|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 663support the Bill in principle, such as the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside, will in any event vote in favour of the instructions.
Let me ask a question that all my constituents, and those in neighbouring constituencies, are asking : who are the villains of the piece? British Rail stands accused of incompetence--there can be no doubt of that--but I think that the Government are the real villains. They have said that British Rail must make a profit, and everything else comes second--the regional implications, the implications for the environment and the implications for homes and traffic. British Rail must make a profit and account for it to the Government ; as long as that is done the Government are not interested in anything else.
Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : Are not the real villains of the piece the narrow-minded interests in the London community who want to shut out what will be a very important development for us in the north? Many people in the north want to make the best possible use of Europe after 1992. Here is a golden opportunity for them to develop a direct rail link with the Channel tunnel, with all the opportunities that that in turn involves, but all that we have heard from the hon. Lady is a disgraceful speech about the narrow interests of the people of Peckham.
Ms. Harman : The hon. Gentleman's intervention was both ignorant and offensive. He has not heard the speeches opposing Second Reading ; he has simply drifted into the Chamber. He has clearly not read the Order Paper either. Let me remind him that one of the instructions, which I support, proposes
"an Instruction to the Committee that they shall take evidence and report to the House on the capacity of the
Column 664proposed works to provide for fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the Channel Tunnel and the Midlands, North and Scotland"--
and, no doubt, even Stockton.
I did not wish to repeat what my hon. Friends have said, but I said at the outset of my speech that I supported them. I have not yet got into the habit that many hon. Members have acquired of repeating each other's remarks over and over again ; I have sought to represent my constituents. But I think that I have taken too much time in replying to the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Devlin), whose comment was obviously frivolous and not worth answering.
Mr. Chris Smith : The hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) has only recently come into the Chamber. He made a disgraceful comment about my hon. Friend's speech. It is clear that he has not heard of the massive destruction of homes, jobs and livelihoods and of the destruction of an entire neighbourhood that the Bill will bring about. I do not call narrow-minded the opposition of those who live in the area and whose lives will be profoundly affected by the Bill.
I have already said that the villains of the piece are British Rail for incompetence and the Government for caring only about profit, not about wider transport considerations and people. We know who the victims of the Bill will be. They will be people in Kent, south-east London, King's Cross, Wales, the north, Scotland and the south-west who are hoping that the Channel tunnel will spell economic regeneration for those areas. I hope that the House will vote against the Bill. If, by any chance, it is given a Second Reading, I implore hon. Members to vote for both the instructions that stand in my name and those of my hon. Friends and of Conservative Members.
Column 66510.35 pm
Mr. Alan Amos (Hexham) : I have listened very carefully for some hours to the arguments on both sides, because I understand the strength of feeling. However, I return to my original belief that anyone who genuinely believes in the regional development of this country and who wants the north to have a fair share in the economic prosperity of the nation must enthusiastically support the Bill.
As a north-eastern Member of Parliament, I see 1992 and the Channel tunnel as golden opportunities and as an exciting development for my constituents in Hexham and elsewhere in the north-east. For the first time ever in history, they will be nearer to the centre, the heart of continental Europe. However, there is a real danger that resources and attention will shift to the centre unless there is access to the regions and unless that access is made as easy as possible. A direct through rail link between the north-east and the Channel tunnel is essential. With adequate capacity, it could meet what I believe will be a significant growth in both passenger and freight traffic in the foreseeable future--far in excess of anything that is currently being predicted.
With its connections to the north-east, only King's Cross, in my opinion, will provide that vital link. I believe that that view is held almost unanimously in the north-east. The establishment of a second international terminal at King's Cross will eventually link cities such as Newcastle and Naples. I hope that eventually it will link cities and towns such as Hamburg and Hexham.
King's Cross will provide a convenient and modern interchange between international through services and a vast array of domestic rail and Underground services, linking the continent, central London and Britain's regions. I echo the words of the Northern Region Councils Association which says that King's Cross is fundamentally important to the northern region. It continues :
"Unless this and other decisions are taken, the regions face the prospect of the Thames replacing the Channel as a barrier to trade with Europe."
