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Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): I speak as the chair of the all-party Crossrail group and I begin by paying tribute to Linda Perham, who established it in the previous Parliament. Without the group, perhaps we would not be considering Second Reading at this time.

As chair of the all-party group, I emphasise that it consists not only of hon. Members of all parties but of people with very different views. Members of the group will raise some concerns and criticisms in the debate because we are all committed to improving transport across London and to the national benefits and implications of that. However, we also acknowledge that we have constituency and local interests, which must be taken into account.

I want to comment on my constituency because Ilford is one of the areas that will benefit greatly from Crossrail. Ilford station is between Stratford and Shenfield and my constituency also contains the stations of Seven Kings and Goodmayes. Chadwell Heath is at the edge of my constituency, although the station is in the neighbouring constituency. The platforms in those stations will need to be extended, which will involve considerable reconstructive engineering work, the removal of waste, many vehicles and possible disruption to the lives of many of my constituents.

I am unique, in that I am the only Member on Crossrail's designated route who will have a loop in the constituency. That means the possibility of freight and passenger trains being able to pass each other. That, too, will involve considerable work, including the construction of a line close to the back gardens of many of my constituents. I want to place that on record because, when we discuss practicalities and implications, it is possible that the lives of many people will be disrupted in the short term for the greater good.

If the Bill is successfully piloted through Parliament and gets on to the statute book, and construction work begins in 2007, 2008 or 2009 in my constituency and others, it will have an impact on many people. There are concerns about adequate shielding from noise and construction work, the times of day when the work will be undertaken, shielding from lighting to prevent people from being woken up or kept awake at all hours and the times when vehicles move materials backwards and forwards. All those matters will have an impact. Many other hon. Members will have similar worries when
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work is carried out in their constituencies. I therefore hope that the Committee can take those matters into account when it receives the many petitions and submissions that will doubtless arrive in the next few weeks.

Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady should not turn her back to the Chair. All remarks are to the Chair.

Meg Hillier: My apologies, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not make that mistake again.

I am delighted that my hon. Friend has referred to benefits for London. I hope that he agrees that constituents will gain in many parts of London, especially Hackney, where people will benefit from the clearing of the Liverpool Street throat. That will mean faster trains from Enfield and Chingford to that area. That is a great spin-off from Crossrail.

Mike Gapes: Yes, of course. After detailing my constituency's interests, I intended to explain that, despite the disruption that many constituents face, there will be enormous benefits.

In east London, there is a problem with overcrowding on the Central line. I was on a train that was going into Liverpool Street station this morning, before I transferred to the Jubilee line at Stratford, where I can be guaranteed to get a seat. I certainly could not get one when I squeezed myself into a crowded carriage at Ilford station at about 7.30 this morning. That also applies at 8.30 and at 9.30; there is always pressure on that line into Liverpool Street.

One of the consequences of Crossrail will be to increase capacity. It will also mean that people do not have to get out of the trains from Shenfield at Liverpool Street; they will be able to go beyond it and across London. They will no longer have to decant themselves on to the Central line, the District line or the Jubilee line, or perhaps go round the Metropolitan line to get on to the Northern line. There will be fantastic improvements. Crossrail will cut travel times across our city and reduce stress and disruption for many people.

Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Crossrail will increase not only capacity but the regeneration of the London borough of Redbridge, in which both our constituencies are situated? The impact on the areas surrounding us must also be considered, as we have heard from other hon. Members.

Mike Gapes: I agree with my neighbour. He and I have a big interest—he is still a member of the borough council, and I am a constituency MP—in the regeneration of Ilford station. That station is linked to the regeneration proposed in the progressive Ilford plan, which the council is introducing on a cross-party basis. Crossrail will give us the opportunity to reposition the station entrance, to remodel the road system around the station, and to regenerate the centre of my constituency,
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which it greatly needs. Such spin-off benefits will occur not only in my constituency but elsewhere as a result of Crossrail.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): The hon. Gentleman has noted that stations along the route will enjoy platform lengthening. Has he noticed, however, that not all of them will benefit from access for the disabled? Does he agree that this is a golden opportunity, with large sums of money being spent on refurbishing stations, and that disabled access should always be included; otherwise we shall be spoiling the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar?

Mike Gapes: I entirely agree, and I hope that that matter can be addressed as we consider the later stages of the Bill.

I have referred to the underground system. The other important benefit will be the links to the docklands light railway, the East London line and other routes that come into and across the city. The Secretary of State said that Crossrail had to form part of an integrated national network. That relates not only to the lines that come in from hundreds of miles away but to those in the greater south-east region, with its many millions of people who need to cross our capital city either for work, leisure or other reasons. Crossrail will at last give us the opportunity to create sensible, integrated cross-London routing and connections, which we would not otherwise have.

Those of us who are proud to have been born in this capital city, and to represent it in the House, know that it is important that the rest of the country should be behind these developments, just as it is behind the great achievement of winning the Olympics for London. Crossrail will provide people from all of the UK with the ability to travel more easily across our capital city. It will provide an integrated link between different parts of the country.

Crossrail represents an historic opportunity—an opportunity that we missed a decade ago. When I first came into this place in 1992, I remember asking Steve Norris questions about it. Later, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) dealt with the matter, followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar). Still later, it was the responsibility of the present Secretary of State for Defence, whose constituency name has changed but who, at the time, represented Motherwell. All kinds of Ministers have passed through during that period, and we had the frustration of not seeing the Bill introduced until right at the end of the previous Parliament. At last, we have a historic opportunity, which, as a country, we cannot afford to miss. This country needs Crossrail, London needs it, and millions of people will benefit from using it once it is built. I am therefore positive that we must go ahead.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): I can see the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for Crossrail and I will certainly be among its supporters. He is also an enthusiast for the London Olympics, however, and given that, for instance, Newham is just emerging from
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disruptive construction work, what kind of disruption will there be in 2012 if we expect Crossrail to open in around 2013?

Mike Gapes: Clearly, there must be co-ordination. In relation to Pudding Mill lane station and other works, which are to be used both for the Olympics and Crossrail, planning of the engineering work will be necessary. Such issues need to be discussed before that work starts, and clearly, phasing is required. I am not an engineer or an expert, but I am sure that those who are experts can find ways of doing it. Obviously, it is vital that we have a successful Olympics, and that we have Crossrail built and running as soon as possible afterwards. We all need to recognise the realities and the practical issues, but I am sure that it is not beyond the wit of men and women to find a solution.

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