Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I take it that my hon. Friend is saying that the evidence that we have received is enough to decide us that the Bill should not proceed further. On forecasting, leaving aside the ridiculous idea that one can forecast traffic 20 or 30 years hence, let alone the 50 years that would be the life of the station, will my hon. Friend comment on my surprise at the fact that only four international platforms are designated? Bearing in mind the expansion likely in railways, another eight platforms jointly between King's Cross and St. Pancras, which have not been markedly extended since the turn of the century, would be adequate


Column 287

for domestic traffic. Does that not predicate that this terminal will be far too small for any through-London or terminal station for the Channel tunnel?

Mr. Smith : My hon. Friend makes a valid and important point. He should have added that, when one builds a station underground in a box that one has specially created for the purpose of that station and that station alone, one cannot extend it. That ought to be borne in mind by British Rail if it is at all confident of its predictions about future traffic.

Mr. Dobson : Is not the evidence that my hon. Friend has just read out a demonstration of British Rail's chicanery? That was not the explanation that it got the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) to proffer against the instruction that I proposed on Second Reading--that the Committee should ensure that this project would permit a frequent, safe and reliable service of fast trains to the midlands, Scotland and the north. We know now that this wondrous service will amount to seven trains, three of which will be "night flights", with all that that implies, and that the connection with the west and the north-west may be by way of travelator between King's Cross and Euston stations. In other words, much of the information that was given both during and before Second Reading, was wholly and falsely misleading, and calculated to mislead the House into approving the Second Reading.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. We are not in Committee and interventions should be brief.

Mr. Smith : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. It is my contention that British Rail peddled this Bill on a fallacy when it came to the House before Second Reading and it is now revealed for what it intends, which is a minimal service of through trains beyond King's Cross from the Channel tunnel.

I cannot stress too strongly the importance of the number of through trains. The direct services that were promised by British Rail to chambers of commerce, trades councils, hon. Members and the country are now revealed for what they are--four trains per day in daylight and three at night. It is no wonder that British Rail wanted to defeat the instruction that my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras tabled, which asked for fast, frequent and reliable services to the north and to Scotland.

My hon. Friend also raised an issue that has been linked to the western main line route. Again, we had interesting evidence in Committee, which showed that British Rail has in mind the faint possibility that there might at some stage be a link called the West Hampstead link to connect the east coast lines with the west coast lines. It is not definite about that. All its references were along the lines of, "We hope to implement the West Hampstead link," or, "We think it probable that we might." There is no guarantee as yet of a proper link with the west main line services. Yet that link is vital if we are to ensure that the trains can get to Manchester, Liverpool, the north-west and on to Glasgow.

The Committee proceedings tell us that a travelator is being considered to link King's Cross with St. Pancras and Euston. Engineering assessments are being carried out, but British Rail does not know whether it will be done by cut and cover or by tunnel. It talks blithely about how easy it is for people to walk the 800 yards from King's Cross


Column 288

station to Euston to transfer from the international station to the west coast lines. That is nonsense, and until British Rail makes specific proposals for the lines to be linked by the West Hampstead link, or by a travelator from King's Cross to Euston, inadequate though that would be, until it comes forward with definite information on those points, we cannot ask the Committee to continue to consider the Bill in its present form.

We must also bear in mind the fact that the Committee proceedings reveal that the drive for King's Cross as the choice location for the second international station is clearly coming not from railway considerations but from considerations of railway land development immediately to the north of the proposed site for the new international station. At the first sitting of the Committee, counsel for British Rail revealed this when she said ;

"What is, however, of crucial importance in terms of timing is that a decision about the extent of railway works at King's Cross, including a second Channel Tunnel terminal, is made before any development takes place on King's Cross railway lands."

We have the Bill before us this Session and it is being rushed through in advance of the consideration of the Channel tunnel link to King's Cross. The British Rail board took only 45 minutes to reject Stratford in favour of King's Cross. All this has been done with unseemly haste because the board wants to get on with the office development to the north of the proposed station, so as to make as substantial a profit as possible from it. That is what drives British Rail--not the strategic planning of railway services for the country as a whole, which should be its motivation.

Mr. Rowe : The hon. Gentleman has studied these matters much more closely and in far greater detail than I have. Does the forecast of additional traffic generated by the works at King's Cross include the additional traffic generated by property development?

Mr. Smith : That is one item, and one item only, that British Rail appears to have got right. It has looked at the likely traffic impact, as it sees it, of the office development and the international station. It is the paucity of difference between the two which raises major doubts about the accuracy of the traffic forecast in the environmental statement. Surely it is the wrong way to go about taking a large-scale strategic transport decision in Britain--and, indeed, a large-scale planning decision--to be in such a hurry before the full considerations can be put before us.

