to the points that have been raised by 11 hon. Members in a wide-ranging debate. I must confess that there are 14 significant and separate points with which to deal, some of which I did not anticipate. The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) warned me that, whatever my answer to one of the points, he would not be satisfied. I shall do my best. I am immensely grateful to the hon. Members who have raised points, many of which have been raised by more than one hon. Member. I shall deal with them in the order in which they were raised.

When I referred to the fact that between the Second and Third Readings of the Bill planning permission had been granted by the Corporation of London, I was referring to the redevelopment proposals in the area of Holborn Viaduct station. It is the realisation of that redevelopment scheme that will pay for the Work No. 1 part of the Bill. I shall come to the exact amount involved in a minute.

I should like to confirm that the London boroughs of Camden and Islington, wherein some of the works are taking place, were fully consulted and expressed themselves content with the arrangements. It may be helpful for the House to know that the London Regional Passengers Committee and the Transport Users Consultative Committee have been consulted about all the provisions of the Bill and have said that they are content. The unions have also been consulted. I hope that that deals with that point.

The next significant point raised was the time for completing the project. Hon. Members who were present on Second Reading will recall that I did not have an opportunity to reply to many of the points that had been raised. I should like to confirm that it is expected that the Holborn Viaduct area works could take about two and a half years, and that the works at King's Cross could take up to two years. Again, I shall come to the detail of that shortly.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) asked whether there would be any circumstances whereby British Rail would have to come back to change the provisions of the Bill. The answer is that neither British Rail nor I can anticipate any circumstances in which that might happen. However, there is one minor qualification, and I shall deal with that when I seek to deal with the point about the latest redevelopment proposals at King's Cross. This was raised by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and by one or two others.

Another significant point is that some hon. Members want justification for the £100 million estimate that I gave the House for, in effect, rebuilding the tunnels so that InterCity trains can use the new Thames link, and especially the two presently disused tunnels north of King's Cross. The cost of modifying the existing tunnels to take InterCity trains was investigated most carefully and a detailed study was made by civil engineers at the instigation of British Rail. That is where British Rail got that figure from, although perhaps it should be added to a little to allow for inflation. However, the figure was carefully worked out. At the same time, detailed studies of cross-London train demand were made. The inescapable conclusion of British Rail was that the significant extra work and extra cost involved could not be justified on a financial cost-analysis basis.

There was also the question whether any petitions remain outstanding. Originally, when the Bill was introduced in the House of Lords, there were 17 petitioners. Sixteen of those 17 were completely satisfied before the Bill was examined in Committee in the other place. When the Bill came to this House, there was one outstanding petition, plus three others. All those four have now been completely satisfied and that is why the Bill was examined upstairs in this House by the Unopposed Bills Committee.

A major and significant point that has been raised is the possible redevelopment of King's Cross station. The point was made eloquently by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. This is an ambitious project and will involve a larger lower-level station capable of accommodating InterCity and possibly even international trains. As I understand it, the proposal relates to the redevelopment of derelict and unused land in the ownership of British Rail and other agencies, and could remedy the present inadequacies at King's Cross and St. Pancras main line stations.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith , Islington South and Finsbury

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman who, as always in these matters, is dealing generously and fully with all the points that have been raised. However, if a new international terminus is to be created at underground level at King's Cross, as I understand it from the layout of tunnels and existing Tube tracks in the area — we must remember that five Tube lines converge on the King's Cross area, so the underground topography is complex—only one location could be used for such an international terminus, and that is not under existing derelict land; it is under existing used buildings.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and I shall try to satisfy him. This project is at the very earliest stages and, as he knows, the ideas of two groups of developers have been presented for public consultation. As I understand it, that is the position at the moment. If powers are required for railway works associated with that development—if that development comes to fruition—clearly British Rail will have to deposit a Bill for parliamentary consideration. A low-level station capable of accommodating InterCity trains is not part of a fully developed plan. As I understand it, it is only a possibility at the moment and, in that sense, it is not even an idea. Where the links would go, what services would use that station and whether it could be financially justified are questions that cannot yet be answered. Indeed, they may not be answered for several years.

If the terminus development went ahead, Works Nos. 3A and 3B could be affected. I do not seek to hide that fact in any way. I ask the House to consider the fact—I am satisfied about this—that the reinstatement of the tracks and electrification of the lines in the two short, disused tunnels forming Works Nos. 3A and 3B are relatively cheap to provide and are short-term proposals. They provide the basic, needed link to plug in the suburban services from the east coast main line, St. Albans and so on, through the Thames link to the south.

If we knew at this stage that the more ambitious proposals regarding the new underground terminus were to go ahead — given that British Rail is satisfied that Works Nos. 3A and 3B can be justified on a cost basis — those developments may not prove to be worthy of investment. Nevertheless, it is still worth undertaking Works Nos. 3A and 3B. That is the best way in which I can deal with the matter raised by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington, (Mr. Fallon) rather unfairly suggested that this was a yuppies' Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has said that there is a need to prove that the Bill will be of benefit to people other than Londoners. That is precisely the argument that I made in my contributions today and on Second Reading. The Bill will be of convenience to Londoners, but it will also be of convenience to many other people outside London. As a London Member, I do not regard the word "yuppie" as a description of a Londoner. I do not believe that this good, beneficial Bill can be described in such derogatory terms—if "yuppies' Bill" is a derogatory term. When I leave the Chamber I shall look up that word in my copy of "The Concise Oxford Dictionary".

