HL Deb 24 June 1997 vol 580 cc1540-55

8.1 p.m.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Perhaps I may, first, welcome the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, to what I believe is his first speech from the Opposition Front Bench on transport, although I am glad to have seen him already active at Question Time this week. I hope that he will enjoy the transport brief as much as I do. It gives me some comfort to see him there because it makes me feel quite well established in the job.

As this is the first time that a Motion tabled under the provisions of Section 9 of the Transport and Works Act has been debated in this House, I should perhaps briefly explain the purpose of this special statutory procedure. Orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992 replaced private Bills as the means by which new railways, tramways and certain other works projects are normally authorised. Section 9 of the Transport and Works Act gave Parliament a continuing and important role in relation to schemes which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, are of national significance by making it a requirement that the approval of each House be obtained before the Transport and Works Act order can be made.

If a resolution approving such proposals is passed in both this House and another place, the application goes forward for more detailed consideration at public inquiry. It would then be for the Secretary of State to decide, in the light of the inspector's report, whether to authorise the proposals in question by making a TWA order. The Secretary of State is not bound to make an order endorsed in principle by Parliament and until he makes his decision he must keep an open mind on the merits of the proposals. Nevertheless he would take careful note of Parliament's view in reaching his decision.

The Section 9 procedure has been used only once before, for the Central Railway project, but, as the resolution approving the project was defeated in another place, this House did not have the opportunity to debate it. This time the resolution to approve the proposed Stratford station and twin-track connection to the North London and West Coast main lines was passed in another place on 12th June.

The use of the Section 9 procedure in this case is rather unusual. It arises because Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 provides specifically for these proposals, in any application for a TWA order, to be referred to Parliament under the Section 9 procedure. The Secretary of State has not had to form an opinion on whether they are of national significance: the decision to refer this application to Parliament has been taken out of his hands by Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act. This special provision was inserted in the Act, with all-party support, to give Parliament an opportunity of formally demonstrating its support in principle for the proposed works.

The Government support these proposals in principle and therefore urge the House to pass this Motion. If the House were to reject it, that would in effect be the end of the matter as the order could not be made. If the House passes the Motion, the project will go forward for more detailed examination at public inquiry. My right honourable friend will then decide whether the order should be made, having taken carefully into account Parliament's approval and the inquiry inspector's recommendations.

With the leave of the House, I shall set out the Government's views on the proposals more fully at the end of the debate. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House, pursuant to Section 9(4) of the Transport and Works Act 1992 ("the Act") as applied by Section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, approves the following proposals, contained in an application for an Order submitted under Section 6 of the Act by Eurostar (UK) Limited on 23rd January 1997 and entitled The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Stratford Station and Subsidiary Works) Order, for

(1) The construction, maintenance and operation of—

  1. (i) in the London Boroughs of Hackney and Newham, a station at Stratford for international and domestic services on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link with vehicular parking and other facilities in connection therewith; railways comprising down and up lines to serve international and domestic platforms at that station; and a station access road off Waterden Road, including a bridge over the River Lea;
  2. (ii) in the London Borough of Hackney, a realignment and improvement of Waterden Road;
  3. (iii) in the London Borough of Newham, a subway at the existing suburban Stratford station with a pedestrian link to the new station; and
  4. (iv) in the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington, railways near St. Pancras to provide access between the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the West Coast Main Line by means of a connection to the North London Line.
(2) The authorisation of works ancillary to the above-mentioned works, including the stopping-up of York Way in the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington, the making of a means of access to and from that road and interference with waterways.

(3) The compulsory acquisition or use of land or rights in land for the intended works; compensation for this and for the injurious affection of land; and the compulsory use of subsoil.—(Baroness Hayman.)

8.6 p.m.

Lord Methuen

My Lords, from these Benches we welcome the proposals put forward in the order. I particularly do so as, having been a member of the CTRL Select Committee of this House, I am especially aware of the importance of the proposals to the scheme as a whole. Having sat through 32 days of the Select Committee, I can appreciate the benefits of having a TWA system.

It is essential that the benefits of the Channel Tunnel are made easily available to the whole country and not just to London and the south east. The provision of the double-track direct connection to the West Coast main line is a vital element and will save some 20 minutes of journey time by avoiding reversal at St. Pancras. It is disappointing that it is not practical to have a similar connection to the East Coast main line.

