As I thought, the Minister knows that he cannot announce any good news until the year 2004; meanwhile, the average speed of trains from Folkestone to London is 47 mph and passengers to Wales will have to change at Waterloo or face a tortuous journey around London. Can the Minister assure the House that when the new infrastructure proposals are presented at the European Union meeting in Essen in December, he will not be outsmarted by the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—and that the line from London to Holyhead, which is the best route to the island of Ireland, will remain and enjoy the priority for development and electrification that it deserves?
All main railway lines in Wales are included in the proposed trans-European network. I do not share the hon. Gentleman's negative attitude to the opportunities presented by channel tunnel services. Everyone should pull together to serve that great opportunity. I have already taken advantage of the services—when I was in Paris 10 days ago, to speak to industrialists in promoting the interests of Wales.
In welcoming the new channel tunnel passenger service, does my hon. Friend agree that it presents a great opportunity for people from the rest of Europe who want to visit the United Kingdom to marvel at the beauty of Wales as they wend their way up the Ribble valley in north-west England?
My hon. Friend is right to promote his part of the world. In all seriousness, the west coast main line which he has in mind is very much a feature of the service to the north and mid-Wales and increasing opportunities will be taken to use it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has described the through service that will come about in a little over one year's time. We should dwell on the positive.
Mr. John D. Taylor:
In view of a negative question asked earlier, and recognising the importance of transport communications between Wales and the island of Ireland, will the Minister confirm that he will do nothing to damage the important link between the island of Ireland and Great Britain through the port of Lame, which is the second largest roll on, roll off port in the United Kingdom?
I have no intention of damaging the link to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I look forward to the greatest opportunities being taken of the opening of the channel tunnel. As to the link across north Wales, when I recently met Mr. Horton, chairman of Railtrack, we had the opportunity to discuss improvements to be made to the Holyhead line, which should bring 90 mph running in the next two years.
Will the Minister take this opportunity to squash the rumour circulating throughout Wales that when the Christopherson group makes its announcement today, to be confirmed at the Essen conference in mid-December, the north Wales route will not be a priority link for electrification? We need a categorical assurance that the Welsh Office will stand up for the interests of Wales in such matters.
I am rather surprised by that statement, because I thought that the hon. Gentleman had been on the media last Friday trying to spread that very rumour himself. I can tell him that all the main railway routes in Wales, particularly the line from Holyhead, are included in the proposed trans-European network.