I beg to move,
That this House, pursuant to section 9(4) of the Transport and Works Act 1992 ("the Act") as applied by section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, approves the following proposals, contained in an application for an Order submitted under section 6 of the Act by Eurostar (UK) Limited on 23rd January 1997 and entitled The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Stratford Station and Subsidiary Works) Order, for
If a resolution approving such proposals is passed in both this House and another place, the application will go forward for more detailed consideration at a public inquiry. It would then be for the Secretary of State to decide, in the light of the inspector's report, whether to authorise the proposals in question by making a TWA order. The Secretary of State is not bound so to do. Until he makes his decision, he must keep an open mind on the merits of the proposals. Nevertheless, in reaching that decision, he would take careful note of Parliament's view.
The section 9 procedure has been used only once before, for the ill-fated central railway project which was roundly rejected by the House last summer. I trust that there will be a more positive outcome today.
The use of this procedure in connection with the proposed Stratford station and the twin-track link to the north London and west coast main lines arises because section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 provides specifically for these proposals, in any application for a TWA order, to be referred to Parliament under the section 9 procedure. That special provision was inserted in the CTRL Act with all-party support because the House wished to have an opportunity to give the proposals its formal support in principle. The Secretary of State is not required to form an opinion on their national significance.
The motion accordingly seeks the approval of the House for the proposals. It is phrased in this way, rather than in neutral terms, to enable us to secure a conclusive outcome in a single debate. If the House were to reject the motion, the scheme would, in effect, be dead, as the order could not be made. If the House passed the resolution—as, in this case, the Government recommend—the project would be considered in another place.
My hon. Friend referred to the link to the west coast main line. I make a plea to her and to our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider a link to the east coast main line—I appreciate that it cannot be done under this order—so that we have a service to all the regions through orders similar to this one. I hope that Ministers will keep in mind the fact that we need the same services on the east coast as are proposed for the west coast.
I am sure that my hon. Friend understands that his proposal cannot be debated this afternoon, because it is not a matter covered in the order. However, I shall ensure that his strong representations on behalf of his constituents are brought to the attention of our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
As I was saying, only if the application is approved in both Houses can it proceed to a more detailed examination at a public inquiry.
I come now to the specific proposals that the House is asked to approve. The detailed case for the proposals will, with your leave, Mr. Deputy Speaker, be presented by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape). I shall confine my comments to a short summary of the proposals and the representations received on them, and I shall set out the Government's position. A copy of the complete application, including plans and sections of the proposed works and the environmental statement, has been available for inspection in the Library since the application was made in January.
The application for the order was made by Eurostar (UK) Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of London and Continental Railways Ltd., which successfully bid for the contract to build the channel tunnel rail link. The works contained in the draft order were not included in the CTRL Act because the decision in principle to proceed with them came too late for inclusion in the Bill without seriously prejudicing its progress.
The proposed station at Stratford will provide a new intermediate stop for international and domestic services using the rail link. It will enable passengers to make connections with other railways services at Stratford, such as the London Underground Central and Jubilee lines, the docklands light railway and the north London and great eastern lines. The station will therefore give passengers a wider choice of access to international and domestic services on the CTRL and make an important contribution to the Government's declared aim of establishing a more integrated public transport system.
The development of the station is expected to create sizeable regeneration benefits for the Stratford area, which is itself a focal point for development at the western end of the Thames gateway. Taking into account the scope for redevelopment of adjoining lands, including former railway lands, and the wider development opportunities in the lower Lea valley and the royal docks, the longer-term extra employment prospects for the area could be substantial.
The other main proposal in Eurostar's application that is closely associated with the Stratford station is for a twin-track connection from the CTRL to the north London and west coast main lines. Such a connection will enable trains to and from the channel tunnel to bypass St. Pancras station and to transfer directly to the north London and west coast main lines, thereby reducing journey times between mainland Europe and Scotland, the north and the midlands. Stratford station would be used as the London stop on those through trains. The twin-track connection would replace the single track provided in the 1996 Act and increase operational flexibility and reliability.
Can the Minister confirm that the promoter's intention is still to complete all the works that she mentioned without further recourse to public funds?
It is my understanding, given the contract into which the operator has entered with the Government, that there will be no further call on public funds.
With respect to my hon. Friend, he has asked a hypothetical question. I repeat: the operator entered into a commercial, binding contract with the Government. We do not foresee any reason for it to break that contract.
The Department received 59 objections to or representations about the proposed works, copies of which have been placed in the Library. I will, however, summarise the main points raised.
There is concern that the station will cause excessive traffic on the surrounding road network and that inadequate provision is proposed for public transport and cyclists at the station. There is concern also about possible adverse environmental effects on the Bully Point nature reserve, on the River Lea, and about the loss without replacement of garden allotments, recreational amenities and metropolitan open land in the Lea valley, near Stratford.
Some statutory undertakers and local businesses have objected to the adverse effects of the proposed compulsory acquisition powers associated with the works or to the effects of the works on access to businesses by road and rail. Concerns have been expressed also about the adequacy of the design of the proposed pedestrian link at Stratford station. More generally, a few objectors have questioned the demand for a station at Stratford.
The London boroughs of Hackney and Islington have challenged the adequacy of the environmental statement in its assessment of some of the local environmental effects—particularly impacts on local traffic and transport—and the implications of operating additional channel tunnel services for local services on the north London line. Finally, the London borough of Newham has sought certain changes to the proposed planning conditions.
What is the Government's assessment of the proposals? If Parliament approves the resolutions, the Secretary of State would have a duty to decide whether the order should be made. His mind must remain open on that decision, and, in making it, he must specifically have regard to the inspector's report, after detailed consideration of the proposals and objections to them at a public inquiry. The issue for the House to decide today is whether, in principle, the proposals are worthy of proceeding to that more detailed examination. The Government have no doubt that they are worthy.