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East has great experience and knowledge of BR matters. He mentioned the access points for the new St. Paul's station. The accesses to and egresses from that station, replacing the old Holborn Viaduct station, will represent an improvement. There will be entrances on Holborn Viaduct, Ludgate hill — Pilgrim's court to be precise — and Farringdon road. Incidentally, the new station will have a taxi rank—the old station did not—and will be fully accessible to disabled passengers.

The hon. Gentleman also raised—quite fairly—the question of facilities for cyclists. I know that BR will seriously consider the arguments that he has drawn to the attention of the House. My initial reaction is that this is not only a matter for BR, but is also for the local authorities. They should work in concert with BR.

I note that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury put down four markers of a wider context regarding the future possible, more ambitious redevelopment proposals for King's Cross. I am sure that B R will note those points.

I am grateful to the Front Benches for their support for the Bill. I hope that I might, at least partially, reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr). He kindly allowed me to intervene during his contribution, and in addition to what I said then he should know that the escalators will not be constructed before the Fennell inquiry has reported. He is right to say that the Fennell inquiry is not confined to escalators, but, in fairness, I hope he will consider that this could affect every other station, not just this new one. The works at King's Cross, and, indeed, the new St. Paul's station, should not be inhibited while waiting for the Fennell inquiry report. The new escalators will be additional escalators, so they can perfectly honestly be described as an additional emergency exit. That can only be good news. The sooner those escalators can be constructed and provided, the better and safer for people using the station.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) could not remember my constituency. I was tempted to refer to him as my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Hardcastle, but I shall resist that temptation. In addition, Chipping Barnet does not nestle in the Cotswolds, but sits in north London.

My hon. Friends the Members for Gainsborough and Hordcastle and for Brigg and Cleethorpes mentioned the amount of British Rail investment in London as represented by the Bill. Works No. 1, which represents about 95 per cent. of the total cost of the provisions in the Bill, is being made possible by the redevelopment of the old Holborn Viaduct station. As I said on Second Reading, the asset cannot be realised until the new station is built, and vice versa, because Holborn Viaduct is at the end of a short spur that will become obsolete. It is impossible to transfer that £46·5 million — the latest figure, which I gave earlier—to any other British Rail project outside London or elsewhere inside London, simply because it cannot be realised unless the station is closed and the new St. Paul's station is provided.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

This is a serious and important point, so my hon. Friend will forgive my asking whether he appreciates that I am constantly told by British Rail that stations in my constituency are falling into dereliction because it does not have the money to refurbish them, yet we are discussing this kind of investment in London. That is what is worrying.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

My hon. Friend should carry back to the burghers of Gainsborough and Horncastle the good news that this development cannot be provided unless Holborn Viaduct station is closed. Therefore, if the Bill is not proceeded with, that £46·5 million estimate cannot be realised for any project. That puts the matter in its context.

My hon. Friend inadvertently said that the provisions of the Bill came to £100 million. That is not so. The provisions of the Bill, according to the latest estimate, come to just under £53 million, and 95 per cent. of that is on realising an asset.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I hope my hon. Friend will appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) and I could, had we wanted, have sought to talk out the Bill. We purposely did not do so.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I am most grateful indeed. I can only assume that support for the Bill now becomes near unanimous.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

Just to confirm why it is so unanimous, will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that an important part of the package has been British Rail's clear undertaking that one of the facilities that will be provided in the refurbishment scheme will be a platform for sleeper services right up the east coast after electrification has been completed?

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I am glad to hear that news transmitted to the House by the hon. Gentleman. However, that matter is completely without the Bill, so I shall be careful not to be drawn into it.

My hon. Friends the Members for Gainsborough and Horncastle and for Brigg and Cleethorpes asked about clauses 14, 15 and 26. I can only say that clauses 14 and 15 are general works provisions and are entirely normal. As far as I can see, British Rail is not trying to put in other conditions that may be more restrictive to the public.

In relation to clause 26, I repeat that the local borough councils were consulted and that they consented. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes to keep a sense of proportion. He rightly said that if British Rail was required to consult other boroughs whose citizens might be inconvenienced if the roads were temporarily blocked, where does one stop? If my borough council, whose territory is close to the A41, was consulted, I could claim that British Rail may have consulted my borough council, but that it did not consult me. Thanks to the media co-operating and giving public information, more and more motorists can be made aware of where traffic works are being undertaken. I am confident that British Rail will co-operate with the media to deal with that problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes talked about the inconvenience that would perhaps be caused to some of his constituents and to many other people when the works were taking place at King's Cross. I have two points to make about that. First, British Rail is determined that if there is any inconvenience it will be kept to a minimum. It is interesting to note that these works will generally be at the eastern corner of the present concourse and will not be right in the middle. That will be partially helpful. Secondly, when the works are completed they will be of benefit to my hon. Friend's constituents and to many other people, not only because there will be additional access and egress, but because the whole system will work more smoothly.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

In his usual charming and very helpful way my hon. Friend has successfully sought to reassure me. I accept that there will be long-term benefits, which is the point he is trying to make, with some degree of success. The only thing that I should like to put on record is that I sincerely hope that when these works are completed there will still be a train from King's Cross to Cleethorpes.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

I am sure that the British Rail authorities will pay attention to what my hon. Friend has said.

I do not think that these works will deleteriously affect the passenger concourse. I know that British Rail is anxious to see that any inconvenience that there may be is kept to a minimum.

I apologise to the House for taking so long to deal with 14 significant points raised by 11 hon. Members. I am delighted at the widespread support for the Bill and to see that the fears of some hon. Members have been allayed between the Second and Third Readings. The Bill started its journey exactly a year ago in the other place. It deals with work that is badly needed in this part of our great metropolitan city. It will bring benefits, in some cases substantial benefits, to many people, not just to Londoners. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed, without amendment.