HC Deb 03 November 1986 vol 103 cc668-9
2. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what level of capital investment by British Rail he intends to authorise in respect of the Channel Tunnel.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mr. David Mitchell)

We have approved in principle BR investment of up to £390 million at January 1985 prices. Individual elements in the proposals will have to be submitted for detailed Government approval.

Mrs. Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend agree that the tunnel will create valuable opportunities for manufacturers, especially in the north, and exciting new prospects for exporters throughout the country?

Mr. Mitchell

I agree with my hon. Friend. There is about £1,000 million worth of business to be picked up during the construction phase and, on average, 10,000 jobs per year will be created through the term. With reference to the north, I am glad to say that a famous engineering company in Glasgow already has letters of intent in relation to two tunnel boring machines.

Mr. Stuart Holland

In relation to the level of capital investment that British Rail intends to authorise in respect of the Channel tunnel, will the Minister comment on the report in the latest issue of New Civil Engineer, the source of which is British Rail market analyst Ken Gibbs, and which includes comments from Kleinwort, Benson, Mowlem and others, that an entirely new, privately funded and operated rail route from Folkestone to London may be undertaken with a terminus at Victoria? Will he comment on that now, or later, and relate it to the issue of why Waterloo should be the sole flagship terminal for Channel tunnel traffic?

Mr. Mitchell

I know of no authoritative suggestion that there should be a new rail line from the coast to Victoria. British Rail has made it clear why Victoria is not suitable for the length of trains necessary for that service.

Mr. Adley

As a railway enthusiast, does my hon. Friend remember that the South Eastern Railway built a line from Tonbridge to Reading via Redhill a century ago for the purpose of a Channel tunnel and that that line was not included in the Beeching cuts? Is he aware that, sadly, that line is not now included in the major electrification scheme to enable British Rail and the Government to achieve the regional objectives for the tunnel, which are one of the main objects of the exercise? Will my hon. Friend reconsider the arrangements whereby British Rail has been asked to provide plans only for that which is absolutely essential, thus omitting those advantages?

Mr. Mitchell

I understand that British Rail is currently reviewing its initial decision that freight would be hauled from the tunnel by diesel and is now considering electrically powered haulage. That may well affect the line to which my hon. Friend draws attention.

Mr. Gale

I do not wish to draw my hon. Friend on a matter which is the subject of a public inquiry, but will he confirm that in principle the Department welcomes private investment in British Rail?

Mr. Mitchell

It is up to British Rail where it sees opportunities for private investment to help, but at the moment it is not a central part of British Rail policy.