HC Deb 27 July 1953 vol 518 cc892-3
50 Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Transport (1) under what Act or agreement his Department undertook to finance the Dartford—Purfleet tunnel; on what date these powers expire; and what are the Government's proposals for carrying out the undertaking;

(2) how much it is estimated it would cost to construct the Dartford—Purfleet tunnel; how much has been completed; and what is the estimated cost of the remainder of the work to be carried out;

(3) in view of the importance to southeast England of a tunnel under the Thames between Dartford and Purfleet together with the fact that several Departments are concerned, if he will give consideration to setting up an interdepartmental committee to inquire into the need for expediting the completion of the tunnel commenced in 1931, the work being suspended in 1939 at the outbreak of hostilities.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The Dartford Tunnel Act, 1930, empowers the Joint Tunnel Committee of the Essex and Kent County Councils, incorporated under that Act, to construct the tunnel and enter into an agreement with the Minister of Transport for the execution of the work. An agreement negotiated in 1931 provides for my Department to carry out the work of construction as agent for the Tunnel Committee.

The powers granted under the 1930 Act for the completion of the tunnel expire on 1st October, 1960. Hitherto, only the pilot tunnel has been constructed. This has cost about £850,000, including maintenance. At present prices it would cost about a further £10 million to complete the main tunnel and road approaches.

I see no reason to set up a committee. I am fully aware of the need for completing this tunnel, and work will be restarted as soon as sufficient funds are available.

Mr. Dodds

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in the business of constructing tunnels in this country there is only one set of shields, which cost a lot of money to produce, that these are in position, and that there cannot be any more tunnels built until the Dartford—Purfleet tunnel is constructed?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am looking into that particular point and will communicate with the hon. Gentleman.

Colonel Gomme-Dnncan

In view of the fact that no more tunnels can be constructed at present, will my right hon. Friend transfer his attention to bridges?

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has consulted the Service Departments, in view of the very important defence aspect of this matter?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

We are continually in contact with them in all matters involving strategy.