HL Deb 28 February 1989 vol 504 cc1006-26

7.24 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Heathrow is by some margin the busiest international airport in the world. It so happens that in the past few months I have used the surface rail link that links the centre of Paris with Charles De Gaulle airport. I have also used the rail link which links Tokyo with Narita airport. As many noble Lords will know, a high speed rail link serves Brussels airport and here, much nearer home, we have now a very satisfactory high speed rail link between Victoria and Gatwick. Moreover, a rail service from Liverpool Street to Stansted airport is currently under construction.

It is true that a few years ago the Piccadilly Line was extended to Heathrow. However, stopping at every intermediate station, that service cannot begin to compare with a fast non-stop surface rail link. The lack of a surface rail link to Heathrow was sharply criticised at the airports inquiries held between 1981 and 1983. The inspector, Mr. Graham Eyre, reported that, a direct and dedicated BRB rail link should be provided in any event". The Government therefore initiated the Heathrow Surface Access Study which canvassed a number of alternative proposals for providing such a link. That which attracted the most support from the various parties involved is embodied in the Bill now before your Lordships' House. This was announced by my right honourable friend Mr. Paul Channon in July 1988 when he approved in principle British Rail's participation in a joint venture with BAA and invited them to work up detailed proposals. That has now been done and a joint venture has been concluded. The Bill before the House—to provide a surface high speed rail link from Paddington to Heathrow—is promoted jointly by a company called Heathrow Airport Limited—a wholly-owned subsidiary of BAA plc—and by the British Railways Board.

I do not think I need to go into great detail about the proposals. As noble Lords are aware, there is a mass of information contained in the plans and other documents which have been deposited by the Bill's promoters. Suffice it to say that trains serving Heathrow will start from Paddington station and will share the fast Western Region main line to a point just west of Hayes and Harlington station. From there a spur will be constructed south towards the airport. This will rise on to an embankment, crossing the M.4 motorway on a viaduct before descending into a tunnel just north of the A.4 and running underground, first to a station beneath the central terminal area, where it will serve Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and continuing to a second station serving Terminal 4. The stations will be served by lift and escalator connections direct to the terminal concourses.

The entire route will be electrified and British Rail will be responsible for providing power, signalling, and for driving the trains. New dedicated rolling stock will be provided by Heathrow Airport Limited, which will also provide customer service staff at the airport stations and on the trains. It is envisaged that trains will run non-stop every 15 minutes in each direction between 5 a.m. and half past eleven at night. The journey will take about 16 minutes to Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and 20 minutes to Terminal 4.

Subject to obtaining the necessary powers from Parliament, it is the promoters' intention that the service will come into operation in around four years' time. They estimate that some 5.5 million air passengers will use the service, and perhaps another 1.5 million journeys will be made by airport workers and others with business at the airport. The top speed of the trains will be about 100 miles an hour and it is thought that the fare may be about the same, or perhaps a little more, as that for the journey between Victoria and Gatwick. Perhaps I may turn now to the Bill. Part I incorporates all the usual general legislation for a Bill of this nature. Part II specifies the works which will be done. Part III refers to the acquisition of land; that is, for both permanent use and temporary use during construction. It also provides for the extinction or suspension of private rights of way. Part IV covers interference with roads and the protection of statutory undertakers. Part V contains a number of miscellaneous provisions.

Although the project does not approach, in scale or controversy, the rail link with the Channel Tunnel, it too has attracted some comment and criticism. A number of petitions objecting to some of the Bill's provisions have been deposited.

I shall start at the beginning—at Paddington. I am sure your Lordships will not be in the least surprised to learn that what is seen as the attraction of substantial additional traffic to Paddington station has aroused some concern in that area. It has been the subject of much careful study and some negotiation with the local authority. I am glad to see my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes in her place. She may well have something to say about that aspect of the matter.

The House should know that proposals have been made, no doubt to be outlined in greater detail when the Bill goes to the Select Committee, for redirecting taxi traffic, in particular, so as to minimise and even perhaps reduce the existing disturbance to residential areas to the south and south-west of Paddington station. It is there that the anxieties are most especially felt. Moreover, there will be special platforms for the Heathrow Express serving only that service. Transfers from road transport and the Underground will be made as easy as possible. We shall listen to what my noble friend has to say on that aspect of the matter.

Yesterday at Question Time mention was made of the Central London Rail Study which was published by my noble friend's department last month. If the proposals contained in that study come to fruition, then onward connections from Paddington will be considerably improved and Heathrow trains could continue in a tunnel linking Paddington with Liverpool Street station and stopping at three intermediate stations. I make that point to show that in the longer term, Paddington will not necessarily bear the whole brunt of the Heathrow traffic. However, that matter is not contained in the Bill. I mention it merely to give some indication that the proposals with which we are concerned are not by any means the last word.

Objections have also been voiced on the grounds that the new service could serve communities living and working between Paddington and Heathrow if the trains, or some of them, were to stop at intermediate stations. I am sure that your Lordships will readily understand that prima facie that would detract materially from the benefits of a fast non-stop service. However, I am instructed that studies are in hand and if, especially during off-peak hours, there is a demand from intermediate stations—Ealing is one that has been mentioned in that context—thenadditional trains could well be run which would serve those stations. That will depend upon there being sufficient demand to justify the extra expense; but the extra expense need be only the marginal expense of running the extra trains.

I see that my noble friend Lord Bethell is in his place. He has indicated that he will be following me. He is, if I may say so, not only well qualified as a frequent user of Heathrow and a scourge of airline companies; he represents the Euro-constituency of London North West, which includes Hillingdon through which the Heathrow Express will pass. I know that the House will wish to listen carefully to what he has to say. He may speak in favour of some variation of the route perhaps to avoid the necessity for a viaduct flyover of the M.4 motorway.

