§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill rose to call attention to the Channel Tunnel and its road and rail links, and their relationship to the national interest and to the interests of all parts of the country; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the debate is to ensure that Britain is able to take full advantage of the single European market in 1992, which is only two years away. Will the national transport network be ready in time? I am gratified by the number of noble Lords who have put down their names to speak in this debate. In particular, I welcome the maiden speech that we shall have from the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay. I am sure that all noble Lords will listen with great care to what he has to say.
In December the House debated the report of the European Select Committee on Transport Infrastructure. Paragraph 151 of that report states:
Transport infrastructure in the Community as a whole, and in the UK in particular, is inadequate and underfunded".
§ The Select Committee placed emphasis on the importance of the Channel Tunnel to all parts of the United Kingdom. A number of witnesses, including 1042 the International Road Federation, the CBI and the County Surveyors Society, expressed concern that the Department of Transport was paying too little attention to the development of links between the United Kingdom regions.
Paragraph 47 of the report ends by stating:
But the Department of Transport were not prepared to carry out a study of the regional impact of the Channel Tunnel, because it would be difficult to isolate its effect from other influences on the industrial growth of the regions and it was not expected to have a significant influence on the regional distribution of industry and employment".
§ I suggest that that statement reflects what appears to be a lack of urgency and an absence of any co-ordination of strategic planning. Has the Department of Transport changed its views since that statement was made to the Select Committee? The tunnel will not alter the fact that most goods will continue to be moved by road in the United Kingdom.
§ There will remain an important place for the ports and ferries of the United Kingdom. The question is whether the Department of Transport has changed its view from that expressed to the Select Committee or whether that view is still held by the department. Where does the Government stand on that statement, which was presumably made on their behalf by the Department of Transport?
§ Before proceeding further I must make reference to the safety aspect. It will be recalled that during consideration of the Channel Tunnel Bill I and a number of other noble Lords questioned the proposal not to segregate drivers from their vehicles. I was reassured, when the Minister referred to a memorandum of Eurotunnel, that there would be a number of attendants who would deal with the behaviour of passengers in their vehicles. I recently had opportunity to read the full report of the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority on non-segregation of drivers and passengers from their vehicles. Unless I have read through it too quickly and missed something I can see no reference whatever to the question of attendants.
§ As the safety authority has decided that there shall be no segregation from cars and coaches which run on petrol or diesel, I must again raise this issue. The House will want some reassurance that whatever happens there must be no decision taken on the grounds of the financial cost that could be involved. Further, has the decision of the safety authority to be confirmed by the inter-governmental commission before rolling stock is ordered? It has been suggested that some rolling stock has already been ordered on the basis of the safety authority's decision.
§ Section 40 was inserted in the Channel Tunnel Act to provide that British Rail would produce by the end of 1989 a report on plans for international passenger and freight rail services. That report International Rail Services for the UK was published in December. British Rail states that the plan is based on a total of 135 consultation meetings held with 13 regional fora. The British Rail plan envisages that when the Channel Tunnel opens in June 1993 80 passenger trains a day will carry 13 million passengers to and from Europe yearly, and 54 freight 1043 trains daily will move 6 million tonnes of freight each year.
§ British Rail has asserted its determination to maximise the benefits of the Channel Tunnel and the new opportunities for rail travel which it presents. British Rail's view of the importance of the tunnel services outside the South-East is indicated by its estimate that 30 per cent. of international passengers will come from destinations beyond London, and that more than 70 per cent. of rail freight will begin or end in the regions. However, there is growing pressure in the English regions and in Scotland and Wales for major investment in improved infrastructure to enable them fully to share in the economic benefits which may follow the opening of the tunnel in 1993. There is a growing realisation that many parts of the United Kingdom could be seriously disadvantaged unless they have fast and efficient access to and through the tunnel. There is a widespread feeling of disappointment in British Rail's Section 40 consultation report, to which I have referred, and that British Rail has seriously underestimated the likely demand for services to the north, west and east of London.
§ Certainly, the North of England Regional Consortium states that after undertaking a full analysis of British Rail's plan both freight and passenger proposals fail completely to meet the aspirations of the northern areas and fall short of the demand as indicated at the Section 40 consultations. This view is held also by the North-West Channel Tunnel Group, which comprises chambers of commerce, local authorities, the development corporations and the CBI. Further, the six local authority associations of England, Scotland and Wales, in a document entitled Getting the Best from the Channel Tunnel, urge a strategy to create the best possible links to the tunnel to maximise the benefits for all parts of the United Kingdom.
§ The British Rail plan envisages a network of between six and 12 regional terminals for freight distribution. An early decision is needed on this matter. Will the number determined and their actual siting meet the requirements of the regions? There must also be opportunity to ensure that there will be adequate rail and road connections to these freight terminals.
The last paragraph of British Rail's published plan sets out three criteria governing the choice of terminal locations. The first is that,
traffic volume must be sufficient to generate profit on investments in the terminal facilities and equipment required".
§ In fact it is made absolutely clear by British Rail that the entire plan has been developed within the financial framework set out in Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act—that international services via the tunnel should operate on a fully commercial basis with no government grant or subsidy. Further, any investment funded by British Rail is subject to government authority and the ability to achieve the appropriate 8 per cent. return on capital expenditure. There is considerable criticism of this policy. It must not be overlooked that the development of effective rail services will relieve the roads of hundreds of thousands of lorry loads each year. Therefore there is 1044 considerable environmental benefit which we should not overlook.
§ That leads to the question of a fast rail link which is generally regarded as essential if full benefit of the tunnel is to be achieved. I do not overlook the fact that we await details of adequate road links to the tunnel for traffic which will proceed direct there from areas away from the rail link. Lack of regard to environmental problems led British Rail to defer a final decision on the route. We need an early decision on what will be British Rail's final preferred route. We are told that a new Bill will be introduced by British Rail in November. If all goes well the fast link will be operating by 1998. That is five years after the tunnel opens. There must surely be some way of speeding up the provision and working of the rail link. Any further delay will be a tragedy for other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Noble Lords will recall the general support given to the British Rail (No. 3) Bill which provides for various works in connection with the fast link. I repeat what I said then. I was tremendously impressed with the attitude of the Kent County Council which, although petitioning against aspects of the Bill, supported the Bill's general direction in the interests of freight coming from the north of London as well as easing commuter traffic. The county council's attitude is further reflected by its joint sponsorship of a conference, held in Leeds only recently, representative of all parts of the country. At the conference there was a strong consensus of opinion for firm and early decisions by the Government on a number of issues. Those included the rail link, freight terminals and funding.
§ We learn of the large sums being spent by our Continental neighbours on roads and railways in readiness for the tunnel and as a springboard for their industies in the barrier-free Europe of 1992. This applies in particular to what is being planned and achieved in France. Reference has also been made to the plans of European railways for a high-speed link, possibly taking in Eastern Europe. We are told that the French part will be in place by 1993. Belgian railways expect to complete their high-speed link by 1995. But our link to London is not expected at the earliest until 1998.
§ The other place debated public transport on 23rd March. Many government supporters urged that reconsideration be given to Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act which bars any public money for international rail services in connection with the tunnel. With the repeal of Section 42 there should be an early strategic view of the entire tunnel development to get the best value for money in economic, social and environmental terms. We have all seen reports of the difficulties not only with the financing of the tunnel itself but also with the financing of the rail link. I noted that in his speech in the debate the Minister, Mr. Michael Portillo, made no reference whatever to those points and to the pressure from many government supporters that attention should be paid to a reconsideration of the Section 42 provisions.
§ Will we receive an encouraging speech of urgency from the noble Viscount who is to reply to the debate today? Further, if financial help is to be given from 1045 what might be a European strategic fund, can we be assured that that will be additional money and that it will not be money taken away from any other funds which will be provided?
§ It may be recalled that right at the outset my party pressed for a full-scale inquiry into the matter before the go-ahead was given for plans for the Channel Tunnel. There was no opposition to it; but we wanted to ensure that everything was carried out correctly and that we would have the best possible system to take advantage both of the tunnel and of 1992. Have we no: reached the stage where bold decisions will now have to be taken? A high level review is needed of all possible rail links, including the possibility of a dedicated rail link from Scotland right through to the tunnel.
§ There is a need for foresight to prepare for modern travel in the coming years and also the political will to do so. This call for a review is part of a statement made by Mr. John Prescott, the Labour Party's shadow spokesman on transport. Indeed, he released a statement to that effect less than an hour ago. This is a matter to which I hope the Government will give some consideration. The review need not take long; but if we are to make the utmost use of the tunnel, and of 1992, this Motion must be given the most serious consideration. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.21 p.m.
The Earl of Lindsay
My Lords, I crave the indulgence of the House on the occasion of my first address to your Lordships. I very much welcome the opportunity which this debate has provided. Being based in Scotland, but with a landscape practice which is available nationally, I cannot help but take a great interest in regional and national transport policies—of both of which I frequently feel either a beneficiary or a victim. As with many of your Lordships, I am well aware of the trials and tribulations which can be afflicted on today's growing number of travellers. There are times when the only possible source of comfort is the attitude that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive—unless, of course, everyone in the tailback is a travel author for whom the slower the journey the richer her the experience.
It is not as a traveller that I wish to speak today, nor is it for family reasons. However, I should add that it is fitting that my first address to your Lordships involves transport. My father had much experience and considerable expertise in this field and it had been his hope to spend many years in this House contributing to debates on such matters.
It is as a landscape architect that my attention was drawn to today's debate and to that part of the question which deals with the relationship of the road and rail links to the national interest. Possibly the most valuable, sensitive and irreplaceable part of the national interest is the environment. It is important to remember that the natural physical fabric of this country is a finite resource, entirely fixed in its dimensions. As a nation, we can convert part of our wealth, and though diminished, we have the prospect of watching the remainder increase. However, the conversion of our landscape enjoys no 1046 such regeneration; the area we diminish will not be compensated by an increase in the area which remains.
In considering the Channel Tunnel links it is therefore vital to outline the comparative impact of road and rail systems on the environment. Neither of the two systems should really survive without the other in this instance, but their relative impacts should help establish basic priorities. In terms of simple land-take, there is a marked difference. Motorways are three times wider than high speed rail lines of the same capacity. Further, a high speed rail line has a performance capability three times higher than that of a motorway.
If one includes pollution in that comparison, the land impact of a motorway is even greater as exhaust pollution neutralises a strip of land a further 100 metres wide. In France, it has been calculated that 20,000 hectares of land directly adjacent to roads have been sterilised through lead pollution—that is about 50,000 acres.
In urban areas, transport systems seem even more intrusive. Here, road systems typically occupy 19 per cent. of a large city's surface, whereas railways on average only occupy about 4 per cent. That 4 per cent. can be reduced further by tunnelling and the covering over of electrified lines. There has been considerable success achieved with the latter in France where the TGV's new Atlantique line has created linear parks over submerged track. These continuous stretches of landscape, known as green corridors, plunge through the middle of urban and suburban areas.
But what about the expense of such environmental protection? The TGV found that the new parks had one further bonus, and that was the interest shown by local authorities. On the expectation of land values rising along these green corridors, local authority funds were attracted to the scheme. That expectation has been fully realised.
What happens to the urban landscape when such far-sighted transport planning is abandoned or unpopular? I have spent some time in Los Angeles where the car and its owner are such important political creatures that 50 per cent. of the city's surface is devoted to roads and parking. Environmentally, this represents an extraordinary level of poor planning in every respect. That is lunatic when one realises that the average car spends 90 per cent. of its life parked, and only 10 per cent. in use.
The other aspect of the environment for which Los Angeles is justly infamous is smog. As with land-take, the comparative impact of pollution between roads and railways is startling. I have already referred to the 100 metre-wide band of exhaust damage that is a feature of a modern motorway. That is caused by nitrogen oxide and lead. Road transport, being totally dependent on fossil fuels, is blamed for half the total pollution by these toxic substances. As one can imagine, the costs to soil, every form of plant life and human health are extensive.
Carbon monoxide is another car-related pollutant which affects both ourselves and the atmosphere. A slightly uncomfortable statistic is that a single car 1047 emits more carbon monoxide than an entire diesel train, while an electric train emits virtually no chemical waste. In Europe and in this country most main-line travel is more and more on electric traction.
Railways seem to hold some of the answers to the environmental and other pressures caused by booming infrastructures. However, life is not that simple. British Rail, without government help, has attracted the necessary funds for the basic construction and operation of a high speed rail link to the Channel Tunnel. What is proving more difficult is the incremental cost of minimising the impact of the rail link on the environment, a feature that British Rail believes is indispensable. Tunnelling, cutting-and-covering, and anti-noise screens are not cheap. If British Rail is expected to use private sector finance to fund this from the start, passengers and freight will have to be charged accordingly.
In comparison, motorists and heavy goods vehicles hammering down the Kent motorways are causing considerable environmental damage but bearing a very small proportion of the cost. Therefore, if rail users have to pay the external and social costs in full, many of the people and much of the tonnage that should be on the trains will be priced on to the roads. We all know what can happen in such circumstances; we have the example of what took place on the M25 when unexpected increases in traffic occurred.
There seem to be two immediate dangers associated with allowing British Rail's commitment to the environment and a high speed rail link to go either unaided or unrecognised. Having attracted the promise of considerable private sector funds, the viability of its project remains in doubt so long as the question of the payment of external costs remains undecided. If assurances were given on the incremental costs involving our environmental protection, the private sector funds currently on offer could be secured. Otherwise the high speed link may be stalled and there is a danger that those outside funds will then be allocated elsewhere and will not be available at the second time of asking.
Such assurances seem a sensible option to consider, in that the taxpayer is paying only a part of the costs, and even then it is only that part which affects the environment. The benefit is therefore to the local communities and not to the rail traveller.
The second problem has the same consequences of pricing traffic and tonnage off the railways. If the high speed rail link is delayed or cancelled, the pressure and congestion on the proposed road links will build up to the point where they have to be widened and there follows a call for a second, third or fourth motorway. Throughout that whole cycle of congestion, further improvements, new construction, and all the associated roadworks and contraflows, the entire environmental burden will be borne at every stage by the local communities and their surroundings. The financial burden will be borne by the taxpayer, who will no doubt make up most of the traffic jams.
The problems that we suffer today are a hint only of what is to come later as the demands for transport 1048 continue to spiral. Railways cannot eclipse roads in a transport system, but their environmental benefits, capacity and performance capability suggest that they must play, from the very beginning, a central part in the Channel Tunnel link. It is no service to the national interest, the taxpayer or the traveller if British Rail is left struggling and delayed, not with basic construction and operating costs but with the financing of the high standards of environmental protection that we all expect and that British Rail itself wants to meet.
Today's transport planning decisions will be inherited by the next generation and beyond. It is they who will have to cope with the legacy of our environmental care.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, my immediate pleasant duty is warmly to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, on an extremely effective maiden speech.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, the noble Earl clearly speaks as an expert in the matters that he has chosen for his maiden speech. I know that he has already served with distinction in his chosen profession. I know too that the whole House—it is a rare privilege for someone to be aware that he speaks for the whole House—will look forward to the many future occasions upon which we shall listen to the noble Earl's contributions.
The House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for raising this subject and for the way in which he raised it and the framework within which he put his views. I join with him in deploring the inadequacies of the Government's approach to matters relating to the Channel Tunnel. I should perhaps declare an interest, since I live in East Kent near what I understand is likely to be British Rail's preferred route. That no doubt colours my views a bit. My views are equally coloured by the many years I spent as a Scottish Member of Parliament and the years I spent as a Regional Development Commissioner of the European Community. As the noble Lord made clear, the Channel Tunnel and its rail and road links constitute much more than a problem of the over-congested, albeit prosperous, South-East. The matter is one which, as the noble Earl made too clear, affects the whole of the United Kingdom—my native Scotland as much as my adopted county of Kent. The noble Lord talked about a dedicated railway from Scotland to the Continent. I look forward to a dedicated railway line from Dundee to Dover. That is something in which I have a close interest.
What is needed is a comprehensive national infrastructure strategy as part of an integrated European-wide transport system. It would make a vital contribution to bridging the present North-South divide in this country.
In Kent, British Rail is regarded as the villain of the piece. At times its public relations have been catastrophic; but the real culprits are the Government with their doctrinaire approach of 1049 leaving the building of the tunnel and everything connected with it almost entirely to the private sector and, in particular, to a British Rail that is under the pressure of privatisation. In contrast, the governments of our Continental neighbours go into positive partnership with private enterprise in the creation of a Europe-wide fast rail network.
The vacillation and delay which have resulted in Britain stand in stark contrast to the way in which our mainland neighbours are forging ahead. We still await British Rail and Euro Rail's proposals for next November's private Bill which has been delayed for 12 months. In the meantime, uncertainty and blight persist over which areas of Kent will be directly affected. The time for any serious consultation on these matters, when they come, is becoming shorter and shorter.
Some of those affected by the proposals have put a great deal of thought and effort into producing what they regard as practical alternative routes which they believe would be more acceptable environmentally and in other ways. I think particularly of the plan which is called TALIS, which proposes a 24-kilometre tunnel under the North Down, a road along the Thames estuary and then an international terminal at Stratford before reaching King's Cross and the national rail network.
It is clear that a consensus has developed in favour of King's Cross as the international terminal within London. Stratford, compared with King's Cross, is inconvenient for rail travellers from the North changing from an intercity to an international train. However it is a disgrace that for two years neither TALIS nor the alternative put forward by a group headed by Ove Arup Partners have ever been evaluated by government alongside British Rail's plan so that a proper judgment could be made about which route was likely to serve the public interest better.
All those routes involve an international passenger station at Ashford in East Kent. Ashford has a great tradition as a railway town going back to the 19th century and is keen to resume the same role for the 21st century. It is crucial that by the time the tunnel opens in 1993 the Ashford international station should be ready, otherwise no international trains will stop in Kent and any of us who live only a few miles from Folkestone who want to go to Paris by train will have first to return 60 miles or so to Waterloo to start our journey. It is also vital—this may be even more important—that by 1993, while the new high speed line is still being built, the existing lines are updated and reshaped to take what British Rail itself—like the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I believe that British Rail underestimates those matters—forecasts as a tripling of international freight traffic by rail. It calculates that that will mean the transfer to the railway system of the equivalent of 400.000 lorry trunk hauls a year.
