London Airports (Transport Links)

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 3rd April 1995.

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Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport 3:30 pm, 3rd April 1995

With permission, Madam Speaker, I would like to make a statement about surface links to airports around London. I wish to propose measures designed to promote the imaginative use of rail and other transport infrastructure in a way which will more readily meet the diverse needs of both private and business travellers.

The M11, A1(M), M1, M40, M4, M3 and M23 are the arteries which link some of the country's major regions to the nation's capital. In turn, they are connected by part of the M25. They also serve London's three major airports: Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. In addition, these airports have rail links to the centre of London. Trains run from Stansted to Liverpool Street, and from Gatwick to Victoria. A surface rail link from Heathrow to Paddington is under construction, and the airport is already connected to central London by the Piccadilly line.

Demand on this infrastructure is already heavy, and set to increase. The Government have been considering how best to meet this demand for travel through into the next century. Our position on airport development has been set out already in our response to the runway capacity in the south-east—RUCATSE—report. This envisages further exploratory work being done at Heathrow and Gatwick. The Government also indicated that they would initiate further studies of surface access to the airports. I now wish to tell the House what we have in mind.

It is already clear that there is existing rail infrastructure which, if developed, could provide better access to and between the airports. However, no detailed work has been undertaken; nor has there been any rigorous examination of the opportunities this might provide.

In addition, BAA has announced that it has commissioned a £500,000 study to investigate ways of linking Heathrow airport into existing rail and other public transport networks. In parallel, and subject to legislation and a successful outcome to the tendering process, work will commence on a high-speed rail link to connect the channel tunnel to St. Pancras.

The M25, between junctions 12 and 16, has been extended from a three-lane to a four-lane motorway. Despite this, congestion persists at various times of the day. This circumstance led the Government to decide that the capacity of the road should be expanded further. My predecessor announced, in July 1993, that the Government would take to public inquiry a proposal for link roads between junctions 12 and 15, and would launch a consultation on junctions 15 to 16.

The principle which underlay that judgment has not changed. On this, one of the busiest stretches of motorway in Europe, it is essential that people, goods and services should to be able to move efficiently. This national artery makes a major contribution to the competitiveness of our country, whether it is through the transportation of goods or ease of access to our national airports. I reaffirm that we attach maximum importance to safeguarding this economic interest.

However, a number of factors have changed since my predecessor's announcement. Railway privatisation is now making good progress. Responses to the franchising director have shown that a significant number of private operators see a genuine commercial opportunity to attract new customers on to the railway.

The success of the private finance initiative, similarly, has released energy and innovation in developing imaginative public-private sector partnerships, with a sharper focus on the customer. I believe that this energy can be harnessed in opening up the possibility of greater and easier interchange between air, road and rail services in the south-east, to the benefit of the travelling public.

There have been other changes. We have a developing understanding of the relationship between road building and road use. Issues arising require further study. Furthermore, the Government have been reflecting on the appropriate balance that should be struck between road building and environmental factors.

I have considered how best to bring together in the medium term the economic imperative with these changed circumstances. In particular, I have examined whether there is an acceptable development, short of building link roads, which would be sufficient to meet all our objectives.

Any such development would need to accommodate projected traffic growth into the medium term and create the opportunities for extending complementary rail and coach services. At certain times of the day, 20 per cent. of the traffic on one stretch of the M25 is airport related. In exploring new interrelationships between surface and air travel, it makes sense to move forward on a measured basis, bearing that in mind.

Taking all these factors into account, I have decided that we should not proceed with the M25 link roads, and I shall be withdrawing the draft orders. Instead, we propose to widen the existing carriageway of the M25 to five lanes in each direction between junctions 12 to 14 and 15 to 16, with six lanes in each direction over what will be the most heavily used stretch, between junctions 14 and 15. That widening would occur mainly within the existing highway boundaries, thus minimising the need for extra land purchase.

That proposal, together with new traffic management arrangements, would accommodate projected traffic growth, on the basis of existing assumptions, for at least the next 15 years. We shall publish environmental statements on the proposal, together with an assessment summarising the technical and economic analysis.

