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Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I declare an interest in Eurotunnel and I am grateful for the many messages of support over the years which noble Lords have given to the project. It is much appreciated. Having worked on the Channel Tunnel for nigh on 15 years, I saw at close quarters the excellent and assiduous work done by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in chairing the Select Committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill. It gave me great pleasure to hear that he is proposed as the chairman of the Select Committee on this Bill. It might be said that he has waited patiently for far too long for this Bill to arrive.
As my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis said, the regional links are extremely important. It gave me great pleasure to read that London and Continental will propose a proper double track rail link across the top of St. Pancras for frequent services from the Midlands and the north west. As the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, said, it is vitally important in connecting to Stratford and Paris. Noble Lords may remember that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was a trans-Europe network priority and later on the west coast main line was added as a priority project. But they were not connected except by one emergency line. So it could be said that London and Continental has done what the Government failed to do; namely, connect two strategic links across the top of London. Certainly, I welcome that greatly.
I am somewhat concerned about when the project will start and therefore when it will finish. Clause 10 of the Bill says that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link must start within 10 years. If we allow five years for construction, it may be up to 15 years from now. It may be a coincidence but that compares very well with the west coast main line where the franchising director told a meeting in this House quite recently that the upgrading would take about 14 years to complete. So we are talking about the year 2010, or 2011 if it all goes badly. I hope that I am wrong and mistaken. Perhaps the Minister will be able to correct me later on that point.
I want to discuss one specific matter about the construction of the project before I turn to operational matters. As my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis said, King's Cross lands is one of the concerns. I do not want to trespass on the responsibilities of the Select Committee, but it appears that the Government are attempting to thwart the will of the Select Committee in another place. I believe that the Select Committee of this House should be aware of that.
At present there are a number of thriving cement, concrete and aggregate batching businesses in that area which supply the needs of the local building industry in central and northern London for concrete which is usually distributed by concrete-mixer lorries. The materials come from many parts of the country by rail, saving an estimated 30,000 lorry journeys a year-- if they came in by road that would be the number of lorry journeys. It is equivalent to about 120 heavy lorry journeys per day saved by bringing in this material by rail.
Those businesses therefore petitioned the Select Committee in another place, but the operator, Mainline Freight, did not do so since it was then part of British Rail. The Select Committee reported in their favour and in relation to the Tarmac petition said,
That meant that the promoter--the Government--could decide the location of rail freight facilities; there was no right for Mainline Freight to object to the period of notice--in other words, it could be 24 hours; the promoters could insist on the businesses moving to an interim site, but there was no guarantee of finding that site or of adequate capacity there. There was no responsibility on the promoters to find a site at all within the King's Cross lands, and the promoter can interrupt rail deliveries to any of the sites, which is not a lot of use when one is running a rail delivery business. Lastly, there was no long-term security anywhere on the King's Cross lands.
What do the parties to the agreement have in common? Mainline Freight, the British Railways Board and the Secretary of State (who is the promoter) are all government controlled. That agreement was signed the day before the Wisconsin handover, which had already been delayed. I understand why Wisconsin signed and accepted the agreement, but with the proviso that it reserved the right to sue the former directors--the government employees--of Mainline Freight for not looking after the interests of their company.
I believe that the petitioners' requirements could be seen to be perfectly reasonable. They were happy to move and to pay for one move. Since then, correspondence between the promoters and the petitioners and the contents of that overarching agreement seem to indicate that the Government are holding back from implementing the spirit, let alone the letter, of the Select Committee report and their response to it.
It is true that the documentation allows the Government to give the petitioners what they require, but there is no indication of commitment. Furthermore, although the land offered--but none of the other requirements--is adequate now, that land is likely to be significantly reduced if London and Continental applies to add additional tracks to connect into the north London line to get a two-track connection by a Transport and Works Act order. Will the Government still agree to relocate the petitioners on the same basis if some of their land is taken in several years' time by a Transport and Works Act order?
I believe that the Government have forfeited the trust of the petitioners, who are still seeking a positive and reasonable outcome to enable them to remain in business. They support the rail link obviously and sought to reach reasonable agreement on the issues key to their continuing viable operation. But those must be binding commitments to the continuity of operation in the short, medium and long term--adequate capacity of sidings and other facilities and reimbursement of the cost to move, apart from the first move.
Why are the Government doing that? It is extraordinary to witness the apparent lack of concern shown by the Government for the long-term success of rail freight at King's Cross for the supply of concrete materials. We have heard many assurances of their commitment to rail freight but there appears to be one overriding exception to this when more money can be made out of property--office, retail or expensive housing.
