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Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West): May I also welcome the Secretary of State's announcement, and remind him that the GLC came up with the proposal15 years ago? It is a pity that crossrail has been put on the back burner, as it were. Crossrail would be far more significant to London than a developer-led Jubilee line extension.

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Is any new rolling stock involved in the Secretary of State's announcement? If so, where will it come from? When will the right hon. Gentleman make an announcement about the channel tunnel rail link?

Sir George Young: There is no question of crossrail being cancelled. It is a project to which we are committed. If the hon. Gentleman considers publications such as those produced by London First, he will note the recognition that there must be a sequence of major projects. That is exactly what we are doing. We have the Jubilee line extension. We shall then implement the project that I have announced. Crossrail can take its place after that.

Most sensible commentators recognise that there is a limit to the number of major transport infrastructure projects that London can cope with at any one time.It may be that the GLC thought of the project that I have announced. It thought of quite a lot of things, but it did not always find the resources with which to take them forward.

I hope that there will be additional investment in rolling stock to provide the additional services that will be made possible by Thameslink 2000. That will be a matter for the train operating companies as they negotiate with the franchising director to introduce the extra services that they will want to provide as the project comes to fruition.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North): My right hon. Friend has said that existing links between Stansted and Gatwick are to be improved. Rather sadly, he failed to mention that most excellent of all airports, Luton, where, as he will know, a new project is being formulated that will bring about a new rail link between the town and the airport. Perhaps he will tell me whether any funds might be directed to that quarter. If not, perhaps he will tell me what plans he has for the new airport link.

Sir George Young: I recently spent a morning at Luton airport, when I was informed about the ambitions that the airport company has to build an additional station closer to the airport than the existing one. I was told also of the company's plans to improve links between the airport and the station. That is something that my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London has much in mind as he considers the transport supplementary grant that is available to Luton each year. Within the resources that may be available, we shall do what we can to assist the imaginative project to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Mr. Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West): Although I welcome the general thrust of the proposal, is the Secretary of State able to assure people in inner south-east London especially that due consideration will be given to stations along the lines being served by Thameslink being used to provide access to the service? The Thameslink line to Sevenoaks was extremely valuable, and extremely well used. Unfortunately, it had to be withdrawn. That meant that people in inner south-east London had no access to the benefits of Thameslink.

Sir George Young: That was a positive contribution, and I shall see whether we can take that forward with the train operating companies, which will be responsible for service provision.

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Sir Peter Fry (Wellingborough): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, on behalf of my constituents, who will find it much easier to reach more parts of London and the south of England more quickly. They will, however, be able to take the greatest advantage of the new development only if there are adequate connections, not just from Wellingborough station but from Kettering and Market Harborough into Bedford.In view of the forthcoming privatisation of the midland main line, will my right hon. Friend please bear that in mind, and ensure that my constituents can take maximum advantage of his announcement?

Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This picks up a point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd). Removing the bottleneck between the north and the south of London will make it possible to provide services over and above those currently on offer. I expect that the market will respond to that, and that it will then be possible to undertake journeys that simply cannot be made at the moment. That will increase the demand for rail services, which is what every hon. Member would like to see.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Does the Secretaryof State agree that this project, like many others,is connected to the channel tunnel project? Does he further agree that the channel tunnel project is up to the neck in debt, and that few people, it seems, are anxious to bail it out? Will he state on behalf of the Government that under no circumstances will the Tory Government take part in the bailing out of the channel tunnel experiment? If the Tory Government will not do that, is he going to call on his friend, Sir George Younger, other Tory ex-Members of Parliament and banks, and have a Bromsgrove bail-out system?

Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that there is a legislative prohibition on the Government giving assistance to Eurotunnel. It is worth pointing out that it was a Labour Government who cancelled a publicly funded channel tunnel project; it was a Conservative Government who managed to get it built, through private enterprise.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, for people south of the river, in places such as Croydon, one thing that will make it less likely that they will use the train to go north is the current frequency of the Thameslink service? He will appreciate that the residents of Croydon will warmly welcome this enormous extra investment in the public transport infrastructure in London, but has he made any assessment of the impact of the transfer of people from road to rail?

Sir George Young: It is indeed good news for Croydon, for precisely the reasons that my hon. Friend outlines. In my statement, I said that the project would help to relieve road congestion by making a number of journeys possible by train that are not currently practicable and that are therefore made by car. Initial assessments show that Thameslink 2000 will increase rail travel by about 3 per cent. in the south-east area, and I expect that some of that will be diversion from the road.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford): The Secretary of State mentioned the benefits in terms of access to the channel

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tunnel, but does he understand the frustration that exists on the west coast main line? Although the Thameslink 2000 project, welcome though it may be, will benefit some, it will do nothing for the many people who get poor service and poor access. It is also apparent from the statement that there is no overall structure and planning framework by which services will be improved nationally. Does that mean that, so long as we have this lousy Government, we shall have lousy services on the west coast?

Sir George Young: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has disturbed what otherwise was a consensus that this is a sensible project with which to proceed, at least from new Labour, if not from old Labour. The whole thrust of my announcement was that it would be possible for additional services to be provided by rail. I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that.

So far as the west coast main line is concerned, the hon. Gentleman will know that, initially, we are taking forward, also under the private finance initiative, signalling projects, on which we hope to make good progress during 1996.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West): My right hon. Friend has been involved in London politics as a councillor and Member of Parliament for many years.Can he remember a time when there have been as many railway projects under consideration, planning and construction--realistic lines, which will come about in our lifetime? Does he consider that the rather churlish response of the Opposition reflects the fact that they know that this is considerably in excess of anything planned by the then Labour-controlled GLC, or anything that they could manage if they were in government?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He was also kind enough to draw attention to my long connection with London politics--a connection which, sadly, the boundary commission may be bringing to an end.

I have mentioned a number of the other projects that are currently under way. The Central line is to undergo £750 million-worth of modernisation, and to receive85 new trains; £400 million-worth of Northern line trains will come into service in 1996; and the tendering process to choose the private consortium for the Lewisham extension should be completed in the spring. There are many other projects, including the Heathrow express and the Jubilee line extension. It is difficult to sustain the argument that the Government are not investing in public transport in the capital.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey): The Secretary of State would expect me, as the Member of Parliament representing the area surrounding London Bridge, to support cross-London rail routes. I presume, however, that he would not expect me to support the alignment south of Blackfriars, given the prospect of substantial demolition of residential and commercial properties and Borough market.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that his announcement does not prejudice the right of the inquiry to decide that that route should not go ahead, and that residents and other interested parties are entitled to argue

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that there is a viable alternative route south of Blackfriars bridge, via the Elephant and Castle and Herne Hill? That would not involve nearly as much disruption and demolition.

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