If British Rail does not have the existing lines adapted to take an extra 35 trains a day, each way, every day; if it does not have its national network of freight depots ready; if it does not have its marketing in top gear, in 1993 the extra freight will be lost to rail and it may, as the noble Earl said, be difficult to recover and will instead go on the 1050 motorway links to the shuttle terminal. The noble Earl described vividly and expertly the environmental damage that will occur if there is an unnecessary extension of motorway routes if we do not modernise our railway system. For Kent the prospect of further congestion on the motorways is too awful to contemplate.
Those are the urgent priorities for 1993 while the high speed link is being planned and built. I agree with the sense of urgency that has been expressed by both previous speakers. It should be completed as soon as possible and certainly no later than 1998. If the high speed line is to be a national asset and not a national disaster, the environmental considerations to which the noble Earl referred are of great importance, not merely to Kent but to all the regions of the United Kingdom. The environmental assessment that has to be made in that respect must be meticulous. Special attention must be given to mitigating the noise effects, to providing tunnels and deep cuttings where necessary, and to using the considerable and interesting German and French experiences of sound absorbent barriers. The track specification, I am told, is critical, since it affects the levels of vibration and noise.
The environmental impact of a high speed line, as the noble Earl argued very cogently, raises issues that go far beyond the economics of running an efficient and profitable railway—important though that certainly is. I do not believe that we can have both a high speed national railway network and a satisfactory level of environmental protection within the confines of a privatised British Rail balance sheet. There are wider public interest considerations which go beyond the reasonable responsibilities of railway operators. Here I completely agree with the argument put by the noble Earl. In the national interest of everyone these require a contribution from all of us as taxpayers.
I therefore add my voice to that of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to plead with the Government that they seriously consider whether, in the way matters have developed, Section 42 remains a sensible inhibition on government. Ought it not now to be repealed? If that cannot be done, are there other ways in which the Government, through public funds, could make the necessary contribution that is required to ensure that these vital developments are consistent with maintaining our quality of life in this country?
The Government now claim to be as green as anyone else and to be thoroughly aware of their environmental responsibilities. The environmental arrangements for the high speed link through Kent will be a test case of their good faith. The arrangements will set the standard for the way in which other regions of the country will be treated.
§ 3.42 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
My Lords, I associate myself warmly with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, in giving thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for bringing the debate before us and for the way in which he introduced it. I am also grateful for his tribute to the maiden speech 1051 of the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, to which we listened with great respect and interest.
I follow two Scots. The noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, painted a vivid picture of hell on earth as a result of pollution from the motor car and the lorry in Los Angeles as well as on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of the story of the Scottish minister who was fulminating from the pulpit about the perils of hell that awaited his hearers. He told them that when they looked up from their agonies and called "Lord, Lord, we didna' ken", the Lord in his infinite mercy would look down from heaven and say, "Well, ye ken the noo". One might well say that if we make mistakes on these vital matters of transport policy, producing something of a hell on earth by giving way too easily to the power of the lorry, it will not be much good saying, "Well, we didna' ken" because we shall certainly "ken the noo".
I must confess that I have not been all that keen about the Channel Tunnel project from the start. I have had serious reservations about it, partly because I have never heard effectively answered the arguments about the dangers of terrorism on a slender link which becomes increasingly important to this country. Secondly, there is the possible deterioration of ferry services and, thirdly, the environmental problems which now face us in abundant measure.
However, the fact is that it is coming. We need to see the positive side, welcome it and make the best we can of a remarkable development in engineering technology. In particular the boost to rail transport is to be warmly welcomed. The noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, has put before us in an expert way the great advantages which railways have when we are threatened with pollution of various kinds. No solutions are pollution-free, of course; certainly not the railways. But when compared with the movement of large quantities of freight by lorries along motorways, railways have obvious great advantages. I understand that about 2 million tonnes of cross-Channel freight a year is moved by rail compared to 24 million tonnes by road. That works out at a proportion of only one-thirteenth moved by rail. British Rail estimates that in 1993 approximately one-sixth will be carried by rail. Eurotunnel's estimates are even higher. That must be counted as a real gain in environmental terms.
In the regions, especially the north of England and the older manufacturing areas, we are vitally concerned that the benefits of the Channel Tunnel should be spread as evenly as possible. Perhaps I may make one digression here on the whole question of wealth creation and its spread in relation to the Churches. Some of your Lordships may remember a sharp attack by Mr. Peter Morgan, the director-general of the Institute of Directors, a few weeks ago, which received wide publicity. Among other subjects he attacked the Churches, saying that the concept of wealth creation was alien to them. I am glad to say that we were not the only target in his sights. He also had a go at other sides of the establishment represented by many of your Lordships in this House.
1052 We must agree that the Churches are vitally concerned with the distribution of resources, with fairness and with social justice. Many pronouncements by Church leaders and declarations in our synods have dealt with these issues. That does not mean that the Churches do not also consider that wealth creation and growth of the right kind are not important. We believe that these—including the advances of modern technology—should be seen as gifts from God himself.
It is not surprising that Churches in various parts of the country are joining those taking a keen interest in what the Channel Tunnel will bring and how wealth is to be distributed in the regions. Perhaps I may give the House an example. A wide range of organisations have joined together in the Greater Manchester Transportation Consultative Committee which has produced the document which may have found its way into some of your Lordships' hands. It is entitled The North and the Tunnel. In a long and varied list of organisations it is not surprising to find the Churches included through the Greater Manchester Ecumenical Council. We, together with our people, are vitally concerned that this great development should produce benefits for all the regions of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the South-East.
We represent regions where there has been a massive rundown in manufacturing industry in recent years. That is well known. Some exciting things are happening, certainly in the area from which I come. I think particularly of Manchester International Airport and a number of activities in the centres of our towns and cities.
But it remains true that these areas are grossly disadvantaged when compared with some other parts of the country. It matters a great deal to those in the regions what decisions are made about transport now and how the Government react to the opportunities and challenges before us as a nation.
Particularly important is freight transport as opposed to the transport of passengers. There is a simple and obvious reason for that. As we reach distances of over 1,000 miles, it becomes more and more advantageous for passengers to move by air. That is not so with freight: the balance of advantage turns the other way. The greater the distance the more important freight traffic is and the greater the advantage of moving large quantities of freight by rail. The tunnel will clearly have a major impact on regional development.
If I heard correctly the quotation that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, used from the Department of Transport, it seems rather to play down the effect on the regions. Perhaps I may quote to your Lordships a few sentences from the document, The North and the Tunnel. The document states:Carefully planned investment will increase rail traffic, in both the freight and passenger markets and this can be part of a larger strategy to improve the prosperity of the Northern parts of the country … We believe that an energetic policy to promote all viable rail routes to and from the Tunnel is essential for the economic prosperity of the North … In addition trains cut pollution, need less land than motorways and have high energy efficiency … the outlying Regions of the Community will benefit from improved communications, possibly more than the core areas".1053 I associate myself with those sentiments.
Finally, I should say a few more words about the railways. I believe that in spite of all we suffer from British Rail and all the kicks it receives, it is of enormous benefit and advantage to our people at the present time. The fact that it is publicly owned is an enormous benefit and advantage. That is not to say that I go along with everything that British Rail does. British Rail irritates me a great deal and I get angry when I see too high a proportion of first-class carriages travelling practically empty because of exorbitant fares while the standard class is less expensive but is overcrowded. British Rail needs to look at issues such as that and not look too narrowly simply at the issue of cost effectiveness. British Rail needs to consider its public relations image.
Having said that, it would to my mind be criminal folly to think of privatising British Rail or large parts of it at the present time when we are faced with the kind of problems that exist in our transport policy. As we look at the important issues that will be spelt out in this debate such as the high-speed link, King's Cross and the link to the North-East and the North-West, one of the gravest dangers that threatens us is apathy on the part of decision-makers as regards the strength of our attachment to cars, lorries and motorways. We have a unique opportunity to reverse that trend and perhaps, in a small way, this debate may do something to assist that process.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, it is far more than convention that brings me to congratulate the noble Earl or his maiden speech. It is refreshing to have among us someone with the training, knowledge, and appreciation of the noble Earl. At the same time the noble Earl combines those attributes with the ability to express his views attractively and clearly. I share the sentiments that have already been expressed that we shall listen to the noble Earl with attention and pleasure on many future occasions.
For once I find myself in disagreement with the right reverend Prelate. Unlike him, I have always been a great supporter of the Channel Tunnel. I shall not go into the reasons for that, but I start with a predisposition in favour of the tunnel. However, I have always considered that two grave question-marks hang over the tunnel. The first is the effect that it will have on the environment and on the general social life of south-east England, and in particular the county of Kent. I am concerned about the effect that the tunnel will inevitably have, regardless of what is done, of concentrating ever more industry and people in that already over-industrialised, over-populated and beautiful part of the country.
Secondly, I fear the effect that the tunnel will have on the economic development of the rest of the country. In that respect I come close to what the right reverend Prelate said. The more industry is dragged towards the South-East, the less it will be prepared to continue or set up new premises in the 1054 Midlands, the North-West, East Anglia or other places where there is still room for an expansion of industry and where, historically, particularly in areas of the North-West, a large amount of our industrial wealth has been created.
There is one way in which those drawbacks of the Channel Tunnel can be overcome and it has been mentioned by all the previous speakers. Its drawbacks can be overcome by developing effective transport links with the areas to the north and, to a certain extent, to the west of London. As other noble Lords have said—I make no apology for repeating this point because it is of vital importance—those links must not rely upon yet more motorways with their resulting damage to the environment, their relatively high accident rate and their pollution. As the noble Earl so rightly pointed out, motorways inevitably bring with them pollution.
The right way to deal with this matter is by creating rail links. That is a real possibility. The French and the Germans have shown us how high-speed modern railways can be effective, economical and can produce a good return. We have, alas, for one reason or another, lagged behind. However, here we have a great opportunity to reverse that trend and to show that we can develop a viable, efficient and modern railway network which will not only take traffic from the Channel Tunnel up to London, but will also branch out from London to all other parts of the country. The immediate concern is how we shall get the traffic from Folkestone up to the London complex. We have heard of the problems that have arisen and are arising and we have heard of the completely unwarranted delays which have occurred. I shall not go into the reasons for those delays, but it is expected that there will be at least three years after the opening of the Channel Tunnel before there is any viable rail link to take the tunnel traffic onwards.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in his clear and admirable exposition said that 6 million tonnes of freight per annum is expected to come through the Channel Tunnel. Other estimates put that figure even higher. I have heard estimates of something over 7.5 million tonnes. However, I shall not quibble about the odd million tonnes or so. We must consider how those 6 million or 7.5 million tonnes of freight will be transported. Will that vast amount of extra freight be put on juggernauts which will then plough through the beautiful Kentish countryside on still to be constructed four-lane motorways to the detriment of the environment and to the grave detriment of those living along the routes of the motorways? We are talking about the possibility of tens of thousands of juggernauts every week. Or will that freight be loaded onto trains and be transported along a route which will protect the inhabitants of Kent and will deliver it at a general London centre more quickly and with far less damage to the environment than if it were transported by road? Surely the answer must be that the great majority of the extra freight which will come from the Channel Tunnel should travel by rail. I shall not enter into the arguments concerning the rival plans.
We are told that the British Rail Scheme will not be ready until the end of the century, at a very high 1055 cost. It will terminate at King's Cross, right in the centre of the city, which in itself will cause very considerable problems. However, that is not the only option.
A consortium, called the Rail Europe Group, has recently been formed. It has chosen Stratford as the base for its terminal. I understand from the promoters of that imaginative line that not only will it cost substantially less than the King's Cross option but it will take five years to bring into operation. That is a considerable improvement on the eight years envisaged for the other scheme. It is estimated that it will give a pre-tax return to the private investor—which should appeal very much to the present Government—of between 11.25 per cent. and 13.92 per cent. That is apparently an attractive return to investors in such schemes.
As I said, I do not wish to take sides in the matter. However, I suggest to your Lordships that the alternative proposal is of very great significance. It should be assessed not only very seriously but with real urgency so that whichever route is decided upon those who will put it into operation will be able to start work at least by the end of 1992. If that is done, with luck, by the end of 1995—if the quicker route is chosen—there will be a train service to London which will safeguard the interests of the inhabitants of Kent and open up the vista of rail transport further north. It would also make possible the extension of high speed lines, which are so successful on the Continent, from London into those areas which at present will gain no benefit from the Channel Tunnel.
If we are to overcome the damage to the inhabitants, the beauties and the environment of Kent and at the same time overcome the increased localisation of industry in the South-East, and spread it throughout the country to where it is needed far more than it is in the South-East, we must with the greatest urgency make sure that the rail connections between the Channel Tunnel and the rest of the country are put in hand with the least possible delay and in the most effective and efficient manner.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Jay
My Lords, I greatly admired the enthusiasm for the environment which the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, expressed in his speech today. However, I am not so sure that that is an argument for the project.
The present tunnel project at first offers little or no benefit to the British balance of trade or balance of payments. Even if traffic increases as a result, imports will increase as fast as exports. The conclusion of the London Business School, which appears to be alone in having made a serious study of the scheme, is that:The Channel Tunnel will have no major affect on the pattern of European or United Kingdom trade".The only certain economic effect will be further pressure for expanding industry to move to the South-East of England.
Even if the project succeeded technically, from any serious judgment of social and human priorities it is an extraordinary misdirection of capital 1056 resources. The sum of £8 billion would enable us to rehouse decently the 130,000 homeless families in this country and solve one of our very worst social evils. It makes no difference that the money is spent from private rather than public finance because the same resources are bound to be consumed.
The scheme was sold to a gullible public and a not much less gullible City of London with the basic argument that if the travelling time for passengers by train from London to Paris were cut to 2½ hours and from London to Brussels to 2¼ hours enough passenger traffic would be tempted away from the ferries and airlines to make the project profitable even though the capital costs were bound to be huge. The major weakness in that argument was the assumption that one could run trains from London to the tunnel at the same speeds as are achieved on the high speed French lines, which were constructed largely regardless of the environment and entirely regardless of cost.
However, the population per square mile is far greater in South-East England than in France and those high average speeds could only be achieved between London and Folkestone at enormous cost and probably with far-reaching damage to the environment.
The awkward hard facts are these. So far as concerns goods, the London Business School study concluded:We do not expect the Tunnel to have a significant impact on trade".Indeed, it quotes the EC Commission in support of that conclusion. The crucial economic question therefore is whether sufficient passengers will switch from the ferries and airlines for the sake of the allegedly shorter journey time.
During the period 1993 to 1998 trains will leave Waterloo for the tunnel and run on the existing track through Tonbridge and Ashford. They will first have to negotiate a sharp new curve in the Stewarts Lane area in South London, necessitating lower speeds. They will then compete with commuter trains as far as Sevenoaks. There are four tracks on that line only as far as Orpington. It is only between Tonbridge and Ashford that high speeds can be achieved, but if there is to be a stop at Ashford, then even that is doubtful.
Then a new snag arises. It does not appear to be entirely understood that apart from the service tunnel there will be only one line in each direction through the tunnel, which will thus before long become a super bottleneck. Fast passenger trains will have to compete at the tunnel entrance with two slower forms of traffic—freight trains and car and lorry shuttle trains containing 200 or more cars with passengers and petrol. The shuttle and freight trains will have to shunt on and off the fast line both before and at the end of the tunnel causing even further delays.
In the circumstances it is not credible that passenger trains will reach the French entrance to the tunnel in less than two hours from London. It is almost 170 miles from the Boulogne area to Paris and it is not claimed that even French trains cover 170 miles in half an hour or indeed in one hour.
1057 Therefore until 1988 and perhaps later the journey time in practice will not be materially less than by air or terry. It is therefore a gamble to assume that the required additional traffic will be attracted from those modes of transport.
After 1998 a fast link from King's Cross to the tunnel entrance is proposed. The first schemes proved too costly and too damaging to the environment. No decision has been made but there is a possibility of a tunnel from King's Cross under the Thames emerging somewhere unspecified in South London. In that case trains would have to compete at the junction with those from Waterloo and then either run to the Swanley area on the commuter lines or on new fast tracks alongside them, causing further major environmental damage in South London and Kent. Even after 1998 they will still have to face the bottleneck at the tunnel entrance.
In either case it seems to me to strain credulity to argue that the journey time of 70 minutes would be reduced by the 30 minutes claimed by British Rail or that any but an exceptionally lucky train, day or night, would reach Paris in less than three hours. Therefore the economic case does not stand up.
The risk is that even after 1998 a great many people will be disappointed and a considerable sum of money will be lost. If that is true, what should be done now? In the rather parallel case of Concorde, I was persuaded in 1964 by the argument that so much money had been spent, we could not go back and to have stopped then would have been to lose everything. However, in this case there is a possible alternative: to abandon the fast rail link through south London and Kent and make the best of a bad job with the existing lines. It would be less foolish to take that course rather than to throw a great deal more good money after bad.
Of course there will be a demand—we have heard it today—for the Government to save the shareholders by putting up billions of public money on the grounds that it is needed to protect the environment. However, if that argument is accepted, almost any entrepreneur could propose any scheme damaging to the environment and ask for large sums in compensation in return for not carrying it out. In addition, if that were done, the ferries and the airlines would have justifiable grounds to protest at subsidised competition which would be highly damaging to them. The loss—if there is to be a loss—should fall on the shareholders who put up the money.
I fear that this story is not so much a triumph of hope over experience as a triumph of political fantasy over common sense.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Viscount Hood
My Lords, the best way that I can thank the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for initiating the debate is to say how much I agree with him in the importance that he attaches to the Channel Tunnel and to the rail links associated with it. In that, I fear that I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Jay.
1058 This is part of a massive restructuring of transport in Europe. To give only two examples, the Scandinavians are planning enormous bridges between the islands and the Spaniards are planning to reconstruct railways with the European gauge rather than their own gauge, all of which must be of assistance to their trade. The Channel Tunnel is a vital part of our trade.
The progress of construction is good. Here I should perhaps declare an interest—or a past interest—as until recently I was a director of George Wimpey, one of the 10 contractors. The boring is going well and the Eurotunnel company in its latest announcement says that it has completed half the tunnelling and the lining. True, it is the service tunnel rather than the running tunnels, but it is nevertheless good progress.