The objectors have raised a number of issues concerning the perceived adverse local impacts of the scheme on traffic levels, the environment and businesses. Those are matters that, quite properly, must be considered carefully before the order is determined. It will be open to the Secretary of State to amend provisions in the draft order or to change the planning conditions attaching to any deemed planning permission after considering any recommendations by the inquiry inspector. It would be for the promoter of the order to defend the adequacy of the environmental statement and to provide more information for the inquiry, if so requested by the inspector.
The Secretary of State is under a statutory obligation to consider the environmental statement in determining whether to make the order. In the Government's view, the objections do not raise fundamental issues that might dent our confidence in the proposals' overall merits. We are satisfied that the grounds of the objections to the application are of a nature that would be best considered at an inquiry.
We think that the proposed works are desirable in principle. They have the potential to create significant transport benefits by encouraging greater railway use, especially for travel to Europe. A new station at Stratford would also help to achieve a more integrated transport system in London. For local communities in the east Thames corridor, the works offer a real prospect of substantial benefits, with more jobs and much-needed urban regeneration.
The Government therefore have no hesitation in inviting the House to pass the order.
Debates on the channel tunnel rail link and on Stratford international station have, on the whole, been friendly occasions, involving a small and familiar cast—most of whom I see in the Chamber today, although their places seem to have changed a bit. We will especially miss one player—the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks)—who took part in every debate on the matter. To use a draughts analogy, however, he has reached the end of the board and helped himself to a crown. Understandably, he will not speak in today's debate.
I am delighted that the new Government are proceeding with the previous Government's policy on construction of a high-speed link, thereby harnessing the energy of the private sector in a major private finance initiative, routing the line through east London to achieve the regeneration benefits mentioned by the Minister and making it easier and quicker for passengers to travel from France to regions other than the south-east. I was delighted to hear that the Government will support the order under the Transport and Works Act 1992, thereby making necessary amendments to the original legislation.
The Minister described the effects of the measure, but I have a few questions. The briefing on the order states that construction of the station at Stratford will create jobs and "act as a catalyst" for east London. She mentioned those effects in her speech. At some point, however, I should like to know how the Government plan to reinforce her comments by proceeding with our Thames gateway strategy, which proposes more privately funded river crossings. Our strategy would build on proposals for a Stratford station by further improving transport infrastructure in east London and unlocking some of the large sites on either side of the river.
On road links, which are mentioned in the order, the Minister recently answered a parliamentary question from me, stating:
no new starts on national schemes are planned for this financial year."—[Official Report, 9 June 1997; Vol. 295, c. 318.]
I should like confirmation that her Department will play its part in building the roads that are necessary not only to make the station a success but to proceed with the regeneration of east London.
There are 56 objections to the works—mostly from organisations preserving their negotiating position—which I know that London and Continental Railways would like to resolve amicably. I should like to know whether any agencies or quangos for which the Minister's Department has responsibility is among the objectors.
In schedule 2, the order also refers to "compulsory purchase and compensation". The Minister will know that two reviews on compensation were in progress at the end of the previous Parliament. One of those—its members were the ombudsman and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration Select Committee—was narrowly and specifically focused on the relatively small number of households that would be affected by the channel tunnel rail link. It would be helpful if at some point, although not necessarily today, we knew what was happening with that review.
There was also a much broader review of compensation generally, involving a number of Government Departments. Again, it would be helpful to have at some point a timetable and details of the Government's approach to that overall review of compensation.
The Minister referred to one of the objections, which related to the provisions for buses and taxis. The Department's briefing note states that there is provision for 2,000 cars. I am sure that there will also be provision for buses and taxis, as the hon. Lady spoke about an integrated transport policy. I very much hope that the promoter will make it possible for people who arrive by bus and taxi to do so as conveniently as those who arrive by car.
I hope that the Minister will not think it churlish if I say that LCR must be allowed to make profits to carry out and pay for the works that we are debating so that it can deliver its share of the bargain. It has entered into substantial commitments, and needs to make a profit to service the equity that it has to raise. I therefore hope that we will be spared some of the more violent rhetoric that we sometimes hear from Labour Members about utilities that make a profit. The private finance initiative can work only if there is also a private profit initiative.
The TWA order is part of the revival of the railway, pioneered by the previous Government. Along with the Heathrow express, Thameslink 2000, the docklands light railway extension to Lewisham, the Croydon tram link and the Jubilee line extension, it is part of the substantial investment in public transport in London that the Government inherited from their predecessors. We welcome the order and give it our full support.
I congratulate the Minister on the way in which she presented the order. I also congratulate the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) who, happily for us, now finds himself her shadow. My hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman have adopted a non-controversial approach to the scheme, which will bring the channel tunnel project to fruition to the benefit of the nation as a whole, rather than, as some of us feared initially, benefiting only London and the south-east.
I must declare an interest, as I am a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and chairman of Travel West Midlands, a bus company based in Birmingham and a wholly owned subsidiary of National Express.
The application under the Transport and Works Act 1992 seeks to put in place the last significant piece of the legislative framework for the channel tunnel rail link project. It will bring the benefits of the rail link to the widest possible community and, from that point of view, should be welcomed, as it has been by my hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman.
The application covers two aspects of the rail link that, at first sight, are quite unrelated. Powers are sought for a combined international and domestic station at Stratford, and for an improved connection between the rail link and the existing railway network in the King's Cross railway lands. However, there is a business relationship between the two.