In addition, I shall set up an interdepartmental group of officials chaired by the Minister for Transport in London, drawing on expert advice as necessary and including BAA and key rail operators. It will examine in depth the opportunities for rail services to link the existing rail network with the airports and the airports with one another. It will examine the possibility of privately financed intermediate road and rail interchange on the arterial motorways, which might include airport check-in facilities, and will consider whether the interaction between road, rail and airport infrastructure might provide scope for expanding services.

The study will have the following terms of reference: to examine the opportunities for improvements, in particular privately financed improvements, in access to and between London's main airports by rail and through road traffic management measures, assessing in particular the extent to which they could relieve future pressures on the M25 and associated radial motorways beyond the capacity of the new dual-five/dual-six-lane proposals.

The public inquiry on terminal 5 is due to start on 16 May. The decision to proceed with widening the M25, rather than with link roads, will enable the inquiry to start work with complete clarity about my Department's intentions.

Hon. Members will wish to know what effect the decision will have on access from the M25 to the proposed fifth terminal at Heathrow. My Department has published orders for a spur from the link roads giving direct access to terminal 5. The arrangement will need some modification in the light of the decision that I have announced: subject to more detailed design work, I expect access to the proposed fifth terminal still to be by a spur from the widened M25.

I hope that the House will accept that my statement represents a new, exciting and important step towards providing rail, coach, road and air services in ways that are designed to enhance opportunities and that are more closely tailored to the needs of individuals, business and industry.

The artificial separation of roads, airports and public transport in this context could inhibit the imaginative and far-reaching options that may be available to assist travellers and promote our economy. That is especially so when the private sector stands ready to join us in partnership.

The decisions that I have described present us with an unparalleled opportunity to reshape transport provision in this part of the country for the 21st century. We intend to grasp it. I believe that such action will be widely welcomed.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Minister (Transport)

I say immediately that we welcome the decision by the Secretary of State to abandon the Government's madcap scheme to build a 14-lane M25. This is a monumental U-turn, from a scheme that should never have been envisaged in the first place. But will the Secretary of State recognise that even the partial 10 and 12-lane motorway which he still envisages will be very expensive, and will rapidly fill up with traffic?

As the Government's plans to build link roads around three quarters of the M25 have now been entirely scrapped, why has the Secretary of State said nothing about the knock-on effects on the south-east? Why has he not also announced, on the same criteria, the scrapping of plans to widen the M4 to 12 lanes, and the M3 and M23 to eight lanes? Will he accept that the same logic requires him to reconsider the future of the Birmingham northern relief road, the Birmingham western orbital motorway, and the M62 road widening?

Will the Secretary of State recognise that his statement today leaves the Government's transport policy in tatters, because, while roads are being cut, he still says little or nothing about proposals for alternative public transport systems? Why has he made no commitment to crossrail? Why does his statement contain no mention of any progress on Thameslink 2000? Is he not aware that the Government's dogma about bus deregulation prevents the counties from promoting the buses which could play a major role in reducing congestion on the M25 and elsewhere?

Why does the right hon. Gentleman make no mention of the closure of slip roads at peak traffic times, which is well known to be a major source of increased congestion? Will he also confirm that the Government's own planning procedures in the late 1980s mean that a massive number of traffic-generating developments are still likely to be built around the M25? Is he aware that estate agents estimate that more than 37 million sq ft of offices have been given planning permission in the M25 area? What strengthening of planning policy guidance 13 does he propose to prevent an explosion of traffic generation as a result?

If the right hon. Gentleman really believes in public transport, why has he made no mention of improving orbital rail links to Heathrow and around south-west London in support—[HoN. MEMBERS: "He did."] The right hon. Gentleman is strong on feasibility studies and is always for the future, but there are no concrete proposals in his statement. Why is there nothing about the "swoption" scheme which has been developed by the boroughs precisely for this purpose? Why has he made no commitment to improving orbital public transport, in particular by electrifying the north downs line and by giving buses or coaches priority on the M25?

The right hon. Gentleman stressed linking the rail network to airports, particularly Heathrow, but he made no mention of funding, even though the BAA's airport departure tax for a single year—£315 million—would pay for the rail link to terminal 5 and the west. Why has he given no support to the piggy-back rail freight services, which would allow lorry trailers to travel on road wagons and which would reduce congestion in the south-east and elsewhere? Is he aware that the initial route from Scotland and the north-west midlands to the channel tunnel is already feasible for less than £100 million, and that that is less than the cost of the junctions 12 to 15 road widening?

