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We are not talking about needing new services straight away; we are saying that at the moment my constituents, those of other hon. Members, and I
myself experience delay every day as we come into Waterloo. The trains stop between Clapham Junction and Waterloo because of the lack of capacity at Waterloo and restrictions at Clapham Junction. To give one example, until 1909 there were eight lines between Clapham Junction and Waterloo; now there are only seven. If the flyover between the two stations was removed, there could be eight lines. That would not need to result in extra services, but it would mean that the services already there could run on time, and probably take less time.
Although the Government go on about how they have improved punctuality, they have actually increased the standard length of the journey. It certainly now takes longer to go from my constituency to Waterloo, and part of that is because of pressure at Waterloo. That pressure could be released if those extra platforms were brought into use. I hope that the Minister will spend some time visiting Waterloo to discuss with the people concerned exactly what the problem is and what could be done to put it right.
Stephen Hammond: I entirely endorse my hon. Friends arguments. I am not yet sure if he is going to say whether he wishes to withdraw his amendment, but let me repeat that I wish to press amendment No. 4 to a Division, because I am not happy with the response that we have heard.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps it will assist the House if I indicate that were the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to withdraw his amendment, I would be disposed at the due time, after consideration of the next group of amendments, to allow a Division on the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond).
Mr. Chope: I am grateful to you for that indication, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Obviously, I shall not seek leave to withdraw my amendment until I have finished my remarks; if I did, I would not be able to conclude what has been a really good
All the Minister has said is that he thinks that the platforms will be brought back into use by 2014. That is another six years away. Between now and 2014 we will be spending £500,000-plus a year on mothballing them, which is absolutely intolerable. That could still be mitigated, but it was avoidable had action been taken after the Strategic Rail Authority report from the consultants in July 2005.
Mr. Chope: I used to be the shadow Minister for the millennium dome, so I will not be drawn into a long debate about that saga. The millennium dome was, at all material times, a white elephant; Waterloo international is a very fine building that needs to be brought back into use straight away. The problem with the millennium dome was that it was difficult to find anybody who could make a commercial go of it, whereas everybody is saying, Lets get Waterloo station back into full operational use as soon as possible.
The Government talk about doing something by 2014. If they had a clear plan, the first thing that one would expect them to sayfor example, to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam), who made an excellent speechis, The hon. Gentlemans suggestion is feasible, or, That is not feasible. Of course, it would not be feasible if the bridge linking the old Eurostar line that goes over the railway tracks between Clapham Junction and Waterloo to allow services from Petts Wood and Orpington to come into Waterloo were taken away. What depresses me about this debate is that I would have expected a Minister to say, Thats a good ideayes, we can do that, or, Thats a bad ideait wont be practical because we think that our priority should be services coming in from the south-west. The fact that the Minister does not seem to know which of those options is to be used shows how far we are from reaching any conclusion.
Mr. Ian Taylor: Given that the Government have claimed credit for Crossrail, which has eventually been sorted out, should not they take the blame for not listening to the argument advanced by my hon. Friends and myself several years ago that thousands of commuters would be put out by the failure to integrate the platforms at Waterloo and make the investment at Clapham Junction? There seems to be a balance between Crossrail, where at last the Government have done something, and on Waterloo international, where they have failed.
Waterloo domestic station is one of the largest and busiest stations in London. Its 19 platforms are intensively used, particularly those serving the Main Line, Suburban and Windsor Lines destinations.
The Waterloo area is currently a limited destination in itself, and most passengers arriving at Waterloo interchange onto other lines...Passenger circulation is a particular issue both in the main concourse and for interchange. Network Rail believe that the station is approaching the limit of its safe passenger handling capacity and that works will be required to increase passenger capacity if passenger numbers increase significantly. It is expected that at current rates of growth (and without any changes to Waterloo International), capacity will be reached by 2011.
That is three years before the Minister says that the platforms at the former international station will be open. That information was available to the GovernmentI accept that it was not available to him, because he has become a Minister only recentlyin
July 2005. It is clear today that in the intervening period the Government have done absolutely nothing to address the issue.
When my constituents find in 2011 that they cannot get into Waterloo because of passenger congestion, what will I say to them? I will say that there was an opportunity to increase capacity, but the Government declined to take it. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor) referred to Crossrail. That is an incredibly expensive project. For a much smaller investment, the lives of tens of thousands of commuters into Waterloo could be completely transformed, with quicker, more reliable and more comfortable services, safer platforms and more circulation space for passengers.
This has been a disappointing debate, because I had hoped that we would get a clearer picture from the Government, and that the impression I had before the debate that the Government did not have a clue where they were going with Waterloo international would be removed by the Ministers remarks. I am afraid that that feeling has been confirmed by the Ministers remarks, so the only way we have of showing our disapproval of the Governments laid-back attitude on this matter is to divide the House. The best thing to divide on would be amendment No. 4, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 7.
(3) In subsection (1) rail services refer only to those services that both originate and terminate in the United Kingdom..
The Minister accused me of intellectual gymnastics. This amendment is full of intellectual clarity, so we shall have no problem with it. He will recognise the amendment because it is very similar to one that I tabled in Committee. I tabled it again because, as I said in Committee on reading the Ministers answer, we would like to seek further clarification, or to press the matter to a Division if we have a disappointing response.