London and Continental Railways, the promoter of the order, wishes to offer the best possible international service from other major centres as well as London. Its proposals mean that Eurostar trains from, for example, Manchester and the west midlands to the continent will pass directly from the existing network—a modernised network, we hope—on to the rail link via the improved connection which forms part of the application, without having to go to the rail link terminal at St. Pancras and reverse direction there.
Although it is to be welcomed, such a scheme deprives me of a joke, or what passed for a joke when I travelled around the country talking to various interested parties about international services to and from the centres of Europe. The prospect of sitting at St. Pancras station, waiting while the driver walks the length of a 14-coach Eurostar train, is not one to gladden the hearts of those of us who travel from, for example, Birmingham. The fact that the trains will now carry on to the channel tunnel rail link through the new and improved double connection is to be greatly welcomed.
Hon. Members, or the exclusive bunch to whom the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire referred, will be aware that the original CTRL proposals referred only to a single-line connection from the west coast main line to the CTRL. Although it could have been used operationally, one does not have to be an anorak, as rail buffs are sometimes known, to appreciate that a single line is not conducive to trains rushing up and down in both directions, at least not at the same time. The replacement of that original proposal with the double-line link is to be greatly welcomed.
As I suggested, there will be a reduction in journey times as a result of the order. We are now looking at Paris being only four hours from Birmingham and a fraction over five hours from Manchester. Having bypassed St. Pancras as I outlined, those trains will be able to make their London stop at the new Stratford station. When the rail link and the west coast main line connection are open, more than 20 million people in the United Kingdom will live within four hours of Paris. There is therefore a clear business logic to the application, as well as enormous economic and regional benefits to be had from it. I hope that Members representing constituencies along the west coast main line, those—like me—with constituencies in the west midlands and those, again like me, at least hailing from the north-west will recognise the benefits that will result from the proposals.
The scheme will be of great benefit to east London, because there are approximately 120,000 unemployed people living within five miles of the proposed station. The scheme will help my constituents and others and will greatly benefit the economic regeneration of east London as well as cut our travelling times to the continent—it will take about two hours and 15 minutes to travel to Paris from Stratford.
I am doubly heartened to think that my hon. Friend can take members of his family to Paris in two hours and 15 minutes, but he will have to clear that with the Whips Office under the current regime. He is right to point out the benefits that will accrue to his constituency and to the citizens of east London, an area that has high levels of unemployment. As he says, that problem will undoubtedly be alleviated to some extent.
Stratford is already a major public transport hub, soon to benefit further from the opening of the Jubilee line extension. The new international station on the rail link at Stratford will provide a valuable interchange with the wide range of existing public transport services radiating from there, giving much improved international access to north and east London, Essex, docklands and the City.
With the permission of the House, I should like to pay tribute to many hon. Friends, especially those from the Newham area, for fighting a long and successful battle to get an international station at Stratford. There were doubters in all parts of the House. I was never regarded as a great enthusiast myself, and it is enormously to my hon. Friends' credit that they have sold the area that sends them to the House as well and as successfully as they have. The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire mentioned the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), who, in some respects, is the greatest ham of them all. We appreciate that his new and welcome ministerial duties keep him away this afternoon, but he, too, worked very hard to ensure that the proposals came before us in their current form.
The new station at Stratford will have two further dimensions. First, the rail link is intended to be used by domestic trains from north and east Kent to London, thus improving journey times dramatically when compared to travel via the existing routes. Domestic trains will serve the new station so that passengers from Kent will be able to benefit from the interchange opportunities.
Secondly, the new station will act as a focus for the regeneration of the Stratford area, one of the most deprived parts of London. Under the overall framework of the Thames gateway project, to which reference has already been made, the local authorities—led by the London borough of Newham—are working with local landowners and other interests on the redevelopment of the Stratford rail lands to bring new businesses and new employment opportunities which are so badly needed. The new station will be at the heart of the area.
The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire mentioned the need for proper public transport links at the new station, especially for buses. I am sure that he will appreciate that the station will have bus and coach set-down and pick-up points well positioned for the station's entrances and exits. Initially, the route to the station will be via the existing access road from Waterden road. Existing bus services could be extended or re-routed to allow for a stop at the station. A full range of services based on the new Stratford bus station will be accessible to passengers using the international station.
The pattern and routing of buses calling at the international station will be determined by development in the area. My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms) will take a close interest in that during the building of the station and associated works to ensure that essential public transport links are provided from the outset so that the majority of passengers using the station can arrive or depart on public transport.
Major infrastructure projects usually have an environmental and human cost. I am delighted that this scheme is an exception. More than 90 per cent. of the land is railway land already earmarked for the rail link project and is some distance from existing residential areas. Construction will be undertaken as part of the overall rail link work, for which the House has already given permission, and will not add significantly to the environmental impact.
That is not to minimise the importance of the 56 objections that have been made, but, under the procedure set out in the Transport and Works Act 1992, those objections should be carefully considered and the promoter hopes that the majority of those objecting will have their fears soothed. The comprehensive environmental protection regime already put in place will also apply to this scheme.
I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support the scheme, which has many benefits. Support for the order in the House will be consistent with the expressed will of the past Parliament, which strongly supported the principle of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill in both Houses without a Division. Approval of the order will enable the scheme to go forward for detailed consideration at a public inquiry according to the procedures laid down under the Transport and Works Act.
Those of us who have seen the scheme come to fruition through postponements, cancellations and heartache over the years will be delighted that this is the final piece in this railway jigsaw, to misuse a metaphor. It will enable the great civil engineering project of the channel tunnel to bring proper economic benefits in its wake, as all of us who have been associated with it—as I have been since I was elected to the House—have wanted. Those benefits will come not just to Stratford or to London and the south-east, but to the rest of the United Kingdom. I hope that the House will give that approval without a Division, but, if one is necessary, I hope that we shall have an overwhelming majority in favour.