I am advised that the promoters are ready to consider any reasonable alternative proposal which my noble friend or any of the objectors put up. However, there are some formidable difficulties in the way of any significant deviation from the proposed route. Any significantly longer tunnel would obviously considerably add to the expense. On certain alternative alignments there is the possible risk of methane seepage into the tunnel with potentially lethal consequences.

In regard to the environment, a number of measures are to be embodied in the proposals to minimise visual intrusion, noise nuisance and other environmental consequences. It may be better if I were to listen to the debate before I say anything more about those matters. I would only say by way of personal testament that a few weeks after I became the Member of Parliament for Wanstead and Woodford, the Department of Transport announced the prefered route for the M.11 motorway. It was slap through the middle of my constituency, dividing it from north to south. Throughout the 23 years-plus that I represented the constituency my postbag was filled with mail, first, expressing apprehension about the proposed motorway; secondly, about its construction; and thirdly, about the consequential disturbance once the motorway was opened. I well understand and have every sympathy with my noble friend Lord Bethell when he finds that his constituency will be affected by the railway. However, I am sure that the House will agree that it is time that Heathrow, like other major European airports, was served by a fast, dedicated, non-stop rail service thus relieving the Underground and the road system of what is, for many hours of almost every day, intolerable and time-wasting congestion.

I suppose that the only surprise is that the Bill comes before the House in 1989 rather 1979, 1969, or even conceivably 1959. That makes it all the more important that the Bill is given a fair wind tonight so that the Select Committee can give to the promoters and the objectors the detailed and fair scrutiny which our procedures provide. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time—(Lord Jenkin of Roding.)

7.38 p.m.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, I am extremly grateful to my noble friend for the courteous and lucid way in which he has introduced this Private Bill. I should say at the outset that I agree 100 per cent. with the > principle behind it. He has explained, and few people could possibly disagree with him, the absolute necessity for establishing a high speed link between Paddington and Heathrow airport. It is high time that the matter was dealt with as one of urgency.

I should declare my interest in the matter. First, I live five minutes' walk from Paddington station and therefore as a frequent air traveller from Heathrow, I shall find the new link extremely useful. Secondly, as my noble friend pointed out, I represent in the European Parliament the Borough of Hillingdon which forms part of the London North-West EuroConstituency. He and I are at one on the principle of the link, and I should like to give it my support.

However, as my noble friend anticipated, there are some problems between us over the route which the promoters have recommended to your Lordships. The route would follow mainline train travel almost to Hayes station and would then turn southwards towards Terminal I at Heathrow. I do not know how many of your Lordships have seen a map of the route; but those of your Lordships who look at it will not fail to be struck by the sharp turn that trains will be required to make as they cross the M.4 motorway. It is a knuckle bend which will be accomplished on an overhead carriageway. It will reduce the speed of the train from the 100 miles per hour suggested by my noble friend to much less than half. A very large number of people living in or near the town of Hayes are extremely concerned at the prospect of a train travelling through built-up areas at above the normal level of the traffic for a considerable length of time. It will then turn onto a viaduct or an elevated platform across an already crowded means of transport.

The green land which the train would then cross on the elevated platform would be farmland, protected as part of the green belt. It would mean the abolition or removal of at least one lake in the vicinity which is used for recreation, including angling, and the removal of a number of allotments used by the local people in Hayes and Harlington. It would be a great eyesore not only for the local residents but also for those who travel along the M.4 into and out of London. It would be an added nuisance to those people in the vicinity who already have to put up with a considerable amount of noise pollution from Heathrow airport and the M.4 motorway. Anyone who lives in the area must think that surely they have enough problems on their hands with noise without having to deal with a train coming at high speed through their built-up area.

My noble friend mentioned methane and deposits of methane gas which would accumulate as a result of the rubbish being used to build up the land south of the motorway. I do not believe that the proposal put forward by the promoters entirely solves the problem. While it is correct that an overhead railway would be less dangerous in terms of a possible explosion than a tunnel through methane-bearing ground, one has to bear in mind that there will be considerable excavation while the viaduct is being built. The methane gas may well be released during the three or four years that it takes to carry out this work and there may be some danger to the public in a place where very heavy traffic already exists. Even if there is no danger, there will be an unpleasant smell as a result of the release of methane gas. That gives an entirely new dimension to the slogan as one approaches the sign, "Welcome to Britain" when arriving at Heathrow airport. The welcome to Britain as one passes through the present tunnel is likely to be extremely malodorous for those driving by car.

The other main problem with the route suggested is the time it will take the trains at the reduced speed brought about by the very sharp bend and the need to travel over the viaduct. While 16 or 17 minutes may seem very short as a traveltime, it would be advisable for this to be reduced to 13 or 14 minutes. That is precisely what would be accomplished if one adopted the alternative route put forward by the borough of Hillingdon, based on the suggestions of Dobbie and Company, their engineers.

I suggest to your Lordships and to my noble friend that he should examine very carefully what is known as the Dobbie route. As I understand it, he has already indicated that the minds of British Rail and the British Airports Authority are not closed on this matter. They have proposed a certain route but their minds are not closed to an alternative and I suggest that the Dobbie route is the one on which they should concentrate. It would leave the main line at Southall and turn diagonally south-west in a direct line towards Terminal 1. The railway would then cover the route more quickly; it would be the shortest distance between two points—Southall and Terminal 1; one side of a triangle instead of two sides of a triangle. It would cut the travelling time from 16 minutes to 13 minutes, which I suggest is a considerable saving, both in terms of finance and other considerations. My noble friend has said that this route would be expensive. Indeed it would.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would give way? Can he explain whether the Dobbie route implies that the whole of the section between the main line railway and Terminal 1 should be in a tunnel?