However, there is one fly in the ointment. The promoters have given an undertaking that all construction materials required for the construction of the rail link will be brought in by rail, wherever that is possible. If the promoter closes down or even interrupts the operation of this rail terminal, the concrete will have to come by road. No doubt many of the local authorities around there might have a few comments to make on that.
If the promoters are forced to close down the rail supplied concrete facilities after construction is complete, that will be a travesty of the principle of the assurances given to the Select Committee in another place. I am sure that the committee and the petitioners will take note of these government actions when seeking ever-more watertight assurances for what they want.
I turn now to operations. It behoves us all to seek a situation whereby London and Continental and other operators can operate with the maximum flexibility to provide a service to customers in Kent, across London, to and from the regions and from all these places across the Channel to adjacent member states. I wish we could
I wish to raise two matters to do with operations. The first concerns the safety approval procedure. In the rail privatisation debate on 8th May I described delays in Railtrack approving safety cases for new rolling stock. The Minister said that it was the responsibility of the vehicle manufacturer and owner to demonstrate safe operation. I hope that he may be able to tell us what the operator and Railtrack are supposed to do in this matter.
I turn to my second point. It is my understanding that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will be an equivalent track authority with, so far as I can see, similar responsibilities, which include safety. If anyone wishes to operate a train on both types of track, as the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, asked earlier, will he have to get a safety case from two separate authorities, thereby costing him double the amount and taking double the time? I doubt whether many operators will bother. London and Continental is also an operator. I think it is called a semi-vertically integrated franchise, which is a rather nice expression. Unlike Railtrack, it will have the ability to give itself safety approval for its trains while refusing a competitor. I am sure that it is much too professional to do that--the people I have met certainly are--but, as the system is set up, an unscrupulous successor could do that. Surely that is another argument for having the safety standards and approval of both Railtrack and the rail link as one separate and independent organisation.
Lastly, I wish to turn to frontier controls for through passenger trains. These trains start north of London this year and, as we have heard, London and Continental is proposing frequent services from the west coast main line, via Stratford, to Paris. At present no domestic passengers may be carried on international trains. We are told that that is a requirement of the frontier control people, but let us just examine why. I define "frontier control" as Customs, immigration, security and MAFF. The authorities trumpet about drugs being caught at Dover. I was told that 90 per cent. of drugs caught in this country are caught at Dover but it is usually as a result of tip-offs. It is just convenient for the authorities.
Some noble Lords may have come on the Eurostar to Waterloo. One notices that immigration procedures are carried out on the train. It takes two people. If it is done at Waterloo, it takes 17 people. That is why they always do one train every day at Waterloo--so that they can have 15 extra people on duty. It is a great job creation scheme. All these people require expensive facilities through the Channel Tunnel. At one stage they asked for the freight shuttles to be separated from the lorry drivers when taken across the Channel because the frontier control people did not want to be sitting with the lorry drivers for 25 minutes. Frankly, that is tough. Eurostar has a separate compartment for them to rest and there are two gaols on board with meat hooks on which the handcuffs can be placed.
I know that there will be a problem with the west coast and east coast main line franchisees because they may oppose it. In my view that is tough: it is up to the franchising director to sort it out. Of course, we need Customs, immigration, security and MAFF, but we need to try to resolve this matter so that they work to the benefit of the customers and do so on the train between Ashford and Lille. That will enable all these extra facilities to go and national passengers to travel on international trains.
Many of these subjects, I am sure, will be discussed at later stages of the Bill. I conclude by adding my congratulations to the staff of Union Railways who, I believe, have acted in a most comprehensive and sensitive manner in developing this project. They have worked extremely hard. I support this Bill and I wish it a safe and secure passage through this House.
The Earl of Darnley: My Lords, I am an enthusiastic supporter of a high speed rail link between Cheriton and London. Ever since the decision was taken to build a tunnel on its own, a modern and efficient railway link to London and a main rail network beyond, has been inevitable. In 1987, much of the debate centred on what share of the cross-Channel passenger and freight traffic the shuttle service could capture from the ferries. Not much attention was paid to how many of the large number of passengers flying daily between London and Paris and Brussels could be converted to through rail services. Equally, diverting freight from the road-ferry mode to through liner freight trains took second place to discussion on the number of lorries that could be diverted on to the shuttle at Cheriton and away from their familiar ferries at Dover.