The intensity of my protest against the Bill and my argument that it should not be carried forward into the next Session is heightened by the treatment that has been meted out to local people and to local petitioners against the Bill. Of some 280 petitions initially submitted against the Bill, only 151 survived the massacre that British Rail perpetrated upon them. Local people and organisations with a perfectly legitimate interest in the Bill, its contents and overall impact, have been debarred from making their voices heard in protest against it and from putting their arguments to the Committee. Among those excluded have been English Heritage--with a direct interest in clause 19--the London boroughs of Newham and Lewisham, residents who live immediately to the south of the proposed development, and even the Islington, South Conservative Association. Many of my constituents feel disfranchised by the procedure that the Bill is going through. The process will


Column 289

end in the destruction of a neighbourhood and untold disruption to thousands of people, and it represents a denial of democracy for many thousands of my constituents. More than 200 years ago, Tom Paine sat down in a room above the Old Red Lion public house at the Angel, not half a mile from where British Rail is proposing to put the station, to begin writing the first part of "The Rights of Man". The rights of men and women are being trampled on by British Rail and by the Bill. I urge the House to seize this opportunity to throw it out. 8.12 pm

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : The local horror of this major development is a matter for colleagues from London constituencies and my brief contribution to the debate this evening will be on the credibility of the promoter and whether the House should allow a promoter, whom I hope to show to be barely credible, the right to carry through a Bill into another Session.

The trouble with British Rail is that it thinks on its feet. Cogito ergo sum, said the philosopher. Today, when to all intents and purposes British Rail is not at all, is a good day to examine that ancient philosophical saw.

I used to be innocent enough to believe the theory of the private Bill which I absorbed when I first arrived here and before I arrived here at all. It was that a private Bill was introduced after the project to which it referred had been thought through and designed. All my experience of recent months has revealed to me that private Bills are introduced and then some hurried thinking is done on what is really meant.

Mr. Dobson : The hon. Gentleman will find confirmation of what he is saying on page 46 of the sixth day of the Committee's proceedings, when a Mr. Edgley, representing British Rail, was asked whether British Rail intended to produce a master plan for everything to do with the consequences of the Channel tunnel development. He replied :

"No, we do not intend to produce a master plan. We do intend to produce plans for single issues."

British Rail's whole approach is one of temporary spatchcock plans for different issues in the hope that it will be able to con the House into passing a long succession of allegedly unrelated Bills.

Mr. Rowe : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It was Mr. Edgley who told the all-party Transport Committee of the House that on the high- speed rail link, which immediately affects my constituency, British Rail had intended to conduct consultations with the local public on the basis of the plans that it had put forward on 6 March. But the people of Kent had been so swift in producing alternative plans that it had to carry them out in a piecemeal fashion. In fact, the consultation in Kent has been a complete farce because people have had to debate propositions which they already knew had been overtaken by events.

British Rail is full of nice, polite people who mean well. The trouble is that we all know the terminus to which roads paved with good intentions lead. Let me exemplify why I believe that British Rail is not to be trusted as the promoter of this massive enterprise.

As we know, British Rail told the Select Committee that there would not need to be a high-speed line at all. Now it


Column 290

cannot cope without one. It told--this is an extraordinary story--Swale borough council this month that that assertion to the Select Committee was based on traffic figures relating to 1966--not 1986.

British Rail told the Select Committee that it would be bad for the travelling public to have two termini for the Channel tunnel trains. Now it not only insists on having two, but is full of all sorts of powerful arguments why two termini are so much better than one. They were not better than one a year ago, but they are much better than one now.

British Rail published its original plans last year showing Stratford as one of the options. Let it be known that it was a front runner. Now it says that Stratford will not do at all.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham. North-West) : Unlike British Rail, the London borough of Newham has had a proper study made of the merits of Stratford as the site of the terminal vis-a-vis King's Cross. The hon. Gentleman probably already knows, but the study shows that Stratford would be £1 billion cheaper. Travel to central London is only a matter of a few minutes slower and connections with the rest of the United Kingdom are similar to those provided by King's Cross. In addition, there is ample car parking space which there is not at King's Cross, and there are direct connections to the M11 and the M25. Any reasonable person would conclude that Stratford was the obvious choice. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?

Mr. Rowe : The hon. Gentleman forgets that it would be impossible to choose Stratford because whereas the people there want Stratford to be chosen, the people of King's Cross passionately do not. It is impossible to believe that British Rail reached the view that it did after taking into account the studies into the east-west and north-south London lines. After all, a promoter who admits using figures that are 20 years out of date may not be scrupulous about the date on which he closes his consideration of the available evidence. Those studies show, as does the Buchanan report commissioned by Newham, that Newham's accessibility is superior to that of central London.