Lord Bethell

Yes, my Lords, I understand that Dobbie and Company have proposed that the railway should go underground very shortly after leaving the main line at Southall. It should travel underground through agricultural land. I am advised that the extra cost of adopting this route would be in the region of £20 million or 10 per cent. of the total cost. However, I believe that the extra cost would be mitigated—and perhaps my noble friend will care to comment on this later in the debate—by the fact that there would be far less necessity compulsorily to purchase property in building this enterprise. The tunnelling would be a major undertaking while the railway is being built but it would not require the compulsory acquisition of very much property. Perhaps my noble friend would care to indicate whether the compensation to be paid to owners of property and others who will suffer the loss of their amenities has been included in the estimates put forward.

A further consideration is that the route I propose would allow more than one service to leave Paddington for the airport. It would enable a train, for instance, to travel on the route for Terminal 1 and a second train, leaving almost simultaneously, to be aimed at Terminal 4. In the future it could perhaps also go to Terminal 5. We must not forget that we are thinking not so much of what will happen in 1993 when the service begins but of what may happen in the next century, the next millennium. We are considering a project that will last well into the future. It will make Heathrow airport a much more comfortable place from which to travel as well as being the largest international airport in the world.

I wish to mention two points of detail in conclusion. First, my noble friend commented on something that surprised me: that the fare which British Rail would probably charge would be in excess of the fare being charged at present on the Victoria to Gatwick route. I wonder why that is the case, bearing in mind that Victoria-Gatwick is a much longer journey than Paddington-Heathrow.

Secondly, I very much hope that when this train service opens there will be facilities for the payment of the fare on board the train, as is the case for instance, at Brussels airport. On arriving at Gatwick airport, as I frequently do and using the train service to Waterloo, my journey is often ruined by the necessity to stand in line for five or 10 minutes with luggage, in order to buy a ticket. The staff at Gatwick Airport will not let passengers board the train until they have acquired their tickets. This adds many precious minutes to what is meant to be a fast journey. This may seem a whole list of objections to what my noble friend has proposed, but I was encouraged by the flexibility which he showed in his remarks to believe that many of these objections can be overcome and that the promoters are ready to discuss them in the Select Committee.

I can only reiterate my very strong support for the principle of the Paddington-Heathrow fast train, and I hope that it can be brought to fruition in the way suggested by me, and in accordance with the wishes of the people who live in the borough of Hillingdon.

7.50 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I too wish to express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for introducing so clearly this important measure. He is absolutely right when he says that for many years now we should have had a fast rail connection to our largest airport. At any rate this is now proposed.

The way it is to be done as a joint enterprise between BAA and British Rail is absolutely right. The noble Lord mentioned Narita airport in Tokyo which has a fast rail connection to the centre of Tokyo. Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and all the major airports have fast rail connections. Indeed, we have one at Gatwick also. So this is a gap which needs to be filled.

I must say that I am entirely in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Bethel!, has just said. If we are to do this thing, it must be done right. We must make sure that the route is absolutely right, not only for the present but also for the future. Railway lines cannot easily be altered. Once they are laid down they will be there for decades, if not centuries. So it is very important that the environmental aspects and the technical aspects of this should be looked at very carefully.

One of the boroughs which has submitted its case is Hillingdon. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, referred to that borough. I have studied its case with great care, and I think it is extremely well argued. The proposition which Hillingdon puts forward has substantial advantages. The fact that it will cost some more—£20 million on £190 million—is of course a consideration. But it will bring a greater capacity and a faster speed. Above all, it will avoid the environmental problems which arise from the first part of the proposed spur line which runs overground. So I very much hope that the Select Committee will examine with the greatest care the petition put forward by the borough of Hillingdon. That borough is a strong supporter of the proposition as a whole, but it is justifiably putting forward its views, as the local council responsible for the environment and planning in that particular area, as to how this could be carried out more effectively. I wish to add the following point. If for any reason it is decided not to go along with the Hillingdon proposition, at the very least the proposals now before us in the Bill should be so modified that the line can go in tunnel all the way from the main line. That is very important. The extra cost should be borne in the interests of improved environmental considerations.

I have another aspect I wish to raise. Another petitioner is the borough of Hounslow. That is the borough in which the airport lies. That borough has also made a very important point. The point it has made is something that we have mentioned on many occasions in this House recently when we have debated transport issues. We have said that on the whole there is too much of a tendency to deal with transport issues in themselves without linking them up with a wider consideration and a more strategic view. There is the opportunity here of extending this line to the south and of linking it with the southern network so that one can then have a linkage on the main western route and a linkage on the southern network with the Windsor line in the Feltham area, as has been suggested.

That of course means that one gets a linkage with the whole Channel Tunnel network. It means that one can approach Heathrow from a variety of departing points from London. It closes the gap. It seems an awful pity to my mind that if one looks at the map one sees this magnificent high-speed line going into Heathrow and just stopping there. Why not go a few miles south and link in with the whole southern network and ease the strain on the transport situation?

To sum up my brief remarks, I would say that it is absolutely vital we get ahead with this project. But it is equally vital that we do it correctly; and that we take account of the long-term environmental considerations; and that we take a more strategic view of the matter than has been taken in the Bill. I very much hope as the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, that the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, represent the attitude of the promoters and that they will take into account very seriously the constructive proposals that have been made.