In a remarkably short space of time Eurostar has become an enormous success, capturing a sizeable share of the airline traffic between London and Paris. The new owners have announced plans to expand the service greatly. Freight had a slower start, but a number of trains do pursue a circuitous route around London to link up eventually with the main lines to the north and west of the country.
The problem faced by both passenger and freight through services is that whereas much of our rail network is modern and laid out for fast running, the South Eastern Railway was designed to lower standards and with commuters in mind. It is already congested; spare capacity is scarce and the running of international freight trains poses operational difficulties. Lack of rail capacity in Kent will restrict the traffic that can use the tunnel and will do nothing to persuade freight to turn to rail for its long-haul cargoes, which is a major objective of many transport and environmental policies. This new rail link will make possible a full-blown inter-city passenger service between London, Paris and Brussels and will open up the possibility of direct services to other centres on the Continent. It will be designed to carry freight and by its very existence it will also free up capacity on existing lines for freight trains. Best of all, by terminating at St. Pancras, it will enable direct connections to be made to other mainlines in the north and west of the country.
At this point, I must declare an interest in that I have a family connection with the area of land at Cobham Park and Ashenbank Wood which lies on the proposed route of the high-speed rail link. Indeed, it is my intention to petition the Select Committee of this House to seek to reduce the impact of the new railway on the environment and the historical importance of the site.
I hasten to say that I do not criticise the designated route of the railway. On the contrary, it is infinitely preferable to increase the size of an existing traffic corridor by routing the railway alongside existing main roads rather than create a new one out of virgin countryside. The proposed Ebbsfleet station will be much welcomed in north-west Kent. It is an area that is hungry for investment and jobs and it suffers from what can only be described as an inadequate rail service to London.
Inevitably, a major infrastructure project, however welcome and however much needed, cannot be created without some cost to the environment. It is that aspect that concerns me. I mentioned earlier my association with the Cobham section of the railway. That is arguably the most environmentally and historically sensitive part of the entire route outside London. Excellent research has been done for the environmental statement and the baseline condition has been well documented. Cobham Hall, a Grade 1 Elizabethan mansion, stands no more than half a mile from the proposed route of the railway and will be protected from it by its pleasure gardens and the remains of its park, which are listed Grade 2 starred by English Heritage. Ashenbank Wood is a site of special scientific interest, and a Roman villa nearby is an ancient monument. In addition, the whole area falls within an area of outstanding natural beauty.
There is no doubt that the damaging consequences of building the railway could be largely eliminated if it were to be placed in a bored tunnel at this point. That view is shared by the borough council and all those who are concerned with preserving the importance of the site. There would also seem to be topographical and
Instead, a great deal of work has been done by Union Railways on ways of mitigating the effects of this major civil engineering project both during the construction phase and thereafter. Union Railways has been most sympathetic to the concerns of those affected, but has been hampered in the first instance by not being able to commit finance; and, secondly, because much of the engineering design has yet to be completed.
My concern, which I know will be shared by others all along the route, is that the Bill will receive Royal Assent before proper undertakings can be put in place to protect the environment. That not only involves the costing of the various options, but a clear commitment that when the time comes the finance will be available.
I welcome this most exciting infrastructure project, but I must make a plea that decisions affecting the environment are not made on grounds of cost alone, as once destroyed, our heritage is gone for ever.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I firmly believe that we have had what can only be described as a splendid and well-informed debate on the Bill. I do not think that I have ever had the pleasure of sitting through the Second Reading of a Bill on which there has been such an extraordinary degree of consensus about the value of what we are doing although a number of points of detail have, of course, been raised. Some of those points are probably matters for the Select Committee to consider; others raise more general concerns. I shall certainly do my best to discuss those. I shall follow that with a very careful reading of Hansard tomorrow. As I am replying to a three-hour debate and may miss some points, I shall write to noble Lords where necessary.
The quality and thoroughness of this debate illustrate the work that has already gone into the preparation of the Bill. I particularly welcome the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. His support was qualified almost immediately by a party political broadcast and what my noble friend Lord Aldington described as a selective memory test on the issue of Channel tunnels and what had happened over the past few years.
The first major issue is the length of time taken to bring this project to its present stage. I agree with my noble friend Lord Aldington that we now have a very mature, fully worked out plan that has been prepared in the most extraordinary detail. It brings major benefits to this country and to the travelling public--not just transport benefits, which are considerable, but infrastructure and regeneration benefits. That is important and must be the basis on which we consider the project.
