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Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 3rd June 1998.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 3:31 pm, 3rd June 1998

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister on behalf all of those businesses and households in Ashford that have suffered the uncertainty caused by blight, which will be relieved to know that at least that end of the line will be going ahead relatively quickly, but may I ask him for two assurances?

First, the right hon. Gentleman said that the environmental protection measures would be exactly the same as those agreed in the original Bill. Given that the Government will now take a direct financial and managerial interest in this project, will he accept from now on responsibility for ensuring that those environmental conditions are met? Many of my constituents are concerned that Rail Link Engineering and London and Continental Railways have been trying to bend the rules, if you like, to try to avoid some of the environmental considerations.

Secondly, my biggest regret about the statement was that it was made as though there were simply one station on the line this side of the channel tunnel—at Waterloo. Part of the problem of London and Continental's management is that it has consistently undervalued Ashford station's potential. I hope that, with the new management in place, London and Continental will recognise the importance of Ashford station not just for my constituency, but for environmental reasons. Having people travelling into central London via a relatively under-used station, rather than travelling on the M25 and M20, would be extremely helpful for the whole of south-east England.