Is the Secretary of State aware that further big road investment west of London contradicts the south-east planning strategy endorsed by the Department of the Environment, which promotes development east of London? Does he accept that both today's statement and his earlier response to the RUCATSE report lack any proper balance, not only between east and west London but between regional airport development and an over-congested south-east, which simply cannot accommodate market-driven expansion of demand for road and air travel indefinitely?

Today's statement is a thin apology for the market excesses of the 1980s. The Tories had warm words for public transport, but no mechanism for delivering them and no guarantee of adequate Government support, without which private finance will not be forthcoming. Labour will plan public transport and produce a national transport programme based on clear objectives and targets to replace the national roads programme, which has for too long been dictated by the Conservatives' friends in the roads lobby.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Gentleman did not mention cycling. I was waiting for that.

I start by thanking the hon. Gentleman for his broad welcome for my statement. That is a good start. After that, he lost the House, hut that was probably understandable. Let me try to pick out some of the bones of the points that the hon. Gentleman made and respond to them.

First, as I made clear in the statement, the proposal to move to D5, with D6 between junctions 14 and 15, will accommodate the projected growth in traffic on the M25 for at least the next 15 years, certainly when coupled with traffic management arrangements. I understand the hon. Gentleman to be telling me that he is against link roads and against the extension of part of the M25 from four lanes to five. I know that he is against the status quo, because he has said that in the past. So he is against seven, against six, against five and against four. The hon. Gentleman did not tell the House what he was in favour of.

The decisions that I have announced today are in the context of the characteristics of the piece of road to which I referred. The hon. Gentleman legitimately mentions the M4 and the M62. As he knows, there has already been public consultation about the M4. We will reflect on the views expressed, and make an announcement shortly. As I suspect the hon. Gentleman knows, further studies have been commissioned of the M62, which will take some time. We will carry them forward, precisely as we said we would. We will examine both those bits of road in the context of their characteristics, just as we have done for this bit of the M25.

All the hon. Gentleman's other comments about motorways were irrelevant to my statement. The House will have noticed again that the hon. Gentleman has been consistent. During questions, he was all in favour of the taxpayer footing the bill and against the private sector making a contribution. That remains his position. However, the opportunities are constantly expanding for the private sector to make a significant contribution to transport infrastructure. We are in favour of that. It provides extra services more quickly for the consumer. The consumer will have noticed that the hon. Gentleman is against it.

Nor did the hon. Gentleman say a single word about the importance of protecting the competitiveness of United Kingdom plc, in competition with other nations' economies. That is important to the Government, even if it is not important to the hon. Gentleman.

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the statement's stress on traffic management. We may well need to see the speed limit on that part of the road reduced at certain times of the day. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that.

We shall certainly use variable message signing on the motorway to give drivers more and earlier information. I expected the hon. Gentleman to welcome that, but all he wanted to do was shut slip roads, which would clog local roads even more. My hon. Friends who represent the relevant part of the country will have noted that aspect of Labour policy.

Finally, let me deal with the great unspoken part of the hon. Gentleman's question. For the first time in connection with the M25, we are contemplating the development and extension of railway links between the airports and the existing rail network. We are examining the possibility of using existing rail infrastructure to provide new services that will not only link the network with the airports and the airports with each other, but link the airports and the rail network with the arterial motorways.

In past flights of fancy, the hon. Gentleman has said that that would be a good idea; we are focusing on action—on the back of the private sector's expressed interest in becoming more involved both in the railway system and in the provision of transport infrastructure. The hon. Gentleman need only look at the Heathrow-Paddington link, which is financed entirely by the private sector, to give weight to my words.

The House will have observed that the Opposition have a policy of moratoriums on road building and a commitment to public ownership, and are prepared to allow both to get in the way of developing the railway, road, coach and airport services that will be fitting for the country in the 21st century.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

My right hon. Friend's statement will be widely welcomed by all communities and groups concerned with the M25, from all parties, that have opposed the 14-lane motorway. It would have caused too much environmental damage and pollution. I also welcome my right hon. Friend's proposal for studies relating to development of the rail network and communications in the south-east.