The project was never intended to be completed at the same time as the Channel Tunnel. The need for it arises from a future, not current, need for more railway capacity between London and the Channel Tunnel. The noble Viscount, Lord Sidmouth, and possibly the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to the way in which the link had been taken forward in France. In France the
The history lesson continued. Various versions were put forward from different corners of the House. I enjoyed the conversion of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, as the champion of private enterprise, on the rail link to St. Pancras. Of course, I accept that now, but it is important to bear in mind the success of the PFI and the fact that this project is being brought forward as a flagship PFI project.
A comparison has been made between the proposal made now and the proposal in 1990 rejected by my noble friend, Lord Parkinson. I believe that there are four key reasons why the present deal is so much better than that rejected by my noble friend, the then Secretary of State. First, the route is much more environmentally sensitive than the earlier proposals, with about 25 per cent. now in tunnel and about 85 per cent. either in tunnel or in existing major transport corridors. Secondly, in terms of economic regeneration, the stations at Stratford and Ebbsfleet in particular contrast with little or no regeneration in the 1990 route. The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, was concerned about the stations. He flung out a few references to accusations, which I will not go into at this stage. If the noble Lord believes them he is also accusing his honourable friends in another place of corruption and various matters which I know he would not do. When the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, refers to those rumours I am sure that he does not believe them either.
There was discussion on the question of public money going into the rail link but not into the Channel Tunnel. The link could not be built without public sector support unlike the tunnel itself which Eurotunnel and the banks were confident from the outset could be built without public money support. Public sector support for the rail link is justified, not just needed. CTRL will deliver huge benefits to the public, including vastly improved international and domestic services. I do not see why the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, should be upset by the word "international". It means "between countries", and that is probably the situation.
The link will also stimulate regeneration, as we have heard, in the Thames gateway and East London around Ebbsfleet, Stratford and beyond. So there is no mileage to be had in the U-turn scheme of things. My noble friend Lord Parkinson, the then Secretary of State for Transport, did not rule out a government contribution in principle, and that is worth bearing in mind.
My noble friend Lord Astor was right to draw attention to the benefits of the link for the residents of Kent, and the reduction in journey times, which are so marked. That is in contrast to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, who felt that because there was an advantage that must automatically take away from the other advantages of the scheme. The two are not mutually exclusive. There are many benefits from the link. I do not believe they are mutually exclusive.
We discussed the important issue of freight. There was something of a division between the Liberal Benches and those of the Labour Party. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, judged that the interests of freight had in some way been overlooked. I do not believe that to be the case. As I said in my opening remarks, the CTRL will have a freight capability. The Bill already provides for two freight loops and a link to the freight inspection site at Dollands Moor. What is more, there are clear undertakings that they will be built.
The key point is that the link will also substantially increase overall rail capacity to the tunnel. The benefits will be to London and to industrial and commercial centres elsewhere where a great deal of actual and potential demand for international freight traffic occurs.
We had some contributions, not least from the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, in his characteristically forthright and explanatory style, about the issue of regional links and why it is important to ensure that the CTRL connects properly to the rest of the country. There is nothing between us on that. At one stage I thought the noble Lord was encouraging me to move the Channel tunnel up north. Even the power of this Government would not be able to run to that. I doubt whether he will find that idea even in the somewhat far-fetched proposals often put forward by the party opposite. Nonetheless, I recognise, and agree with him entirely, about the importance of ensuring that the benefits from this link flow throughout the country, and indeed they will.
We have already heard about the linkage that will occur in London: easier connections to the West Coast main line. That was a point picked up by the noble Lords, Lord Clinton-Davis, Lord Berkeley, and others, and was generally widely welcomed.
The issue of blight and compensation was raised by a number of noble Lords, not least my noble friend Lord Aldington. It is an important issue whenever one is considering a major piece of transport infrastructure. It is, of necessity, a complex issue. It might help if I took just a few moments to explain what is being done. First, the rail link route has been selected carefully, as we have heard, including the sensitive use
For homes that are required to be taken for the rail link, voluntary purchase by Union Railways is available from now at the request of the owner. The terms are the unblighted value of the property as if the CTRL project did not exist, plus all fees, disturbance and home loss payments. The majority of affected homes have already been purchased. Any homes required for the building of the rail link which have not been acquired voluntarily by the time of Royal Assent will be subject to compulsory purchase at that time on the same terms. As regards the residential owner-occupiers whose properties are close to the surface sections of the rail link which are not taken, a discretionary purchase scheme is operated by Union Railways.
