In selecting the easterly route for the channel tunnel rail link, the Government recognised the potential that it offered to encourage regeneration in the east Thames corridor, now known as the Thames gateway. Such regeneration remains an important objective for the rail link project.
May I remind the Minister that when the former Secretary of State made the announcement in 1991, he was explicit that his commitment was to regeneration in east London, where it is most needed and where, as the Government's own figures confirm, the levels of urban deprivation are highest? Do the Government remain committed to regeneration specifically in east London, as announced in 1991, through the rail link project?
I am confident that the whole of the Thames gateway will benefit from the rail link project. I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman for inviting me to view the proposed site of the Stratford station, which I did recently on a very wet day—it was probably the only time that anyone has described me as a wet. However, the enthusiasm of the promoter group was undiminished by the weather. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the question of the station at Stratford is still open and we shall reassess it in the light of the bids from the four consortiums, which are undergoing assessment.
May I remind my hon. Friend that the reference was to the east Thames corridor and that we in north-west Kent are therefore grateful for the decision immediately to proceed with the Ebbsfleet station, which will bring considerable regeneration and also make more viable any opportunities that Opposition Members see in respect of east London?