The Northern Region CBI also says that a terminal at King's Cross will have
"an important bearing on the future prospects of the Region." I am afraid that one is closing one's eyes if one does not honestly believe that people in the north-east regard the link at King's Cross as vital to that region.
Mr. Dobson : In view of the hon. Gentleman's obvious and sensible commitment to fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the north-east and the Channel tunnel, does he intend to support the instruction? All we are asking British Rail to do in the instruction is to prove what it claims it is trying to do.
Mr. Devlin : Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) recently visited my region to tell us how awful it was? He said that it was unemployed and being run down continuously. He caused grave offence to many people in
Column 666the region, who regarded him as a London Member of Parliament who had visited the area merely to tell us bad things about the north-east. When my hon. Friend frames his reply to the hon. Gentleman, he should bear in mind the fact that the hon. Gentleman is no friend of the north-east, and nor is the Labour party.
Mr. Dobson rose --
Apart from the significant short-term and other advantages in the choice of King's Cross, such as a more frequent Thameslink service connecting Gatwick airport, I am mostly concerned about the Bill's effect on the north-east. It will be an inexplicable tragedy with far-reaching consequences if the Bill is not given a Second Reading. The new international terminal will be linked to a new terminal building connecting main line King's Cross and St. Pancras. International trains will run between the north-east and Scotland to the heart of continental Europe on the continental rail network. There will be easy interchanges between other international trains and InterCity services on the east coast main line, which will be entirely electrified to Newcastle and beyond by 1991.
In addition, passengers from the north-east will have improved services from King's Cross on Network SouthEast to Bedford, Brighton and King's Lynn, linking the home counties and beyond, and also from St. Pancras to the east midlands. We are talking about not only better through services but better connecting services from King's Cross, with the interchange network that it will create. My constituents, who have as much interest in where the terminal is based as anyone else, will benefit from better international and domestic travel arrangements. Two new approach tracks--on the east coast main line north of King's Cross and a link between the east coast main line and St. Pancras--will combine to provide travellers with a wider range of services.
British Rail is under an obligation to make its scheme commercially justifiable, and we accept that. It must consider demand for its service at King's Cross compared with alternative sites. We are told--the figure may or may not be correct--that three quarters of passenger demand for international passenger services is forecast to arise in London and the south-east. That means that at least a quarter--I suspect that it will be more--of the demand will be from the regions. It is therefore essential that any terminal is located where routes from the regions and London and the south-east best converge and where it can be facilitated with the least congestion. That involves a number of requirements. First, there must be quick, regular access to central London by the Underground, bus, taxi and car. Secondly, there must be access for through trains to the north and beyond. Thirdly, there must be frequent and reliable connections to local InterCity services to destinations not served by through routes--the onward journeys to which I referred.
The advantages of King's Cross are way ahead of any alternative, such as access to central London. It is served by five Underground lines, and there are many bus services. I am prepared to accept that no road in London
Column 667is not already over-congested, but it is adjacent to a wide and major road. It is already one of the best terminals for onward travel.
Mr. Corbyn : Before the hon. Gentleman rushes past the subject with a two-second jab at London's traffic jams, I must ask him whether he realises that London's traffic problems are horrendous. Those of us who represent constituencies to the north of King's Cross are concerned that, if only 15 per cent. of passengers travel to and from King's Cross station by car, the congestion up to the M1 will be quite intolerable.
His dismissive attitude to London's traffic does the hon. Gentleman no good at all. He should recognise that siting the terminal at King's Cross will create impossible congestion on the road system of north London. The people of north London do not want any more roads. They are opposed to more road building, and they believe that traffic should be sent round London and that railways rather than the ludicrous development the hon. Gentleman appears to support should be encouraged.