I am more concerned with the financial aspects. The latest estimates given by the company are in the range of £7-5 billion to £7-6 billion. It is not entirely clear exactly how they relate to the original estimate of £5-8 billion, which included a billion pounds worth of contingencies. That is a huge figure. Certainly £6 billion will have to be borrowed. That implies that when the tunnel opens for business the annual interest charges will certainly exceed £600 million. You can apply whatever seems a realistic interest rate to arrive at that enormous figure which tends to be discouraging for the shareholders.
There is a further problem; namely, that there is a large and as yet indeterminate figure for claims. As everyone will know, claims arise in any civil engineering contract. They are variations and additions. Usually, they are settled by agreement and from time to time they go to arbitration. The figure is undoubtedly large. Eurotunnel suggests that the contractors are thinking in terms of £700 million or more and it does not indicate what it thinks is reasonable. The conditions of financing are that a rights issue of an indeterminate amount shall be completed by the end of the year. As a retired financial man, it seems to me that there must be a finalisation of that figure before a rights issue arises.
I hope that all can be solved. I would go so far as to say that I believe it can be solved, but one must recognise the possibility that it might not be solved. To that end, I ask my noble friend the Minister at least to suggest to the Government that they should, if they have not already done so, give serious thought to what will happen if financing is not achievable. I am convinced that the tunnel will be completed because I am convinced that if those unhappy circumstances were to arise the French Government would take the matter in hand and would no doubt look to our Government to be a partner. It is a possibility—nothing more.
Turning to the rail issue, here I agree with much that has already been said. The rail links are perhaps partly covered by the limitations on government assistance for a high speed link. The high speed link was not included in the original prospectus. No doubt it would be helpful to the profitability of the Channel Tunnel but it is not essential in that way. From 1987 to the present day it has emerged that in the earlier years it was assumed that the existing railways could carry the load until the end of the 1059 century. The chairman of Eurotunnel said in a Committee in this House that he thought the rail link would be swamped when the Channel Tunnel was open. To that end, it is surely a British Rail responsibility, which in turn is therefore a government responsibility, to ensure that there is railway capacity. If it is to be new, surely it should be a high speed link.
I ask my noble friend the Minister to give assurances that, first, the Channel Tunnel will be built, willy-nilly, and that, secondly, the undoubted limitations of private enterprise will not be allowed to hold up the rail links which are so essential to this country.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, listening to noble Lords this afternoon, one gathers that the Government appear to treat the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the history of this country as an ordinary commercial venture and do not seem to recognise the wider regional and national interests. The Government's view seems to be reinforced by their focusing on the implications of the Channel Tunnel for British Rail alone. There appear to be no avenues available for consideration by the Government of any wider interests.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester drew attention to the meetings of local authorities from north of Watford to consider the implications for the regions in which they operate. They came together to formulate a strategy for creating the best possible links with the Channel Tunnel to maximise the benefits for all parts of the United Kingdom. At a meeting of local authorities from north of Watford in Birmingham at the end of last year, it was concluded that there was a need for a national view to be taken of the economic and environmental implications arising from the development of the tunnel. I think that that is what the Government need. They seem to suffer from myopia. Their vision goes only as far as the entry of the Channel Tunnel into the country and no further.
Turning to the investment benefits of the Channel Tunnel, manufacturing is increasingly integrated on a European scale. That is important to world competitiveness. It will be given a further boost by the removal of the internal trade barriers in 1992. So any integration of export manufacturing bases that is taking place in Great Britain vis-à-vis its export trade to Europe—I think in particular of the Ford engine plant in Wales which supplies other Ford plants throughout Europe—needs fast, reliable and low cost freight transit if there is not to be waste of excess capital tied up in warehousing. In the area of manufacturing on which many places north of Watford concentrate, it is important that the manufacturing locations should be fully integrated into the European freight network. Otherwise those businessess will be unattractive to capital investment.
It has been said that the United Kingdom is peripheral geographically. The Channel Tunnel is therefore of particular significance to overcome that disability of the United Kingdom. However, it is 1060 vital that the regions do not become more peripheral. It is important to concentrate on the regions as well as considering the direct benefits that will come from the Channel Tunnel itself.
Although the West Midlands suffered badly during the recession years of this Government, it has worked hard to regain its long and enviable reputation in the history of manufacturing. The development of the Channel Tunnel links is welcome, particularly because of the implications for restoring some of the West Midlands economy that was lost during the recession. It will also help to increase prosperity in the area. The Government recognise that the West Midlands is an area which needs support. It has within it the Black Country Urban Development Corporation. It is obvious that any help coming from extra manufacturing into the West Midlands will have an impact not only on the industry there but also on the people employed in industry.
My noble friend Lord Underhill gave some details about the restrictions under Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act and Section 8 of the Railways Act 1974. It appears that the Government will have to look seriously at the legislation in Section 8 of the Railways Act to make quite sure that there are environmental gains when traffic is taken off the roads and transferred to the railways.
In accordance with Section 41 of the Channel Tunnel Act, all regional organisations have to be consulted by British Rail with regard to regional freight terminals. British Rail and the West Midlands authorities have agreed that Bescot and Landor Street in Birmingham are excellent locations in that respect. Obviously links are necessary so that the freight terminals can be programmed and ready by the time the tunnel is opened.
So far as concerns particular lines, West Midlands oganisations and local authorities support King's Cross although their preference is for a new freight line via Reigate, Reading and Coventry which bypasses London, which they think would be the best arrangement. That is their preference although they will support the Kings's Cross terminal.
There are difficulties on the alternative routes that are now being discussed. There is not only delay in the construction of those lines but also consideration must be given to how they are likely to undermine the many proposals put forward in various regions throughout the United Kingdom to develop freight and passenger strategies which will take full advantage of the Channel. Estimates of economic viability are influenced directly by the ease with which traffic can reach the tunnel. The absence of strong direct links to the north of London is likely severely to prejudice the attractiveness of freight and passenger services. The long delay about where the rail link will be from the tunnel itself into the London area will have serious repercussions on the regions and the various industries in those areas, which will suffer serious economic disadvantages. Help to the regions seems to be hindered by financial constraints and the commercial criteria which British Rail is forced to adopt.
The Government must recognise that with regard to the regions there are economic and social 1061 considerations to be taken into account in addition to the usual BR investment criteria. A strategy is required to create the best possible links with the Channel Tunnel in order to maximise the benefits for all parts of the United Kingdom. I agree wholeheartedly with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester who said that the development of the Channel Tunnel has far-reaching implications. The Government must recognise that it is of very considerable significance to the future of the country and its people. They must make the necessary resources available.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Lord Pennock
My Lords, I must begin with regret and disappointment to apologise because I am unable to stay until the end of this most important debate. I suspect that that is more disappointing to me than to other noble Lords. However, I have a long-standing engagement with some important Russian officials who are here on a very tight schedule which was not possible to be rearranged.
I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, on what I thought was a quite brilliant opening maiden speech. It is always very arresting for members of my generation to hear those of the next generation make us aware of our awful responsibilities in this respect. He did it with great conviction and eloquence. I should also like to pay a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I remember in the early days when the tunnel was in its perhaps pre-14 days fetus stage. We had many discussions and I was always glad to hear his balance and penetration when he asked the right questions. He has certainly asked the right questions today.
The last time I spoke to noble colleagues about the tunnel was at the Bill's Second Reading, a little more than three years ago. Noble colleagues may recall that I then spoke as co-chairman of the tunnel board and spoke with considerable fervour in its support. Noble Lords may also recall that shortly afterwards I moved away from that important appointment. I hasten to add that, so far as I am aware, there was no connection between those two events. However, I have remained a member of the board and therefore today I declare an interest. I have been closely embroiled, and sometimes immersed, in the vicissitudes which a project of these proportions was bound to endure.
1 approach today's debate with almost the same sense of déjà vu that I had at the time when we were seeking to obtain support for the operation in its first stage. We then had to fight tooth and nail, inch by inch, first with government (Was it to be a hybrid Bill or a public Bill?) and then with the City (Would it pay? Would it be effective? Could it ever be constructed?). We had to fight also with public opinion on issues such as defence, terrorism and rabies, some of which have arisen incidentally today. Finally we won through.
I believe that we are again fighting tooth and nail, inch by inch, but there is a significant difference. Having come this far, and having decided to build a tunnel, time is of the essence. The issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, are most urgent and 1062 I share his concern about the delay in seeking to deal with them.
I should like to make three points. First, the tide of history and events during the past three years has moved dramatically in favour of the tunnel and its importance to our national interest. The year 1992, with all its implications, was then scarcely on the drawing board. Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, some 300 directives ensuring that the barriers to trade and the transport of people will have vanished by 1992 have now been agreed and all but a handful have been accepted by the sovereign states. It is interesting to note that the supposedly backward United Kingdom has a smaller handful of such directives still to be passed than any of its colleagues in the Community.
Secondly, I turn to traffic forecasts. When we put forward the case for the tunnel we made certain traffic forecasts which should be met by 1994. The figures with which I have been presented show that the traffic forecasts for freight and personnel from the UK to the mainland were met in 1989. We heard from the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, and from other noble Lords about the environmental issue. It has grown most significantly since we commenced operations. The conservative estimate of British Rail of the increase of exports from 2 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes will take 1,500 juggernauts off our roads every day.
The opening of Eastern Europe must be very much in the interests of the tunnel's success. Noble Lords will recall that when we put forward the original case we stated that since joining the Community our exports as a percentage of the total had risen from 35 per cent. to between 55 and 60 per cent. With the bringing down of the barriers and the opening of Eastern Europe we are presented with a further splendid commercial opportunity. We said that sending semiconductors from Linlithgow to Milan will cost one-third less and take one-third of the time that it takes at present. That will obviously greatly increase our competitiveness, and it must apply to Eastern Europe and the rest of the Europe in the same way as it applies to the outer confines of the Community.
I was interested to hear the right reverend Prelate say that one of his worries about the tunnel was that ferry services would decline. One of the major points that we made was that there would be room for both. The competition that we would provide would make the ferry services improve. As a frequent traveller on the ferries, I am delighted to tell the House that in the past three years they have improved enormously. Therefore, the tide of history has moved in our favour.
Thirdly, because bad news sells newspapers and improves TAM ratings, the quite phenomenal—and I repeat "phenomenal"—progress in tunnelling which has taken place particularly in the past year has been hidden behind the difficulties and discussions about costs and who will pay. On 21st April we were happy to announce that we were 71.5 kilometres through the 150 kilometres which the tunnel will finally cover. That is over halfway. More than 50 per cent. of the progress made this year was achieved during the past five weeks. The progress 1063 that was achieved during the first 15 weeks of 1990 was twice that in the last 15 weeks of 1989. There are nine boring machines each 200 metres long, all working flat out. Currently we are achieving on both sides of the Channel a total per week of one mile of tunnel bored and lined. I am happy to tell the House that we have now caught up with the French. During the month of April we on the UK side achieved one kilometre per week of bored and lined tunnel from the British side.
I suggest that those are impressive figures. The gap of 11 kilometres in the service tunnel will be completed by the end of November. By then we shall have a total geological knowledge of the deposit under the Channel. As regards tunnelling, we expect the two marine tunnels to be completed by the end of next year.
I should have loved to have time to deal with finance. However, as a banker on the board of one of the banks which is underwriting the loans and the increases which will be required, I simply say that most of our clearing banks, including the bank to which I belong, have during the past five years written off many hundreds of millions of pounds per annum in provisions to deal with the debts of developing countries which they are doubtful will be repaid. As a result of the increased costs we shall require £2 billion more from the banks during the next couple of years. There are 250 banks underwriting that £2 billion. The extra loan will be less than £10 million per bank. It will be paid for at a higher interest rate and a little later than it might have been originally. That is the true perspective of the financial problems which may appear to beset us.
With that favourable background, I turn to the real issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. With our insular eyes we tend to see the tunnel as a connection between the UK and France. Our colleagues in the Community and now on the Continent at large recognise that it is a vital component in a massive international fast speed network which is beginning to build up and which will be built up dramatically throughout the 1990s on the mainland as a whole.
As your Lordships already know, the French have built the TGV line to Lyons. The effect of having the high technology speed which comes from the TGV means that the radius for passenger train travel expands very significantly. Within 12 months air traffic from Paris to Lyons was demolished by the TGV because of its convenience, comfort and certainty. If that is repeated throughout the mainland of Europe, as it surely will be, it is bound to mean less air traffic, less dislocation and fewer of the problems which we experience in the summer. The international high speed network will bring about dramatic changes.
The French are now extending the TGV line to Marseilles. At the moment they are building a loop from Roissy airport around the whole of Paris to Lille and on to Calais. Three months ago the Belgians announced that, through public and private finance, there would be a fast rail network to Brussels. Plans 1064 are being laid for that network to extend from Brussels to Amsterdam and from Brussels, at German expense, through to Cologne and Frankfurt. It has been hinted that the Danes may join in the network at Amsterdam to take it through to Copenhagen. All that will happen in the 1990s. We, with our preoccupation over the tunnel and with an unhistorical sense of delay, have still to complete our consideration of fast speed links in our own country.
I fear that we may sacrifice ourselves on some altar of ideology as to what is public and private finance. I should have thought that the increasing stress on the environment, mentioned by every speaker here today must lead one to believe that questions of the infrastucture are not solely a question for private enterprise and finance but must be the responsibility of the government also.
My Lords, the noble Lord has now spoken for longer than the 11 minutes which is allotted to each speaker. This is a very important debate and perhaps he will now conclude his speech.
§ Lord Pennock
My Lords, I conclude very quickly but with great conviction that we have come a long way. Our colleagues in the Community recognise the great environmental and economic advantages and are proceeding even faster. We have a great deal on which to catch up. I hope that it is not too late.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Lord Taylor of Gryfe
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, in his reassuring and encouraging statement on the prospects for the Channel Tunnel. I very much regret that my noble friend Lord Jay is not in his seat because I think that his has been the only dissenting voice in the debate so far. I believe that he made one or two departures from his normal logic. First, he based the assumptions of the Channel Tunnel traffic on a switch from the cross-Channel shipping services. I believe that he excludes and underestimates the substantial growth in total traffic which will take place as a result of the new relationships with Europe.
He also suggested that those of us who are enthusiasts for the proposition of public sector involvement in the high speed link are asking the Government to bail out the shareholders. That is totally untrue. The banks have invested in the Channel Tunnel. We are discussing the British Rail high speed link. In the light of the statement just made by the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, the City is frequently criticised for so-called short-termism in its investment strategy. If ever I saw a long-term prospect of return, it is investment in the Channel Tunnel. The City should receive a certain amount of credit for its response to this imaginative scheme.
I support the proposition that there should be public sector support and involvement in what is not only an environmental matter but also an important matter of social policy because it goes to the root of regional policy. In arguing that the link to the Channel Tunnel from the regions is desirable, I take Glasgow as an example. By road, and with a good 1065 driver, it takes 48 hours to reach Paris. By tunnel it will take half that time, namely, 24 hours.
The economy of Scotland has changed. There has been substantial investment in high technology with the inward investment of international companies which are linked to European partners and branches. Therefore, a high speed connection to those branches and centres is very important. As has already been said, it also affects the prospects for inward investment. Any company wishing to invest in this country must have a reasonably fast connection with its major customers in Europe.
This morning I attended a seminar with some Japanese bankers. They pointed out that 33,000 jobs had been created by inward investment of Japanese companies in factories. In addition, there is a substantial spin-off in suppliers to those Japanese factories. However, the inevitable question is asked: how close will we be to our European factories and customers? Unless we provide the necessary high speed link, the regions will suffer and inward investment is bound to be centred nearer the South-East. That is a very serious social problem.
The environmental impact has been well aired and I do not plan to say much more about it. I look frequently at the substantial flow of traffic from Scotland and the oil centres of Aberdeen down to the South as I sit in comfort in an InterCity train for five and a half hours on the journey from my home. I see the congestion and the inevitable pollutive effects of those substantial lorries. I thank God that I do not drive on the A1 or any of the major roads from Scotland to London. It is becoming impossible. A high speed link to the Channel Tunnel is essential on those environmental grounds.
I wish to return to the question of the impact on the South-East. When we looked at the Channel Tunnel originally, some of us felt that there would be a tendency to bring more and more industrial activity to the South-East with a consequent disadvantage to areas like the silicon glen in Scotland which is 400 or 500 miles from here.
Regional policy is one area which this Government have neglected. A recent article in the Glasgow Herald stated:In the most dramatic demonstration of regional policy in reverse yet mounted by the Thatcher Government, the London Docklands Development Corporation is to receive an increase in its direct state funding next year greater than the entire budget allocated to the Scottish Development Agency".It is no wonder that the ratings of the Scottish Nationalists are moving ahead, largely at the expense of the Conservative Party.
During the past three years the London Docklands development received £813 million from the Environment Secretary, Chris Patten, as against the total budget of Mr. Malcolm Rifkind in Scotland which is £350 million. The Government have become obsessive about market forces controlling the economy to the exclusion of social concerns. Unless we obtain this high speed connecting link with the Channel Tunnel, regional policy will suffer further.
I repeat the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill; the link is essential. I also agree with 1066 the noble Lord, Lord Pennock. Let us not get bogged down on the ideology of whether it is a public enterprise or private responsibility. We are concerned with a social policy of great significance to the future of our country. Therefore I very much support the general proposition which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, so ably presented.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord Johnston of Rockport
My Lords, I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for initiating this debate. One of the difficulties of taking part in a long debate in your Lordships' House is the problem of repetition. Time and again we quote details that are tied in with the whole enterprise but someone has mentioned them before and we find ourselves listening to the same points.
However, I am reminded of an incident that happened to Winston Churchill. It is a true story and I am sure that some Members on this side of the House will remember it and were probably present at the time. He used to speak from very carefully typed notes on cards; he made full use of capitals, spaces for pauses and the underlining of important points.
The incident occurred at one of the last Conservative Party conferences that he addressed, and by then he was quite old. In some way or other he omitted to turn over the page and began to read the same page for the second time. The audience shuffled uneasily in their seats and there was a wave of concern and sympathy for what was happening. Half-way through the page he must have realised what he had done for he suddenly paused. Looking over his spectacles he said, in his own inimitable way, "I know what you are all thinking; you are thinking you have heard this before. Well, you have. It is a very important part of my speech and I am going to repeat it; it stands repeating". He continued with his speech and received a wonderful reception at the end.