May I press my right hon. Friend on the important question of the time scale? In particular, will he help to revive the idea of Thameslink—which is currently in limbo—and that of crossrail? Both projects could be financed privately, and the south-east needs such developments to reduce future congestion.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his encouraging words. I believe that he speaks for the vast majority of people in that part of the country—and, indeed, further afield—in welcoming my statement.

Our progress with the study will be as speedy as possible, but in a sense it breaks new ground: for the first time we are considering the possibility of expanding railway services—with private sector funds, but with the co-operation of the public sector—in a way that privatisation and the private finance initiative have uniquely made possible. I suspect that the study will take between a year and a half and two years to complete.

I assure my right hon. Friend that neither Thameslink nor crossrail is in limbo. I have attended meetings on both in the past few days, and progress is being made.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler , North Cornwall

Does the Secretary of State accept that we at least welcome the evidence of his Pauline conversion on the road to Heathrow? Will he also take comfort from the fact that hon. Members in other parties will have listened carefully to what he said about improving rail access not only to Heathrow but to other airports?

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the time scale to which he referred in reply to the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) does not preclude the possibility of speedy improvement of rail access from the west, perhaps including a park-and-ride arrangement east of Slough on the M4? It may not he necessary to increase the capacity of the M25 to the extent that the statement anticipates.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also confirm that the work undertaken by the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment has been applied to each section of the M25 that he has mentioned, and indeed to the other motorway proposals to which he has referred?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also confirm that the connection between increasing capacity and traffic generation—the opportunity for people to use that stretch of motorway—has been applied to the decisions that he has announced? Does he accept that many hon. Members hope that this is the beginning of the end of motorway madness, and that in future there will be no more speedy driving through the fog of policy indecision?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman added the last bit, which is nonsense. I shall ignore it and get to the meat of his question.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome for the statement, although I assure him that it is in no way a Pauline conversion on the road, or indeed the rail, to anywhere. I have announced that we shall not proceed with the link roads, and I shall withdraw the orders. We shall go forward on the basis of expanding part of the M25 from four lanes to five lanes, with six between two junctions to facilitate the spur road to the proposed terminal 5.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

It is not agreed yet.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I assure the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) that we have taken into account a whole variety of circumstances, all of them appropriate, in coming to the judgment which I have announced.

While the hon. Gentleman may be right that some aspects of the potential development of rail services may become clear ahead of others, it will be for the committee to offer me advice through my hon. Friend the Minister on whether it is possible or sensible to proceed piecemeal, or whether it would be more sensible to wait until the study is complete before making judgments.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Pattie Mr Geoffrey Pattie , Chertsey and Walton

My right hon. Friend's decision to scrap the link roads will be widely welcomed in my constituency and in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, North-West (Sir M. Grylls), who is ill with bronchitis. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will continue to study carefully the question of noise reduction measures? Many of the proposals that he has announced will generate more noise, and that issue must he kept constantly in mind.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his welcome and his kind words, and for the message that he conveyed about his parliamentary neighbour, whom I am sure the House will wish well in his recovery. I understand precisely the importance of his point about noise. In terms of noise abatement, we plan to ensure that, when the fifth lane has been added to part of the motorway, the overall noise level will not exceed the present level from the four lanes.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

When it is stripped of all verbiage, does not the statement mean that the Minister has committed the House only to a five-lane motorway on part of the M25? All the rest is just marshmallow words.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

Given the importance which the hon. Gentleman normally attaches to public transport, that is a typically curmudgeonly response to my announcement. Even if he cannot bring himself now to welcome the prospect of new, better and more consumer and passenger-sensitive transport for the 21st century, I hope that he will do that in future, when it all becomes a reality.

Photo of Mr Tim Smith Mr Tim Smith , Beaconsfield

My right hon. Friend's statement will be welcomed by my constituents and by those of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), who did not like the proposals for link roads and will be glad to hear that it is now possible to meet the same traffic demand with a more modest scheme. Is it not clear that, contrary to what is sometimes suggested, the Government have an integrated transport policy and are as much committed to rail as to road?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his warm welcome. The Government have always looked at the possibility of practical arrangements to assist the passenger. The new circumstances for the development of rail services open up opportunities that we must take if we are to discharge our responsibility to the taxpayer, the passenger, business and industry. We shall seek to do that, so that we may offer choice. Choice is a value to which we attach importance, but it does not commend itself to the Opposition.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East