The Select Committee in the other place was satisfied with the treatment of those with properties taken or seriously affected by the rail link. Its concern was the blight which petitioners claimed spread further from the rail link which we term "generalised blight". That is the subject of the Government's review, as I mentioned in opening the debate, and I shall comment on that briefly in a moment.
As regards those adjacent to the railway, noise insulation will be available when the criteria for the national noise insulation regulations for railways are met. In addition, the discretionary purchase scheme will continue until a year after opening the rail link. Thereafter, under the statutory provisions for injurious effect, compensation will be paid for loss of property values arising from physical effects of the rail link such as noise. Those arrangements are modelled on the procedures used for roads. There is no question of those affected by the rail link being treated less favourably than those affected by reflective road schemes.
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mentioned the PCA report, the ombudsman and so forth. We have already rehearsed those arguments at Question Time and so forth, and therefore I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied if I direct my remarks to the review and its timing. However, if he requires a fuller explanation I can of course give one.
The Select Committee in another place requested the review that we have discussed. The Government have agreed the terms of reference of the review, which were publicised on 18th March. More than 130 organisations with an interest in compensation and blight issues have been contacted with a view to presenting evidence to the review. A discussion paper setting out the key issues which the working group wishes to see addressed in evidence will be published soon. We have promised that copies of the document will be placed in the Library of the House. Promises have also been made that a progress report on the review will be published in the autumn. That is probably as exact as I can be at the moment.
My noble friend Lord Aldington raised the issue of compensation for business. That is a complex issue which depends on the amount of land that is taken, whether it is necessary for the business to move out,
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, raised the issue of the Boxley tunnel. Some of the issues can be classified as general and some are for consideration by the Select Committee. However, it was helpful that the noble Lord raised those issues. The Boxley Valley was considered by the Select Committee in another place and the tunnel was rejected. It is notable that Kent County Council is not seeking the tunnel through the Boxley Valley in its petition to your Lordships' House. Others may seek a tunnel but the county council does not and it is worth bearing that in mind.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, also asked about the provisions of the Bill compared with the Transport and Works Act and the way in which the two relate. The development agreement regulates London and Continental to build the CTRL on the lands identified in the Bill. There is no question of using the Transport and Works Act to change the route. I can say that clearly to the noble Lord and I hope that that provides him with the information that he seeks.
My noble friend Lord Aldington asked about the status of the various undertakings that have been given. The Government have given a clear undertaking that requirements will be placed on London and Continental. Accordingly, the development agreement with LCR requires it to honour the undertakings and assurances given during the passage of the Bill. To assist in what might be an otherwise complicated process, a register of all the assurances and undertakings given is being kept. I understand that so far there are about 400 entries.
The noble Lord, Lord Crook, raised the issue of the gauge. As he rightly said, a number of Written Answers have set down in some detail the facts in relation to many of the questions surrounding that. Suffice it to say that there is a requirement in the development agreement--the contract between LCR and the Government--that LCR must build the link to a continental gauge capable of taking the largest freight trains. Therefore, there is no need for any provision to be written on the face of the Bill.
My noble friends Lord Astor and Lord Pender were concerned about the interrelationship between the road widening scheme of the A.2/M.2 and the CTRL. An absolute future guarantee of the start of new road projects can never be given because of reasons of government budgeting. Nevertheless, the Government recognise the advantages of the co-ordinated planning of the CTRL and the road-widening scheme and construction within the same time-scale. Indeed, it was in order to maximise the opportunities for those benefits that the A.2/M.2 widening scheme was included in the CTRL Bill. I hope that that explanation is of use to my noble friends.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, asked about the Class 92 locomotives and why they are taking so long to be introduced into service. They are the most complex locomotives ever developed in the UK and additional work on the track circuits has been required to ensure that they operate safely. I have some other information about that which may interest the noble Lord. Suffice it to say that they will not run on the link until it is built.
Heritage issues have been a central area of concern in the debate today. My noble friend Lord Cavendish was quite right to draw attention to all the important heritage issues which pertain to the Bill and notably those in connection with St. Pancras and the gasholders. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, contributed at some length to that discussion.