I will not offer to do that, but I make no apology for repeating a few pertinent points which may already have been alluded to, because I wish to enphasise that this is a subject of vital importance to the regions outside London.
I have lived and worked for most of my life in the North-West.
§ Lord Johnston of Rockport
Thank you, my Lord. I am glad to have a supporter. It is a region which, since the Industrial Revolution, has been a manufacturing and commercial centre. It has contributed greatly to the prosperity of our country. In recent years it has suffered, like other regions in the Midlands and the North, from the changing pattern of manufacture and trade in the world. Sadly many of its old established and traditional industries have suffered. Unemployment has been high and times have been difficult. But people in the North-West are resilient and innovative. They have risen to the new challenges, new industries and businesses. New businesses have taken the place of the old traditional ones. One only has to travel to the northern cities and towns to see the dramatic 1067 developments which have taken place and the improvements which are resulting. Employment has improved; living standards have been raised and a new feeling of confidence abounds—and rightly so.
The North-West—and this is worth noting—is now the second highest regional contributor to the gross domestic product and is of major importance to the UK economy. I am concerned that that position should not be jeopardised by the coming of the Channel Tunnel. The North-West can only compete with the South of England and Europe if its connections are fast, reliable, adequate and competitive. A good transport infrastructure with quick and economical transport to and from the tunnel will be vital if the region is to retain and expand its position in the wider European market.
While road transport is and will continue to be a major means of transporting goods and people—one welcomes the progress made with the motorways and the projected improvements planned by the Minister for Transport—rail services will be a major factor in ensuring the continued competitiveness of the North-West.
Rail has many important advantages and I list four which immediately come to mind. These points have been made before, but they stand repeating. First, it takes goods and traffic off our already overcrowded roads. Secondly, it is quicker. With the right track and facilities freight trains should average up to 75 miles per hour and passenger trains up to 150 miles per hour. Thirdly, for long hauls it is very cost effective, and the hauls from the North-West to the South and through the tunnel would be long hauls. Fourthly, it is environmentally less damaging than road transport.
My noble friend Lord Lindsay developed that point in a most excellent maiden speech. We will all benefit considerably from his knowledge in that field.
I am concerned that British Rail currently seems to be under-estimating the future needs of the North-West, both with regard to freight and passenger traffic. British Rail's estimates of likely freight and passenger traffic are only two-thirds those of a comprehensive study commissioned locally. It seems to be reluctant to publish detailed plans of its proposals.
British Rail must look, as a matter of urgency, at ways and means of ensuring an efficient rail service to and from the North-West to the Channel Tunnel, based on an upward revision of the anticipated freight and passenger traffic figures when the tunnel opens and the publication by British Rail of detailed plans as to how it will cope with the situation.
There must be early implementaton of the plans for the development of an international passenger terminal at King's Cross, either with a connecting line via Hampstead to the North-West or, if not, a truly reliable travelator under ground from Euston to King's Cross. I emphasise "truly reliable" because I am sure that most of us find at the airports that it is either going in the opposite direction to that in which we wish to travel or it is not going at all.
We need the development of major freight terminals in Merseyside, Greater Manchester, 1068 Lancashire and Cheshire. These should be ready in good time for 1993 and developed, I hope, as joint ventures with private enterprise. Eventually they will provide an improved and direct freight and passenger link from the North-West to the tunnel either using the improved west coast line taking a route to the west of London or, if the money can be found, a new line in its entirety.
We need to back this resolution and to press hard for urgent action by British Rail. I have much pleasure in speaking in support.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Crook
My Lords, half the aggregate length of the Channel Tunnel has now been built and it seems that it will be finished and we shall have a tunnel. Many people who originally opposed the scheme still persist in decrying it. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester was correct in saying that now we must drop that negative attitude and see how best we can take advantage of the Channel Tunnel. Perhaps one day north-east France will be part of the London commuter belt.
It has been apparent since the 1970s that the Channel Tunnel would need a rail link. At a recent conference Mr. Portillo identified a problem which exists and which is the fault of no one. It is that no one in this country has had experience of building railways here. It was true in the 1970s and it is true now. We have not been building railways. Therefore, it is inevitable that the process of designing a high speed rail link will be painful.
However, it is now four years since the start of the tunnel and there is still no definitive proposal for a fixed high speed link from the tunnel into the country as a whole. Instead, we have been forced to accept a stop-gap measure of improving the existing suburban system, with its excruciating curves and intricate interconnections, in an attempt to improve temporarily the running time between Folkestone and London and then the rest of the country. We have to accept that because there is no time for anything better and we must wish British Rail good luck in achieving it.
Similarly, freight services will have to occupy part of the existing network of the South-East of England. Certain sleepy lines will have a considerable increase in their traffic. In that connection Kent County Council is pressing British Rail to pay for the cost of insulating lineside properties against sound and vibration. That would be an unfortunate step if it were to be accepted because it would open the floodgates as a precedent, with far-reaching implications way beyond the problems immediately found in Kent. However, long-welded rails and modern track and stock technologies should help these people.
We have heard much about the need net to be seen to be giving a subsidy to the Channel Tunnel. However, it is a difficult matter to define because for years we have been subsidising the ferry boats by courtesy of the duty-free system. Little of the saving is passed on to the passengers. Most of the refund on duty goes to the ferry companies.
1069 I now turn to high speed rail link. This is to be limited to a rail between London and the Channel Tunnel. We have a bizarre contrast, as the noble Lords, Lord Thomson and Lord Pennock, have already mentioned, between the attitude of the French towards high speed rail transport and the attitude in this country. The French took it for granted that the high speed line would have to connect with the Channel Tunnel. Here, we are making a tentative approach to building our first and relatively short high speed line.
We are worried about the cost and run the risk of making a half-hearted attempt which will be doomed to failure by its sheer inadequacies. Our need is to produce a high speed rail link that has style, is handsome in scale and can be operated with a degree of swagger by those who have that responsibility. Indeed, if we do not become involved in such construction it may add another nail to the coffin of the British railway industry.
There is nevertheless the problem of the environmental impact on Kent of this high speed rail link. The noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, in his maiden speech suggested—by implication, if not directly—that the incremental costs of safeguarding the environment against the high speed link might well be reimbursed by the state without really acting as a subsidy in the sense of, I believe, Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act.
As matters stand at the moment, journeys north and west of London will continue over existing British Rail tracks. There is no proposal to put high speed trains beyond King's Cross. Travellers will have to change from high speed trains onto existing InterCity services. Some trains will indeed travel from the North, through London, and through the Channel Tunnel but they will not be the high speed trains of which the Continental people speak. They will be our medium speed trains, which may not always be tolerated on the Continental rail network.
The rail link and its argument have caused considerable planning blight through much of Kent. There are so many proposals that people who own property in these areas are having difficulty in selling them when needs they must—a common enough situation. It is important that a decision is made quickly so that everyone else can at least rest assured that their homes are safe. The others can expect compensation. I do not know how compensation will work but there will need to be compulsory purchase and it is to be hoped that the amount offered in compensation for compulsorily purchased properties allows for the inevitable escalation of house prices in the area when so many people are simultaneously seeking houses, having been displaced.
We have spoken a little about roads so far in this debate. Clearly road improvements are going ahead. The M.20 will be completed. I have no idea what effect the residual traffic not taken by rail will have on the existing road network. However, we must always bear in mind that seaside space in northern Europe is limited. The amount of coastline available to serve the population of Germany and the Low Countries is relatively short. It would seem that if 1070 we have a decent improvement in the roads along the south coast the ailing seaside resorts in that area might manage to spruce themselves up and catch some of the people seeking to escape the crowding on the north-eastern coast of Europe. After all, our weather is no worse than theirs.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Underhill for initiating this very topical debate and for the positive and constructive way in which he dealt with the critical issues in his opening speech. There are at least three aspects of the Channel Tunnel which stretch the imagination and understanding of transport professionals, politicians and the general public. They are engineering, finance and the rail linkage.
There are impressive engineering features of which we should all be proud. These features include the most technically advanced equipment and methods ever used in a civil engineering project. There are laser and micro hi-tech devices to keep mining and construction machinery working at hitherto unheard of minute tolerances with hair's breadth precision.
There is the astronomical financial budget of the mounting construction cost. The latest figure is £7-5 billion, which is more than 50 per cent. above the original estimate made less than two and a half years ago. The noble Viscount, Lord Hood, and the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, both referred to these issues in a little more detail than I can.
It is now claimed that the final cost may be 75 per cent. above the initial figure, with a debt of about £6-6 billion when the tunnel begins to earn income in 1993. Some commentators are perhaps facetiously questioning whether the tunnel is being lined with silver and gold rather than with steel and concrete. Whatever the reasons, the financiers and the cost accountants should exercise some of the laser precision techniques employed in the engineering.
Even before the trains commence running it is now suggested that some form of price regulation of fares will be necessary between the tunnel operators and the Channel port ferries as full-blooded competition will not be in the best interests of the respective shareholders. One of the most informed and challenging reports that I have read about the project was published last month by the Royal Town Planning Institute. In the foreword the president, Robin Thompson, states:The Channel Tunnel project has provided the best reason for believing in strategic planning that this country has ever witnessed. As the project has lurched inevitably from one calamity to another, the case for planning has grown by leaps and bounds. There is an ironic justice in the fact that the scheme may yet end up as a large hole with no links. As a piece of mega-project management it has been full of holes and largely lacking in linkages. What is patently needed is a combination of clear and regional planning objectives and a flexible but coherent form of planned management of every aspect of the Channel Tunnel scheme. It is late to make this shift but not too late. The Channel Tunnel still offers an exciting opportunity".There is the blatant ambiguity about the proposed operational services for both the passenger and freight trains already mentioned by other speakers. While there is still much confusion about the 1071 expected type of services in the immediate Dover-London area, there is utter bewilderment about the extent and type of services in the different regions of the United Kingdom.
The paucity of reliable data concerning these primary operational functions has given rise to much speculation and confusion about the possible social and economic impact of the Channel Tunnel project.
Whatever the reasons for believing that the single market of 1992 and the Channel Tunnel will open up new opportunities for employment in the United Kingdom, the trends show a marked widening in the North-South gap in employment expansion. That is a trend which the Channel Tunnel is likely to exacerbate. Patterns of employment growth over the period since 1982 show a marked widening of the then existing large gap. Employment growth in the South has increased by 13-1 per cent.; in the Midlands and Wales by 9-5 per cent.; in the North by 6-2 per cent.; and by only 3-8 per cent. in the peripheral areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In his reply to the debate can the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, indicate how the Government view this growing gap in employment opportunities between the South and the peripheral areas of North-West England, Scotland and Northern Ireland? Can he also say how the Channel Tunnel is likely to remedy the situation?
On completion of the Channel Tunnel in 1993, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic will comprise by far the largest land mass and have the largest population in Europe without a direct land transport link to the Continent. Therefore, of special interest to me are the reports which specifically deal with the railway links and propose a tunnel connection from Merseyside, the Clyde and the Loch Ryan region in Scotland.
The published studies about the implications of the Channel Tunnel for Ireland, both North and South, strongly agree. They agree that the future prospects for trade are very closely associated with the need for urgent measures for a rail link in northern England and in Scotland. These measures are to promote up-to-date, effective and efficient passenger and freight rail services and rail service links with the London-Dover Channel Tunnel rail connection.
Some concern has been publicly expressed by the Northern Ireland General Consumer Council about the passenger and ferry services through Larne harbour in Northern Ireland to the West of Scotland and the ongoing rail links to the Channel Tunnel. Some of these matters have already been mentioned by other speakers in this debate. It has particular reference to the whole of Ireland. The Northern Ireland General Consumer Council has also stressed the need for improving roads within Ireland and particularly the east coast ports in Ireland, together with the urgent upgrading of the Belfast-Lame road.
The Westminster Secretary of State for Transport is responsible to Parliament for roads and rail transport in Scotland. It has been suggested that it could be of help if Mr. Brooke, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, arranged a meeting with the 1072 Secretary of State for Transport, Mr. Cecil Parkinson. It would be a meeting to discuss all the implications and to move forward together to produce a cohesive transportation strategy for the areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I am pleased to say that the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Mr. Peter Brooke, and the Northern Ireland Minister for the economy, Mr. Richard Needham, have recently launched two very important and challenging strategy documents. The first is called Transportation Programme for Northern Ireland and the other The Key to Growth—Economic Strategy. I am sorry to say that both documents have been issued separately. There is no mention in the latter document of the importance of transport.
Among the representative and professional organisations which have publicly responded to the respective suggestions for action in both the strategy documents are the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; the Northern Ireland Confederation of British Industry; the Northern Ireland Economic Council; the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce; the Northern Ireland General Consumer Council and the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland.
I mention these bodies because in Northern Ireland there is great community concern about the impact of the Channel Tunnel, particularly on employment and industrial development. But what is needed is much more than statements of general support. Concerted action is needed, and not only in the Province.
It is my view that the distribution of the tunnel benefits will depend on the outcome of many decisions. Many of these are only partially related to the tunnel itself. Market forces alone cannot achieve the necessary adjustments. Permissions, rights and protections are needed which can be given only by or under legislation. I support the view expressed by my noble friend Lord Underhill in his opening remarks about the need for a review or a parliamentary Select Committee representative of all the United Kingdom regions which will reflect the national interest. The terms of reference should embrace social, environmental and financial criteria. Such an inquiry is urgently required if we are to make progress in this respect.
Northern Ireland, like every part of the United Kingdom, should be preparing for the opportunities that will arise with the opening of the Channel Tunnel. It is for the experts and professionals to advise on the specific road, rail, sea and air linkages that should emerge. Is it too much to ask that, however acute are the political differences within Northern Ireland, or however strained are the relations between the two islands, the evident self-interest of all in planning and in implementing a coherent and integrated transport strategy should now be grasped and genuinely tackled without further delay?
My time has come to an end. I hope that the noble Viscount who is to reply will take on board the two matters that I mentioned.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lord Hardinge of Penshurst
My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for introducing the Motion in these precise terms. It gives me an opportunity to express a view about the interests of one part of the country.
In a speech with which I thoroughly agreed the noble Lord referred to areas to the north, west and east of London. One direction was missing—the south. I wish to talk about the South, especially East Sussex. I have no interest to declare beyond the fact that I have lived for most of the past 50 years in East Sussex. I am not an expert on roads. Indeed, I have the greater danger of what is called "a little knowledge". I also have the evidence of my own eyes for all those years, so I have some notion, as regards roads in particular, of what has happened and, more conspicuously, what has not happened.
In recent years the interests of East Sussex were often championed in your Lordships' House by my friend, the late Lord De La Warr. I cannot hope to match his knowledge or style, but I am glad that my noble friend Lord Teviot will speak about railways.
Folkestone and Dover are in Kent. Next to Kent the nearest county to Folkestone is East Sussex. So absurd is the present position that it takes as long to get from Hastings to Folkestone as it does from Brighton to Folkestone, though Brighton is some 30 miles further away to the west. I realise that it is not the present situation that we are debating, since as yet there is no Channel Tunnel, but I mention it as an example of the way this area has been neglected in regard to road and rail communications. The point here is that Brighton has the M.23 whereas Hastings has only the A.21, which south of Pembury is a very poor road. The present state of the route to the tunnel, across Romney Marsh and so on, is a bad joke, where it exists at all. It does not exist in some places. But, again, it is the plans we are debating and their likely dates of completion.
I am speaking of Hastings, which is to some extent the heart of the matter. But other towns, comprising in all a large population, are equally or almost equally affected; notably, Bexhill, Battle, Lewes and Eastbourne as well as some large towns in Kent and many large villages. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people.
Before getting down to the details of the plans for the A.259 I should like to make two general points. First, there is not in East Sussex one single mile—one yard—of motorway. Secondly, it takes on average nine years—yes, my Lords, nine years—from the appointment of consultants to the completion of a road. The actual figure may vary from five years to 14 years, but the average is nine years. It sometimes takes years to appoint the consultants.
The experts on East Sussex County Council tell me that some harmony now prevails between the various authorities, including the Department of Transport, about the development of the A.27 and particularly the A.259 east of Lewes to the tunnel. The principal reason for this harmony is that the scheme has been adopted into the national programme, which is a great step forward. What now concerns East Sussex is that the target dates may be 1074 missed due to what is usually described by the dread word "slippage". The only way future slippage can be estimated is by looking at past slippage. To do that I must explain some of the jargon.
There is adoption of the scheme which I have just mentioned; there is the appointment of consultants; there is the choice of preferred route; and finally there is completion or opening date. There are a good many other stages but I have chosen the peaks or watersheds. I have before me a section of a planning map drawn in 1985 or 1986, which is not long ago. I shall take as examples three sections only. First, I refer to the Pevensey bypass. The map gives the opening date as mid-1989. I am told that it wi1l actually be 1991, which is not too bad. Secondly, I refer to the Bexhill and Hastings western bypass. The map projects "after 1989", which may remind some noble Lords of War Loan—1952 or after—though I am glad to say that things are nothing like as bad as that. Completion is expected about 1995 if nothing else goes wrong. Thirdly, there is the Hastings eastern bypass to Icklesham, about which the map says "not yet programmed". Here real progress has been made after a very long delay in appointing consultants. It is now thought possible that the road will be built by 1996-97, though I am a little sceptical about that.
The point I am trying to make is that we must estimate future slippage from past slippage—and past slippage has really been pretty bad. I am looking to the Government to apply real urgency to the execution of these schemes, as when we talk about 1997 and so on we shall already, even before things get any worse, be four years behind the completion of the tunnel. I noted that the word "urgency" occurred more than once in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill.
It may be thought a digression in the context of this debate to mention the A.21 again. Yet it is fair to say that in the event of the agreed A.259 route slipping very badly, people would look to the A.21 as a means of reaching the tunnel via the M.25, which will already be carrying extra traffic. It is something of a Catch 22. If, for the sake of East Sussex, the A.21 south of Pembury is developed, as it should be, before the A.259 schemes are completed, tunnel traffic will flood up and down it to and from the M.25. On the other hand, the completion of the tunnel scheme via the A.259 will leave a great many of the problems in the area unsolved until something is done about the A.21.