I congratulate the Minister on her appointment. It is a pleasure to see her looking at me with both eyes rather sideways, as used to happen in the last Parliament. I wish her every success and I look forward to debating transport issues with her in the coming months. As the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) said earlier, we have always managed if not to adopt a friendly approach to our debates, at least to stick to the issues rather than concentrating on personalities. I am sure that that will continue.
The Liberal Democrats welcome the order. We are pleased to see significant progress after the many disappointments and postponements that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) referred to. I hope that we can have an assurance that there will be no further delays as the scheme progresses towards completion.
I do not want to take up too much time, because I know that other hon. Members want to contribute to the debate. I should like to address three key issues, to which I hope that the Minister will respond: Stratford station; the north London connection; and public funding.
I asked the Minister about public funding during her speech. I was pleased that she foresaw no further demand on public resources. I hope that she will not be swayed from that view as the scheme progresses.
The development provides significant regeneration opportunities for the area served by Stratford station, with great potential for substantial long-term employment opportunities. We welcome that. There is an expectation in the Department's briefing that the station will encourage greater use of public transport. The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East mentioned bus links.
The success of the station depends on the quality of the public transport links. There must be a comprehensive set of bus priority measures. I note that the car park has a capacity of 2,000. There must be opportunities for a park and ride or a kiss and ride scheme. I hope, most importantly, that the Minister will do all that she can to encourage the creation of quality partnerships between the local authorities and the local bus operators so that the public are offered attractive, efficient and affordable bus links to the new international station.
The success of the station also depends on recognising the concerns that the local authorities have already set out. I note that the promoters intend to negotiate and try to resolve those problems, but I urge the Minister to use her influence to ensure that the promoters make every effort to resolve those fears before the public inquiry. If there are still objections when the public inquiry starts, the scheme will be delayed, which is the last thing that we want.
The twin-track connection in north London is a short but vital rail link to join the channel tunnel rail link with the west coast main line. A direct, high-speed connection from continental Europe, beyond the south-east of England to the west midlands, the north-west and beyond offers significant potential for economic development, regeneration and growth in tourism throughout England. I welcome that prospect and will eagerly support it.
A number of issues are germane to achieving those benefits.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider the fact that the North London line is already at capacity? I approve of diverting Eurostar on to it, but we ought to consider another method of getting rail traffic across from the west and the east, to Felixstowe in particular, by opening up a few routes that could be cheaply provided, allowing the project to go ahead much more effectively.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman's comments because they demonstrate the need to encourage Railtrack to make the investment desperately needed to expand our rail network now so that our railways properly serve the nation as the spine of our national transport system. The hon. Gentleman's point is very valid and I am sure that the Minister will take it on board.
We should also use the north London connection to encourage freight services through the channel tunnel to the north of England. We should promote freight services on the channel tunnel rail link via the north London connection to the west coast main line. That is vital in getting the important shift of freight from road to rail.
What consideration is the Minister giving to promoting freight trains through the channel, up to the west midlands and beyond? Will she grasp the opportunity to create the through-working of freight trains from continental Europe, along the channel tunnel rail link and on to the west coast main line to the north-west? Rail freight could be far more competitive with that opportunity. Are the Government pressing the French Government to accommodate through freight train operations from France to the United Kingdom by allowing freight trains to use the French rail network? Such an agreement would make the channel tunnel rail link much more attractive for freight operations.
I return to the connection between the chunnel and the north of England. It is disappointing that Eurostar services to the north have been delayed until later this year. Can the Minister tell us whether the delay has been caused by Railtrack failing to undertake the necessary upgrading of the rail network?
I welcome the potential for improvements to the North London line. The Minister will, however, be well aware that the line has a poor reputation among its customers. Can she assure me that improvements to North London line services are planned? Will there be improvements in reliability and, most importantly, in passenger safety, as part of the proposals?
The key points are how best to develop Stratford station and how best to develop, through the north London connection, the link between the channel tunnel rail line and the west coast main line. I look forward to the Minister's response.
I declare not only a constituency interest, but the fact that I live in the Lea valley and go for walks in the Bully Point nature reserve to which the Minister referred. It is a delightful and tranquil place. Those from Newham who would destroy it are capable of destroying civilisation itself.
The order is part of the fantasy politics of the London borough of Newham. Newham council calls the project "Gateway to the East", but those of us who know the area call it a gateway to hell. Have you ever been to Stratford town centre, Mr. Deputy Speaker? It is an offer that you could certainly refuse.
Every 20 years, Newham council decides to redevelop Stratford town centre in the most environmentally unfriendly fashion. First, the developers remove every blade of grass and every tree, and then they get rid of the human beings. After that, they dig as big a hole as possible, fill it with concrete and put as many cars as possible on it. That is an accurate description of Stratford town centre. When the councillors realise what a ghastly mess they have made of it, they whinge to the Government and say, "Can we redevelop our town centre with more of your money?" That is why we are here today.
I support the speedy building of the channel tunnel rail link, while expressing disgust at the manner in which the route was chosen. Newham council is concerned not so much with the international railway station as with a huge property development which, in 20 years' time, will contain some of the largest, and most soulless and empty office blocks we have ever seen. The council will then whinge again to the Government and ask whether it can redevelop the town centre.