There was mention of the disapplication of the planning legislation. Although Clause 12 and Schedule 7 selectively disapply the relevant provisions of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 for works required to construct the CTRL, I can give an assurance that there is no intention whatever to ride roughshod over legitimate heritage interests. On the contrary, to replace the safeguards in disapplied legislation, the Government have been negotiating with English Heritage and local authorities on agreements as regards listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas. They have also negotiated with English Heritage in relation to agreements on ancient monuments. Those agreements are tailored to the particular requirements of the project.
In recognition of the special nature of St. Pancras terminus and its setting, in close co-operation with English Heritage and the local planning authority, the London Borough of Camden, we have developed a series of planning and heritage minimum requirements specifically for St. Pancras. My noble friend Lord Cavendish was good enough to recognise that the Government have made considerable efforts to put in appropriate safeguards, although he still feels that changes should be made. I am sure that such issues will be discussed when the matter comes before the Select Committee.
The minimum requirements target the features of the building which must be preserved and determine the way in which its heritage setting should be conserved and enhanced. That includes requirements relating to traffic control to minimise impact on listed buildings, their setting and the conservation area of St. Pancras. The chambers themselves constitute an exceptionally important building, as denoted by their Grade I listing. Both the chambers and the adjoining train shed are recognised historic landmarks of national importance. Those facts are recognised by the special arrangements that have been made. The buildings are to be regularly monitored and kept in a safe, secure, weather tight and
The gasholders were referred to by my noble friend. English Heritage accepts that the gasholders will inevitably be displaced by the CTRL works. That is my understanding. Discussions with English Heritage and the London Borough of Camden on the subject are ongoing and I hope will lead to an agreement soon. We need to await the outcome of current discussions about the priority which the gasholders should have among the range of St. Pancras heritage projects.
My noble friends Lord Darnley and Lord Astor referred to Cobham Park and mentioned that there are petitions on that subject. The issues surrounding this area were extensively discussed in the Select Committee in another place and the request that the route be put in a tunnel in this area was rejected by the Select Committee. Since then, however, Union Railways has participated in a joint study with local consultees, which include both the county and the borough councils, on additional mitigation options and additional community amenity measures for this area. A study has recently been published by officials, and Union Railways Limited has given it serious consideration.
My noble friend Lord Astor was concerned about the upward limits of deviation. I can reassure him that this is a standard provision in railway Bills and is needed for a variety of technical reasons, for example as regards the accuracy of the mapping base. In many locations undertakings have been given to limit the upward deviation where there are physical constraints to be negotiated. If there are further locations where a stricter limit than three metres is desirable, those could of course be put to the Select Committee for consideration.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked a number of questions. He was concerned about the King's Cross concrete batching plants. He gave us the background on that. The noble Lord helpfully quoted from the Government's response to the Select Committee of 13th February on this point, and he has saved me from doing so. He must have seen my brief before I did. That response sums up the Government's position. As was made clear during the debate for Report/Third Reading in another place on 25th April, there has been no change in the Government's position. The Government will comply fully with the undertaking given to the Select Committee. I hope that gives the noble Lord some reassurance.
As regards the position of main line freight, as the noble Lord said, an over arching agreement has been entered into which provides for a long-term lease to be granted for the existing site occupied by the three companies concerned, and a new site is to be made available under the undertaking given to the Select Committee. That lease, which is consistent with the Government's undertaking to the Select Committee, is currently under discussion between the parties concerned and will be granted soon. I know that one of the companies involved has raised a concern about the
The noble Lord asked about the freight services and safety. I am sure that he knows the answer to that question as well as I. However, I shall repeat the question for the benefit of other noble Lords. The question was: if freight operators wish to run trains on both the Railtrack network and on the Channel Tunnel rail link, will they need to get separate authority to do so, and as a consequence produce separate safety cases? The design of the link and the safety measures employed are such that potential freight operators will need to seek separate authority. However, that may not mean producing a separate safety case although any safety case would need to satisfy both Railtrack and LCR. That is, of course, entirely logical given the different technical standards on CTRL and the existing Railtrack network. I should press on in the 26th minute of my response. If the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is not satisfied, I shall be delighted to write to him further on that.
As I said in my opening remarks, we believe that the committee has a substantial task ahead. However, the Government's clear advice is that the committee should not seek any changes to the route outside the Bill's powers.
We have had an extremely wide-ranging and important debate about all the issues surrounding the rail link. We can conclude that the link will bring major benefits to this country, more international and domestic train capacity, faster journey times, and a welcome regeneration for areas which badly need it. It is certainly an embodiment of the principle and spirit of the PFI, exemplifying the private and public sector relationship at its best.