In a perfect world both these main access routes would be completed simultaneously, and quickly. It is worth adding at this point that some expert opinion in East Sussex puts forward the view that the sooner the existing schemes are completed the sooner the strains will be lightened on important national routes such as the M.25. I cannot find any fault with this argument which, again, is pressing for greater haste on the agreed A.259 route.
I am not criticising any government, especially this one who actually completed the great engineering feat of the M.25—a concept which has been much abused. I am not criticising the bureaucracy. My plea is simply that slippage should be avoided and that things should be speeded up 1075 with more urgency. For much of my life I have been depressed by the snail-like progress of road developments in the area in which I live. A great many people are affected by it. I hope that the Government may feel some sympathy for what I have said.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Fisher mentioned that she thought one of the problems was that people are rather inclined to treat the tunnel as merely another commercial job. In my view that attitude was epitomised by the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, when in the final stages of his speech he said, "I will now turn to the subject of the Motion". As we all know, the subject of the Motion is the effect the tunnel will have on England—that is, our nation. From then on I listened carefully to hear him mention, London, Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow. But no, not a word did I hear. All we heard about was Lyons, Paris, Brussels and somewhere else. In fact, we only heard about the Continent.
That epitomises the attitude of the people who originated the tunnel. There was no conception of its national significance. Moreover, when the Government went along with the idea, there was no conception on their part that it would change the whole transport infrastructure of Europe and Great Britain. They said that the best way to handle the matter was to leave it to private enterprise. Therefore we got the tunnel and we now have the initiator of the tunnel who cannot mention the subject of the Motion because he is not concerned about it.
I grew up on Merseyside and one advantage of growing up there is that you are very much involved—that is, if you are involved in the politics of the area—with the international scene. Merseyside owed its livelihood to the fact that it was the crossroads between the new world and the old. I am sure that many noble Lords do not realise that it is 50 miles nearer than London to both Australia and New York. Shipping coming into Liverpool does not have to go through that maritime M. 1 the English Channel.
We have had rough times in Merseyside and in the North West; but we are doing all right. We still have one of the finest and largest container ports in Europe. Much traffic passes through the port very speedily and efficiently. However, that will not be any good if we ignore the needs of the North West, which at this moment is the second highest contributor to the gross national product. It will not be any good if our manufacturers cannot find their way to our greatest market. Seventy per cent. of our manufactured goods go to Europe and if we cannot get there, it will be a disaster.
When I read in British Rail documents such statements as, "No grants shall be made by the Secretary of State… towards expenditure incurred or to be incurred by the railway board for the purpose of the provision, improvement or development of international railway services", in my view that is the death knell for areas like the North West. The expenditure in our national budget has already 1076 dropped from £1,000 million in 1985 to a miserable £470 million for last year.
Are we to rely on the private sector to provide this necessary link in order that the wealth of the North West can in fact find its way to the Continent? Of course we cannot do so. It is not the private sector's job. It is not even British Rail's job. I have heard today about four different meetings and four different organisations all calling for the need to make the Government realise the sense and the urgent necessity of providing links between the tunnel and the regions. I did not know that there were so many of them. There is a lesson to be learnt. It is about time that people north of Watford started getting their act together to bring pressure to bear upon the woman to ensure that what we are asking for becomes a reality.
If you summarised the divide which exists in this country, you could say that in the North West we make things and that in the South East they make money. There is a world of difference between the two. When the manufacture of goods dries up, any possibility of making money goes right out of the window.
There was some humour expressed in this Chamber in 1979 when I criticised the Government's attitude. They said, "All we have to do is to create private enterprise, give it its head and it will pull the nation up by its bootstraps". I pointed out at that time that I did not believe that prediction. In my view the probability was that private enterprise would look after its own and that it would not worry very much about the national interest if it was making a profit by pursuing its own line. I even went so far as to suggest that the invisible exports upon which we were relying to make our balance of trade sensible might be threatened by a place like Frankfurt. That view was treated with some levity and amusement by certain people on the other side of the Chamber. However, it does not sound so amusing now. Indeed, it is actually happening.
The congestion which exists in the South East is preventing this country from reaching its potential. In congratulating the mover of the Motion, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester mentioned that the noble Lord had referred to the importance of the tunnel to the North West. In fact, my noble friend Lord Underhill did not say that; he said that there was a potentially important factor about the tunnel for the North West. However, he underlined that it was a potential importance and that things would have to be done in order to make us realise that contribution.
There is no point in trying to stress the importance of rail over road for long distance haulage. I shall not try to do so, because I assume that even the Government are aware of that fact. However, there is an overriding need to keep our industry flourishing—that is, what is left of it after the locusts have been in for the past 10 years. Nevertheless, it is still there; the potential is still there; the industry is still there; and the enlightenment still remains in the North West and in the northern parts of this country. Therefore, it is not too late.
A major fear is that the congestion in the South East on both road and rail will reduce the attraction 1077 of the North West as an area for new economic development. At the same time, the level of investment in transport and economic infrastructure on the other side of the Channel so graphically described by the noble Lord, Lord Pennock—one of the institutors of the Channel Tunnel—will make regions like Calais very attractive. When one adds to that the fact that the French Government are not slow in giving grants for industrial development and so on, and grants for transportation in that area of the world, it poses a very serious problem for the rest of this country.
I sometimes wonder how we arrived at the situation of thinking that a fast rail link from the tunnel to London is more important than a fast rail link to enable industry and commerce to be served in the rest of the country. I do not believe for one moment that if the Government gave it any serious attention—indeed, if they even gave it any thought—they would ever have arrived at the conclusion that the first priority for the tunnel was passenger traffic to London. Lord knows—though no one on the other side of the Chamber seems aware of it—the conditions for passengers in London are so bad at present that what we need to do is to reduce the numbers of passengers travelling to London rather than increase them. We need to increase the trade link which exists with the Continent and the northern parts of this country: that is what the tunnel is if it is anything.
One of the things that I have learnt over many years is that there are places other than Merseyside and the North West which are governed by their relationship with other places—a point mentioned by my noble friend Lord Blease. The link with Northern Ireland is essential. The North West is the last place to retain good communications with Northern Ireland and Dublin. They must be introduced into the mainstream of communications with the Continent or we shall damage those two places. Thanks to the Japanese, North Wales is fast becoming a main producer of engines and motor cars. They are not being produced for North Wales. The Japanese want to get them out of there and on to the Continent. Is it suggested that they should go over the Pennines and leave from Hull? Of course not. There should be a direct link with the Continent.
When the Government are questioned about the electrification of the line to Holyhead, they do not seem to know of its existence. I sometimes believe that they have never heard of Holyhead. Nevertheless, it is Ireland's most important link with the Continent.
I conclude by saying that there should be no misunderstanding: the Government are aware, or should be aware, of how involved the country ought to be in establishing links between the rest of the country and the Continent. If they are not aware of the need, that is a disgrace of almost unfathomable proportions. If they are aware, they should be blamed when the whole of the North becomes as peripheral as Southern Italy is at present—because that is the prospect we face. If the Government do nothing about it, it will be their responsibility, because they will have been slavishly obedient to the so-called rules of private enterprise.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for giving us this subject for debate to which there have been some outstanding contributions. It is clear that we all believe that it is most important that a decision should be made, and made quickly, about the route into London so that the matter can be progressed. It is dragging on, and uncertainty is the biggest problem of all. That is a point which has come through from every Member of the House.
The Channel Tunnel is a unique infrastructure project. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, was fascinating. He was able to tell us about the day-to-day construction. The scale of the operation and the consequences to the country as a whole cannot be overlooked. Britain's long-term prosperity is clearly linked to the tunnel.
I support the views that have been put forward about the North-West. I have been approached by the North-West Channel Tunnel Group, perhaps because I was a parliamentary candidate there once. It is correct to want the link. I was equally impressed by the case put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, and the speakers from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Everyone wants to see a general link.
I believe that that general link can come only from having the King's Cross terminal. I shall push strongly for that terminal. The general debate on the Channel Tunnel, as opposed to the debate in the House today, has tended to divide into three main components: the effect on Kent of the increase in road traffic and the high speed link—we had a marvellous maiden speech on that topic—and the implications of the tunnel and the transport links as regards the regions; the preferred route through London; and the siting of the second London terminal to complement Waterloo.
As your Lordships are aware, I have long been involved in planning in London and so I shall concentrate my remarks upon the siting of that terminal. I declare an interest in that I am directly involved with the London Regeneration Consortium which hopes to redevelop the King's Cross area. There has been a lengthy debate about the rival merits of King's Cross and Stratford. There now appears to be general agreement, as I have heard this afternoon, that the second terminal should be at King's Cross. The only continuing debate is whether the high speed link should approach King's Cross via Swanley, as proposed by British Rail and Eurorail, or via Stratford, as proposed by Ove Arup.
British Rail clearly believes that the southerly approach is preferable and the British Rail/Eurorail proposals are already with the Secretary of State for Transport. He has to decide whether the proposed route is acceptable. He also has to decide whether there will be any element of government financial support. It is difficult seriously to contemplate having the Channel Tunnel rail link without support. It is also difficult to contemplate not having the link.
Britain must be seen to be responding to the opportunities of the single European market, a point which has been clearly made today. The absence of proper rail links, especially in the light of the 1079 continental investment about which we have heard so much, would show a lack of commitment to a more united Europe at a time when Britain may already be perceived as being peripheral, both geographically and politically, to the rest of the Continent.
My main interest this afternooon is to urge the Government and British Rail to decide those questions with the minimum of further delay. The endless speculation about what the decision might be is not just debilitating to those whose homes and lives might be affected by the choice of route; it is also a great anxiety to those who are keen to see the regeneration of a near derelict area to the north of King's Cross station. Southwark Council has sent me a paper today. I was interested in the point it makes; namely, that compensation would be available for people affected by the new service but not by changes in existing services during the interim phase. That is a case which should be pressed further. There are precedents where the Government have given further thought and compensated people living in an area who have been adversely affected by an increase in traffic. There may be a case for such an area, and I was glad to receive that paper.
I have received interesting and informative papers from people in many different areas. It is important for London as a whole that the King's Cross area should be redeveloped. Agreement about the terminal and getting on with it should be a first priority. The King's Cross area is an eyesore and a wasted opportunity. Good quality redevelopment could transform the area and provide new housing for local people; the canal basins could be re-opened—as a former chairman of the London Canals Committee I should very much like to see that—new civic amenities could be provided and high quality offices. There could be mixed development. Good accommodation with first-class transport will be important if London is to maintain and strengthen its position as Europe's major financial centre and one of its main commercial centres. Other European cities such as Frankfurt and Paris have a much clearer strategy for growth than London. Much of the onus in London rests on the investment and efforts of the private sector.
The King's Cross Railways Bill is currently before the other place. It contains proposals to change railway alignments at King's Cross, and to provide a major new passenger interchange between King's Cross, St. Pancras, Thameslink, and the five Underground lines. The proposals will allow a new low level station to be built to take both the Channel Tunnel and the Thameslink trains. The Bill will come before the House for debate in the autumn, It is interesting that the proposals for the north-west also suggest the "people mover", as it is called, which will connect Euston into that block. Again it will be an enormous benefit to have the linkage of those three major mainline stations which are now physically so close, but inconveniently separated for passenger traffic.
The King's Cross Railways Bill also provides for major improvements to the London Underground facilities at King's Cross. That is important, 1080 particularly in terms of passenger safety in view of the station's history. The existing ticket hall will be expanded to relieve congestion and a new second ticket hall will be built to be shared with Thameslink. All that will take away much of the anxiety people still suffer when they go to the King's Cross Underground. New subways will be built between the different Underground lines and other measures will be taken to implement the Fennell Report.
These changes which are linked with the proposed new rail passenger interchange, will cater for the passengers using the trains via King's Cross, St. Pancras, Thameslink and Euston. They are a strong justification for the King's Cross Railways Bill. However the real difficulty is that discussions on the Bill have been coloured by the uncertainty about the plans for the high speed rail link. That is why I speak in the debate today. The two matters are so connected that we must look at them jointly. It is difficult to see how the King's Cross development could proceed at all until there is some certainty about the rail link. The King's Cross Railways Bill cannot proceed until then.
It is time for the uncertainty to end. We need action urgently. The Government should announce as soon as possible the route of the high speed link and explain how it is to be funded. Furthermore, they should accept that the only way in which such a proposal could be carried through in the lifetime of this Parliament is with a hybrid Bill. Such a Bill could be introduced before the end of the year so as to complete the passage in the next Session and within the lifetime of this Parliament. I am sure that all parties will see merit in rapid progress. That theme has been repeated often in our debate today.
British Rail, on the other hand, should also bestir itself. It should produce a detailed comparative analysis of the cost and benefits of the preferred route with the other route options which have been publicly canvassed over recent months. That is the only way in which to demonstrate the superiority of the British Rail route compared with the alternatives and to satisfy public opinion that the most sensible route capable of being selected is being selected for both passenger and freight traffic through London and the regions.
The opening of the Channel Tunnel and the ability to move substantially greater numbers of people and freight by rail offer a golden opportunity to reduce pressure on the overcrowded road system and the environment in general. We must not fail to respond.
This House should deal expeditiously with the King's Cross Railways Bill when we receive it from the Commons, but it is all being held up because of decisions on the Channel Tunnel. I have urged these actions principally because of my concern about the effect of the Channel Tunnel rail link on London in general and on the King's Cross area in particular. However there are equally necessary and important benefits for the rest of the country. I believe that other regions should be given the chance to benefit from the high speed link and the decisions that we hope will be made shortly. I support action on the matter.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Lord Hankey
My Lords, we have just heard a most able and interesting speech from the noble Baroness, which is one of many such speeches today, starting with an extremely able introduction by my noble friend Lord Underhill.
We all recognise that we must have a high speed rail link, but it is rather in the doldrums. It is an essential part of the Channel Tunnel scheme. We want it soon. It is shocking that we have to wait until 1998 to get it. Why do the British always do too little, too late? This is absolutely typical.
The French, who are interested in the British market now, have improved communications on their side with the TGV and motorway link improvements. If there are no corresponding rail improvements on our side, we may be flooded with trucks and cars, with a tremendous amount of traffic coming onto the roads of Kent, East Sussex and across the country. We must therefore have a better and new high speed rail link.
Why are matters going so slowly? The reason is that the Government have not given adequate support. They must do so now, as the French Government have done. This is a vital British interest affecting all parts of the United Kingdom. The dreadful delay to the railway legislation is a national scandal. A private Bill will take years to be passed into legislation. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that the least we can have is a hybrid Bill. If the Government made it a national Bill in some way, it would go through on the nod. We must recognise that much more support is needed.
There is a particularly good county council in Kent. The leader, Mr. Tony Hart, is a man of character, imagination and real competence. He has handled his county problems with, I think, consummate skill. However, in Kent and East Sussex we need more effective action by British Rail and the Government. Make no mistake about it, the Government hold the key.
This brings me to my next point. I served for years as a diplomat in Europe and industries there receive much support from their governments. Our Government ought to pay much more attention to what our industries need. They ought to see the CBI just as often as the Bank of England and the City institutions. Industrial production, including the service sector, is the lifeblood of the country. The Government should not become too closely involved in individual firms. It is important for them not to do so, but they should be prepared to lend a hand.
When the Prime Minister went to Oman some time ago and lent a hand to the British companies which were to build the new university, there were screams from various people that she was acting improperly. She was not at all; she was doing exactly what all our competitors do. As a diplomat with 38 years' service, I assure the Houe that that is so. We should not leave our industries in the lurch. We should give them a good deal more support.
We need backing for British Rail to build the new rail link, direct sponsorship of the really urgent legislation and moral support for British Rail in dealing with some of the more idiotic objectors. In 1082 all these ways I think that the Government could and should help enormously.
I wish to say something now about British Rail. It is not easy for British Rail, with privatisation ahead. It is told that it must make a profit; people keep telling it to make new things which are hard to cost. It is difficult, and no wonder British Rail dithers. However, it is much harder because the Government have dithered too. We want all parties to get on with it. One matter which is particularly important for British Rail is that as we shall not have the high speed link in time, we must ask it to get on with developing the freight connection. It must go out and take trouble to organise the freight links adequately by the time the tunnel opens within three years. I do not just mean trains trundling along, we want to know that the rail yards are properly protected at night and that goods are not stolen. We want real efficiency, and perhaps British Rail will have to have more staff and pay them properly.
In these matters one gets what one pays for. The Government have done well to set this country on a path of prosperity. To some considerable degree the current inflationary trend is a measure of their success. However, I seriously think that our countrymen would prefer to have effective common services such as education, the health service, the police and the prison services, even if they cost a little more, rather than a further reduction in income tax. The Government should pay attention to developing common services effectively.
The Channel Tunnel communication links fall into the same category, especially as we stand to gain greater prosperity from active participation in the new Europe of 1992. This is a worthwhile national investment and we should be getting on with it urgently.
Or shall we fail and become an impoverished backwater? I leave that matter to your Lordships' consideration.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, this debate is very timely. As my noble friend Lord Underhill indicated, some urgent decisions need to be taken in connection with the links to the Channel Tunnel. But even if those decisions were taken immediately, we should still be far behind the French, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has just said, have undertaken a tremendous investment programme in their rail infrastructure. These decisions need to be taken quickly.
I want to approach the debate from a regional point of view and particularly from the point of view of Yorkshire and Humberside. In the recent past the region has experienced problems brought about by the decline of its traditional industries of coal, steel, textiles and engineering. Some of the problems are still quite acute. However, I do not wish to concentrate on them because Yorkshire is a diverse region and there are possibilities for development. Economically it still has a sound manufacturing base. In terms of the tourist industry and the service sector, particularly the financial sector, there have been considerable developments recently. There is 1083 good scope for further inward investment. Therefore it is essential that the region has direct links with Europe. Socially too the region has quite a lot going for it because the quality of life that it can offer compares favourably with that of other parts of the country. It also has a good basis for a transport system, but it needs to be developed. I shall refer to that point later.
I wish to concentrate on a number of points. First of all I should mention the need for strong links with the Channel Tunnel. Most speakers have already referred to that. A decision on that matter is absolutely urgent from the point of view not only of the Yorkshire and Humberside region but the North as a whole. It is important that King's Cross should provide the link. Exceptionally I must take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who said that he did not propose to enter the controversy. However, he seemed to be speaking in favour of the alternative to King's Cross.
