Channel Tunnel

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd November 1992.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain , Neath 12:00 am, 23rd November 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on his proposals to upgrade rail links from south Wales to the channel tunnel.

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

It is for British Rail to bring forward proposals to upgrade the rail network. For channel tunnel services, BR intends to utilise the existing freight terminal at Cardiff for freight and to provide a night time passenger service from Swansea to Paris and Brussels. Passengers from south Wales will also be able to connect with the inter-capital services from Waterloo.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain , Neath

The Minister must accept that that is wholly inadequate for the needs of south Wales. Does not the Government's abysmal failure to invest in a modern, direct link from south Wales to the channel tunnel—coupled with the 500 rail job losses resulting from the pit closure programme and with British Rail's job loss programme —mean that south Wales is in danger of being left with a skeleton service by international standards?

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

On the hon. Gentleman's point about a direct link, I am sure that he appreciates that when the channel tunnel rail link is built between Folkestone and King's Cross, that will permit direct services via King's Cross on the Great Western line all the way to Cardiff and other parts of Wales. Therefore, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will support the channel tunnel rail link project when my right hon. Friend introduces proposals for consideration.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

My hon. Friend will know how grateful I am that our right hon. Friend has said that he will publish the proposals when he receives them from Union Railways. Will my hon. Friend confirm that he is fully seized of the anxieties of all local authorities in Kent that the channel tunnel rail link will suffer from the present plans to run it overground? Will he also confirm that he is not prepared to sacrifice the environment of Kent for a cut-price line, especially as the building of major capital projects is probably cheaper now than it has been at any time?

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

My right hon. Friend will publish a proposed route for consultation as quickly as possible after he has had the opportunity to study the proposals from Union Railways. He will not subscribe to a cut-price route that abandons all sensible environmental protection. I give my hon. Friend and his Kent colleagues the assurance that the Government will carefully consider the best environmental protection possible with regard to the rail link.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

Does the Minister think that the proposal to upgrade the line south of London, which would avoid the need for services from south Wales and the west country to come into the capital, would be a much better alternative? Otherwise, will not London and, in particular, the area around King's Cross become the equivalent of Heathrow—where people can be stuck for hours because of the difficulties of air traffic finding a slot? Why do not the Government invest in the future rather than in short-term plans that will make London a nightmare for rail travellers?

Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering

I believe that King's Cross is a sensible terminus for the new high-speed channel tunnel rail link. The capacity created will definitely be needed at some future stage. That choice of terminus will also benefit those who live in the north-east and north-west.

However, there is much to commend in the hon. Gentleman's specific point about routing to the south of London—presumably through Redhill and then on through Reading. I shall draw his comments and those of other hon. Members who have made the same point to the attention of the chairman of British Rail.