7.56 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for having referred to the fact that Westminster City Council has views on this matter. I have been asked to speak on this Bill by two petitioners—Westminster City Council and the Paddington Residents Active Concern in Transport, known as PRACT.

As this Bill has been promoted by BAA, I do not know whether as I bought my 100 or so shares in BAA as one typically does in a privatisation, I should declare an interest. But, as I intend to be speaking on the other side in this matter, perhaps that is not so important.

The council, and indeed the residents, are not opposed to the idea of a high-speed rail link; in fact they welcome it. I myself think that the extension to the Piccadilly line was done on the cheap. I was very much involved in the Greater London Council when that extension was made. It was done on the cheap so as to produce something fairly inexpensively and to provide at least some direct rail linkage. But it is not satisfactory. There is no room for luggage. The line is very slow as it stops in so many places. I wish to place on record now in relation to this Bill the other factor which I think is very much against that line, and that is that there is no real access for wheels, whether they are suitcase wheels, trolley wheels or wheels on a wheelchair. There is no way one can get on and off the present Heathrow link without encountering steps. I have spoken in this House on that point before.

At a time when a new line is being developed, surely proper provision can he made for access not only for the disabled but also for travellers with luggage. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, recalls that I spoke on this matter before and that I said there was no way one could get on and off the line at Heathrow with luggage. I put that point to London Transport but was told that one should not have luggage if one is using the Tube. But really people want to be able to travel with luggage and use a fast train link in. That is a separate point.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said that 5 million people a day used the link. Did he mean that 5 million people used it per day or per year, because according to Westminster Council—

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, 1 did not say that that occurred in one day; I was implying it occurred in a year.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I see. The council's figures show a much lower number. But it has worked out that at the peak time 2,200 people need to be moved from Paddington Station. That is on top of the number of people who are already moving in that area. The normal traffic already has problems in that area.

The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said he lived within a few minutes' walk of the station. He is one of the lucky ones because the only way one can get anywhere from that station is by walking, as the traffic is absolutely jammed solid. Unless due thought is given to how people are to be moved away from the station, instead of the link being a helpful introduction to a person's visit to Britain which results in a rapid arrival in London and a pleasant trip to his hotel, he will arrive rapidly at Paddington and then just be stuck in a bus or a taxi, or be crowded with other people on to an Underground line. Thought has to be given to how to disperse that traffic.

There used to be an excellent parking area at Paddington Station. I notice that that is no longer available; it seems to have been taken over by Red Star or a delivery service. What provision will be made for parking? People go to see others off on trains. The present space available for cars to pull up at the station is so limited that the additional passengers we are considering could not possibly be accommodated.

The local residents are very concerned about the environmental effects of the proposal. As a councillor, I represented Hyde Park ward on Westminster Council for 10 years. Therefore I know the area particularly well. There is no way for traffic to get away from the station at present.

As I entered the House this evening I was given a brief prepared by BAA. It is very helpful and very clear. It says that: A consultation exercise was then undertaken during which BAA and British Rail submitted a proposal to the Government". They may have consulted some bodies but they have not consulted the local traffic authority or the local authority responsible for planning in that area.

The Bill would authorise compulsory acquisition of land belonging to Westminster Council. The Council objects to that. It wants to see improved access to the centre of London from the country's major airport, but that could result in an unacceptable increase in traffic congestion or environmental intrusion on roads in the City. That would produce a deterioration in the quality of life for local residents. It might also mean that local ratepayers—or community charge payers as they will be by then—will have to pay for necessary consequential highway measures to remedy the situation. That seems very unfair to local people.

We understand that the railway will operate 18 hours a day and that in the summer months 21,000 passengers will use the railway daily. The investigations that have been carried out by the promoters have been very limited indeed, and the scope of the studies has not been sufficiently wide. The results have been produced so late that the petitioners and others have not had an opportunity to examine them properly. As I have said, problems already exist in the area. To more than double existing travel would make life very difficult indeed.

The Council does not wish to be obstructive. However, it suggests in its petition that it might be better if the Bill were dropped from this Session of Parliament and brought back at a later Session. I have mixed views on that point because I think that the link would be very valuable to the country and I should not like to seeit delayed. I should like to see due consultation between the proposers of the Bill and the petitioners so that all aspects can be considered in detail. I know that when the Bill goes to Committee there will be an opportunity for such consideration. From the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in opening the debate, I hope that it will be possible to reach a satisfactory compromise.

8.4 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, when we discussed whether Stansted airport should be developed, I argued that it should but there would have to be decent rail access. I suspect that in a year's time I shall be arguing in favour of decent rail access by the Tyne-Wear Metro from the city of Newcastle to Woolsington Airport. It will come as no surprise to noble Lords that I believe both the Bill and the Heathrow Express concept are very attractive indeed. I could argue about the success of the Gatwick Express but I do not believe that that point needs to be aired further.

I believe that the Bill before us tonight, and its underlying concept, is attractive for three reasons. It poses a number of problems, however. There is an additional problem I should like to discuss which follows on from what the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, said. I shall approach it from a different, perhaps a subterranean angle. However, problems for some people are opportunities for others, and I urge your Lordships to support the Bill.

My first reason for supporting the Bill is that I live in the borough of Westminster. On the Underground it is a long haul to Heathrow using the traditional links—the Metropolitan Line to Hammersmith and changing to the Piccadilly Line. It takes 45 minutes from Piccadilly if the wind is behind the train, or an hour and a half if one is unlucky. I work between the Piccadilly Line and the Hammersmith flyover. This afternoon at 5 o'clock one could look out of the window and see the Hammersmith flyover choked with traffic. Road access had not failed; it was oversubscribed. The Piccadilly Line was also having a bad evening: one could see the trains standing still for three or four minutes. If this concept diverts any traffic from the Piccadilly Line or the M.4 route, that is a very strong point in its favour.