The important point about the link is that it is a link. It is not a terminal that will disgorge into the centre of London. It is a link with the whole of the North. As I have said, it would be valuable not only to Yorkshire and Humberside but throughout the North-East, up to Scotland, and to the North-West in the absence of a direct link to Merseyside. Likewise it would be important to the Midlands in the absence of a direct link to Birmingham. This matter needs a quick decision, but I hope that it will be a decision in favour of King's Cross.
My second point concerns the electrification of the East Coast line. That is welcome to Yorkshire, but it needs to be extended. I hope I may put in a claim for Sheffield because Sheffield needs its own electrified line into the centre. However, Bradford also needs an extension of the line. That is of immediate importance and is particularly urgent. There has been agreement between the local authority and the West Yorkshire passenger transport executive as regards extending the electrification of the line from Leeds to Bradford. That makes good sense, particularly if an immediate decision could be made. It would be economical to add to the order for rolling stock which has already been placed for the line going up to Edinburgh and so benefit from economies of scale. It would also be possible to benefit from economies of scale by using the electrification depot at Doncaster before it is wound down. However, those orders need to be placed almost immediately; otherwise the advantages of linking with the main electrification scheme will be lost. That is particularly important to Bradford, which has not quite shared in the increasing prosperity of, for example, Leeds. Bradford needs a boost to its industry.
The scheme would be economically viable and the Government are not being asked to contribute in any way. Indeed all they are being asked to do is to give their authority for the scheme to progress as there is a public sector borrowing requirement. However, there is another sensible aspect to the scheme. British Rail has plans for a direct trans-European link between Paris, Leeds and Edinburgh and between Brussels, Leeds and 1084 Edinburgh. The plans currently are for one train a day in each direction. The train will be split at Doncaster, with one half going to Edinburgh and the other going to Leeds. As the journey to Edinburgh is much longer, clearly the half of the train that goes to Leeds will be in limbo for some time until it comes back to Doncaster to link up with the Edinburgh half. Therefore it would be sensible to utilise that train to go on to Bradford and extend the trans-Continental line to Bradford. However, that could only be done if electrification of the line took place.
But this scheme's progress depends on how soon the Minister can reach a decision. I mentioned this point to the noble Viscount who is to reply and I hope that he will be able to give a favourable response. A delegation met the Minister responsible for this matter last week in order to underline the urgency of the case. I gather that he is looking favourably at it, but I wonder whether that extends to making a decision this month, which is absolutely essential if the scheme is to go ahead.
My third point concerns freight, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords in their speeches. There is a need to reduce the congestion around London by transferring more goods and services to rail. London is a bottleneck through which goods from the North must pass in order to reach the Continent. It is therefore important for British Rail to plan to extend its Freightliner services.
I understand, as my noble friend Lord Underhill mentioned, that British Rail expects to attract some 6 million tonnes of freight traffic per year through the tunnel. That would be a considerable improvement on the present position. However, it does not seem very ambitious when compared with the 50 million tonnes of freight that pass through the Humberside ports. Perhaps British Rail has underestimated what can be done in that very important area. I hope that it will look at the matter again.
My fourth point relates to the question of co-ordination. There is no simple, single transport solution to our problems. As I have mentioned, the Humberside ports are very important to Yorkshire and Humberside. Their trade has doubled in the past 20 years or so. They conserve our trade with northern Europe very well but do not do so as effectively in the case of southern Europe. Even to serve northern Europe they need better links with the whole of the British Rail network.
The trans-Pennine lines from Hull to the North-West have always been the Cinderella of the system. Very real improvements are needed in that area. We also need links with Leeds/Bradford Airport. The road links are not good and a new rapid transport system is needed in Leeds which should also be linked with the airport. The local authority is considering such a system.
One of the problems of co-ordination in an area such as Yorkshire and Humberside is that there are two county councils and a number of metropolitan district councils. An authority to co-ordinate services and provide a strategic overview is lacking. Unless we have such an overview no real choice will be available.
1085 Good links do not alone make a region prosperous. However, without good transport links and a good transport network no region can prosper. Therefore we must ensure that there is an adequate transport infrastructure in the northern regions of the country so that we can take full advantage of the single market and the Channel Tunnel.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I open my remarks by declaring an interest. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, on giving us the opportunity today for a very topical debate. It is particularly welcome that it has attracted a number of speakers who do not normally participate in our transport deliberations. As many other speakers have mentioned, we have also enjoyed a breath of fresh air in a maiden speech which has introduced a new dimension and is to be greatly welcomed.
Several noble Lords have mentioned alternatives to the Eurorail proposals. Others have reminded us that the single market in 1992 and the opening of the tunnel in 1993 mean that time is of the essence if we are to spread the benefits of the tunnel throughout the country. Hence I feel that we must push on with Eurorail, establishing as quickly as possible what is desirable and what is viable and then consider how to bridge the gap between the two.
Should we speak to repeal Section 42? Should we seek to get round it, perhaps by taking government funds to protect the environment? Should we consider the possibility of public funds on behalf of the Network SouthEast commuter who, after all, could enjoy halved journey times particularly from mid and East Kent if the Eurorail scheme obtains funding and satisfies Parliament? Should we not consider that if we do not get Eurorail right we shall penalise the rail traveller and inevitably also the road traveller in Kent?
I should like to ask my noble friend three questions relating to Eurorail. First, does my right honourable friend the Secretary of State's directive to British Rail last autumn that it should concentrate its resources on Eurorail to the exclusion of other proposals still stand? That has a bearing on timescales. Secondly, we know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has the Eurorail proposal on his desk. When can we look for either comment or for decision? That, too, has implications for the timescale as so many speakers have reminded us. Lastly, does my right honourable friend's statement, also last autumn, that putting roads into tunnels regardless of expense is not a policy that appeals to him, also apply to any decision upon Eurorail? I hope that it does, partly as a matter of viability and partly as a matter of even-handedness between road and rail.
I mentioned Section 42. That section is usually underpinned by a policy of not supporting air and sea operators. However, day by day the Riverbus passes our terrace. It runs principally for the benefit of air passengers using the Docklands Airport. That has received government funding. It may not be a direct subsidy operator but I believe that the 1086 consumer benefits from an indirect subsidy. Should not the rules that enabled Her Majesty's Government to give funding for the Riverbus equally be taken into account when considering the undoubted problems regarding the financing of Eurorail?
A number of noble lords have commented on regional benefit. They have argued, as have a number of outside bodies which have written to many noble Lords, that British Rail's proposals for services from the Channel Tunnel to the provinces, which by-pass London, are inadequate. It is felt that the density of trains will not reach what British Rail believes to be the demand. I believe that in the long term that is probably correct. However, I believe that in the initial period British Rail's proposals, as a result of Section 40 consultations, are about right.
That does not necessarily lead to provincial cities and regions being disadvantaged because there is another solution. That solution lies in King's Cross. It is a proposal which many of us have supported. The King's Cross proposal, plus the travelator linking Euston, should be pursued. Inter-City services from Euston, King's Cross and St. Pancras operate half-hourly to Birmingham, hourly to Lancashire, the Potteries, Preston, Carlisle and almost hourly to Scotland. From King's Cross there are better than hourly services to Peterborough and Doncaster. There are hourly services to Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. In addition, if one takes into account the stopping points on those routes there are also hourly services to less favoured places such as from Peterborough to Nottingham, from Doncaster to Hull, from York to Scarborough, from Darlington to Teesside and from Newcastle to Wearside.
If one brackets all of those hourly frequencies on both Inter-City and provincial services with the hourly frequencies which in the course of time we shall have to King's Cross, there is plenty of opportunity for journeys to be made between the provinces, the tunnel and beyond to the Continent. In the fullness of time I hope that demand picks up sufficiently to justify additional trains avoiding London. In the first instance I note that there is no rush by our European partners to build trains to serve our provinces. The traffic is all aimed at services ex-UK in the morning or by night and returning in the evening.
Turning to freight, I agree with all those noble Lords who said that we must push on with our inland depots, be they for wagon-load, container or swap-body. One might consider as an example what was done last year in Teesside where ICI co-operated with British Rail, ICI providing the land and, when British Rail was desperate, the occasional use of a shunting locomotive, and British Rail providing everything else involved in operating a brand-new container depot. It is those kinds of partnerships between the private sector and British Rail to which we should look. However, I do not believe that that rules out local authorities. They should push too. I do not believe that last year's local government reforms exclude them from doing that, if they so wish. I hope that they will continue to play a role locally, pushing for what they need locally and putting together a local package with a good road 1087 and rail infrastructure. That is where I should like to see them fight their battles.
I should also like to see local authorities fight their battles on Section 8 which my noble friend Lord Davidson told us on 17th January was under review. Section 8 has a substantial role to play in enabling each transport mode to do the job that it does best—rail for trunk haul and road for local distribution. However, Section 8 has fallen into disuse and disrepute. The criteria which prevailed when it evolved no longer apply because of the spread of bypasses and motorways. When the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, goes back to Birmingham and reports to those who have briefed her, I hope that she will remind them that Section 8 is under review and that their voices should be heard speaking on its behalf. Although modest, Section 8 has a considerable role and could have a great role in spreading the benefits freight-wise to the regions. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister will tell us how the review is progressing.
I should like to deal briefly with a number of other points. The noble Lord, Lord Crook, was hostile to noise compensation, as am I. I discovered this morning that the Bakerloo Line between Regent's Park and Oxford Circus now carries 52 per cent. more passengers than it did in 1981 and that the number of trains running on that line has increased by 18 per cent. I live seven yards form the Bakerloo Line and I do not believe that I should be entitled to compensation simply because London Transport's marketing is competent and because rail has turned out to be attractive again. I urge the Government to resist that approach.
I heartily support—again, because time is of the essence and because there are Private Bills in one House or the other which have been there since January 1988—the idea that we should go for a hybrid Bill for Eurorail. Otherwise, we shall lose more and more time. It is not just a question of the time involved in assembling the Act and passing it through Parliament. One must remember that, as with road construction, railway construction is a time-consuming operation. The last main line which was built in this country—the so-called Selby diversion between Selby and York, built in the 1970s—took about 11 years from the establishment of need, which I would take as the starting point, to the first revenue passenger. Anything that we can do to telescope that time-scale must be to the benefit of the regions.
If we cannot have a hybrid Bill, perhaps my noble friend the Minister will tell us what progress is being made on the review of the Private Bill procedure. We know from an oral answer in the other place that the Government hope to come forward with proposals soon. Of the 67 Private Bills before the two Houses at present, 23 concern railways in one way or another. We may not necessarily like what we see when the reform proposals are published, but we should like to see them, and the sooner the better.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, perhaps I may commence by expressing my appreciation to my 1088 noble friend Lord Underhill for initiating the debate, which is extremely important for all the regions of the United Kingdom. I should also like to join with previous speakers in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, on his maiden speech. It contained a substantial amount of information which I and, I am sure, other Members of the House will find helpful in future debates. It was well researched and I was greatly interested in it. Like other noble Lords, I shall look forward to more contributions from the noble Earl.
I shall attempt to make a case for the North of England in general with my accent being on the Greater Manchester area where I spent most of my political career. However, I had quite a spell as a Member of Parliament in Yorkshire, in the Leeds area, and the problems of both areas are similar. My noble friend Lady Lockwood spoke extensively about the situation as Yorkshire sees it. I support her comments about the requirements of that area. As I understand it, West Yorkshire is awaiting a decision from British Rail as to which will be the freight depot for the wider area between Leeds and Wakefield. I hope that it will reach a decision quickly because, although it will be some time before we are faced with the sharp end of the matter, time is not on our side. I hope that the decision will not be delayed by internecine wrangling between local authorities in the area. If the metropolitan counties, with all their faults, had been retained, the decision would have been taken more quickly and on a strategic basis.
I find the debate useful in that we are talking about the main arteries of commercial life and what the North of England will gain from the Channel Tunnel. I do not see anything in British Rail's present proposals that gives me a great deal of comfort in that direction. I have been provided with a brief by the North of England Regional Consortium which speaks with a general voice for the wider areas of the North. On the subject of passenger transport, British Rail has forecast that 30 per cent. of passenger demand will emanate from beyond London. It seems ridiculous that only between 10 and 20 per cent. of the service levels proposed by British Rail will be provided from beyond London, so the figures do not match. Obviously, there is some inconsistency on British Rail's part.
On the freight side, the consortium is seriously concerned that the proposals do not reflect the high level of agreements reached through the Section 40 consultation process. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester referred to the Section 40 consultation process and its procedures. It is important to press British Rail to give an assurance that it intends to proceed on the basis of those agreements.
Let us consider some of British Rail's proposals. It proposes 15 trains (each of 18 coaches) per day in each direction between London and Paris and 15 trains per day in each direction between London and Brussels. Beyond London, it proposes one half-train (each of nine coaches) each morning to Paris from Manchester and Wolverhampton, with the two half-trains joining up at Rugby. The return journey in the evening will similarly split at Rugby. The same 1089 service will be provided to Brussels. There will be one half-train each morning to Paris, one from Edinburgh and one from Leeds, with the two half-trains joining up at Peterborough. A returning train in the evening would split similarly at Peterborough. The same service would be provided for Brussels.
Those who are concerned with putting into effect some of the proposals or attempting to get the best possible for the North-West out of the proposed Channel Tunnel rightly say that the proposals are quite inadequate. In his speech the right reverend Prelate made a genuine plea, saying that over a period the North-West and the North in general had suffered the biggest loss of manufacturing jobs in the United Kingdom. I have worked in a factory and can speak from personal experience. Not many years ago that factory employed 25,000 people; the number of employees is now down below 7,000.
I take my name from a small area in north-east Manchester which was a teeming hive of activity only 1.5 to 20 years ago. It is now an industrial desert. It has the highest unemployment figures in the Greater Manchester area. Attempts are being made to try to remedy that situation, to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester referred. Although I can criticise some aspects of government propaganda in overclaiming what is taking place, it would be churlish of me not to admit that there are signs of improvement. I am not involved especially in the situation but redevelopment is taking place at Trafford Park, which at one time was the biggest industrial area anywhere in Europe. The Government are taking initiatives there. The structural basis is there to regenerate and completely reorganise Trafford Park to try to recover it as an industrial manufacturing centre.
But unless areas such as Trafford Park—areas in the north, Merseyside, Lancashire as a whole and north across the Pennines, where they too have been hit very badly, especially the textile industries and the coal mining areas—are adequately provided for by the railway system, one is wasting one's time and the attempt to restore these areas and deal with some of their social problems which is now starting to emerge and take off will be blunted for a long time in my opinion. That will be one of the worst aspects.
I may be misreading the situation. As I said, it is the lifeblood for the North to have new arteries running up in the form of lines. However, I get the impression that the Government are leaving it far too much to British Rail to decide. I do not think that that is on. As I said, we are talking about restoring the North to what it was; namely, a major workshop. We must get people out of the dole queues in order to provide funding for a more equitable society and we must put right the horrendous balance of payments from which the country as a whole suffers. I believe that the Government should not leave it to British Rail. They have a duty to say what should happen and influence events.
The Government should not stand on the sidelines because British Rail will then almost certainly be bound only by market forces. There are some areas in the North which, if they get freight yards or dispersal yards, may very well attract EC funding.
1090 That is a good bonus. But there could be other areas nearby which might be chosen but do not attract such funding. Could anything be more ludicrous than to decide a policy for the future lifetime of the North of England on that basis?
I hope that the Government will take seriously the points made in this debate. They must not sit back and put the onus on British Rail to decide the level of provision of rail services for the North in terms of passenger transport and freight. Freight in an economic sense is certainly the most important. If adequate freight carrying capacity is not installed it will be almost a waste of time for people to take the initiative to go there. And the result will only be to overload the already overcrowded South-East. I hope that I do not misquote when I say that it is believed to be the Government's policy to disperse industry a little more, if possible, so long as it does not interfere too much under their policy with market forces. I hope that the Government will listen, take heed and be more interventionist in what they do and not just leave it to market forces to decide what British Rail can do with the resources at its disposal.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Lord Teviot
My Lords, it is my great pleasure to speak after the noble Lord, Lord Dean. I shall follow in the same vein and make a parish pump speech, although for a different part of the country. Nonetheless, I shall talk about local issues. I have joined in many debates initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and I commend the one that he brings before us tonight. My contribution will mainly deal with East Sussex matters.
My noble friend Lord Hardinge of Penshurst mentioned roads in the area. I realised only yesterday that I had my name down to talk about railway issues, which are rather important. The officials of East Sussex County Council kindly gave me some useful notes. We are happy to have a five-hour debate and 11 minutes is a very generous time but the minutes creep on. The main concern of my noble friend Lord Hardinge and I both for counties in Sussex and other counties in the South of England is to get off the ground the agreed programme to invest in south coast routes in order to take traffic away from over-utilised routes which must concentrate on the capital and places north of the country. I do not think that any noble Lord who has spoken would disagree with that. There is a need for people to turn left when they come through the tunnel rather than to carry on northwards. My noble friend may think that they should turn right and go to Kent.
I hope that Ashford International station will be ready and operational by the time the tunnel opens. International passenger rail services will operate from London to Paris and Brussels, with Waterloo as the London terminal. Interchange with trains to other European destinations will be possible in France at Frethun and Lille. Thus if passengers to and from East Sussex, Kent and other southern counties are to avoid the need to travel north to London, across London and south again—a totally absurd situation—a reasonable number of trains, 1091 which I would like to see as high as 50 per cent., should be made to stop at Ashford. Road and rail services should be provided for people to catch trains there. I should be very grateful to my noble friend if when he comes to reply he would indicate British Rail's present intention with regard to the number of trains that will stop at Ashford. I have been told that to all intents and purposes it is not entirely clear.
The next priority is that the electrification of the trains from Ore to Ashford section of the south-east coastline should be complete when the tunnel opens. At present all passengers have to change at Hastings because only diesel trains operate beyond there.
Network SouthEast presented a viable plan to electrify the line to Ashford but recently stated that it will not be finished until 1994. There is a nasty feeling that, due to the pressure of the investment programme, that date may not be achieved. It will hamper efforts in providing a satisfactory service. There should be a regular hourly service with limited stops operating from day one from Brighton to Ashford. In the longer term it should extend to Portsmouth, Southampton and the West Country.