Will the study take account of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), which represents a consensus on the need to promote development east of London to ease development pressures west of London? Will the study have that concern especially in mind? Following the right hon. Gentleman's welcome remarks about developing the rail links between Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick, can he confirm that crossrail will be an essential part of a satisfactory rail network between the three airports?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome, which I appreciate. I understand and accept the importance of regeneration on the east side. He will accept that this is not the time for me to prejudge what the group will produce, either in suggestions relating to crossrail or on specific parts of the country. However, as was confirmed both at Question Time and in my statement, both the points he has raised are on our agenda.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne

As much of the affected part of the M25 is in my constituency, I welcome the end to the uncertainty. My initial reaction to my right hon. Friend's announcement is that it is a sensible compromise between two equally valid extremes. His new rail initiative opens up exciting possibilities, which I whole-heartedly endorse.

Will my right hon. Friend also accept my welcome for his provisions for a possible terminal 5, which I believe is vital for the future economic prosperity of my constituents? Will he arrange for Highways Agency officials to meet me and affected constituents at an early opportunity? Can he send full details to all those living near the affected route? Will a public inquiry he obligatory?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I shall try to recall all my hon. Friend's questions. First, we will notify all those who objected to the link roads proposal about the new arrangements. Secondly, I can confirm that, when the economic assessment for the new proposals is published, the Highways Agency will be available to explain that at public displays. Thirdly, because my proposals lie essentially within the curtilage of the existing road arrangements, there is no statutory obligation to hold a public inquiry.

Finally, I appreciate my hon. Friend's general welcome. I am grateful for it, because he has been assiduous in representing the interests of his constituents. However, I must tell him that the Secretary of State for the Environment and I are the two people in this country who are not allowed to comment on the question of terminal 5.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson , Hampstead and Highgate

While welcoming the right hon. Gentleman's concern to expand and integrate the rail system in the south-east, may I ask him to give the House some idea of how that will be achieved, as the Government have already spent £1.25 billion of taxpayers' money on privatisation? For many commuters in the south-east, all that that has produced is a deterioration in services, the closure of stations and a rise in rail fares.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady has misread her script—the figure is £240 million, not £1.25 billion. She is only £1 billion out, but I suppose that, for the Opposition, it is not an unreasonable estimate.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson , Hampstead and Highgate

It is the Department's figure.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady is not reflecting the Department's figures. I shall tell her what I told the Select Committee on Transport—that the figure is £240 million. She simply misleads herself.

On the main issue, I can tell the hon. Lady that we intend to explore the use of the existing rail infrastructure. That is the important point. We are not talking about laying a whole series of new railway lines; they already exist. We need to consider how best to make use of those lines, alongside and complementary to other forms of transport, in the best interests of passengers. We want to give them a degree of choice that currently does not exist. We attach value to that, and I can tell the House that we will carry forward that study as quickly as possible.

Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth , East Surrey

Will my right hon. Friend accept my thanks for having listened so carefully to local people's concerns about link roads? Does he agree that his announcement today marks a significant shift in Government thinking, from a demand-led transport planning policy towards a more responsive, perhaps more reflective, approach? Will he reiterate his remarks to our right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) about the importance of restraining noise from motor cars using the M25? As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows, noise is a prime and outstanding concern among my constituents in east Surrey.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome. He and I share the understanding that it is important to have an M25 that enables the competitiveness of United Kingdom plc to be maintained. That can be achieved in terms of the announcements that I have made today. In addition, the possibility of providing further complementary services through rail infrastructure development, with a strong eye to the private sector, can produce an added bonus, which the country will generally welcome as it moves into the 21st century.

My hon. Friend is right: every transport initiative affects the lives of a variety of people, some of whom live close to that initiative. We have sought always to be sensitive, especially in relation to the issue of noise. I am happy to repeat what I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie): we aim to put noise abatement arrangements in place around the fifth lane, which will ensure that the overall noise level does not exceed the present level.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

As the Secretary of State has now admitted that he will widen the M25 to a combination of 10 and 12 lanes, plus a hard shoulder, and, as the proposals are within the curtilage of existing road arrangements, will avoid a public inquiry into the enormous expansion of the M25, will he take this opportunity to explain to the public how his Department will answer the charge that building and widening motorways, and increasing road capacity, simply attracts and encourages more traffic, which will lead to further pressures for more road widening and yet more road building? Why does he not come off it once and for all, stop road building and seriously put money—yes, public money—into rail infrastructure to improve public transport, rather than encourage one person to drive around the M25 in a car on his own, making it Europe's largest car park?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

That is not only nonsense, but reflects a deep prejudice on the hon. Gentleman's part, which is unrelated to the reality of what we are talking about. Clearly, his question reflected the fact that he has neither listened to my statement nor read the SACTRA report. I suggest that he goes away and does both.

