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Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): The Secretary of State has reassured a number of hon. Members that both the termini and the railway stations along the route can be reviewed in the Select Committee. Will he reassure me that this also applies to the proposed location of the depot, which is proposed to be placed within my constituency of Romford?

Mr. Darling: Yes, I can. The depot at Romford is an integral part of the project. Clearly, if we cannot
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maintain the trains, Crossrail will not run for very long. I know that there are issues that the hon. Gentleman has raised in written questions in the House and that his constituents will no doubt want to raise in relation to the depot and the access to it, so yes, that will be considered.

To conclude this part of my speech, what I am inviting the House to do tonight is to agree the principle of the Crossrail project, which is a railway that runs between the termini at Shenfield, Maidenhead and Abbey Wood, and to agree that the main intermediate stations are at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, the Isle of Dogs and Custom House. Separate Committees in both Houses will consider these matters further and there will be an opportunity for more general debate, as I have described.

I shall outline the purpose of the Bill. Crossrail will deliver extra capacity on the rail network in London and, importantly, will provide—as hon. Members have already mentioned—a vital new link in the strategic rail network, into which it will be integrated. The main purpose of the Bill is to secure the powers necessary to build Crossrail, and that will consist of new rail tunnels running east-west through central London, connecting directly the existing surface rail routes to Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. By connecting the major London rail terminals at Paddington and Liverpool Street, it will enable interconnecting main line train services to cross the centre of London, through a number of new purpose-built stations. So, Crossrail will be part of the existing railway network either side of the London tunnels, and that adds a very important dimension to London's railways.

Crossrail will be regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation. Once built, its operations can be devolved to the Mayor of London or to Network Rail because the railway will serve London and the wider network. That will bring significant benefits. London's present transport system faces significant problems in meeting demand during the rush hour and we need to deal with the congestion and overcrowding on much of the network during peak hours.

Mr. Francois: The Secretary of State mentioned a few minutes ago that the Bill was not perfect and accepted that certain reasonable amendments might be needed. I am particularly concerned about clauses 21 to 31, which appear to give Crossrail priority over all other rail users. There is much concern around the House about that. Is he prepared to look at that point specifically to ensure that we try to get the advantages of Crossrail without damaging interoperability with the existing rail network?

Mr. Darling: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising an important issue. The Bill is designed to enable Crossrail to be constructed and, to do so, it is necessary to take powers not only to acquire land but, crucially, to allow the Crossrail services to run. Now that the Government have strategic control of the direction of the railways as a result of the Railways Act 2005, we clearly have an interest in ensuring that we have a railway network that not only serves London and its commuters, but is part of the national network. We are putting into London a new stretch of railway, while
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inevitably using existing railway lines, so it is necessary to take powers in the Bill to ensure that the Crossrail services can run. However, I make it clear to the House that, although the Crossrail services are important, it is equally important that we maintain the other services that run into London, such as the lines that come up from the west of England and south Wales and, at the eastern end of the tunnel, the trains that run on the Great Eastern and East Anglia network generally.

As I said, the Bill will give us the power to devolve the track itself to Network Rail or to the Mayor of London, but I am absolutely clear that we cannot have a railway where one bit operates to the great disadvantage of the other bit. Crossrail will not just carry the sort of metro services that run in the inner part of London, but link the City of London with areas to the west, using existing services, as well as Crossrail services to some extent. We want the Heathrow Express to continue, as does BAA, which operates it. Crossrail must also tie into the largely commuter services that come in from East Anglia, as well as not just cross-channel but Kent services.

I want to make it abundantly clear that, once Crossrail is complete, we must regard the railway as precisely what it is: part of the national network, albeit one that clearly serves large parts of London in particular. The reason why I need those powers is to ensure that we can make Crossrail happen, but, as it develops, we want to ensure that we can have a proper, integrated railway network, which is a concern that a number—

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Darling: Do not worry—everyone will get in.

The reason why I will have those powers is that I fear that, without them, neither I nor my successors could ensure that Crossrail works and that we can get those services in place. I want to make it abundantly clear that we must ensure that we regard Crossrail as part of the national network and that it does not squeeze out, to any unjustified degree, other services that are equally necessary.

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): With due respect, the comments that the Secretary of State has just made appear contradictory. The whole point about the national rail network is that access to it is determined by the Office of Rail Regulation, so the balance of priorities between certain train operating companies and the freight services is determined by that office. The Bill will take that power away from it and enable the Secretary of State to require that certain services be given priority. He cannot justify the statement that Crossrail will be a normal part of the national rail network operated by the Office of Rail Regulation and support the Bill.

Mr. Darling: I said a few moments ago that I envisaged that the railway would be regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation. Our difficulty is that we are trying to build a new railway that will be partly completely new—the tunnels—and partly integrated with the existing network. Powers must thus be taken through the Bill to make that happen and to allow the Crossrail services to run. It is intended that the railway
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will be part of the national network and that it will be regulated by the ORR. Although it is perfectly true that one cannot run two trains on one piece of railway at the same time—I will come on to deal with questions about the west country service, which I know affects the right hon. Lady—the intention is that Crossrail will be run as part of the national network. Yes, it will provide London commuter services, but it will also provide links for different parts of the United Kingdom.

The right hon. Lady should have no fear that this will somehow be a bit of railway that will be run entirely independently from the rest of the network. That would not be possible owing to its very nature. If that were the intention, we would do precisely what the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) envisages in the instruction that he has tabled and stop it at the tunnel ends, but that is not the case.

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): The Secretary of State's comments are helpful, but what will happen to new services that are proposed? I am thinking particularly of Airtrack, of which he will be aware and which I think that the Government support. The Airtrack proposers are worried that they will be blocked out of terminal 5, where there will be a shortage of platforms, if Crossrail takes those platforms.

Mr. Darling: I do not think that that will happen. It might help the hon. Gentleman if I say that the Government and BAA, which owns Heathrow, have had many discussions about how Crossrail, Heathrow Express and Airtrack will tie in. Those discussions will continue. The current intention is that Crossrail trains will run to terminal 4, with the Heathrow Express running to terminal 5—obviously, both will call at terminals 1, 2 and 3. The current Airtrack proposal is that it will be able to come into terminal 5, but those proposals are not especially advanced at present, so that has not yet been finalised.

Given the history of the railways, some fragmentation is inevitable, although that is not all to do with what happened 10 years ago. BAA built its own railway as a separate entity from the main railway network. However, Heathrow Express runs perfectly sensibly and well with the existing network, so Crossrail can do exactly the same thing. My specific answer to the hon. Gentleman's point is that BAA and the Department are having extremely useful discussions. The intention is that Crossrail will go to terminal 4, so it will not squeeze out developments at terminal 5.

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