Unfortunately, it is now possible to place only four-car trains through Brighton. That would be of benefit to passengers in the major south coast towns and it would alleviate congestion in London and take people off the crowded and narrow roads. I believe that many people in the North of England do not realise how appallingly narrow and small are many of the roads in the South of England. Thank goodness that the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, was batting second. We all listened with interest and heard him put across the message that if it is possible for people to stay off the roads and use public transport they should do so.
I must deal with some small—almost minute—but important points. First, the Polegate-Pevensey link was removed a few years ago. If it is not put back in place the services that I mentioned from Brighton to Ashford will be extended a further 20 minutes because people must go in and out of Eastbourne. I am sure that British Rail considers Eastbourne to be an important place and a good commercial area. If one person in a family agrees to travel by train the others have the most appalling excuse that because it will take an extra 20 minutes they will not do it. The rail bed is in place and the county council is perfectly happy to provide the land in order to reopen the line. I am sure that in the short term British Rail will find it to be commercially profitable.
Single track working between Ore and Ashford I would be in order if there were more places where trains could pass. At the moment they exist only between Rye and Appledore, and that is not sufficient. There are also hazards at two small halts where there are open level crossings.
When talking about the railways one must not talk solely about passengers, because freight is equally important. British Rail should be uged to investigate the possibility of providing a freight terminal to serve the south coast. It should ensure that any environmental intrusion of night freight through East Sussex is mitigated. There is no freight terminal 1092 planned south of an imaginary line between London and Bristol. Firms in the South should be encouraged to send their freight by rail via Willesden and Stratford. However, I am sure that it will not happen because it would be most inconvenient. Although on paper the amount of traffic generated might not look very great I am sure that British Rail could find a market for a freight terminal south of London. My last point on this subject relates to providing a parcel service for the industries on the south coast. Basically they are technology and service industries.
I am sure that the Bus and Coach Council will be cross because I cannot do it justice. It considers that the proposal that all services should begin at Waterloo and King's Cross is totally inadequate. Being in the private sector with a government monopoly it does not wish to be a second-class citizen. I hope that the council will forgive me for being so brief.
In my last two minutes I wish to raise an important point—the extension of the roads. During our discussions of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, raised the issue of the A.2 to the port of Dover. The situation would be greatly improved if the last six miles of the A.2 were of motorway standard, or at least of dual carriageway standard. I should be grateful if my noble friend could give us news about the A.2. If not, can he say whether there is any news about the extension of the M.20 from Folkestone to Dover?
When in 1985 and 1986 we went through the various proceedings and discussed the ferries, competition and so forth, we gave our blessing to the tunnel. No one wanted the number of ferries to be diminished and it was agreed that there should be a free competition policy. As I have said, roads in the South of England are a joke. When people come over from the Continent they cannot understand the reason. That point was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Crook. I hope that my noble friend will answer my questions. Having made those comments, I shall quietly sit down.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, those of us who are regular speakers in transport debates in this House are pleased and surprised to find so many noble Lords joining in this debate. That is greatly to the credit of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, who tabled the Motion on the Order Paper today and made the debate very attractive.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Jay, is not in his place. However, in spite of his persistence in trying to pull up the drawbridge and keep the foreigners beyond Dover, it is inconceivable that the tunnel will not be completed. It is clear from any investigation of the situation, and from listening to the debate today, that too little thought was given to a co-ordinated transport strategy in relation to the Channel Tunnel. I hope that it is not too late. If it is, severe damage has been done to the economy of this country.
I support what was said by representatives—perhaps that is not the right word—of regional interests; for instance, the noble Lord, Lord Johnston of Rockport, the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of 1093 Rednal, and noble Lords from Lancashire and Yorkshire. I am particularly glad that the noble Lord, Lord Blease, made a plea for the integration into the system of Northern Ireland. There is no question in my mind that anything which helps the industry and economy of Northern Ireland can only be of help in settling many of the more difficult problems in that troubled province.
There is meagre provision in the Government's proposals for the more peripheral areas. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, that the Channel Tunnel is not about getting people on holiday to France; it is about getting freight from the industries in the North of England and the Midlands into the markets of Europe. We must keep that in the forefront of our minds whenever we are discussing the subject.
The problem has been the insistence of the Government on allowing the free operation of market forces. Eurotunnel and British Rail were forced into a position where they have had to sub-optimise their operation in relation to their own bottom line. That has been to the detriment of the economy as a whole. We are still waiting for a coherent approach from the Government to the problem. If the situation carries on for much longer we shall have lost the opportunity and the cost of the movement of goods in the United Kingdom will be a major factor in increasing the UK's lack of competiveness in European markets. It will also be a significant component in increasing inflation in this country.
It is astonishing that the Government still maintain a hands-off approach to what is an important situation. In my view, they are still playing down the potential of the Channel Tunnel. I refer to a conference in Leeds on 17th/18th April where the keynote address was given by Mr. Michael Portillo. That man has made such a great success of Channel Tunnel and other matters that we understand from this morning's newspapers that he is now being moved to sort out the poll tax. The best of luck to him on that. He said:The Tunnel will be a very substantial and important addition to these existing links. But let us remember that the capacity of the Tunnel will be sufficient to handle 6 per cent. of total UK trade by volume in 1993; by comparison, in 1988 Liverpool handled 7 per cent. of total UK trade by volume, Southampton 11 per cent. and Tees and Hartlepool 13 per cent. If the Tunnel were open today and operating at its capacity, it would rank with the twelfth or thirteenth largest port in the UK in terms of the volume of goods it handled".That seems to me to be a particularly depressing approach to the problem.
None of that suggests that there is any great enthusiasm to make the tunnel work as it should. We have talked about national strategies and again, in that speech, Mr. Portillo, said:It has been said that the Government should devise and implement a national strategy to ensure that the best advantage is taken of the opportunities presented by the Channel Tunnel. The Department does of course have a national road strategy and BR have a national rail strategy".That seems to me to underline the problem. The Government's problem is the road strategy; British Rail's problem is the rail strategy. Never the twain shall meet.
1094 That explains a matter on which the noble Viscount was good enough to write to me some time ago. I asked him if he could tell me how much money the Government had put into the Channel Tunnel when he alleged that they had put in a considerable amount. I thought that they had put in nothing. However, he wrote to me and said that the Government had put a lot of money into the Channel Tunnel in respect of motorways. Every time we come back to the fact that the Government think that only roads are important and that the railways can fend for themselves in the general marketplace.
I noticed in some documents which were produced by Transport 2000 some very interesting statistics in terms of freight. It concerns a comparison between export and import freight flows in the eastern part of the country between the northern and southern counties, in the eastern counties corridor. Imports in the northern counties—Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Cleveland—were 1-65 million tonnes and exports were 3-15 million tonnes. For the equivalent southern counties, the imports were 1-58 million tonnes and the exports were 300,000 tonnes. It seems to me that those are important statistics because they emphasise that building lines to the South will not do very much for our economy other than to increase imports. Those strike me as quite dramatic figures.
As many noble Lords have said, the fact is that the railway lines must be upgraded. In particular the west coast main line must be upgraded. That would unlock much potential in the North-West. Speaking as someone who lives in the South-West, I believe that that area—South Wales, Bristol, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall—has been totally left out of everybody's considerations.
We keep running into Section 42. With all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, when the Channel Tunnel was being considered, some of his honourable friends put a lot of pressure on the Government not to put money into a system which was to be partly privately funded. They put on quite a lot of pressure to stop the Government putting money into the scheme. However, I am glad that there has been a conversion in that regard and that they now support the proposal that at least some government money should go into this.
Again, Mr. Portillo in that same speech said:Some people suggest that we should repeal Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 which prohibits subsidy for BR in respect of international rail services. I do not agree at all".He is absolutely dogmatic that he does not agree. He continues:Section 42 accords with the policy of successive Governments, Labour as well as Conservative, that one mode of long-distance travel should not be subsidised at the expense of others".That was a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, referred as the Government's defence on that.
That will not do. If we are to have a proper rail link to the Channel Tunnel the Government must find a mechanism for getting themselves out of the hole which they dug when Section 42 was passed. I am delighted to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, supporting that view although many of her noble friends on that side of the House 1095 voted with the Government when Section 42 was passed in this House. Some of us were less sure at that time.
We are not talking about subsidising services, which is the response that one always receives from the Government. We are talking about putting in an infrastructure capable of carrying the services which can open up the potential for the Channel Tunnel.
I should be glad to have a response from the Government, although not necessarily today, on the Channel fixed link agreement between the Secretary of State for Transport and his French opposite number and the Channel Tunnel Group and France Manche SA. That states:Except as expressly permitted by this Agreement, by national and Community laws and by their international engagements including the Treaty, the Principals will not intervene in the conduct or operation of the Fixed Link".However, it then goes on to say:They will use reasonable endeavours to carry out the infrastructure necessary for a satisfactory flow of traffic, subject to statutory procedures".It seems to me that that is a way in which the Government can unlock themselves out of a very difficult situation.
The problem is that the criteria which the Government are laying down do not take into consideration the impact of lorries and particularly heavy goods vehicles on our roads and motorways. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, referred to Section 8 and the opportunities for private sidings to be subsidised. Those criteria are far too tight and take no account of overcrowding on motorways. I hope that the noble Viscount can reply to that point.
To sum up, the Channel Tunnel offers to this country a most exceptional opportunity which will go away if we do not seize it now. What is inhibiting us from making the most of that chance is the Government's refusal to ensure that the infrastructure of this country, particularly as regards railways, is capable of unlocking the potential which exists for taking us into the 21st century. I hope that we receive a better response from the Government than we have in the past.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, like other noble Lords I thank my noble friend Lord Underhill for raising this matter today. This is a very timely debate and there was considerable surprise that so many noble Lords wished to speak in the debate. I was particularly pleased at the very wide representation of people from outside the South East of England. Noble Lords have spoken from the North West and the centre of England, Yorkshire, Scotland and of course there was the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Blease, from Ireland. Those speeches were a timely reminder of the fact that whatever were the previous attitudes towards the Channel Tunnel, we are now very much aware that it will be with us in the very near future.
We are at a watershed; the Channel Tunnel will be with us very soon and we have many important and bold decisions to make. I was not just politely pleased with the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay; it was a maiden speech that we all 1096 enjoyed. But more than that, it brought home to me a certain number of points. For instance, he spoke with a different time perspective from most of us in this House. I made my first speech on the Channel Tunnel in 1983 and it all seemed to be a long way off. It is now almost with us. The noble Earl spoke as a young man who will, I hope, not look back 30 years from now and say, "We lost a lot of chances". I do not think many of us will be here with him to look back in 30 years' time, but there are opportunities which he was able to show us.
He took a bold look at the future and had the temerity to question the wisdom of a road solution, particularly for freight. That is a breath of fresh air in regard to many of our transport debates. He gave figures for California and the enormous proportion of the state taken over by roads and car parks. However, I believe it was the Secretary of State for Transport who once said that if UK car use increased at the present rate, by the end of the century the additional cars would need a car park the size of Berkshire. That means that we are reaching a ludicrous situation and must look at some other way of dealing with the problems.
I am grateful to the North-West Channel Tunnel Group for some of the figures that it supplied to me. In this country we are speaking of an overall speed of freight vehicles between 40 and 50 miles per hour door-to-door. The European railways standard for freight wagons is likely to be around 75 miles per hour and some of the passenger trains will travel in excess of 150 miles an hour. There is a strong possibility that the EC regulations will move more and more towards a reduction of driver hours for freight. Also heavy public pressure may build up in this country for no heavy goods vehicles on the roads on Saturdays and Sundays, which is the case on the Continent. That would mean that freight by road would be more likely to be uneconomic, except for very special types, and therefore the railways seem to be the solution to the problem.
We could be allowing a great chance to slip by. The French will be ready with their fast trains by 1993 and Belgium by 1995; I understand that the United Kingdom will be ready by 1998. It is not just that but the quality of the French and Belgian service as against the quality that we are likely to provide. The fact that we are thinking of putting new trains with new potential on old and already congested lines and junctions is ridiculous and appallingly inefficient.
The inter-city speed agreed between the railway administration of the 12 EC countries for principal express routes is around 187 miles an hour. The west coast mainline through the area that many of my colleagues spoke of, close to Manchester, Liverpool and up to Glasgow, is considered to be one of our major lines. The maximum speed on most of that line is around 100 miles an hour, with certain areas at 110 miles an hour, where the EC countries decided that the average speed for express passenger trains should be around 187 miles per hour. The French had a TGV running in December of last year reaching speeds of 300 miles an hour.
We are therefore speaking of different qualities from the mainland Europeans. How do we manage 1097 to break the logjam? I have great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, particularly on rail matters, but he became rather tied up on the question of procedures, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff tried to explain, are rather secondary; if there was a political will there would be a way of finding a solution to the problem. The question of Section 8 grants is not terribly important. It is better to have Section 8 grants than none at all. I should rather we looked more closely at Section 42 to find out how we can break down the barrier between government money and private finance. I am sure that, again with a will, there is a way through that.
We are speaking of a great opportunity. One of the problems faced by many of us who travel fair distances down from Scotland every week is that, although we have a wonderful aeroplane which brings us down very quickly, we then find ourselves flying around in circles over London Airport for 20 minutes to half-an-hour. A good high speed rail network would not only give us a better journey into London, relieving the congestion at the airports, but we may find that it would be worthwhile to have that high speed network going right through to Paris from Scotland. We should be thinking 30 years ahead and not just to 1998 or 1999. British transport cannot move into the 21st century if we simply continue to patch up the inadequacies of the 1970s and 1980s. There must be a way forward.
My honourable friend the Shadow Minister for Transport spoke at a conference in Leeds a week after Mr. Portillo and put some ideas forward. He said:The Government cannot let ideological dogma stand in the way of economic progress, so they must repeal Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act to provide public money. It is a public project and must have public accountability that puts the public interest first—not private".Even at that late date he called upon the Secretary of State for Transport to set up a committee of experts to examine all the available rail link options. He said that it must consider the economic benefits, the environmental effects, the cost and, above all, the safety aspects. He believed, and I believe too, that again with the right will and with a sense of urgency a committee of experts could report its findings in a relatively short time. There are an enormous amount of data available and these people know exactly where to obtain it. A public Bill could then be put before Parliament in order to break some of the logjams that we are experiencing. I believe, and I recommend to the House, that that is the sort of bold attitude we should take if we are to obtain the full benefit of the tunnel. The noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, will then be able to look back and say, "Perhaps my maiden speech did something towards brushing away the cobwebs and moving a little into the 21st century."
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Viscount Davidson
My Lords, this has been a fascinating and well-balanced debate and I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will read Hansard with great interest. I should first like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for initiating this debate and I congratulate him on 1098 attracting such a distinguished list of speakers. As some of your Lordships said, he has attracted speakers who do not normally attend our transport debates and that has widened the scope and the interest considerably. I also warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Lindsay on his carefully considered and well-delivered maiden speeach.
In view of the importance of the subject, and the fact that I did not wish to reduce the time available for each speaker by intervening earlier in the debate—as it turns out, I could have done so—I have tried to anticipate in my winding-up speech many of the points which have been raised. I will also try to answer those which I failed to anticipate, but if the time is not available to answer them all I shall of course write to noble Lords.
The English Channel has separated this country from the Continent for several thousand years. Many people have seen this as a benefit, but that is no longer so, as I think that was agreed by most speakers. Economic ties with our European neighbours have increased considerably. In 1973 we joined the European Economic Community; nearly two-thirds of our foreign trade is now with Europe and the much heralded completion of the European single market is only just around the corner. It has been predicted that even without a tunnel, cross-Channel traffic will rise by 75 per cent. between 1986 and the year 2008. It was for these reasons that it became apparent that there was a need for increased links across the Channel and that the construction of a permanent fixed link would be of great benefit to the whole country.
There is therefore a need to ensure adequate road and rail links to cope with the traffic using the tunnel and to provide access to the whole of the United Kingdom. I will first consider the road network. It should not be overlooked that the road infrastructure needs to take account both of traffic using the tunnel and that using the Channel ports. The forecast average annual daily flow of all cross-Channel traffic (ferries as well as tunnel) is 14,000 vehicles per day in 1993, rising to 20,000 in 2008. Although that is a not inconsiderable flow, we have to keep it in perspective; it is about the level of traffic currently using the A.2 between Canterbury and Dover, which is a mostly dual two-lane all purpose trunk road. Parts of the M.25 carry six times as much traffic and so does the Lille périphérique in France.
It is also important to understand that the extra road traffic arising as a result of completion of the tunnel will have its main impact in Kent, as we have heard, that it will mostly use the trunk road network and that it will form only a small part of the overall traffic growth which the Government's national roads programme is designed to cope with. Within an extensive programme in Kent generally, it is the Government's particular policy to develop the M.20, together with the A.20 between Folkestone and Dover, as the main artery linking the tunnel and the Channel ports with the M.25, M.26 and the rest of the United Kingdom motorway network.
There are four major schemes to complete the improvement of this route; together they are valued at £200 million and all are receiving high priority.
1099 The M.20 will provide at least a dual three-lane motorway from the tunnel to the M.25. To the east of the terminal, the new dual two-lane A.20 will connect right to the Dover Eastern Docks. The aim is to have all four schemes open by the time the tunnel opens in 1993.
To assist with the development of the road network, the Government also support the local authorities' own building programmes through the Transport Supplementary Grant system, with grants on approved schemes at a flat rate of 50 per cent. This includes support for an agreed package of local road schemes in Kent costing more than £75 million over and above support for the county council's ordinary programme. This is in recognition of the special circumstances made necessary by the Channel tunnel.
For the M.25 and beyond, Channel tunnel traffic is fully taken into account in the now greatly expanded national roads programme. New schemes added in last year's White Paper Roads for Prosperity and the recent roads report, Trunk Roads, England into the 1990s, have more than doubled its size, bringing the total cost of the programme to £12-4 billion at November 1987 prices. The new Dartford-Thurrock crossing now being built, comprehensive widening of the M.25 to dual four-lanes, and the many major schemes in hand or planned for, will together provide greatly improved links with all parts of the country. Looking still further ahead, a number of major studies are to be commissioned, including one into the possible need for a new east-west strategic route between Kent and Hampshire.