It is essential to remember the point made so well by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), that it will not be possible to undertake any expansion at King's Cross. Throughout the whole saga, British Rail consistently under-estimated demand. It originally said that the line was not needed at all. We were led to believe that British Rail was very reluctant to embark on great works, because it did not see either a need for, or a profit from, them. British Rail is now saying that, because everything is getting so busy, it cannot wait even a few months.

British Rail came late to the understanding that there is a future in railways after all. Had I been British Rail, I might have been doubtful about the future for railways. Nevertheless, in Europe at this very moment, 12,000 miles of railway are being planned, whereas British Rail is thinking very small and very incrementally. My belief is that no sooner would the new King's Cross be completed than British Rail would return to the House with a plan to expand another location, because its choice of a central London site left no scope.


Column 291

Another example of the same kind of thinking is British Rail's assertion that it must have a commuter station in Kent-- and one where there can be massive car parks. Everyone knows that commuters need to get to and from their station in their cars, yet British Rail turns that argument on its head in respect of King's Cross. As more and more offices and centres of work are moved from their formerly convenient positions in central London, commuters want to drive their cars to the station. The prospect of thousands of commuters driving their cars to King's Cross, and then finding that there is no car park for them there, is bizarre. [Interruption.] The sponsor of the Bill is making noises, and I think is agreeing with me that it would be absurd to have no car parking space at King's Cross.

Mr. Tony Banks : Perhaps the sponsor is saying that there will be 100 parking spaces at King's Cross, and that the 3,000 places at Stratford would not be good enough.

Mr. Rowe : My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) may be saying that. He may be saying that the commuters who use King's Cross are different in kind, or are a different species, from the commuters in Kent.

Sir George Young : My hon. Friend draws an absurd parallel between a railway station in Kent and King's Cross, which is served by five Underground lines. The parking requirements of commuters using a station in Kent are totally different.

Mr. Rowe : My hon. Friend makes an interesting argument. One might argue just as well that there need be no parking facilities at a railway station because it is served by a railway line. One might equally argue that a railway station in Kent should be served by a bus service. No, in reality commuters must be able to use and to park their cars.

I wonder whether we should buy a Bill from a punch-drunk promoter who changes his forecasts and plans, and even his rolling stock. When one asks British Rail what rolling stock it will use, it says that it is still negotiating with the French, to establish whether Mickey Mouse-sized wheels can be used, so that rolling stock can be used on track on both sides of the Channel.

Question put :--

The House divided : Ayes 134, Noes 44.

Division No. 308] [8.25 pm

AYES

Adley, Robert

Alexander, Richard

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkins, Robert

Beith, A. J.

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Bottomley, Peter

Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)

Boyes, Roland

Bright, Graham

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick

Buckley, George J.

Budgen, Nicholas

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Cash, William

Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda

Chapman, Sydney

Colvin, Michael

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Couchman, James

Cousins, Jim

Curry, David

Dixon, Don

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Duffy, A. E. P.

Durant, Tony

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fallon, Michael

Fearn, Ronald

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Freeman, Roger

Gardiner, George


Column 292

Glyn, Dr Alan

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Hanley, Jeremy

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Haselhurst, Alan

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael

Hinchliffe, David

Hind, Kenneth

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Howells, Geraint

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunter, Andrew

Illsley, Eric

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Jessel, Toby

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Kennedy, Charles

Key, Robert

Kilfedder, James

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knowles, Michael

Lawrence, Ivan

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

Maclean, David

McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael

Mahon, Mrs Alice

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Mates, Michael

Mawhinney, Dr Brian

Miscampbell, Norman

Monro, Sir Hector

Montgomery, Sir Fergus

Moss, Malcolm

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

O'Brien, William

Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Patchett, Terry

Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth

Portillo, Michael

Redmond, Martin

Riddick, Graham

Roe, Mrs Marion

Sayeed, Jonathan

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)

Shersby, Michael

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)

Speed, Keith

Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Squire, Robin

Steen, Anthony

Stern, Michael

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thurnham, Peter

Trotter, Neville

Walker, Bill (T'side North)

Warren, Kenneth

Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)

Widdecombe, Ann

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Nicholas

Wood, Timothy

Tellers for the Ayes :

Sir George Young and

Mr. Anthony Nelson.

NOES

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Beckett, Margaret

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Caborn, Richard

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cryer, Bob

Dalyell, Tam

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Dobson, Frank

Dunn, Bob

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Flannery, Martin

Flynn, Paul

Fyfe, Maria

George, Bruce

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)

Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)

Lewis, Terry

Litherland, Robert

McFall, John

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Nellist, Dave

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Primarolo, Dawn

Rowe, Andrew

Short, Clare

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)

Spearing, Nigel

Vaz, Keith

Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)

Wise, Mrs Audrey

Wray, Jimmy

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Chris Smith and

Mr. Tony Banks.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered,

That the Promoters of the King's Cross Railways Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed


Next Section

  Home Page