Mr. Amos : The hon. Gentleman has raised some interesting points, which can be easily shot down. It is absurd to say that the people of London do not want extra roads. I live in London from Monday to Thursday, and I want extra roads. The hon. Gentleman talked about congestion in London. This afternoon I went for a test drive with autoguide. That is a way forward, and I hope that Opposition Members will not oppose it in Committee. The hon. Gentleman said that the terminal would create more congestion and should be opposed on that basis alone. That is to put his head in the sand. The answer is to find ways to relieve the congestion, not to say that we do not want a terminal there because it will cause congestion.
Mr. Amos : It will cause less congestion than the alternatives which I shall outline ; I am giving reasons for the choice of King's Cross. King's Cross, as I have said, is linked with five Underground lines. Stratford, the only alternative, is linked to one. It is idle and incorrect to assume that, as soon as someone arrives at King's Cross, he will get into his car and travel north. Many passengers will take the Underground and go west to the hotel district or Heathrow, or take InterCity trains to Newcastle.
Mr. Tredinnick : Although my hon. Friend has sat throughout the whole debate, it is notable that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) has spent little time in the Chamber. Perhaps he should have spent some time in the Chamber if he is going to challenge my hon. Friend.
My other point was that, in assessing the viability of King's Cross, we should assess its access for through trains and connecting trains. King's Cross is one of the best termini for onward travel, whether for London to the south-east and East Anglia, to the north-east and Scotland, for the Thameslink to the south coast or for connections to the east midlands via St. Pancras. King's Cross will further establish the principle of the practical possibility of more through London services.
Column 668This project is of national and international importance and we must consider it in that context. Stratford is not a serious or realistic alternative. All the criteria to which I have referred would be met badly if Stratford were to be chosen. Access to central London is via one Underground line--the Central line--and it is absurd even to suggest the possibility of passengers coming under the Channel, destined for central London, having to arrive in outer London at Stratford to come back into central London for hotels or onward arrangements. Stratford has one Tube line, which is already overloaded.
There are other ways into central London, such as by taxi, but it is over five miles from Stratford. Are we seriously suggesting that people should have to pay for an expensive taxi journey into central London? Most people, of course, will be going not to central London but to west London--either to Heathrow or the hotel district--so one is talking about expensive taxi rides, which would be the only way into central London. Access to other destinations is the other criterion by which Stratford should be judged. Stratford is no good for the regions. The rail station at Stratford, which I use occasionally, is geared to East Anglia and to nowhere else. I do not see why the northern region should be second best when considering this major terminal.
Let us accept that, if we want a second international terminal, it must be at King's Cross. King's Cross provides direct onward travel to Heathrow and Gatwick airports. It is significant that no hon. Member this evening has mentioned the onward travel arrangements from this terminal. It is fairly obvious that many passengers will want to go on to Heathrow and Gatwick. King's Cross is well placed for that because it is on the Piccadilly line to Heathrow and directly linked to Victoria station for Gatwick. The InterCity network is excellent. Network South-East is ideal
We are talking about a project that would link captial cities, and hon. Members should bear in mind that international dimension. I recently attended a meeting with the French side of Eurotunnel and I was amazed and impressed to discover how quickly and enthusiastically it was getting on with providing access to, and onward travel from, the Channel tunnel.
In King's Cross we have a site that already meets the necessary and reasonable requirements of an international terminal. Because of its poor location and accessibility, Stratford would not be used by passengers ; it would be shunned by them and they would go to Waterloo or elsewhere instead. Stratford simply cannot meet the requirements of passengers travelling to central London or beyond.
Mr. Pike : If the hon. Gentleman is so confident about the regions, why is he not prepared to support the instruction in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), which would serve only to prove the case? Let us have it in the open ; let him support that instruction.
Column 669why I support the proposal to locate the terminus at King's Cross. In a few minutes I shall say why I want us to stop shilly-shallying and finding all sorts of reasons why we should not go ahead with the project. We should get on with it.
If King's Cross is chosen, the terminus for travellers from the north-east will become a much less unhygienic and unsavoury place in which to arrive and from which to depart. At the moment, King's Cross is not a very nice station for my constituents to arrive at or leave from, but once the interchange network is established and built, as I hope it will be, there will be tremendous improvements at King's Cross.