In his question, or in any other circumstance, the hon. Gentleman has produced no evidence to suggest that, if the road's capacity were not increased, and if rail infrastructure, as he envisages it, were put in place, the UK's competitiveness would not be damaged. Whether he likes it or not, others make individual choices, and some of those choices involve the transportation of goods and services by road. That must be—and is—part of the rationale for the development of that part of the road from four lanes to five. It simply reflects again the fact that we on Conservative Benches have a concern about the UK's competitiveness, which is not shared by the Labour party.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

May I express my warm appreciation for my right hon. Friend's statement today, which clarifies the strategy that has underlain his wise decisions in response to the RUCATSE report? In particular, may I say how welcome it is that Her Majesty's Government understand how important rail links are for the development and economic well-being of airports, especially Heathrow?

For my constituents, many of whom work at the airport, it is good that the Government understand how essential it is not only that Heathrow should grow and prosper, but that it should have a prospect of effective, well-co-ordinated rail links both to the west to Slough and to the south-east to Waterloo and ultimately, perhaps, through crossrail.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome and encouragement. No doubt he will have noticed that the BAA is embarking on a complementary examination of rail links between Heathrow and the rail network. I think that, as we proceed with the examinations in what I hope will be a complementary fashion, we shall both recognise that there is extra potential benefit to travellers, and we wish to explore that.

Photo of Jim Dowd Jim Dowd Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Secretary of State quite rightly mentioned the three major airports in London, but not London City airport. He will be aware that one of the key links from south-east London to the City and many other places is the Brunel tunnel on the east London line, which is now closed for at least seven months because of work on the Jubilee line.

Has he had time to assess the impact of the curious decision by his colleague at the Department of National Heritage to list not only the portals of the tunnel, which were already listed, but the hole in the ground itself? Is he aware that people in south-east London are keener on having reliable transport links and having them in use as soon as possible than on becoming sightseers in an industrial museum?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

First, like the hon. Gentleman, I recognise the importance of the line. Secondly, as he knows, the listing is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, but we are looking at ways to move the process forward as quickly as possible.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan , Chesham and Amersham

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, which shows common sense in taking the brave route to update our plans for an integrated transport system in the south-east, but may I refer him back to his answer to our right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), in which he led us to believe that the time scale would be approximately two years? Will he clarify that in relation to crossrail? Crossrail is very much wanted by my constituents in Chesham and Amersham, but yet again the project looks as if it is being put on the back burner, which will cause them great concern. Will he give me an assurance?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her comments. Crossrail may or may not turn out to be an integral part of what is envisaged in my statement, but work is proceeding independently with crossrail, and I would expect to receive the result of that work before the end of the year.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

Does the Secretary of State accept that, taken with his recent announcement on the RUCATSE report, his statement will mean a massive concrete funnel heading towards Heathrow, and that that will not satisfy the constituents of Conservative Members who represent Surrey and Middlesex, because they will realise that it will mean a major widening of the M25, which is environmentally unacceptable to them?

Does the right hon. Gentleman also accept that some of us realise that, in essence, the Government are pre-empting the inquiry into terminal 5? It is indicative of the fact that the Government are craven to the BAA, and British Airways for that matter, and will not recognise that there is a need for a major independent review of aviation and airports policy. Would not such a review, if it were held, point to the advisability of expanding Stansted and exploiting the great enterprise of Manchester on behalf of United Kingdom Ltd., instead of putting all our eggs in the one basket of Heathrow?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

The House will have to make its own judgment. On the one hand, I have the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) telling me what the people of Surrey think about the proposal, but on the other I have my hon. Friends who represent the people of Surrey telling me precisely the opposite. I invite the House to make a choice: will it accept the views of my hon. Friends who represent the people of Surrey or those of the hon. Member for Thurrock? I have no doubt that what my hon. Friends who represent those people say is correct, and that what the hon. Gentleman says is wrong. I am sure that the people of Surrey are as pleased as those of Peterborough that the hon. Gentleman does not represent them.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington , Aylesbury