I will now consider the railways. Perhaps the most important aspect of the tunnel is its role in joining the UK rail network to the mainland of Europe. For the first time British Rail will be able to compete in terms of price, speed and comfort with the airlines. Though much concern has been expressed about a bias to the tunnel's advantages in favour of the South East, there are great opportunities for the UK generally. The longer distances and the time savings will give transport of freight by rail an edge over road haulage, and BR estimates that 70 per cent of rail freight through the tunnel will originate or terminate beyond the South East. I will say more about this later.
British Rail is keen to exploit every commercial opportunity offered by the tunnel. It set up a series of regional consultations with representative bodies, including local authorities, tourist boards and business interests to help assess the likely level of demand for regional passenger and freight services through the tunnel. BR then drew up the plan of proposed international services required by Section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987.
BR's plan, published last December, sets out its current view of the international services using the tunnel which are commercially viable. It will keep the plan under review both up to the opening of the tunnel and thereafter; and will revise it as appropriate as the pattern of demand for international services and the associated commercial opportunities become clearer.
BR's strategy, which the Government fully support, is to provide commercially attractive 1100 services to its customers. Taking passenger services first, BR plans to run services to and from the UK regions, as well as from London, as soon as the tunnel opens, using existing lines. BR believes that passengers from places with frequent, fast, Intercity services to London will also have the option of changing there to the inter-capital trains, so few through daytime passenger services from the regions are currently planned. As the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, said, rail had the advantage of transporting the traveller from city centre to city centre. However, it must be recognised that the rail journey time from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Paris or Brussels will be over five times longer than by air—a difference of six to eight hours, depending on which journey you look at. It is therefore likely that business travellers from the more distant cities will take this into account when choosing whether to travel by train or plane, though leisure travellers might not think the time difference so important. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, there are those who say that BR is not providing enough passenger services, but I can tell him and the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, that BR will be providing something like three times as many seats on trains to Paris from Manchester, 11 times as many from Edinburgh and four-and-a-half times as many from Glasgow as on air services between those cities. There will be of the order of six times as many seats from Manchester to Brussels.
The right reverend prelate the Bishop of Manchester and other noble Lords recognised that a major benefit of the tunnel to the regions will of course be the provision of through rail freight services between the Continent and destinations throughout the UK. I can assure my noble friend Lord Johnston of Rockport that this will assist the economic development of the less favoured, more distant UK regions and will also encourage the transfer of freight from road to rail, with the important environmental benefits that that will bring to the community at large.
In its Section 40 plan, BR proposes to carry 6-1 million tonnes of freight per annum. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jay, that the carriage of 6-1 million tonnes of freight is an insignificant contribution to UK trade. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that BR is confident that it has sufficient capacity on existing lines to take that level of traffic. That is the level of service that BR considers it can operate commercially and it estimates that in the first years of operation the rail freight service should result in up to 400,000 fewer trunk lorry movements a year over the roads of Kent and the South East. The ability of rail to supplant road transport, is however, often exaggerated: a 50 per cent. increase in rail traffic would reduce road traffic by less than 5 per cent.
I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that BR is anxious to provide a quality service and to compete effectively in the international freight transport market and is currently negotiating with road haulage operators and industry to ensure that businesses have the most efficient access possible to the rail system. BR intends to use new wagon technology which can provide the same loading 1101 capabilities as those in mainland Europe, even though the British loading gauge itself is smaller than that in Europe. BR is looking into the possibility of developing a fleet of intermodal "swap-body" wagons to facilitiate the transfer of containers between road and rail transport. BR is also negotiating with the private sector for regional rail freight terminal sites and hopes to announce their locations during the course of this year.
The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, referred to government investment in motorways. Perhaps the reason for that is that the Department of Transport is responsible for building motorways whereas it is the statutory responsibility of BR and not the department to build railways. British Rail already has in hand substantial investment amounting to about £1 billion in rolling stock and infrastructure to enable it to provide passenger and freight services when the tunnel opens in 1993. We are always willing to consider worthwhile investment proposals by BR.
I shall now try to answer as many of the points as I can which were raised in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, expressed criticism at the failure of the Department of Transport to make a study of the likely impact of the Channel Tunnel on road traffic in the South East. The net extra traffic resulting from the tunnel is not expected to be significant compared with the forecast of traffic growth generally. Therefore, no specific study has been planned. In March 1986 the department established a traffic working group to assess the impact of road traffic in Kent and the South East. That group comprised the department, Eurotunnel and Kent County Council. It reported in June 1986 and the figures have since been updated following changes in Eurotunnel forecasts.
A working group is meeting now to produce up-to-date estimates of road traffic. The results should be available this summer. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, asked whether the safety authority's decision on non-segregation had been confirmed by the intergovernmental commission and whether the shuttle trains were being designed on the basis of non-segregation. The decision on non-segregation was taken by the intergovernmental commission. In doing so the commission took the advice of the safety authority and took account of security of defence and environmental considerations. Contracts for the design and construction of the shuttle trains have, I believe, been given by Eurotunnel.
The noble Lord also asked why, in the light of the decision to permit non-segregation—that is, for the drivers to remain with their cars on the shuttle trains—the safety authority has not commented on the number of attendants who will be on the shuttle trains. The safety authority's conclusion is that the principle of non-segregation is acceptable in relation to the design of the shuttles. The number of attendants who will travel on the shuttles is a matter for the operating rules which the authority has yet to agree.
The noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Thomson of Monifieth, asked about repealing Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987. I believe 1102 that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, also asked about that matter. That section prohibits a subsidy for BR in respect of international rail services. As my honourable friend said:Section 42 accords with the policy of successive governments".I believe that is the quotation which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, read out, so I shall not bother to repeat it save to say that I agree entirely with what my honourable friend said.
My noble friend Lord Lindsay, in his excellent maiden speech, drew attention to the much higher level of pollution from cars than from trains. He produced some very interesting figures to support his conclusions. The department is encouraging improvements in the efficiency of engine design so that cars consume less fuel. It is encouraging the use of unleaded petrol wherever possible. It is also committed to setting more stringent limits on emissions from new vehicles as a result of EC directives.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester expressed concern about the deterioration of ferry services as a result of the Channel Tunnel. My noble friend Lord Pennock answered that point. The impact of the tunnel on the ports and ferries was thoroughly investigated by the UK-French group in 1982. The group's report is still valid. It concluded that traffic levels on ferries crossing the Dover Straits might be higher in the year 2000 than in 1980. Even when the tunnel first opens it is thought that the growth in travel will ensure that most sea routes will be relatively unimpaired.
The right reverend Prelate also referred to the threat of terrorism. Appropriate arrangements will be made to counter that threat but for obvious reasons I cannot go into detail about what they might be. The noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Mountevans and other noble Lords, asked about the new Channel Tunnel rail link with London. As well as its extensive planning for 1993 British Rail has also looked further ahead to the time when the capacity of the existing railway from the Channel Tunnel to London becomes fully utilised. BR and Eurorail have worked out the details of a possible joint venture to run international services and to construct a new Channel Tunnel rail link to London.
The Government are considering the proposals put forward and will be responding in due course. I can tell the noble Lords, Lord Walston and Lord Taylor of Gryfe, that the link will be for passengers and not freight. It has always been intended that freight should go on the existing tracks to a network of up to 12 regional freight terminals throughout the United Kingdom and that includes Scotland. I also take this opportunity to welcome the support of my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, for the proposed second international passenger terminal at King's Cross.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, raised the question of the international passenger station at Ashford. BR has repeatedly expressed its intention to provide an international passenger station there and the Government have supported that. BR's investment has to be viable in accordance 1103 with Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act. I understand that BR is continuing to work towards having the IPS ready in time for the opening of the Channel Tunnel. It is not the Government's place to offer assurances on whether the work will go ahead or be completed by a particular date as regards this or any other investment.
The noble Lord, Lord Jay, suggested that the tunnel would become a bottleneck. That is a matter for Eurotunnel. It has clearly said that the tunnel will open with a great deal more capacity than predicted demand. More capacity will be developed within the initial tunnel system in advance of rising demand in the late 1990s. The concession agreement requires Eurotunnel to achieve shuttle transit times of about 35 minutes.
My noble friend Lord Hood asked what the Government will do if Eurotunnel fails to raise new money. It is a private sector project and financing is a matter between Eurotunnel and its bankers. If money is not available, procedures are laid down in the concession agreement for the next steps to be taken by the Government. If the procedures are exhausted the agreement states that it is not the intention of the Government to continue the project if the concession period terminates prematurely. However, having listened to my noble friend Lord Pennock, I am sure that your Lordships will be very much reassured on that point.
The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, suggested that the Government should devise and implement a national strategy to ensure that the best advantage is taken of the opportunities presented by the Channel Tunnel. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, also referred to that matter. The Government believe in competition between the various modes of transport so that customers can choose the best method to suit their needs. Comprehensive centralised transport plans are slow and cumbersome to compile. They rarely take account of changing circumstances and so they tend to be out-of-date before they can be implemented. The Government's policy is not to formulate voluminous strategies but to deregulate. Probably the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has heard those words before from me.
As one might expect, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, spoke about Scotland. I must admit that when he started to speak my eyes looked in a different direction. I did not expect him to be speaking from the Benches immediately opposite: chacun à son goût.
§ Viscount Davidson
My Lords, the Government's policy of creating the right climate for the market to work better in order to stimulate enterprise and initiative also applies to Scotland. The Scottish Development Agency has commissioned a report from consultants. It has asked them to consider the likely impact of the Channel Tunnel on Scotland and the ways in which the potential benefits can be maximised. The Scottish Office organised jointly with Scotrail and the Confederation of British Industry a very successful conference on the 1104 opportunities which the tunnel can offer Scotland. A wide range of interested parties attended and took part in the open forum.
My noble friend Lord Johnston of Rockport spoke about the great economic progress that has been achieved in the North West over the past decade and wondered about the future. The Government take the view that the impact of the Channel Tunnel on the North of England will be positive, reflecting the anticipated benefits from the project for the whole of the British economy. As my noble friend said, the North West of England is a region of great economic importance to the United Kingdom economy as a whole, being, as he said, the second highest regional contributor to the national gross domestic product. It is the largest single market area for international rail freight and passenger services outside the South East. It is therefore well placed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the tunnel.
I have noted with interest the report of the North-West Channel Tunnel Group entitled Capitalising on the Channel Tunnel: Action for North-West England. It makes a number of demands for improved international rail freight and passenger services and increased rail funding. I must stress that these services must be commercially viable if British Rail is to consider them seriously. But the House will be interested to note that British Rail hopes to announce the location of freight terminals, including one in the North West, during the course of this year.
The noble Lord, Lord Crook, mentioned that high speed lines were not being considered for the regions. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, may be interested to hear that the main lines from London to the regions are already suitable for high speed running. More trains currently operate in the United Kingdom at more than 100 miles an hour than in any other European country except France. The east coast mainline is being electrified in a massive investment programme, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, knows, and will bring significant improvement to journey times. There is no need either for new lines to provide extra capacity for services to the regions. The main lines beyond London are already connected to the Southern Region lines and are quite capable of absorbing extra traffic when the tunnel opens.
The noble Lord, Lord Blease, asked two questions about Northern Ireland. In reply to the first, I can tell him that the Channel Tunnel will offer great opportunities for Northern Ireland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom. It is likely that it will benefit the ferry industry through the growth of rail passenger movements to and from Britain and the possibility of attracting Continental car passengers travelling via the tunnel. As regards freight, there is considerable scope for an increase in roll-on, roll-off traffic, and British Rail is currently negotiating with road hauliers and port operators with a view to providing the most efficient access possible to Channel Tunnel services. It will also benefit tourism since the increase in visitors to Britain will mean a filtering through of tourists to Northern Ireland.
1105 The noble Lord, Lord Blease, suggested that there was an urgent need for a meeting between my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Northern Ireland to discuss transport problems which might arise from the opening of the Channel Tunnel. I shall of course draw lis suggestion to the attention of my right honourable friends.
My noble friend Lord Hardinge of Penshurst expressed his concern about the snail-like progress of road building in East Sussex, as did my noble friend Lord Teviot. The noble Lord, Lord Crook, spoke of the opportunities of south coast resorts to benefit from the tunnel. The Department of Transport has 11 schemes in our programme for improvement of the A.27/A.259 south coast route in the county, costing £176 million, including a £25 million scheme for dualling between Lewes and Polegate. British consultants were appointed in January. New regional organisations were set up on 2nd April 1990 to speed up the delivery of road schemes. Divisions dealing solely with major road schemes were established which will make use of private sector consultants to work on project management within regional offices of the Department of Transport. The department is continuing to seek ways to speed up the procedures without detracting from the rights of those affected.
My noble friend also spoke about the need to improve the A.21 in East Sussex. The department has three schemes in a national programme, totalling £13 million on the A.21.
The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, suggested that British Rail had underestimated Channel Tunnel traffic. There are obvious difficulties in assessing demand for a facility which has not previously been available. The argument that the taxpayer should subsidise rail services through the tunnel regardless of the level of demand for such services is groundless. We believe that British Rail is taking the right way forward, planning to meet the demonstrated commercially viable needs of those wishing to travel or transport their goods by rail to the Continent. Its Section 40 plan is, as I said earlier, flexible and can be revised to take into account changing patterns of demand. I regret that I am not in a position to give the noble Baroness an answer today to her question on the electrification of the Leeds-Bradford line even though she kindly gave me notice of the question. I shall, however, write to her with the greatest of urgency.
My noble friend Lord Mountevans asked about the progress of alternatives to the Private Bill procedure. This is still under consideration and we wish to make quick progress. I can tell my noble friend that the Government are currently reviewing freight facilities grants—so-called Section 8 grants. These grants are available where the correct commercial decision would be to send freight by road but where transferring it to rail can obtain significant environmental benefits at reasonable cost. The review will consider whether road congestion should be taken into account in this scheme and whether environmental benefits should be evaluated on a 1106 different basis. It is too early to say when the review will be complete.
I can also tell my noble friend that I think that my right honourable friend's directive to British Rail to concentrate on the Eurorail proposal has been overtaken. As I said earlier, British Rail and Eurorail have now presented my right honourable friend with their business plan for a rail link from the tunnel to London. It is a complex document which is still being considered and it is too early to say when any decision might be taken.
The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, referred to the need for a decision on a freight terminal in Leeds or Wakefield. British Rail expects to make a decision within the next few weeks. My noble friend Lord Teviot asked about a freight terminal in the South. Such a terminal might take some southern lorries off the road but it would have the effect that many freight trains coming through the tunnel might offload in the South, thus increasing the number of lorries and defeating the advantages of rail freight links to the North.
My noble friend Lord Teviot also asked about access to Dover from the M.20 at Folkestone. The department's proposals for a new dual carriageway on the A.20 between Folkestone and Dover were finalised in December when the decision supporting the eastern half of the route was announced. Work on the first stage should start later this year and the whole scheme should be completed by summer 1993. Concerning the A.2, a scheme to dual the last remaining single carriageway between Lydden and Dover was added to the programme in February 1990. The target date for announcement of the preferred route is 1993. There are no doubt points on which I have failed to comment and questions which I have failed to answer. If so, I shall write to the noble Lords concerned.
The impact of the tunnel will benefit the whole united nation—
§ Viscount Davidson
That is a line which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has not heard before.
The Government's primary aim has been to create the right climate for the market to work better to stimulate enterprise and initiative in all regions. Industries to benefit in the first instance will be construction equipment and railway equipment suppliers, which with a few exceptions tend to be located in major conurbations outside the South East. As my noble friend Lord Pennock said, the tunnel will reduce the need for trans-shipment and cut manufacturers' transport costs to European markets, thus enhancing the competitiveness of British industry. The prospects for further industrial investment in all the regions can only improve as the United Kingdom economy becomes less peripheral to the other European countries.
I conclude by saying that the main message that I have received throughout the debate from all sides of the House has been the urgent need for decisions to be taken and for speedy action to follow. I am not in a position to say whether the criticisms and 1107 worries expressed are well founded or not, but I can assure the House that I shall certainly pass on the message to my right honourable friend.
§ Lord Tordoff
Before the noble Viscount sits down, perhaps I may say how grateful we are to him especially for those last few words. I should like to ask for elucidation in relation to something that he has already said. I shall well understand if he cannot answer today. Many of us understand his problem of not being a departmental Minister and having to deal with such difficult issues. With no disrespect to him, perhaps it is time that we had a departmental Minister from the Department of Transport in the House.
The noble Viscount said that a 50 per cent. increase in freight on rail would lead to a reduction of only 5 per cent. in road traffic. That 5 per cent. is of total road traffic. It would be interesting to know at some time what percentage of the heavy goods vehicle traffic it represents. It will be significantly higher than the 5 per cent. he mentioned.
§ Viscount Davidson
My Lords, I certainly take the noble Lord's point. I shall write to him and put a copy of the letter in the Library.
As for his request for a Minister from the Department of Transport, it is the fate of the Deputy Chief Whip to become a spokesman for a department which does not have a Minister in the House. I have been in that position for the past three years with three different departments. I regret that I have had that criticism thown at me—
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, absolutely no criticism is implied. The noble Viscount has served us very well today, as always. It is unfortunate for the House that unreasonable demands are placed on him.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, this has been a constructive debate. It remains for me to say that it has achieved its objective. As a number of noble Lords have said, it has attracted no fewer than 24 speakers from all sides of the House and from most parts of the country. It was interesting to note that most of those who took part dealt with the key part of the Motion regarding the national interest and the interests of all parts of the country.
Without taking advantage of my position with these last few words, I must mention one matter referred to by the noble Viscount as regards the point I raised on paragraph 47 of the report of the Select Committee on the European Communities on Transport Infrastructure. Apparently he was given the advice that I was referring to a survey of the position in the South East of England. However, the complaint of the Select Committee was that, 1108the DTP were not prepared to carry out a study of the regional impact of the Channel Tunnel".I do not expect the noble Viscount to reply to me on that issue tonight, but I should like him to write to me as regards the two points I raised during my opening speech. Does this still remain the policy of the department, and what is the Government's attitude to that statement made by witnesses who gave evidence to the Select Committee?
Having said that, I should like to thank the noble Viscount for the attention which he has given to all the points raised. I also thank all those who took part in the debate. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.