HC Deb 21 February 1994 vol 238 cc12-3
13. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what benefits Billericay will derive from crossrail.

Mr. Norris

My hon. Friend's constituents will either travel to Shenfield to use the line directly, or will otherwise take advantage of reduced congestion on existing services. They will gain benefits in journey time savings and reduced overcrowding.

Mrs. Gorman

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. He should know that my constituents in Billericay who travel to Liverpool street each day are greatly looking forward to that new service, which I am sure, because it is largely privately funded, will set a new standard in the quality of service for passengers. Does he agree that the tube lines on which they currently make their journeys, especially the Central line, are grossly overcrowded and relatively underfunded? Does he agree that we should seek private capital funding for the tube system to improve that service, too?

Mr. Norris

My hon. Friend's basic thesis is entirely right. When one has exhausted the investment that the taxpayer can prudently make—an investment which, under the Government, is four times the level of the best years of the Labour Government—and when one has exhausted that which is contributable by the farepayer, the only sensible and prudent course for anyone who is concerned to improve the system is to consider how the private sector can be involved. Of course, it depends on the particular circumstances as to how it can be accomplished. However, I am delighted about my hon. Friend's support for crossrail. It will be a useful and imaginative project which will allow substantial participation by the private sector.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am somewhat equivocal about any means of transportation that gets the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) to the House of Commons quicker. Having said that, crossrail will be of great benefit to the whole of London. When can we expect crossrail to operate?

Mr. Norris

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's question is not connected to the fact that, as I recall, the train runs directly underneath his house. He has a more than passing interest in the scheme. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Bill which is currently before the House will have to complete its proceedings and I cannot anticipate when that may be. When the powers of the Bill are obtained, it will be for the private sector and the promoters to get together to develop a financable scheme. My view is that it will be such an attractive scheme that there should be little delay between the obtaining of the powers and the start of works. If that were the case, we may be looking at the operation of a crossrail scheme in the early days of the next century.