Mr. Amos : The detailed plans and design provide for more capacity, and the station will be cleaner and more modern. It will not be the present station slightly enlarged ; it will be a different station--a whole new complex. The hon. Gentleman must extend his horizons, rather than thinking only of all the negative factors. If we say that we do not want King's Cross to be the site, we shall be back to square one and the hon. Gentleman and his constituents will be the first to complain that in comparison with the French terminus ours is inadequate and dirty. The new King's Cross will be cleaner and more modern and it will have new shops and restaurants. That is what we are trying to build, and the hon. Gentleman should support us.
Mr. Dobson : I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman has not followed the argument mounted by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and myself. Our view is that, if the station is to be at King's Cross, it should occupy the 125 acres of land behind the present King's Cross station, on which a magnificent Eurostation could be built. What we object to is the idea of digging a dump under the existing station, which is what the Bill proposes.
Mr. Amos : That is another example of narrow thinking. The hon. Gentleman has his head in the sand. He talks about a "dump" underground. He must go to Paris and see the underground dump there. The French have linked their rail network. It is underground, in the centre of the capital city. It does not have to be a dump. The hon. Gentleman should extend his horizons.
Opposition Members have constantly referred to British Rail's land which it may want to sell. I do not blame it for that. The land belongs to British Rail. It must make a commercial decision. If selling the land helps it to produce the new interchange that will be convenient for my constituents, I will happily support it. Hon. Members cannot criticise British Rail for wanting to sell land that it does not need. It can build a good interchange underneath the city, just as there is in Paris--which works. I suggest that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras should see it.
Column 670Let us ignore the NIMBY syndrome in certain vested interests and build Europe's largest transport interchange. The one in Paris proves that such a project is possible. Of course I accept the reservations about architectural changes. It is up to the Bill to take them into account. In return for our faith in British Rail's and London Underground's project, Conservative Members expect from British Rail a much better, more frequent, reliable and punctual service. We expect also a station that is clean and has adequate seating, shops and places to eat. Above all, we expect enough free trolleys for international passengers arriving with heavy luggage.
I note that one fifth of the expenditure on the project will be undertaken by London Underground. It is incumbent upon London Underground not again to let down the people of London and of the whole country by bad management, poor planning, unreliable service and a totally unsatisfactory network.
I agree that, if more passengers are to use King's Cross, there must be not only more ticket halls and subways but more trains to take passengers. We will not solve the problem by opposing the Bill. We must get on to London Underground and make sure that it honours its obligations to the people of London. It has not done so in the past 10 years. It has been a disgrace.
I hope that the Bill is given a Second Reading. I regret that no Opposition Member from the north-east has been present to support the measure. [Interruption.] I inform Opposition Members who have been sniggering for the past few minutes that the people of the north-east have as much interest in the second terminal as the people of London have. It is facetious of Opposition Members to snigger at the concept that the hon. Member for Hexham, which is 300 miles from London, does not have as much interest in the second terminal as they have. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike), who again is sniggering, has advanced no reason why Stratford is better than King's Cross. He has not told the House why it is more convenient to get into central London from Stratford or how the people from Hexham or the north-east in general can get from Stratford to their region and to Scotland. It is a disgrace that no Opposition Member has supported the King's Cross terminal.