I offer my warm congratulations to my right hon. Friend on the creative direction in which his statement has taken this country's transport policy, but may I remind him of the importance that my constituents attach to the crossrail project, which would secure their personal convenience as passengers and ensure the economic well-being of Buckinghamshire as a whole? Does he still hope that the promoters of crossrail will be able to bring forward an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 later this year?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. I know of his involvement in the crossrail project, and I am happy to reiterate what I told our right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) a moment ago. The time scale is as I set it out.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the study that he described will include improvements to rail links from Heathrow to the west? The Great Western line goes extremely near Heathrow, and it does no one any good if we have to go into Paddington and back out; nor, for that matter, if we have to come to the inside of the M25 by road to get to Heathrow.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and the answer is yes.

Photo of Mr David Sumberg Mr David Sumberg , Bury South

While I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on making exactly the right political and environmental decision on the M25, may I tell him that I and my constituents are angry and disappointed that he has failed to come to the House this afternoon with a similar decision on the M62? As a result of his statement, people who live around the M25 have been relieved of planning blight and inadequate housing management by his Department, but my constituents have not been, which adds insult to injury. Will my right hon. Friend quickly and urgently—not in two years' time—make a similar statement to the House on the M62?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome for the proposal that I announced for the M25. As I said in an answer to another question, the M62 is the subject of some further studies, as my hon. Friend understands. I know that he wants those studies to progress as quickly as possible, and I can assure him that I want that, too. When they have done so, and we have been able to form a judgment, I will be happy to convey that to his constituents through him.

Photo of Mr Mark Wolfson Mr Mark Wolfson , Sevenoaks

Does my right hon. Friend accept that my constituents will be delighted at the statement today, especially because it brings together a number of strands of the Government's transport policy? Does he also agree that the need to develop a fourth lane on the other parts of the M25 is paramount, and that those who oppose it are being unrealistic about keeping that road open as an effective artery for British growth and development?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words, for which I thank him. I can confirm that the road is a major artery in the United Kingdom, and needs to be treated as such. We have plans to expand the existing M25 to four lanes for about 70 per cent. of its distance which, added to the already planned four lanes, will mean that about 90 per cent. of it will be at least four lanes. We believe that to be important for precisely the reasons that my hon. Friend identified.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how quickly he expects the M25 expansion to take place? He said that the move to five and six lanes would not necessitate a public inquiry. When can we expect to drive along the fifth and sixth lanes?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I made it clear to the Highways Agency today that I want it to make all deliberate speed in moving ahead with that expansion. An environmental assessment must be made and published, as well as an economic assessment, but we will make measured progress as quickly as possible, for precisely the reasons that my hon. Friend implied.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

In Kent, we are mindful of the fact that we have a unique position as the gateway to and from the continent. Traditionally, the south-east segment of London and the home counties has been the worst served by transport. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the committee that studies these important matters considers transport to and from the airports from the south-east—from Kent, my constituency and the others around it?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I understand precisely the point that my hon. Friend makes, and would want the report to be as comprehensive as possible in all the circumstances.

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait , Hastings and Rye

Does my right hon. Friend expect that his welcome announcement will have an effect on non-motorway road schemes such as the A21 and the A259, where progress is needed to strengthen the local economy?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

While I understand my hon. Friend's point, my announcement was about one particular part of a road, given its particular circumstances. It should not necessarily be extrapolated to any other road.

Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway , Croydon South

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, with all the winners on Conservative Benches, there is bound to be at least one loser, and that his statement will not be welcomed in my constituency, where we shall continue to grapple with through traffic to Gatwick on our inadequate roads? Is he aware that, from the A3 to the south-west, round to the A2 to the east, there is no decent road in or out of London and we shall continue to suffer congestion and rat-running? Will he at least introduce a feasibility study to address that issue in south London?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I am mindful of the point that my hon. Friend makes. I hope that, on reflection, he will not feel quite as depressed as his question implies, not least because I assume that the benefits which I hope and believe will flow from the rail study may assist his constituents also.