HC Deb 16 February 1983 vol 37 cc277-8
3. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will meet the chairman of the British Railways Board to discuss the feasibility of a rail link between central London and Stansted airport; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Eyre

The feasibility of a rail link to Stansted airport has already been established. Whether the link will be needed will depend on the decision on the proposed expansion of the airport.

Mr. Haselhurst

What would be the cost of such a project? Will that cost not further tend to question the wisdom of establishing a third London airport in north-west Essex? Will my hon. Friend consider whether such a sum might be better directed towards improving services on the Cambridge line so that my constituents can enjoy a railway service more fitting to the 1980s than to the 1930s?

Mr. Eyre

My hon. Friend knows that the Government have made it clear that they intend to provide a rail service to link the expanded airport with London. But a decision will not be taken before the outcome of the inquiry is known. British Rail's earlier study estimated a cost of about £170 million at 1980 prices. The detailed work currently under way shows scope for reducing that cost.

I note my hon. Friend's views about priorities for railway development.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Is the Minister aware that a rail link between Stansted airport and central London is more sensible than the proposal to build a dangerous and noisy heliport on the banks of the Thames opposite my constituency?

Mr. Eyre

I note the hon. Gentleman's opinion.

Mr. Colvin

Has my hon. Friend had the opportunity to compare the cost of a rail link with Stansted with the cost of extending the Picadilly line to serve a fifth terminal on the Perry Oaks site at Heathrow, which would cost only £19 million at 1979 prices? Is that not one good reason, together with many other good reasons, for developing a fifth terminal at Heathrow rather than embarking upon development at Stansted?

Mr. Eyre

My hon. Friend mentioned a factor that must be taken into account when the outcome of the inquiry is known. I know that he will understand that the decision on the airport will be taken by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Trade and for the Environment.

Mr. Wilkinson

In order to compare like with like, will my hon. Friend consider the cost of extending British Rail's network from Feltham to terminal 5, which would be much cheaper than building a new rail service from central London to Stansted?

Mr. Eyre

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. It will be taken into account in due course.

Mr. Jay

Will the Minister give an assurance that a decision will be taken on this matter before the end of the century?

Mr. Eyre

The right hon. Gentleman will have to await the outcome of the inquiry, and we cannot yet estimate when that will be.