I feel that the Bill has merits from the point of view of the British Rail consumer because British Rail is obtaining electrification on the cheap. We talk of privatisation in terms of selling off a whole business: tell Sid, and away you go. However, this is what I christened in a previous debate in this House privatisation with a small "p". It maximises investment in British Rail by the private sector. British Rail get electrification on the cheap, out to Hayes and Harlington if one follows the proposals in the Bill. That does not work so well if one follows the Dobbie proposals, and that in my view is a weakness in the proposals. There is a corridor beyond Southall which would bring a lot of people into London if one could obtain electrification on the cheap. After all, British Rail has not been able to make a satisfactory case for electrification of the surburban services out of Paddington. I am sure that they have considered the matter several times but they have not put a case forward.

Although electrification will cost £180 million British Rail will put up only 20 per cent. of that sum. It will have the opportunity to run an inner city suburban service from Paddington to Ealing, Southall, Hayes and Harlington. There is a further opportunity. I am told by the promoters of the Bill that once the railway exists, if there is capacity and the commercial conditions are right, they will welcome—or will not unilaterally dismiss—the prospect of British Rail running an inner city suburban service not to Hayes and Harlington but to the airport itself. That would tap the suburban potential and the potential of those who work at the airport and live in places like Ruislip.

If Hayes and Harlington were made an InterCity stop, one could tap the whole of the West Country served by InterCity out of Paddington—Bristol, Cardiff and South Wales. The citizens of South Wales have talked quite a lot about the Bill and say that they want either a service into Heathrow or a connecting service. Like the rest of us, the citizens of South Wales are rather ambiguous. If they demand a service into Heathrow from South Wales it seems to be that they would be stabbing Cardiff international airport in the back.

If the Bill is passed, and I sincerely hope that it will be, there are enormous opportunities for British Rail to develop its business. I hope that both the InterCity sector and Network SouthEast, which is the British Rail sector sponsoring the rail development, will look long and hard at those opportunities.

I have mentioned privatisation with a small "p" and more private sector investment in British Rail. I think that one must pay tribute to the Government because 15 years ago we could not have had a debate discussing a 20 per cent.— 80 per cent. deal between British Rail and the private sector. Now we have the Docklands airport, the Channel Tunnel, and we shall have the rail access through Kent in the fullness of time which I hope will involve a similar deal. That would make the most of British Rail's ability to run a railway and of private sector investment. That was perhaps brought out in the department's press release in which the project was blessed.

There is a constraint. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, approached it one way; I shall approach it another. That is the flow of passengers into and out of Paddington and how it is to be handled. The noble Baroness mentioned the Underground just once—perhaps twice. She addressed herself principally to traffic constraints. I do not believe that surface traffic will be the problem; I believe that the problem will be the Underground.

If the proverbial man from Mars picked up a tourist map before arriving in London, he would say, "Ah, Paddington is served by four different Underground routes. It must be good." However, in practice, if we look at those Underground routes—and the promoters of the Bill have looked at them—we realise that, although the brief says rather blandly that Paddington is served by four routes, there are shortcomings.

Next month's edition of Modern Railways quotes at some length Paul le Blond who is the project manager for the venture. The article states that the weakness of the Circle Line is that it does not go in the directions from Paddington that people wish to go. The District Line is simply an add on. The Hammersmith and City Line is useless to people going anywhere but eastbound. According to the Central London Rail Study, the problem with that line and the eastbound Circle Line is that there is already congestion along the north side of the Circle Line. I am quite surprised that London Transport regards the Bakerloo Line as average in the performance league. I think that that is flattering to the Bakerloo Line in much the same way as some of the remarks made about the Circle Line in the context of the Question of the noble Lord, Lo rd Gainford, yesterday were extremely flattering. I hesitate to use the word "diabolical"; that would be really verballing it up.

However if that is the problem, we must take a leaf from the book of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who, we are told, never sees problems but opportunities. I believe that the Underground is a problem, and an infinitely greater problem than the traffic problems mentioned by the noble Baroness. But, if the Bill is passed and we have the railway, it seems to me that it will be a massive plank in the Central London Rail Study's proposals for a Paddington to Liverpool Street main-line standard underground railway. I believe that that will solve many of the problems that arise from the existing Underground infrastructure. I dearly want to see that cross-rail link built. How it should be paid for will be debated on another evening. I want it to be built and I believe that we must build it.

We are all agreed, although we may disagree on the details, that Heathrow Express is an attractive proposal. I am utterly contented with this Bill and hope that it succeeds. If and when it does, I hope that we shall not overlook the opportunities that it also offers.

8.12 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I, too, welcome the Bill. The prospect of getting to Heathrow quickly, comfortably and with some chance of being sure of the time of arrival is a powerful argument in favour of the Bill. However, my congratulations, which I also tender to my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, are slightly tinged with regret that the promoters of the Bill do not appear to have given him the fullest information about the interests of others and the concern that the proposals in their present form have aroused.

At this point, I should declare an interest. Like others in this House, I am a member of the Trusthouse Forte Council. The duties of that body are not particularly onerous these days and its aims are largely charitable. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Gainsborough, will endorse that comment.