Government--their ability to convert a golden opportunity and a one-off chance to a near disaster. That is particularly evident when history has delivered the Government a chance which will not occur again in hon. Members' lifetimes. North sea oil has been frittered away. There will be no other chance of that nature. The same applies to the Channel tunnel. The opportunity is unrepeatable, certainly in our lifetimes, and probably for many lifetimes to come. Unless the right decisions are taken, the Channel tunnel will become a dead end, especially for the people of my region. It appears that again tonight, at the Government's behest, British Rail is frittering away the chance to create further economic expansion and further bonuses in the east midlands. That is a great tragedy for the people of my constituency, my town, my shire and the east midlands as a whole. As many of my hon. Friends have pointed out, British Rail appears to be botching along. It is making its policy
Column 671up as it goes along, and is using piecemeal decision making rather than referring to any overall strategy or real planning. However, I for one do not blame British Rail for that because it is working within the constraints that have been set by Government. It is not its direct responsibility that this piecemeal operation is taking place. It is the restrictions placed on British Rail and the fact that it is not allowed to continue with strategic planning that has led it into this position. I refer to the financial constraints, the refusal to have a national strategy for transport and the refusal to plan properly so that British Rail can take long-term investment decisions rather than these short-term, botched decisions just to make its return on capital.
All those things would become evident if proper scrutiny were given to the Bill and that is the one thing that can be avoided by the use of the private Bill procedure. There cannot be a proper, full public inquiry so that all points of view can be aired, whether about the Stratford interchange, electrification or the type of locomotive power to be used. None of those broader issues, including, above all the strategic implications of the Channel tunnel to 1992, can be assessed through the private Bill procedure. The procedure is an anachronism ; it is wrong ; and the sooner that it is done away with, either by this Government or by the next Labour Government, the better. This matter deserves to go to a full public inquiry so that every facet of the issue can be examined in the full light of publicity. Unfortunately, that will not take place.
Like many colleagues in the House, I have received representations from several quarters. One fascinating thing about this issue is that representations have not just come from the trade unions, from the chambers of commerce, from only Labour or only Conservative Members--they have come from across the whole spectrum. Typical of those representations is one that I have received from the leader of Nottinghamshire county council, which states :
"Local interests may not be able to put their own case fully, as they would at a local inquiry."
The fact that this procedure is being used makes this episode a shameful one that will return to haunt Governments of any political complexion over the next 30 years. The erroneous decision to go ahead with these proposals for King's Cross without a strategic network or an overall planning framework will live with us for many years to come.
It is the Government's imposition of unrealistic and short-term financial targets on British Rail that has produced the investment decisions, or rather the lack of long-term investment decisions, that are characterised in the proposal that we are considering tonight. The way in which the railway system in Britain has been neglected means that there is a strong argument for saying that a catching-up programme is now required.
British Rail receives £800 million, or thereabouts, in support from Government ; in France, the figure is £1,800 million and in West Germany the figure is £4,500 million. Over the past decade the neglect and hostility to investing in anything in public ownership, such as British Rail, has overtly or covertly sought to make railways in this country fail. That misdemeanour must now be rectified if Britain is to become an equal partner in Europe. The east midlands,
Column 672above all, cannot afford to mortgage its future by allowing short-sightedness and dogmatic hostility to rule investment in public utilities.
Britain has planned to spend £500 million to include not only the route infrastructure, but the cost of a new London terminal. The French have budgeted about £1,200 million for their high-speed line to the tunnel, which does not include the ring route around Paris, and does not take into account their other investments in rolling stock, new lines to Lyon and the Atlantic line. Our investment in Britain must at least match that of the French, because our market potential is five times greater than theirs.
I, like many other hon. Members, in response to inquiries, have received a letter from Sir Bob Reid, the British Railways Board chairman, in which he has underlined the uncertainty of British Rail's investment framework. Because it cannot invest long term, it cannot make strategic decisions. It is caught in the chicken and egg situation. It wishes the initial demand to come from businesses, which say that they need, for example, a terminal or a goods yard, but businesses are looking to British Rail to provide facilities and, therefore, stimulate demand.
That uncertainty is typified in Sir Bob Reid's letter, where he says :
"any scheme is only likely to work if there is adequate demand from freight forwarders to justify the terminal and the service, and if the terminal can be financed as a joint venture project with local authorities and developers".
Each side waits for the other to move. Without that essential overall planning framework, there is stalemate and a King's Cross terminal will be built without the investment that is so essential to the east midlands region.