On the question of the number of jobs likely to be created, Newham council and the promoters shame us with what I might describe as perpetual exponential hyperbole. Do you remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the old axiom that there are lies, damn lies and Newham council lies? When the debate about developing the station at Stratford began some years ago, we were told that the development might create 200 or so jobs. The figure then rose to 2,000 and then to 20,000. At one time, it was even said that the number of jobs might touch 100,000. The truth?
The truth is set out in some of the documents before the House. The station's construction over two years will directly create 430 jobs and a further 100 jobs are likely to be created from what is described as
associated induced and indirect expenditure".
When those people have gone off to the next building site in London, the station operation at Stratford will employ just 70 people—50 for international services and 20 for domestic services. Station retailing will create 30 jobs and a further 28 jobs will be created from what is described as
associated induced and indirect expenditure".
That is not a lot. The job hope is all pie in the sky stuff related to huge fat cat property development at Stratford, and it is part of the hyperbolic statistics for which Newham council and its leader are famed.
My main point in speaking is not to speak ill of Newham council, still less of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms), who will, I hope, catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend came to my general management committee and got a drubbing from one of our representatives. My main aim is to concentrate on the environmental statement that accompanies the order. For a couple of years, I worked for the Government in urban transport. I can say quite comfortably that the environmental statement is slipshod, shoddy, anti-intellectual and based on unsound methodology. The victims of this appalling piece of work are likely to be the residents of Newham and Hackney.
The only public road access to the station is not through Newham, but via Waterden road in Hackney. It will lead into what is currently a 2,000-space car park, but as the promoters will get 80 acres of land in the area, that could easily turn into a 10,000-space car park. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) gave it away—my God, what trouble he has created for himself in the House today!—by calling for park and ride facilities.
Both the previous Government and this Government have assured us that the one thing they will not have is park and ride facilities, because that would spew traffic all over south Hackney and through the roads and homes of people who live in Wick ward and Victoria ward, each of which has three Liberal Democrat councillors. Those residents will be pleased to hear that their Liberal Democrat spokesman wants to make their lives a misery for the next 50 years with park and ride schemes. That will be a disaster for Hackney and will lead to far more road building. It will probably lead to the need to start to build dual carriageways to the station.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) is getting a bit excited. I know that he is a railway buff and I am keen on railway lines too, but that is no reason for him to think that the lives of people in south Hackney should be destroyed or not properly considered in this House.
The hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend will not give way.
The environmental statement does not even consider the effects of the extra traffic on Hackney residents. That is appalling. Worse, it makes no attempt to justify the assumptions used and provides no explanation of how the predicted traffic flow has been derived from those assumptions. There are six people sitting up there. Perhaps they can advise the Minister as to the answers to those questions and explain why assumptions have been made without justification.
Actually, I worked in that Department under a Conservative Government.
It would have been possible to make a number of different assumptions about traffic flow. I can think of at least five. First, there could be more car trips from the west, particularly central London. Secondly, there could be more than nine international trains a day and three trains per hour using the station. Thirdly, more than 50 per cent. of international train passengers might use the station. Fourthly, more than 40 per cent. of international passengers might travel by road and fifthly, more domestic passengers than expected might travel by road. Variation in one or more of those assumptions could change significantly the predicted traffic flows. In fact, the environmental statement makes no reference to any of those possible variations.
Worse, the current proposals make no predictions as to the traffic flows that will result from the associated private developments. That leaves a gigantic black hole in the environmental statement, which refers to very small figures and makes no attempt to justify the assumptions it makes, but when one also considers the private developments and the cars travelling not through Newham, but through Hackney, it is clear that a miserable hell will be created for the people of south Hackney if the associated developments are sufficiently successful for the Minister to claim significant job creation.
I shall not oppose the order, but I believe that the public inquiry should closely examine 10 factors. First is the lack of explanation for the assumptions and conclusions used in the environmental statement concerning traffic and transport. Second is the proposed compulsory acquisition of part of Waterden road. Third is the consequential need to improve the rest of Waterden road up to the Lea interchange and the M11 link. Fourth is the loss of allotments with no compensating proposal for their replacement, on the grounds that such loss of open space cannot be justified without replacement elsewhere.
Fifth—a number of hon. Members have referred to it—is the possible need for additional works on the north London line in the vicinity of the connection and Camden Road station to ensure that international services do not interfere with the operation or expansion of local services to and from Hackney and vice versa.
Sixth is the desirability of ensuring that the proposals for the station allow for the addition of a new surface station on the existing line across the Stratford railway lands to serve their development and the channel tunnel rail link station and further their accessibility by and the promotion of the use of public transport.
Seventh is the desirability of an additional access road from the surrounding road network to the station to enable it to be better served by public road transport, particularly buses. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East for mentioning that.
Eighth is the possible need to limit or reduce the size of the station car parks to discourage travel to the station by road and to encourage access by public transport, but I fear that the hon. Member for Eastleigh has given the game away. The car maniacs are always there and they always win.
Ninth, the gradient of the channel tunnel rail link west of Stratford station should be examined on the grounds that it inhibits the nominated undertaker in fully meeting the undertaking given to Hackney council in the other place concerning the depth of the tunnel beneath Trowbridge estate.
My tenth and final point is the one on which I started—Bully Point. Will Newham really destroy one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the country and will it make my life, living on the River Lea, a complete misery? Surely not.
Coming from a party that has no understanding of internal disputes, I listened with astonishment to the contest that was developing during the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). I found it significant that, at that moment, the Minister for sport entered the Chamber, no doubt looking for some gladiatorial contest. I hope that he was not disappointed.
I must be one of the two longest-serving members of the group that wanted a station at Stratford. It may be surprising to some hon. Members to learn that I first became interested in Stratford when I was trying to persuade British Rail that the channel tunnel rail link should have been on a different route from the one that was finally chosen, and that Stratford was a manifestly sensible place for a station.