Trusthouse Forte has become a petitioner to the Bill because, as owners of the Excelsior Hotel, it feels that its rights and legitimate interests have been largely disregarded. It is quite an extensive four-star hotel with full facilities. It has nearly 600 bedrooms with another 250 to be added shortly. One wing of that hotel is permanently set aside for use 24 hours a day for resting by air crew. Trusthouse Forte has no wish whatever to obstruct the Bill, but feels forced to use this opportunity to call the House's attention to the fact that, as yet, no detailed plans are available. So far as it is aware, there have been no trial drillings nor any detailed, careful soil investigation. No assessment has apparently been made of the impact of the project either by sound or vibration, during the construction or operation of the rail link. I am informed that there has not been any serious discussion or anything that could resemble consultation.

I echo the words on this theme that were used by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes. When any large construction project is under way, it goes without saying that noise, debris and congestion will result. In the case of this hotel, the nuisance will be considerably enhanced by the fact that the promoters have chosen to place the work site in an area immediately adjacent to the wing of the hotel used by air crew for rest purposes.

The promoters have so far shown themselves unwilling or unable to set limits on the use that they intend to make of the land, either their own or that to be acquired from other people. They ask for wide powers for compulsory purchase of surface land as well as underground rights without saying what they need or why they need it. They are taking what the petitioners regard as unnecessarily generous limits for deviation both in depth and sideways.

I do not wish to detain the House for any length of time. Perhaps I may sum up by saying that, in the view of Trusthouse Forte—the petitioner—the plans put forward by the promoters, in so far as they bear upon this large hotel, are as yet incomplete and vague. The promoters have failed as yet to give any evidence of real concern as to the impact that their plans will have on the legitimate interests of others. I suggest to noble Lords that those people who come to Parliament seeking unusual and special rights should be the first to show special and unusual concern for the rights of others. I very much hope that the promoters will be powerfully persuaded in that direction by the Select Committee. I very much hope also that my noble friend Lord Jenkin, when he replies, will be able to make some encouraging remarks to the effect that the promoters are not entirely disregarding of the points that I have made.

The Earl of Gainsborough

My Lords, I understand that it may not be too inconvenient if I intervene in this debate for a few minutes. I must declare the same interest as the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil. I should like to say, as someone who uses Heathrow a great deal, that when this railway line is constructed, it will undoubtedly be of great benefit. As someone who also uses Paddington station, I very much share the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, because it is already pretty chaotic there at times. Given the extra number of people who will use the station, the position will have to be examined carefully by the local authorities, British Rail and the other people concerned.

My concern is that, as a member of a local authority, having struggled in other fields where Private Bills have been promoted, I know that promoters always ask for much wider powers than they in fact need. They have probably done so in this case. They have set the limits of deviation quite widely. I hope that there will be room for negotiation on this between the promoters and the petitioners. I understand that the petitioners, Trusthouse Forte, have not had any satisfactory negotiation with the promoters of the Bill. They have not received any satisfaction on the queries and questions that they wish to raise. The promoters appear to take the view that the Bill will go through anyway and that the wide powers that they are seeking will be agreed to by Parliament. That may very well be the case, but it is within the spirit of your Lordships' House and of Parliament that that should not be taken for granted and that the petitioners should be listened to. They wish to see the venture a success without it being highly detrimental not only to the business carried on by Trusthouse Forte but to many other businesses in the area of Heathrow Airport.

I very much endorse what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. I am sure that the matter will be gone into carefully by the Select Committee. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, who has put the case for the Bill very clearly, will pass these points on to the Select Committee when it deals with the matter.

8.22 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, at the outset perhaps I may make it perfectly clear that although I speak from this Dispatch Box I do so in a personal capacity and in no way can I pledge my party. Having said that, I am one who has been heartily in favour of a direct rail link to Heathrow for quite a long time. I am certain that the great majority of my noble friends would likewise support such a venture. I need hardly stress the need for this, not only for the assistance to air passengers but the relief that it will give to road congestion, in particular the A.4 and the M.4, and the Underground. I dare say that other noble Lords have suffered as I have, and have given up, preferring to hire a car from my home to take me to Heathrow, rather than get on the Piccadilly Line in the rush hour with a few suitcases when other family groups are trying to do likewise.

Strangely enough, this is one Private Bill on which I am very pleased to say no one has briefed me or sent me any brief. However, I have had the pleasure—and I say the "pleasure"—of reading the report on the response to the Heathrow Surface Access Study which I found to be very illuminating. It was published in June last year. It is clear that of the 100 responses that were received to the consultation document issued 12 months earlier, virtually all were in favour of a direct rail link. The overwhelming majority supported the BAA/BR project.

Having said that, I am aware that the rail unions are very concerned about aspects of this Bill. They need to be assured that the link is to be an integral part of the BR network with the trains, track, signalling, maintenance and safety procedures all operated by BR staff working to the established codes of practice on operation and safety. I share that concern in particular when I see references to powers given to "the Company" in the Bill and to the Company's railway in Clauses 7, 12 and 40 of the Bill. The company referred to is Heathrow Airport Limited. I hope that concern of the unions and the concern that I have expressed can be allayed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, when he sums up. I am delighted that he introduced the Bill in the very clear and conciliatory way that he did.

The analysis of the responses in the appendix are not only almost unanimous for a rail based option but the overwhelming option is for Paddington. I noticed that one of the strong critics was the CBI. It considered that Paddington was not sufficiently close to central London. What station it believes could be closer to central London without massive congestion to the roads, I fail to see.

Another interesting factor is that the Association of London Authorities and the London Boroughs Association both give full support to the principle in the Bill. Seven London boroughs are listed as primarily affected by this proposal. Six support the rail link; one feels that there ought to be wider consideration given in the context of a London audit. I noted that four of the six favour Paddington. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. I notice that Westminster said that whatever happens the terminus must not be Victoria. However, it expresses concern over what might be the possible effect of the proposed coach station at Paddington. Although this is not part of the Bill, it must be a factor which must be taken into consideration.

