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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 8 February 2006


Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (Mars) Programme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): As set out in the Defence Industrial Strategy, the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) programme is a significant planned investment in a new integrated approach to afloat support, combined with investment in life extensions for retained platforms. MARS will form an essential part of the UK's Versatile Maritime Force, providing a suite of vessels to supply UK and allied vessels with fuel, food, ordnance and other support they need to sustain operations. MARS will also introduce a new capability, providing joint sea-based logistics for those operations where host nation support is absent or limited or where we would wish to reduce our footprint ashore. The programme is currently in the assessment phase.


NHS Direct

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Liam Byrne): The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner) has made the following written ministerial statement today.
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"The annual accounts of NHS Direct 2004–05 and any accompanying comptroller and auditor general report has today been laid before Parliament pursuant to section 98(1C) of the National Health Service Act 1977.

Copies have been placed in the Library.


Thameslink Station, St. Pancras

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): I have agreed to the proposal to fit out the new Thameslink station at King's Cross St. Pancras. Work is already underway and the station will be ready for passenger use at the end of 2007.

The new state of the art station will provide an excellent interchange between Thameslink services and national and international services when Eurostar services switch operation to from Waterloo International to St. Pancras. It will also improve passenger access to those wishing to use the Olympic Javelin services to access Stratford during the London Olympics in 2012.

As part of the recent Channel Tunnel Rail Link blockade works a station box has already been constructed underneath the new St. Pancras station. The new station will be a great improvement over the existing King's Cross Thameslink station at Pentonville Road, which has restricted access to the platforms and often suffers from congestion due to its narrow platforms and limited access between the platforms and the rest of the station. The new station, provisionally called St. Pancras Thameslink, will also be fully compliant with DDA requirements.

The fit-out of the new station is an independent project and is not dependent on powers being granted to the Thameslink 2000 project, and consequently can be delivered in advance of this.

The planned cost of fitting out the station and transferring services is £63.5 million at 2003 prices. It will be implemented by London Continental Railways, who are currently completing Stage 2 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.