I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that the Minister will look seriously at other alternatives we could also have, such as going into Thamesmead or wherever with the docklands light railway or something. That could help not only our regeneration, but the existing population who live there and need to commute.
I will not go into all the benefits that an extension of Crossrail to Ebbsfleet would bring, other than that it would help to deliver the Government’s housing and industrial strategies, directly unlocking 55,000 homes and 50,000 jobs, as well as supporting thousands more across the sub-region. It would also deliver a vital strategic link between HS1 destinations, Canary Wharf and London City airport, and onwards to the City of London and Heathrow. With our roads so congested in south-east London, it would be a godsend to travellers and commuters. The Department has certainly procrastinated a bit on this matter and we need some action.
The Thames gateway has huge potential for economic growth and development. It has huge opportunities for the development of brownfield sites, yet connectivity is significantly holding things back. In pushing forward the original plans, we would have a unique opportunity to transform our area. When the Secretary of State visited Bexley, we highlighted the problems with our existing rail service, the problems with there being no decision on the franchise, the problems with Crossrail and the problem that when things break down, we are in difficulty.
We need the new franchise. We need Crossrail to open. We need the finance to pursue the business case for the Crossrail to Ebbsfleet campaign. I hope the Minister will respond positively.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks wants to say a couple of words, if that is acceptable, Sir Henry. He has a slightly different perspective, being somewhat further out into Kent. We are suburban south-east London and Dartford, and we are a little region.
It is a privilege to be able to raise these matters on behalf of my constituents and my borough, and neighbouring boroughs and constituents. Their Members of Parliament have worked tirelessly together, across parties, to get things done and to improve the facilities and services for our constituents.