British Rail and its successor, Union Rail, had a wonderful preoccupation with what they both termed an aeroplane on wheels. They felt that any stop between terminuses was a total economic disaster and the idea that trains might pick up passengers was an aberration. I am pleased that, over the long years during which the project has been coming to fruition, there has been a change in the undertaker, which has moved from thinking that passengers who got on anywhere other than the starting point were a nuisance to at least giving the impression that passengers should be picked up at several places. That is progress indeed.
It is my first chance to welcome the Under-Secretary to her responsibilities, and I do so gladly. I very much hope that her Government will continue the work of the previous Government in trying to ensure that projects of such a size progress rather faster. This one is doing all right. So far, it will have taken only 17 years to reach its projected final date, but the amount of grief that such a time scale causes to large numbers of our constituents while decisions are taken and the blight settles is intolerable. I hope that we can re-establish the all-party parliamentary group on blight, as we were beginning to make progress towards relieving that burden.
I received the information about the order about two days before I saw the newspaper reports that London and Continental Railways' takings from Eurostar were so poor that the company was likely to defer any works and was certainly deferring its flotation. That worried me considerably, so I got in touch with the company.
Yesterday, I had a long meeting with its representatives, who gave me firm assurances that the company is on track for flotation next year. They were confident of finishing the line and making it operational by 2003. They told me that revenue from the Eurostar services, although somewhat disrupted by a French strike two Christmases ago and by the fire in the tunnel last Christmas, are nevertheless sufficient to give them the confidence to go ahead. I wanted to spell that out, as it would be a betrayal of everyone along the route and everyone affected by the proposal if London and Continental Railways was unable to honour those pledges. It gave them to me in the most firm manner.
One of the great advantages of Stratford is that it will allow international passengers to be carried from one end of the United Kingdom into mainland Europe much more effectively than under previous plans. That is admirable. What bothers me a little is that the promoters say that the channel tunnel link will free up capacity on commuter routes. I was gently derided by Conservative Ministers for many years for suggesting that one day the pattern of commuting would change. I cannot believe that the information technology revolution will not eventually have a dramatic effect on patterns of travel to work.
It is interesting that, after those years of derision, British Telecom at least has thought it worth spending a large sum of money on an advertising campaign that points out that it can now provide offices at home for people who currently commute, thereby allowing people to commute either much less often or not at all. I hope that the Government are taking seriously that possibility.
The income repercussions of a marked change in the pattern of commuting will be considerable unless freight is carried on commuter lines. While the channel tunnel rail link may become a profitable venture as a result of the growth of international travel, domestic travel may well become less profitable and commuters may return to the position in which commuters in my area have been for far too long. Commuter services are under-resourced because it is not profitable to resource them. I ask the Minister to take seriously the possibility, indeed probability, that information technology will change the nature of travel to work in the coming years.
I welcome the station at Stratford. It is an eminently necessary and sensible development and, for the life of me, I cannot understand why the previous companies engaged in the operation were so hostile to it.
I welcome the way in which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions introduced the debate. The channel tunnel rail link will yield big gains to the nation. As much as £6 billion has been estimated. The construction and operation of Stratford station assigns some of those gains to east London. Jobs, regeneration opportunities and significantly improved transport connections are huge benefits which are very welcome. So the station is supported in principle.
However, the project is not cost-free. There is a downside for neighbouring areas such as mine—Leyton, Leytonstone and Wanstead. That downside, in a word, is traffic. My constituency is already overburdened with it, and any extra traffic problems must be considered and ameliorated at an early stage.
The M11 link road remains a bitter bone of contention in Leyton and Wanstead. Promises of improvements for local roads as a result of its construction, which many did not believe at the time of the public inquiries, are already being withdrawn. Rat runs continue in local streets. Traffic delays and congestion on the link road itself due to greater car usage than was originally suggested are acknowledged even before it is built. Leytonstone High road continues to be a major trunk road, even though its part-pedestrianisation was originally mooted. Those broken promises are placing extra burdens on the community.
Traffic associated with Stratford station will upset still further the traffic predictions for the M11 link road. The M11-Lee interchange has been designed to be in balance with the local road network and thereby prevent additional traffic from entering Hackney and Tower Hamlets in peak periods, when the intersection will run at its design capacity. The environmental assessment predicted an extra 400 vehicles per hour—a 42 per cent. Increase—on Waterden road in the morning peak. That will lead to huge problems not only in Hackney and on Waterden road but further back down the link road in Leyton and Wanstead.
There will inevitably be pressure to improve the capacity of Waterden road, but that will also mean higher levels of traffic passing through Leyton and Wanstead, including local streets. That will negate the traffic relief that the M11 link road is supposed to provide, especially in Grove Green road, Leytonstone High road and Cambridge Park. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) made a good point when he said that yet more traffic from the private developments which would follow from the station should be taken into account.
London and Continental Railways, together with the Department of Transport and the relevant boroughs, must make proposals to remedy the problems.
My hon. Friend makes a similar point to the one to which I would have replied had I been allowed to do so by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). I appreciate the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead makes the point.
Of course traffic is a problem. The promoters have given an assurance that there will be both price and physical constraints on commuter traffic to prevent people from railheading in the way that the spokesman for the Liberal party, the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey),favoured. So while my hon. Friend's fears are obvious and can be appreciated, they are not fears which can be generated by the order before the House tonight.
I accept that the order will go to a public inquiry. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those assurances on behalf of the promoters, but boroughs such as mine will want a great deal more than has so far been suggested to deal with the traffic. I hope that my hon. Friend will relay that message to London and Continental Railways.