I support the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, on the case put forward by Hounslow Borough in particular with a view to the diversion in to the South-East network. That might be of great assistance when consideration is given to the rail link to the Channel Tunnel over which there is such massive concern at the moment. It might be a helpful factor.

A third of the responses in this document urge a wider study of transport needs surrounding the Heathrow area before final decisions are taken. Frankly, I found that a little mystifying. Undoubtedly there will still be people who will travel by other than the rail link from Paddington to Heathrow and there may be some need for some road improvements. But that is not a factor that ought greatly to affect the position of this Bill.

Some concern is expressed in the study responses about road problems in Paddington. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, made reference to this. In paragraph 5.3 of the document British Rail confirm that the Heathrow express service will increase the throughput of Paddington Station by some 50 per cent. It also states that priority will be given to the service in order to ensure maximum accessibility to taxi ranks and to the London Underground platforms. There will be of course other rail passengers still using Paddington. That is a factor which must be considered. Great consideration will also need to be given to road traffic management in the area. Traffic is already a sufficient problem and if there is to be special direction given to taxis then one can see that there will be considerable need for traffic management to be given the most detailed consideration.

I support the Bill. I believe that this debate and the points that have been made will be extremely helpful to the Select Committee, and when it considers the petitions. In the light of the conciliatory remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, made when introducing the Bill I believe that some of these concerns may be overcome even before the petitions are presented for consideration.

8.29 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, it might be convenient at this point to outline the views of the Government on this Bill.

As my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding has said, Heathrow is the world's busiest international airport, and last year was used by over 37 million passengers. The lack of a fast, dedicated rail link to Europe's premier airport is a source of regret to many, and indeed many noble Lords this evening have expressed that view. Following publication of the White Paper on Airports Policy in 1996, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport commissioned the Heathrow Surface Access Study to look at potential demands for surface movement between Heathrow and central London and to examine the means by which it might best be met. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has said that that exercise found virtually unanimous support for a rail based option and the route proposed in this Bill was not only given the most specific support from interested parties but turned out to be the most economically worthwhile. In the light of this, my right honourable friend gave his approval in principle to British Rail's participation with BAA on a joint venture to work up detailed plans for the construction and operation of an express rail link between Paddington and Heathrow.

The Government are particularly pleased that the private sector has seen, and taken, the commercial opportunity for providing what is intended to be a high-quality premium service. The Government believe that the project will bring significant benefits. It will relieve road congestion around Heathrow, and will ensure that Heathrow has passenger transport links with central London fit for the 21st century. We also hope that this example will further encourage private sector involvement in transport infrastructure projects, meeting public demand with private enterprise. We therefore fully support the principle of the Bill which is now before your Lordships' House.

As with any new construction, there are legitimate concerns about the impact of the rail link on the enviroment. The Government share these concerns and we are keen to see measures which alleviate potential environmental problems as far as is practicable. I understand that the promoters are in fact proposing measures to minimise the environmental impact of the link and that they are discussing these measures with the local authorities concerned. The details are for them to put forward and there will be an opportunity to consider them at a later stage.

Likewise, the details of the route outlined by my noble friend are matters for your Lordships' Select Committee's consideration with the operators. I am sure that the points made by my noble friend Lord Bethell, representing Hillingdon, and by other noble Lords will be taken into account. The Government's direct responsibility has been with safety—not only of the link, but also of M.4 road users. To this end, discussions with Heathrow Airport Limited have produced a route which is safe and does not preclude further development of the motorway. I shall leave the wider aspects to your Lordships' judgment, noting that there have been 13 petitions against the Bill. I hope your Lordships will give the Heathrow Express Railway Bill a Second Reading. The Committee stage can provide a forum for more detailed matters to be aired and resolved.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I begin by expressing my warm thanks to all those who have spoken in the debate for their broad support for the Bill. I do not believe that there has been a single speaker who has not thoroughly applauded the proposal that there should be a high-speed rail link. That will be a considerable encouragement to the promoters.

A second point raised by a number of noble Lords who have spoken—I shall refer briefly to some of the particular concerns in a moment—is the suggestion that the promoters have evinced a lack of concern for those whose interests are likely to be challenged by the proposed development. My noble friend Lord Peyton expressed himself most strongly in that regard. I should like to assure the House that the promoters fully intend to discuss, where they have not done so already (and in many cases they have), the objections that have been voiced not only in this House tonight but by the petitioners whose anxieties have not found expression in your Lordships' debate.

I assure my noble friend Lord Peyton that I was very well aware of the anxieties of Trust House Forte. It would be quite wrong to say that I was not informed of that. I was fully informed. I was waiting to hear what my noble friend would say. Clearly, there are some practical difficulties which will need to be ironed out. I hope very much that those for whom my noble friend spoke will be able to respond quickly to the overtures that will be made by the promoters, who, I am instructed, are well aware of the problems that their development will present for the Excelsior Hotel.

I come next to the problems of Westminster. I have to say and put on record that there have been lengthy negotiations with Westminster City Council. Perhaps I misunderstood my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes when I thought she suggested that there had not been negotiations. On the contrary, there have. Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners have produced traffic management schemes which have been discussed at length both with Westminister council and, in more general terms, with PRACT, the organisation for which my noble friend was also speaking. There was a meeting only a few days ago with representatives of PRACT. There are problems which will need to be dealt with.