As the Minister said, clause 1 is intended to clear up any potential confusion about whether the Government can continue to provide financial support to the rail link and the services running on it, now that the construction phase is complete and the services are up and running. That is deemed necessary because any future buyer might be in some doubt about it, which is why the clause includes the words:
For the avoidance of doubt.
The clause gives the Secretary of State the power to subsidise HS1 into its operational phase, but it is the stated intention of the Government that this power will be exercised in relation to domestic services only, and not to international ones. The explanatory notes to the Bill say as much:
the Secretary of State will provide revenue funding for domestic services operating on the CTRL.
It would be wrong for the UK taxpayer to subsidise services across the continent. [Official Report, Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Public Bill Committee, 4 December 2007; c. 13.]
in relation to the rail link or railway services on it.
nothing in sections 31 to 33 of the 1996 Act prevents the powers of the Secretary of State under section 6 of the Railways Act 2005... from being exercised in relation to the rail link or railways services on it.
For the avoidance of doubt.
rail services refer only to those services that both originate and terminate in the United Kingdom.
in extremis, does not the Bill allow the possibility of part of the service that Eurostar is running in the UK being open to revenue funding?
In essence, if, in the short term, any extra subsidy were to be provided to Eurostar Ltd, such as through leasing stock agreements, the hon. Gentleman is right. That could be interpreted as being a short-term subsidy from the Government. However, as I have repeatedly said, it is not the intention of the Government publicly to provide any subsidy to Eurostar in the long term. [Official Report, Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Public Bill Committee, 4 December 2007; c. 14.]
The Under-Secretarys answer was extraordinarily revealing. Although he repeatedly said that it is not the Governments intention, there is a genuine possibility that the Government will not be able to fulfil their intention.
If it is the Governments intention that there is revenue funding only for domestic services, let us include that in the Bill for the avoidance of doubt and ambiguity. The Governments current position appears to be that they offer revenue funding and support to domestic services and not to international services, but only in the long term, not in the short term. That is ludicrous. In Committee, the Under-Secretary told us that my amendment was unnecessary. He said that the power to support rail services under the 2005 Act extended only to the United Kingdom. That may be the case, but, as I pointed out, some of the trains that run on British soil are international services. As his answer showed, the Government may well subsidise some international services in the short term. Being in British territory does not necessarily make a train a domestic service.
Does the Under-Secretary concede that, in the light of his reply in Committee, just because the Secretary of
States powers are restricted by the 2005 Act to funding only services in Great Britain, funding is not restricted to domestic services? Does he concede that some trains that run on British track are international services? If he concedes those points, does he admit that the current wording of clause 1 does not meet the Governments stated objective? For the avoidance of doubt, my amendment will help the Under-Secretary. I hope that he will accept it in that spirit of help.
Mr. Tom Harris: In response to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) that my answers in Committee were revealing, I assure him that that was not the intention. I am not sure whether my response to his questions will be any more persuasive or reassuring today than they were in Committee. Nevertheless, I will try.
Let me say again that it is not the Governments intention to subsidise international services through a franchise or any similar arrangement. Furthermore, the power to support services in the 2005 Act extends only to Great Britain. The Secretary of State does not have the ability to fund continental train services. The current structure of Eurostar UK Ltd preserves the distinction between charges paid by London and Continental Railways and charges paid by the other ownersSNCF and SNCB, the national railway operators of France and Belgium respectively. The cost and revenue-sharing protocols under which Eurostar is managed ensure that LCR pays only the access charges on the UK side and half the charges for the tunnel.
Clause 1 does not give the Secretary of State a new power. It does, however, clarify that she has the same commercial flexibility to support HS1 as she has for the national rail network. Technically, that would include the ability to support cross-channel train operators in the same way as domestic franchise operators are subsidised, but Eurostar is an open-access operator and therefore has no franchise arrangements with the Government. However, as Eurostar UK Ltd is historically loss making and relies on future public support, through the access charge loan and guarantees of its rolling stock leases, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, it is fair to expect the company to continue to require support in the short to medium term if it is to remain financially viable and be able to run services.
The access charge loan has a limit of £184 million at January 1997 prices, which in current value terms will be roughly £500 million next year. Eurostar UKs rolling stock leases currently have a capital value of £175 million. The amendment would call into question the Secretary of States ability to provide either the funding that has already been agreed through the access charge loan, the guarantees of rolling stock leases or any other means. That would place Eurostar in an unsustainable position, which would affect the value of HS1, too. Despite the hon. Gentlemans suggestion, far from adding clarity, the amendment would increase the likelihood of doubt about the Secretary of States powers under the clause. I therefore hope that he will see fit to withdraw it.
Stephen Hammond: I have listened carefully to the Minister and have no doubt that his stated intention is that no subsidy should be given to international operations. I have also listened carefully to what he said about Eurostar. However, I fail to see how the amendment could do anything other than add clarity.
I accept the Ministers explanation of why he thinks the amendment is not necessary. However, we shall watch carefully to ensure that the short-term funding that he says is necessary does not extend into long-term funding. If that happened, that would be contrary to the Governments stated intention and become a problem for them. With those caveats, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
( ) The powers of the Secretary of State under section 6 of the Railways Act 2005 shall be exercised in such a way so as to ensure that assets associated with the rail link at Waterloo Station are developed for the purpose of providing domestic rail services. [Stephen Hammond.]
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