Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill

Part of Orders of the Day — Schedule 3 – in the House of Commons at 5:51 pm on 1st November 1995.

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Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood 5:51 pm, 1st November 1995

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wanted to get my compliments in first.

Along with many other Members, I accepted an invitation about a year ago to travel to Paris from Waterloo on the new Eurostar service. I think that we were all invited to make the journey. I tried to register the journey in the Register of Members' Interests and was told that if something is offered to all Members, it is not necessary to register it. That is an interesting concept.

I made the journey with my mother. It is interesting when people in their 70s travel by rail. For them, the smoothness of the ride is of great importance. I met my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and he, too, was taking his mother to Paris. We had a mothers' day out to Paris, in the rain.

I found—many others have found since—that the quality of the service on the French side of the Channel was massively more impressive than that on our side. Some British people are ashamed about that when they make the journey. President Mitterrand, when he opened the French link to the tunnel on 18 May 1993, said: Passengers will race at great pace across the plains of northern France, rush through the tunnel on a fast track and then be able to daydream at very low speed, admiring the English countryside. Speed and comfort are important. With a poor-quality service there is spilt coffee on the English side but not on the French. There are stops and starts on our side and it is difficult to walk through the train as it sways. I felt sad and rather ashamed that the quality of the service on the French was so massively higher.