Another strange example of the poor investment decisions is the King's Cross surplus railway land. I understand that, because of the high return required on capital, British Rail, instead of using that vast amount of land that is at the side of the tracks on which to build the interchange, is keeping aside that land to profit from speculative office building and will then go to the great expense of building underground. That is madness. Anyone coming into St. Pancras or King's Cross can see those 125 acres of unused land. Those acres are being put aside instead of being used for the ideal location of an overground interchange. I believe that British Rail is doing that rather than having a long-term overview and providing an extensive network of interchange lines and platforms on that land, because it needs to make the money on the land sale to meet the rates of return set by the Government.
At present every British Rail proposal must be judged by narrow commercial criteria set by the Government--including a 7 per cent. financial rate of return. It was on those grounds that British Rail refused to consider electrification of the midland main line before the end of the century. The Channel Tunnel Act 1987 makes the position far worse, in that it reinforces the criteria and states that any facilities or services provided by British Rail must adhere to the commercial remit. The Government do not consider relevant social need, public interest, environmental consideration or relief of road and air congestion. Yet in France--our nearest continental neighbour--the Government's criteria for investment decisions include all those aforementioned factors. That would appear to be not only sensible, but essential.
Column 673The commercial interests in the east midlands also reject the Government's approach. The regional chamber of commerce has called for substantial public investment in infrastructure to provide access for our region to the tunnel. I am pleased to say that several regional Conservative Members also strongly support that contention. Local authorities of all political colours are actively trying to attract national and international investment into the region on the basis of its excellent communications. That will be a hollow joke as traffic goes up the west and east coast lines. The starting point for improved rail communications must be a complete rejection of the narrow accounting practices in favour of a national economic approach to regenerate our area and other areas.
A once-in-a-century project, such as the channel tunnel, requires planning. It is planning that is anathema to the Government. That ideological refusal to consider planning, even in this context, is a major reason why the east midlands may end up being on the receiving end of an economic disaster. We need a package which does not just pick up individual items piecemeal, but which includes a view about industrial regeneration in all our manufacturing, services and other economic sectors. We have to tie in the infrastructure with that sort of economic overview. That means the direction and location of jobs, wherever the lines that will benefit from the Channel tunnel and 1992 will lead. To ignore that is to ignore the basic responsibilities of Government. The package must be for the United Kingdom as a whole--not merely for the south-east, but for all regions. Above all, the package must include the east midlands.
The east midlands will be bypassed by the proposed developments. To ensure that we are not bypassed and that our region does not become piggy in the middle and an economic backwater, we need
electrification of the midland main line. A business man in Rome, or perhaps even Moscow or Brussels, will examine the rail map before he makes his long-term freighting, commercial or investment decisions. If the east or west coast lines are electrified and the midland main line is not, it may be an important consideration in deciding where to locate and ship to, and where passenger traffic goes. Even if it is merely a matter of status that the east midlands is not electrified and other regions are, it could have an immense knock-on effect on the economic viability of our area.
I understand that the east midlands line is not to be electrified. The Bill will have a detrimental effect unless we can campaign across party lines to ensure that the line is electrified. I have a letter from Mr. Kirkby, the vice-chairman of the British Railways Board, who states clearly :
"it will not be possible to run day trains beyond the electrified network, as we will have to use permanently coupled electric trains, specially designed to meet the exacting specifications of the Channel Tunnel and the high speed links on either side."
That is Mr. Kirkby's view and, other than his chairman, there is no one higher on the British Railways Board. If that is to be the case, a large amount of through traffic will not have the option of entering Nottingham and the other stations along the line in the east midlands, which would be a tragedy.
Mr. Devlin : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman feels, as I do, that the cause of regional development is good and worthy of support. Is not that the reason why it is important that the main terminal should be built at King's
Column 674Cross, which is on the main east coast line? The only alternative that has been put forward is Stratford which, as he knows, is not connected to the main east coast line. Would he also accept that King's Cross is next to St. Pancras which serves Nottingham? Would he further accept that the east coast main line, which I travel up and down on most weeks, has a train station at Grantham, which is not far away from the area that he represents?