The environmental statement proposes up to 2,000 car parking spaces in association with the station. No-where in the statement is there justification for that number of spaces. London and Continental Railways should either justify or reduce the number of spaces. Areas surrounding the station such as Leyton and Leytonstone should not be turned into large car parks—certainly not without enormous ameliorating environmental compensation for the area.
Furthermore, there should not be unrestrained increased traffic on Leyton and Leytonstone roads to service Stratford station. Traffic levels on roads into the station need to be kept to the minimum. One way of achieving that is to increase public transport provision into the station. For example, there should be rail services northwards along the Lee valley. Under no circumstances should there be a new road along the Lee valley.
Road access to the station needs to be tightly constrained in order to reduce the damaging environmental effects of traffic in neighbouring areas. That has not yet been properly taken into account.
London and Continental Railways stands to profit a great deal from the Stratford development and the channel tunnel rail link as a whole, but as I have made clear, it is not cost-free. In this private-public partnership, which can benefit all, the cost of dealing with the disbenefits must be met. I believe that they should be met by London and Continental Railways.
I rise with some trepidation, having heard that some hon. Members on both sides of the House have been fighting these battles for a decade or more. My predecessor was in the front line of many of those battles. He served as Member of Parliament for Ashford for more than 20 years, and one of his most earnest wishes was that the channel tunnel rail link project be built during the equivalent amount of time that he expected me to serve in the House.
We may have to improve on the speed so far, I suspect.
I join other hon. Members in supporting the works proposed by the Minister. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) gave one of the most negative expressions of support that I have heard for any proposition.
I want to interject a reservation which will be important for the Stratford area. I draw to the attention of hon. Members with constituencies near Stratford our experience in Ashford, which is further down the process because a station has already been built. Our experience of the disturbance, the effects on traffic and so on will prove relevant to Stratford. By and large, it has been positive.
All reservations about the project must be weighed against the fact that the project should be regarded as an enormous asset, both to those areas of the country through which it runs, and nationally. Inward investment and economic regeneration have come much faster to Ashford because of the existence of the international passenger station. The prospect of a high-speed rail link will not only improve transport links to the continent but allow faster commuting to London and beyond.
However, there has been, and still is, an unfortunate degree of uncertainty about timing and starting dates that has had a severe effect on people whose homes and businesses lie in the way of the link and who will have to move when it is built. One of the things that I have discovered in the past few weeks is that many of those people are disturbed by what they perceive as a lack of openness on the part of London and Continental in giving straight answers to straight questions.
We all know that many questions simply cannot be answered at this stage—no one is being unrealistic about that—but I ask the Minister to use her good offices to urge London and Continental to be more open with people, whether in Ashford or Stratford, who are directly affected by the line's construction and the blight that it already causes, by giving more detailed information about dates and projected building times than it has up to now. I hope that London and Continental will regard the passing of the order as clearing a vital hurdle, and that it will use it as a chance to clear up the uncertainties about the timing of construction work that affects so many people, and that will soon affect more in the Stratford area.
I hope that the flotation will go ahead as fast as possible. I was reassured when my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) said that London and Continental hopes to proceed with flotation next year and then proceed to other building works. I hope even more strongly that firm dates can be attached to the various stages of the project. I congratulate those who have seen the project through so far, and I assure hon. Members that Stratford and the whole east London area will benefit as Ashford is already benefiting. However, the passage of this order must be used to enable regeneration to be accompanied by greater certainty for the business and home owners who are most affected by the line. I appeal to the Minister to use her powers to ensure that London and Continental changes its culture and becomes more open to those people.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the motion strongly. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Minister opened the debate, because of her long interest in the project. I commend the role of London and Continental Railways because, as other hon. Members explained, this has been a long saga. The contribution of London and Continental has been imaginative since its participation began. I have also been impressed by the way in which it has entered into discussions with local community organisations about ways of making sure that the many jobs that will be generated by the construction project will be filled, as far as possible, by unemployed people from Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
I was chair of the planning committee on Newham council when British Rail first suggested that there might be an international station at Stratford. Having aired it, British Rail quickly stepped back from the proposal, but when I briefed colleagues on Newham council about the idea, they were immediately enthusiastic because of the chance it gives to regenerate east London and to bring back economic activity and jobs to an area where thousands from Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets used to gain their livelihood and where today only a handful do. We want economic activity to be brought back.
Does my hon. Friend accept that not only will east London's economic regeneration benefit from the station but that Norwich and East Anglia will benefit from the tremendously improved travel times to London and Europe that will bring us jobs and prosperity? That is why we strongly support the project and the order.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that important point. The support of East Anglia for the project was an important factor in the campaign's success. I am pleased to see my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Cann) in his place.
It was while I was leader of Newham council that I first became aware of the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). Most of us understand how to raise issues with colleagues when policies cause concern, perhaps by a letter, telephone call or meeting. He chose first to draw attention to his views through his column in the Hackney Gazette, where he described me as a lunatic. I note that he has been consistent in his views to this day.
Newham council's campaign for the station at Stratford has been extraordinarily popular. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) is in his place. He is in continual contact with the people of the area because he lives there. Whenever opinion in Stratford has been tested, there has been overwhelming support for bringing jobs back to the Stratford railway lands through this project.
The campaign brought together in a remarkable way the local community, local community organisations, the local authority and local businesses. For that reason, I was especially pleased that the Deputy Prime Minister, in his important speech last week outlining the new Government's policies on regenerating our cities, picked out the Stratford Promoters Group as an example of successful partnership.
