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Mr. Hayes: The Secretary of State is not the only one who is deluded. In an answer to a written question from me a week or so ago, the Under-Secretary declared that the cost of Crossrail would be £10.063 billion, rising to £10.292 billion. Today, the Secretary of State said that the cost was likely to be £15 billion or £16 billion. There is genuine doubt about the money and I was therefore somewhat surprised. Mick Lyons was surprised that he had to deal with it and I am sure that my hon. Friend is just as surprised to hear that news.

Mr. Pickles: With such increases, the Government would undoubtedly cap Crossrail if it were a local authority. However, the hard truth is that if we are genuinely waiting for Lyons and the money is to come from an amalgam of council tax and non-domestic rates, the price box will increase and we are likely to experience significant rises in rail, underground and bus fares to pay for Crossrail.

Peter Luff: One of the House's prime functions, along with scrutinising legislation, is to vote money to the Government. Does my hon. Friend know—I do not—of any mechanism whereby the House can consider the financial questions around Crossrail?

Mr. Pickles: As far as I understand the instructions and the role of the Select Committee, the finance is not
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to be considered. We are being asked to vote for probably the largest civil engineering project in Europe this century, without any genuine certainty about how it will be financed. I do not doubt Crossrail's economic importance or the significance of the engineering feat. It will reduce congestion in London and unblock the clogged lines in our capital. However, I am unhappy about the far-reaching powers that the Bill transfers to Crossrail. It threatens the stability of our railway network in terms of the timetable and fair competition. It also threatens the independence of the Office of Rail Regulation and puts the projected growth of freight at risk.

My hon. Friends spent some time considering the Office of Rail Regulation and I will not repeat those points, save to say that the contention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead about her constituents' desire to look to the Office of Rail Regulation rather than the Mayor of London is true for the people of Brentwood and of Shenfield. We must acknowledge that Crossrail's effects will be felt not only in the capital, but across country to and beyond Cardiff.

Freight has been one of the great successes of the modern railway network. We have reached double figures in the percentage of freight that is carried by rail. We are at a crucial point when significant sums of capital investment have been made in freight, and we are moving from transporting goods for which time was not critical, such as aggregates, coal and oil, to goods for which time is critical. If, at this crucial point, we restrict the ability of freight to be moved on our railways, we risk the disappearance of all that investment and the genuine possibility—at a time when our roads, especially the A12, are massively overcrowded—of freight being transferred from rail to road. That would be ironic.

I am worried about other consequences. Four tracks are available for 20 miles from London. Crossrail will take two of them, forcing other services on to the fast lines. That remains a worry to me and my constituents. Crossrail's route and plans would fit more easily into a railway pattern of the 1980s rather than 2005 or 2015. It is depressing that there appears to be no genuine grasp of the growth of docklands, the extension of the Jubilee line or the strategic importance of the Thames Gateway, about which the hon. Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas) spoke so convincingly. That is why the project starts at Maidenhead and ends at Shenfield. None of the developments that I mentioned existed when the original plans were made.

The Shenfield line runs at full capacity. Thousands of people travel on it in overcrowded trains, and the slightest delay causes a major snarl-up. Crossrail does not add to the capacity. To be fair, Crossrail claims a slight increase in capacity—from eight to 10 carriages, operating at a greater frequency at what it describes as "peak and other times". That can be achieved only at the expense of freight and other users.

Peter Luff: My hon. Friend is making an important point. The estimates that I have from the rail industry show that Crossrail's plans could mean halving services from Oxford to London, from two trains to one train an
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hour, and halving services from Norwich to London. I hope that the Home Secretary will therefore vote against Second Reading.

Mr. Pickles: It would be good for law and order if we kept the Home Secretary in Norwich. Every cloud has a silver lining.

If Crossrail were to operate as planned, with 24 trains an hour through the central tunnels at peak times, it is far from clear that the network could accommodate such a service on top of existing and anticipated rail passenger and freight traffic. Freight operators estimate the use of only two tracks for 40 freight trains a day in each direction to and from Shenfield, plus nine intercity and outer-suburban off-peak trains. We also have to remember, when we are talking about the line from Shenfield to Liverpool Street, that 10 to 20 trains a day cross the important crossing from Forest Gate to the North London line. That, too, has a knock-on effect. My constituents will end up with disruption, inconvenience and, in the end, a worse service.

Crossrail will make the line from Shenfield unstable in terms of timetabling and vulnerable in terms of disruption. That might be justified if Shenfield's sacrifice were in the national interest. For some time, I have been asking railway organisations why Crossrail should start at Shenfield. No one has ever come up with a convincing logistical or engineering reason. A couple of months ago, a senior representative from Crossrail gave a presentation to a packed meeting in my constituency. He conducted himself with his customary charm and was listened to attentively and politely by my constituents. I asked him to tell us why the line should start at Shenfield. He is an obliging man, and he did so. I was startled by his first point, which was that Shenfield was traditionally the end of the line; it was therefore where the train drivers had lived and joined their trains.

I am the very proud grandson of a railway worker. Shenfield and Hutton Mount were among the wealthiest places in the United Kingdom in a recent survey of household incomes, with property prices to match. A house in Shenfield or Hutton Mount would, frankly, be out of reach of most Members of this House and, unless train drivers' salaries have greatly increased in real terms since my grandfather's day, of most train drivers. In April and May, I walked the streets in that area and I cannot recall meeting any member of the railway industry other than members of the board of Network Rail.

I point this out not to poke fun at Crossrail, but to illustrate the flimsiness of the case for Shenfield. Taking over the existing Metro services and control of all the lines will add nothing to the project except extra cost. Shenfield is the end of the line because it has always been the end of the line. With the permission of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire, I should like to take up the Hans Christian Andersen theme again. This is another example of the emperor's new clothes. The line will end at Shenfield because it has always ended at Shenfield, for no particular reason. Surely it would make better sense to end Crossrail at Stratford. It is a much more natural terminus, which is important, as other hon. Members have pointed out. It is strategically placed for the natural expansion of London and it would be cheaper to construct. Also, the cost benefits of the project become more evident from Stratford onwards.
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I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) is in his place; I look forward to hearing what he has to say on this. The inclusion of Shenfield has led to some very questionable logistic decisions by Crossrail, one of which involves Romford. I cannot understand why we should build a depot in the middle of Romford, costing £400 million, when there is a perfectly good one going spare near Paddington that is soon to be vacated by Eurostar. The purpose of my tabled instruction is to allow the Select Committee to study the options in this regard, and I hope that the Minister will allow our constituents and other concerned parties such as Brentwood council to talk to the Select Committee about the possibility of having a proper terminus at Stratford.

Peter Luff: This shows the value of public debates—an interesting thought has just occurred to me. I have been fixated with the idea of extending the line westwards. My hon. Friend is talking about shortening the eastern section by bringing the terminus further into London, and that is a powerful argument. Ealing Broadway now commends itself to me as the terminus in the west. It is on a cheaper line and is a natural rail junction, albeit not as powerful or impressive as Reading. The Select Committee should consider a route from Ealing Broadway to Stratford.

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