HC Deb 09 December 1968 vol 775 cc14-6
12. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Transport what methods are proposed to safeguard the safety of passengers accompanying cars and travelling on the car carriers to be used in the Channel Tunnel Scheme now being considered by his Department.

Mr. Marsh

Safety in the tunnel would be a matter for the eventual public operating authority, under the general supervision of the British and French Governments; but preliminary plans have made careful provision for safety in the design, equipment and operation of the tunnel and of the trains passing through it, including car ferry trains.

Mrs. Short

Is the Minister aware that one of the main technical difficulties in building a tunnel is ventilation, and that the main ventilation would be provided by the trains driving a plug of air through the tunnel? Has he thought of what would happen if hundreds of people were trapped because the train broke down and there was no ventilation? The tunnel will be 30-odd miles long.

Mr. Marsh

That has occurred to us. The studies which are taking place and will take place for the operating authority will include the whole question of emergency ventilation.

15. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Transport what is the estimated cost of the Channel Tunnel scheme now under consideration by his Department.

Mr. Marsh

About £200 million at 1966 prices, including interest charges and very little of this would be public expenditure.

Mrs. Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable body of opinion does not think that we shall get value for money by this expenditure? Is he further aware that the bridge to which he has referred, and which was considered six years ago, was the old-fashioned steel type bridge which is not built any more, and that what we need, if we are to have this link, is a combination of tunnel and bridge? Will he look into this again?

Mr. Marsh

A study was made of a possible bridge-tunnel-bridge link at the same time as the bridge study but again it was found that the costs would be very much higher than for a tunnel. This project will be financed mainly from the private sector and will come before this House with the full figures. I think that these two factors combined are a clear guarantee that the project will be economically viable.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of railway men think that the estimate of traffic that will be engendered by the tunnel is a considerable under-estimate since, quite naturally, a number of traffics which at present are not exported could be exported because of the cheapness of the tunnel transport as compared with other forms of transport?

Mr. Marsh

This is one of the problems. The hon. Gentleman's view is shared by a number of people and it conflicts directly with the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. René e Short) and others.

This is why we are proposing to rework the figures and find out what the economics really are before going ahead with the project.

Mr. Deedes

What would be the estimated public cost over and above the £300 million needed for railway, road and other developments?

Mr. Marsh

The right hon. Gentleman may be referring to a figure quoted in The Times some time ago as an official figure. It was not an official figure. The estimated cost at 1966 prices is £200 million. The bulk will be private risk capital and the proportion of public capital will be very small.

Mr. Robert Howarth

What consideration has been given to the magnet effect of the tunnel on the South-East of England to the detriment of other regions?

Mr. Marsh

Consideration has been given to this aspect and it is one of the factors which will concern both sides of the House when the Bill comes before it. However, in my view, it is not likely that industrialists will resite factories to be nearer the tunnel and the Channel ports, which are already used on a very big scale, merely in order to save themselves a relatively short journey from other parts of Britain.

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