Speaking in Tower Hamlets, he referred to the group as a "spectacular success", and said:
Let me give you one example from the neighbouring Borough of Newham. Some years ago, the local authority and other local partners brought together the Stratford Promoters Group which lobbied hard and effectively for an International Passenger Station at Stratford … That is the sort of partnership I want to see.
He was right to say that it has been a very successful partnership with the local community, and I am delighted that it has led to the success that we are noting today by supporting the order.
There are many people whose role in the campaign has been mentioned. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), who speaks from the Opposition Front Bench. He has taken an interest in the project for a long time. He was much more supportive when in office than some of his predecessors, who were positively unwilling to support the station proposal.
I pay tribute also to the members of the Select Committee who considered the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill as it then was, including my hon. Friends the Members for Ipswich (Mr. Cann) and for Pendle (Mr. Prentice). Their conclusion that the station at Stratford was in the national interest was an important step towards the Government's agreement that there should be a station at Stratford.
It is important in east London to bring back economic activity and jobs into an area from which they have long disappeared, in huge numbers. I think that Stratford will be the London hub for the future national high-speed railway network. The Stratford railway land is a 120-hectare site that is important strategically for the future of east London. The international station will have a vital role in attracting development to Stratford, Newham and the Thames gateway as a whole.
Stratford will underpin the importance of London as a world city. We are talking not of a local issue but one that is regional, Londonwide and national. We expect that when the rail land is fully developed, there will be about 15,000 jobs on site. The project will make a huge contribution to the regeneration of east London and to raising the level of prosperity in the area generally. It is a contribution that is very much needed.
I make a request through my hon. Friend the Minister to London and Continental Railways—that it should be willing to work with the local authority and potential development partners to ensure that the plan for the station site and the construction of the station building is of a sort that leads to successful long-term development of an enormous site.
I well understand the pressures that London and Continental is now under, but it is in its interests and those of the local communities that we should ensure that the development of the station itself contributes to the wider development of the site and the prosperity that results from that.
The station will be a great step forward for east London, but there are some important environmental issues still to be resolved. There is no threat to Bully Point. I do not expect to see a 2,000-space car park on that site. These, however, are matters that need to be resolved in discussions between the local authorities, London and Continental and potential developers, and they can be resolved. Let no one in the House underestimate the immense popularity in the locality of the proposal and the widespread support that there is for it.
With the leave of the House, I shall respond to the debate. It seems that there is a feeling on both sides of the Chamber that the order should be passed. I hope that that will be the outcome of the debate.
The right hon.Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), who speaks for the Opposition from the Front Bench, said, if I might paraphrase, that he saw the usual faces in the Chamber for the debate although they seem to represent different areas. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, has a brand-new constituency.
I shall link the issue of compensation that the right hon. Gentleman raised with the questions put by the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) on planning procedures and blight. Before doing so, however,I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome to me.
The Government expect the final report of the interdepartmental group on blight later this year. The draft scheme on redress, which was put to the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration shortly before the general election, is being considered as to the best way forward.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) for his contribution to the debate, which was especially helpful to the House in detailing what is so important about the order. Without the order, there can be no next step. My hon. Friend highlighted the importance of the development that we are discussing, stemming from his lifelong commitment to and knowledge of the importance of railways. He highlighted, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes), in an intervention, the importance of the scheme going forward, not least for employment opportunities. The point was highlighted also in another intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke).
The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) seemed mostly to be concerned about issues that in essence, if the order is accepted, will be the responsibility of the public inquiry. That theme ran through many of the contributions of hon. Members. Everyone in this place shares concern over environmental issues. There is little doubt, should the order be accepted, that the public inquiry will examine these issues in no small detail.
The hon. Member for Eastleigh raised also the issue of freight and the development of it. In essence, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, the channel tunnel rail link is a high-speed link to carry passengers. If, however, the order is accepted and if the links are made, along with the construction of the station, existing lines will be released. Freight will be able to be carried on the channel tunnel rail link and there will be additional capacity on existing lines.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), in a typically robust contribution, claimed that he had not come to the Chamber to speak ill of Newham council. May I say to him that he could have fooled me? However, my hon. Friend was mostly concerned about the environment, which is an issue more properly examined at the public inquiry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Mr. Cohen) talked also of environmental concerns. He, too, said that we must move away from an over-dependency on car usage, and that is central to the Government's thinking. That can be most speedily progressed by the creation of a properly integrated public transport system.
The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) took up, in a sense, one of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms). I have no doubt that London and Continental will pick it up and act on it with some speed. It is important for the speedy development of projects such as the one that we are discussing that there be great openness between the developer and the local communities. Should the order be passed, should the report of the public inquiry advise and should the Secretary of State so order, there must be close working between the developer and the communities.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham. I am delighted to see that the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), is sitting next to my hon. Friend. I had little doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham would be here in spirit, and it is more of a pleasure to see that he is here in the flesh, albeit that he has not chosen to delight the Chamber with a contribution to the debate.
We pay tribute to the work, the dedication and the energy which my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham has brought consistently to the project that we are considering. He has never flagged or failed in his belief in the project and the benefits that it can bring to his constituency, to London and to the country as a whole.
If I have not answered any questions raised this afternoon, I shall write to hon. Members. I remind the House that agreeing to the order will not be decisive but it will enable an application to go forward to a public inquiry, with a clear endorsement, assuming that it is agreed in another place, in principle by Parliament. I commend the application to the House and invite Members to approve the order.
That this House, pursuant to section 9(4) of the Transport and Works Act 1992 ("the Act") as applied by section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, approves the following proposals, contained in an application for an Order submitted under section 6 of the Act by Eurostar (UK) Limited on 23rd January 1997 and entitled The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Stratford Station and Subsidiary Works) Order, for