Thames Gateway

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th January 1997.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East 12:00 am, 13th January 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are his priorities for transport investment in the Thames gateway area. [8775]

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

The transport strategy for London described the Government's strategy for transport investment in the Thames gateway area. It includes construction of the channel tunnel rail link, with stations at Stratford and Ebbsfleet; improvements to the A13 and other trunk roads in London and Kent; the Jubilee line extension; and the proposed package of new river crossings.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East

Does the Minister share my concern about the threat to the prospect of regeneration of the Thames gateway arising from the current investment crisis at London Underground? Is it true, as the Evening Standard reports today, that the reopening of the East London line will be delayed for another two years? Does he deprecate, as I do, the deferral for two years of the planned refurbishment of District line stations in my constituency? The Minister saw for himself recently the condition of East Ham station and talked to staff about their aspirations for refurbishment. How will the Government address the serious crisis in east London and the Thames gateway area, which was precipitated by the catastrophic Budget settlement for London Underground?

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was responding on the Budget question, because there is no such budget cut. For the coming year, the figure will be as planned. There is no reduction for London Underground. Indeed, increasing quantities of money will come from London Underground's operating surplus and from the private sector.

On the hon. Gentleman's specific points, as he said, I have visited his borough and many other boroughs on my urban rides to look at facilities, challenges and opportunities, and I have seen the station at East Ham to which he referred. Any decisions on that are for the management of London Transport. There is a lot of speculation about the decisions that may be taken but I am aware of no decisions having been made. Indeed, the board does not meet until next month, so no decisions can have been made. The Northern line river tunnel has been strengthened and has opened on time. London Transport has announced its expectation for reopening the East London line and I have no reason to doubt its word on that.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

Given that the Dartford constituency contains a significant number of projects associated with the Thames gateway concept, will my hon. Friend assure me that his officials will monitor rigorously and robustly the transport infrastructure developments as they take place so that my constituents and people from the south-east region as a whole can gain easy access to Ebbsfleet, Bluewater, and other north Dartford developments for commerce, leisure and housing?

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that officials of the Highways Agency and the transport authorities look carefully at volumes and flows of passengers and at the various developments. A key development will be Ebbsfleet station, which will be looked at carefully in terms of its road and rail connections to the part of Kent to which my hon. Friend refers. As he knows, a number of road schemes are in the programme.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is not one of the proposals for the Thames gateway the extension of the valuable North London link line from Silvertown across the river to Woolwich arsenal and along the North Kent line to the area of the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn)? Is the Minister aware that the Government insist that that should be funded by the PFI? The revenue from about a mile and a half of track will certainly not pay for the capital, so they are effectively blocking an imaginative and sound public proposal.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

Nothing has been blocked. The hon. Gentleman is referring to a package of crossings that were highlighted in the report. The Woolwich rail tunnel is one proposal; the Gallions Reach multimodal crossing is another; and the third Blackwall crossing is the third. Those are being considered carefully to see whether they are viable, and progress will be announced in due course.