The figures that were given during the debate for the likely number of passengers adding to the already heavy traffic at peak hours at Paddington will give rise to problems. The promoters are well aware of that and are prepared to continue discussions in the hope that they will be able to reach a solution which is satisfactory to everybody. Indeed, the suggestion that was put to me was that if there is a traffic management scheme which will divert taxis to chosen points of set down and pick up it could have the effect of reducing the present disturbance to residents in the areas which formerly were represented on the local authority by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes. That, at least, is the promoters' hope.

My noble friend Lord Bethell made a speech with which I am sure everyone in the House will have much sympathy. He is very properly representing the views of the constituents whom he represents in the European Parliament. He may have painted a mildly overgenerous picture of the amenities of the land surrounding Heathrow Airport. It is not the world's most beautiful place. True, there is some agriculture and the land is designated green belt, but it is the view of the promoters that a satisfactory development of the kind we have here may enhance the character of the area, much of which is not of first-class amenity value. The promoters have already discussed the measures to be taken with the Royal Fine Art Commission, and have put their designs for the flyover to that commission. The commission has recognised that there will be considerable interference from a visual standpoint with local people. The commission therefore called for environmental enhancement of a high order. The promoters have already instructed consultants to produce proposals that they hope will go a long way towards satisfying not only the Royal Fine Art Commission but also my noble friend's constituents.

More difficult is what my noble friend described as the Dobbie route. As he acknowledged, it is quite considerably more expensive: £20 million on a project which is already to cost about £190 million. Although it is a shorter distance and therefore there are savings, that is the net figure because it requires some three miles of additional tunnel underground. That is expensive. There are attractions in the Dobbie route, including the less sharp bend and the lesser impact from noise and other disturbance. But £20 million is a lot of money for a project that is being financed jointly, indeed mostly, by the private sector. This will need to be looked at extremely carefully.

Slightly less ambitious is what is called the Hillingdon B route, which would be a gentler bend from the same position as the promoters' scheme but would go underground instead of over the top. That might cost an additional £15 million.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, will my noble friend therefore reassure me—I think I understood him correctly—that the promoters of the Bill have not wholly ruled out the Dobbie route?

Lord Jenkin of Boding

My Lords, I do not believe that I could possibly say that. The promoters will obviously wish to listen very carefully to the arguments. I believe that there is a technical problem about the Dobbie route. I am advised that it would represent such a major deviation from the proposal embodied in the Bill now before your Lordships' House that it must be at least doubtful as to whether this Bill could be a vehicle for such a major change. It may be that the Bill would have to be withdrawn—if that was the decision of your Lordships' House—and a new Bill submitted in the new Session of Parliament. Everybody who has spoken has urged the necessity for getting on quickly, and I believe that that would be something which would need to be taken very seriously into account.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, do we understand the noble Lord to say that the B route could be considered within the ambit of the Bill, that it would have the advantage of a less acute bend and that it would go underground earlier?

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, with respect I do not believe that I can give a categorical yea or nay to the noble Lord's question. It is substantially less of a deviation from the promoters' route than Hillingdon A, although not one advocated by my noble friend Lord Bethell. That would cost £15 million more, but it may have a greater chance within the rules of procedure of being embodied within this Bill as an amendment rather than requiring new legislation.

My noble friend Lord Bethell also asked whether compensation is included in the estimates. I believe that it is included. He raised two points of detail. Of course the fare is higher per mile because the cost of providing the dedicated line is much higher. Very few changes needed to be made for the Gatwick Express and, therefore, the fare is relatively lower. This proposal will acquire a substantial additional spur, much of it in a tunnel with two entirely new stations to be built under the terminus. That cost has to be recovered. Therefore, although it is a shorter distance the fare will be about the same or perhaps a little higher. Perhaps I may speak personally. I have every sympathy with the idea of wishing to pay on the train; I have no doubt that the promoters will take account of what the noble Lord said.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, asked about the Hounslow proposal for a link with the Southern network. There is nothing in the Bill which rules that out at a later stage. It is not in the Bill at present, but nothing prevents it happening at a future date.

The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, made some interesting and important points. I believe there is a problem about a service from South Wales. It must be questionable whether there would be enough traffic to warrant a separate turning from the main line to serve Heathrow. It would also create very considerable engineering problems. However, I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord said about the problems on the Underground. I endorse entirely—as I am sure the promoters would—the view that the importance of the west-east cross rail service is enhanced by the fact that it is the only service in the whole of the Central London Rail Study which figures in all the possible preferred alternatives. It would spread out the impact of the arrival and departure of Heathrow passengers in central London. It seems to me that the noble Lord has made a very important point.

Perhaps I may point out to the noble Earl, Lord Gainsborough, that the promoters are ready to negotiate and to consult fully and meaningfully with those who object.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill—and this was echoed by my noble friend on the Front Bench— was concerned about safety. If I did not say so earlier, then I should say now that the operation of the railway will be the responsibility of British Rail. It will be responsible for the signalling, the supply of power and the driving of the trains. That will not be handed over to Heathrow Airport, which will provide some staff and the station services at Heathrow but will not be responsible for the driving of the trains. I am grateful to my noble friend on the Front Bench. It is encouraging to the promoters that the Government fully support the principle of the Bill. The promoters will have taken careful note of the Government's equal anxiety, along with others, concerning the environmental impact: and other matters which my noble friend mentioned.

Of course, a Second Reading of a Private Bill does not commit the House to all the details the measure contains. The Bill will go to a Select Committee whose procedure is designed to ensure a very fair and full examination of the promoters' proposals and the petitioners' objections. Therefore, I hope that the House will be prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Examiners.

House adjourned at a quarter before nine o'clock.