Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th February 1996.

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Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham 12:00 am, 12th February 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to announce the promoter for the channel tunnel rail link. [13022]

Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport

We expect to announce soon the name of the winning consortium in the competition to select a private sector promoter for the channel tunnel rail link.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

My right hon. Friend will be more than aware of not only the battering that the current promoter, Union Railways—a British Rail subsidiary—has taken from people in north-west Kent in relation to the possible damage to the environment but the opportunities in terms of jobs, and so on, that are to be gained from the Ebbsfleet station. Is he aware that we need a decision now on a promoter so that we can ensure that our environment is safeguarded and, above all, that the opportunities deriving from Ebbsfleet are realised as soon as possible?

Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport

It is an important project for the nation—it has been supported by both sides of the House—and for my hon. Friend's constituents, who will gain access to a quick link to St. Pancras station. As I said in my initial response, we hope to make an announcement soon.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, when he makes that announcement, he will also announce the Government's decision on intermediate stations? Will he further confirm that, in making that decision, the Government will honour the commitment made by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in 1991 that the rail link will bring economic regeneration to east London?

Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport

It is indeed my intention when I announce the name of the successful competitor to make a simultaneous announcement about the locus of Stratford and the CTRL.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Will the Secretary of State please assure the House that, when the channel tunnel rail link is constructed, it will allow the operation of large-gauge freight trains and that links will be made to allow them to operate on an improved and upgraded west coast main line track?

Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport

My understanding is that there is an optional provision for loops for freight traffic. The link is primarily intended for passenger traffic into St. Pancras.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

Will the Secretary of State admit that the Government's obsession with rail privatisation has caused long delays in the building of the channel tunnel rail link, and that those delays have meant prolonged blight for many families and a failure to use the opportunity created by the channel tunnel to get more freight on to the railways? Will he take this opportunity to tell the House more about the allegations of financial misbehaviour at Union Railways? Is he aware that the national joke is now about train delays being caused by thieves on the line?

Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport

On the hon. Lady's first question, had we not engaged in dialogue with the private sector, and if the project was to be financed entirely by the public sector, it would have taken significantly longer to be realised.

As for the second point, the hon. Lady will have seen the announcement made last week by Union Railways. I have asked the chairman of Union Railways to keep me abreast of the progress of the investigation. I have no further comment to make at this stage.