Mr. Allen : The King's Cross option is the one that I and many people in the east midlands favour. However, it is only fair and apposite to consider all options. Unfortunately, if the instruction is not carried tonight we shall be merely rubber stamping a decision that should have been taken under full public analysis. I want to present a case to a public inquiry or to a committee showing why King's Cross is right and other options are not. I would like county councils, city councils, trade unions, chambers of commerce, and so on, to have that option which will be denied us tonight.
The difficulty about merely the east coast line being electrified is that if one has the option of continuing up the east coast line rather than getting off at Grantham and catching a Sprinter across, investment will probably be made along that line rather than in other areas. That is a matter of great concern to Members involved in the east midlands from both sides of the House.
The other reason that I would stress that we need a package for the east midlands rather than merely a super station at King's Cross is so that we can also benefit from the international freight traffic that will arise from the Channel tunnel and, particularly, from 1992. As they currently stand, the proposals for an international freight depot are dubious. British Rail is waiting for the demand from business and business is waiting for some indication from British Rail that it is serious about an international freight depot in the west midlands, at Toton, near Nottingham.
Unfortunately, such a chicken and egg situation is not viable. If one is planning long term, there must be clarity about how all the factors will fit together. For example, in France, there are already plans for 240 freight yards, all with direct access to the tunnel. Perhaps the Minister will say how many freight yards are planned for the United Kingdom-- probably no more than a handful with direct access to the tunnel.
Mr. Cryer : Is the drift of my hon. Friend's remarks that those hon. Members representing provincial areas should vote against the Bill unless British Rail accept the instruction which makes it absolutely clear that the Committee should investigate the necessity of the
"capacity of the proposed works to provide for fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the Channel Tunnel and the Midlands, North and Scotland"?
Is he saying that unless this instruction is carried--so far, British Rail has refused to accept it--the scheme may become so congested that it will be of no benefit to constituents in the east midlands, Bradford, Leeds and the north-east?
Mr. Allen : Voting for the King's Cross proposal as a trigger for economic development may well prove to be the trigger of the gun that shoots industry and commerce through the head in the east midlands. None the less, an international interchange is an essential prerequisite for further development. We need one, wherever it is to be
Column 675located. Only then shall we ensure that the traffic generated by our trading links through the tunnel with the European community is directed where we think it appropriate. The problem is that there is no serious strategy on where international passenger and freight traffic should go. I endorse what my hon. Friend said about that. Rail freight becomes competitive with road freight at about 250 miles distance between collection and delivery. That distance will become unexceptional after 1992 and free movement within the EEC. The present plans seem deliberately designed to remove that competitive edge by inserting unnecessary delays and excursions. The east midlands, particularly, will be trapped between the two bows of the electrified east and west coast lines.
Economic development in this country requires long-term investment. It will not happen of its own accord. The Government are happy to let this Bill go through without having thought about it or taken evidence from the parties concerned ; they seem content not to invest in an east midlands rail link or to provide long term planning for the freight terminal at Toton which everyone wants.
The Government can bribe Kent with £500 million to placate the electorate's environmental worries, but when the lifeblood of the east midlands is at stake, and a mere £100 million would electrify the line from St. Pancras up through the east midlands, the Government are not prepared to invest the money. It would be recouped many times over. The Government are being hypocritical and deceitful, and the Bill is inadequate.
The east midlands is united on this as I have never seen it united before. Across parties and industrial divides, from Nottingham to Loughborough, Mansfield, Leicester, Derby, Market Harborough, Kettering, Wellingborough-- all are united in supporting an electrified east midlands line and in wanting serious long-term planning and investment decisions from the Government for the international freight terminus.
I hope that this consensus will make the Government see sense and allow British Rail to plan for its long-term future. That will enable us to recoup some of the losses that this Bill will create. Without such a change of heart, the east midlands will not benefit, and the Channel tunnel and the link through to London will become one more in the series of great lost opportunities during the Government's time in office.