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Mrs. Dunwoody : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Duncan: Yes, of course. Always.

Mrs. Dunwoody: The hon. Gentleman is always enormously courteous and helpful. Is he suggesting that the state should underwrite the whole cost?
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Mr. Duncan: I shall come in a moment to the relationship between the private sector and the state. That is extremely important, and no doubt the hon. Lady's magnificent Committee will want to look into the matter as well.

We need a clearer picture of the structure of revenues and funding. The Montague report identified five main potential sources for funding the construction of Crossrail: net travel-generated revenues, which in plain English means fares; any appropriate European Union subventions—it would be interesting to know what they might be; contributions from London businesses and/or individuals, which might be voluntary or mandatory; property revenues; and direct Exchequer support. That is quite a complex structure of financing, with a large number of elements, all of which are fairly uncertain, unless the Minister is able to reassure us at the end of today's debate. I hope that a clearer picture of funding can be forthcoming.

Mr. Pickles: Does my hon. Friend recall that the Montague review also stated that it could not confirm the delivery of the business case? Has he seen any evidence produced by the Government or any other documents to suggest that matters have moved on since Montague's statement?

Mr. Duncan: No doubt all that will be discussed fully in Committee, but any such infrastructure project will have very large costs at the beginning and will be generating revenues going for decades, if not centuries, afterwards, so the economic models are not easy to draw.

How the project will interact, in terms of both funding and construction, with the plans that are being laid in preparation for the 2012 Olympics has not been answered adequately this afternoon. I appreciate that we will have the Second Reading of the London Olympics Bill on Thursday, but it is important for the House to have a clear picture of how the two will interact and happily interrelate.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), who is Chairman of the Transport Select Committee, and the House is very pleased to see her back in that job for a further term, asked about the funding. Following the demise of Railtrack, one must ask whether business men will feel like taking a risk on a project such as Crossrail with the Government as partner. Strong reassurance, and now probably even guarantees, will need to be given if people are to risk tens, if not hundreds, of millions on a project of such a scale in partnership with the Government. The question whether the partnership between the Government and private enterprise may take on an extremely sour tone is extremely serious. I hope that it is certain that that will not happen with this project.

Peter Luff: Has my hon. Friend seen the BAA submission to the Government's consultation, in which BAA expressed serious concerns about the effect on its services to Paddington during the construction phase and subsequently? The construction phase will occur at
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the same time as the Olympic games, a bizarre moment at which to make traffic difficult between Heathrow and Paddington.

Mr. Duncan: My hon. Friend is right to point out that the construction of Crossrail may be to the detriment of the Olympics and that it may decrease capacity between Paddington and Heathrow.

Mr. Mark Field : It is unsurprising that Government Front Benchers have not confirmed this point, but there is little doubt that Crossrail will not be constructed before the Olympic games. In my constituency, Charing Cross road will be closed for some two years during the construction phase, when the whole of central London will become a building site. Many of my constituents will welcome Crossrail after it has been constructed, but they are concerned about the impact of construction on day-to-day life. It is inconceivable that large-scale construction will take place before the 2012 Olympics.

Mr. Duncan: My hon. Friend has hit on a serious point. We have been told that the likely completion date for Crossrail is 2013—if one allows a couple of years for slippage, it is 2015—and the Olympics will take place in 2012. If the hybrid Bill process is completed in both Houses in two years' time and the Bill is enacted, will significant construction get under way before the Olympics? I hope that the Minister answers that question in his winding-up speech. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State spoke for nearly an hour, but every word was worth it, and we are grateful for his thorough approach.

I do not want to speak for much longer, because I know that today's debate is an important forum for other hon. Members to express their concerns for their individual constituencies. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead and her constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), are concerned about the question, "Why not Reading?", which has been answered, although not conclusively, this afternoon. My hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff), for Witney (Mr. Cameron), for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) and for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) are concerned about the knock-on effects. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) is deeply concerned about the construction of the depot in his constituency, and if he succeeds in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have no doubt that he will enthusiastically explain the matter in great detail.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): My hon. Friend used the analogy of squeezing a quart into a pint bottle. Will he accept that Paddington is the narrow part of the bottle? However much one speeds up the process, it is not possible to get more trains in and out of Paddington, which means that lines to the west will not be developed further. In other words, Crossrail will fossilise our rail services, which we would like to expand to allow more people to travel on the railways.

Mr. Duncan: A wag once told me that I, of all people, prove that one can squeeze a quart into a pint pot—or, perhaps, a pint into a half-pint pot.
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My hon. Friend's point is valid, and the hybrid Bill process is designed to study such issues in detail. We have not seen a hybrid Bill dealing with such a project for a long time, and it will be interesting to see whether the procedure has stood the test of time and can cope with a project of this magnitude.

Before I finish, I should like to return to the relationship between Crossrail and existing networks and the regulatory regime. Many in the industry who have made representations feel that the Bill undermines the principle of independent regulation. They think that its powers could negatively affect Network Rail's ability to deliver services and that it challenges the wider principle of independent regulation, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead suggested. Taken together, clauses 21 to 26 allow the Secretary of State to override the existing processes and access rights that are designed to ensure that timetables reflect the needs of all route users. They enable the Secretary of State to instruct—not just permit, but instruct—the Office of Rail Regulation to amend existing track access agreements to give priority to Crossrail.

That appears to establish a regime not of equity but of preference, and therefore challenges the even-handed approach that the ORR is currently required to display. The existing regulatory structure allows the ORR to operate in a balanced way, taking account of the overall need of the entire rail network, but the Bill fundamentally undermines and changes the ORR's role in that respect. It will allow control of the Crossrail tracks to be taken away from Network Rail and force the ORR to give priority to Crossrail trains over those of other operators. That would give Crossrail trains exclusive access to half the track capacity on the routes between Paddington and Maidenhead and between Stratford and Shenfield, which would substantially reduce the capacity available to non-Crossrail users on those routes, force reductions in current service levels, and make future growth impossible. A serious knock-on issue of capacity and track congestion flows from the Bill.

One of the main representations that we have received, which is very strongly felt, concerns freight. The industry has expressed concern that there is a real risk that large quantities of bulk materials—including aggregates, cement, fuel oil and domestic waste—and high-value goods such as cars and manufactured products in containers will be forced from rail by Crossrail services. It is important, in trying to maintain a cross-party consensus, that the Minister should provide a good rebuttal of that suggestion if he can.

The railway industry has made every effort to advise the Secretary of State of its concerns. In reply, he said that

He also said:

There are none the less concerns that such powers remain in this hybrid Bill. We are concerned that the Secretary of State's words are not matched by the black and white text of the Bill; and in the end, as we have learned to our cost in many other areas of legislation,
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what it says in black and white matters most, because that is what courts will decide on, however honest the Secretary of State is.

I do not want to detain the House any longer because many Members want to speak. This project has been a long time a-coming. We should like to see a broad coalition of support behind it, but one that is sensitive and responsive to the local needs and concerns detailed by many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. Looking to the welcome award of the Olympics to Britain in 2012, we want to hear that that project will not unreasonably delay the Crossrail project. In short, I say to the Government that they should get on with this if they mean it, but if they do not, they should not raise false hopes and lead everyone a merry dance. We should like it to happen; let us make it happen.

5.24 pm

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