An inherent worry about the proposal is that the North London line will not have adequate capacity to handle both its existing and future Channel Tunnel rail link traffic. I trust that Railtrack can justify, and will carry out, any necessary improvements to avoid such a bottleneck. Reading the report of the debate on the order in another place, one is aware of the serious concerns about the proposals for the new Stratford station. The urban regeneration of the surrounding area is vital and it is essential that the new station and its pedestrian and road links and other facilities are integrated into the redevelopment of that area of east London with consequential benefit for jobs and the local economy. Those are aspects which will be properly left to the public inquiry and the inspector to resolve.

I have further concerns with regard to rail freight. We had a debate in this Chamber recently on the European railway strategy, which emphasised the need for encouraging traffic off the road. One hopes that connections to the West Coast main line will enable the rail freight freeway concept to be extended dramatically and effectively to the north and to the Midlands by the provision of new train paths to the tunnel, using this link.

There is already overloading of the West London line and the railways of the south east have only limited freight capacity. For effective freight use we need to minimise delays in the London area and at Dollands Moor with locomotives and crews working through from the north to the continental destinations and with open access to the French railways. Inspection at Dollands Moor should be automated, using electronic checking of loading gauge, axle weight and hot box detection, all of which should be practicable.

I am glad that the facilities covered by the order can be achieved without the use of public finance. I look forward to being able to make use of the regional Eurostar services and strongly support the order.

8.8 p.m.

Lord Cadman

My Lords, in rising to support this Motion, I declare an interest in that last year, along with the previous speaker, I had the honour to serve on the Select Committee that examined the CTRL Bill, now an Act. I hope that that will enable me more fully to explain this order to your Lordships.

I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which she presented the order. London & Continental, as part of its bid to construct and operate the CTRL, included in its specification an international and domestic station at Stratford and an improved twin-track connection with the existing North London Line across the King's Cross railway lands. Those latter works are one of the subjects of this order and are to enable traffic to and from other parts of the UK to access the CTRL via the North London Line without having to go into St. Pancras. The station at Stratford will enable these trains to serve London, and its establishment there will enable much regeneration and improvement to take place at what will in fact become a transport centre with connections to central London via the Jubilee Line, to the Docklands Railway and to many parts of south-east England, not only by existing lines but also by the CTRL itself.

The CTRL Act provides for an open box section—a sort of trench—across the Stratford railway lines of about 1 kilometre in length, into which the line will rise from its tunnel from King's Cross and from which it will descend into its tunnel to Barking. That box will accommodate four running lines and platforms and a railway access point for maintenance and emergency purposes.

The order in front of us today provides for the construction of a station at that point with all the necessary facilities for processing international and domestic passengers. It will be connected with the existing station at Stratford by a pedestrian walkway, which I understand will have some kind of travelator installed in it. Thus, travellers from the Continent will be able to complete their journey into London and the south east easily. Similarly, joining passengers will find well planned access and connections to the new service.

The station at Stratford should do much to enhance the regeneration of that part of east London without compromising the local environment to any great extent. Access to the site has been the subject of careful and detailed study and, while car parking will be provided, its use will be managed in such a way as to discourage its use for any purpose other than in connection with international travel.

London & Continental attaches considerable importance to the regional services that will use the station. It has been established that some 20 million people will live within a four-hour journey time to Paris. Birmingham and the Midlands generally are included in that area and Manchester also will be just over five hours distant, using the links provided for in this order.

One of the advantages of the north of London Eurostar trains, as they are called, is the potential for a seamless and uncomplicated journey from the UK provinces to, in due course, many continental destinations. The security and immigration regimes suggested for the operation of these services appear at present to be somewhat lacking in practicality. They involve the total segregation of intending passengers at various provincial stations in circumstances with which those stations are ill equipped to deal. Such procedures are better done on the trains themselves. I hope that in due course, with the approaching completion of a proper facility at Stratford, careful consideration will be given—dare I say it—to instructing the immigration authorities to be a little more positive about how they propose to service these trains.

The King's Cross connection, while achieving a 20-minute saving in journey time, will do much to alleviate fears that the existing North London Line service will be compromised by its increased use by Eurostar services. The provision of a twin track connection in place of the original single line will provide much additional flexibility of pathing over the critical section of the North London Line through Camden Road by permitting parallel working through this section and reducing the likelihood of the North London Line being blocked by a Eurostar awaiting a path through to the CTRL.

We are all aware that major infrastructure projects usually bear an environmental and human price. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that this scheme is something of an exception. More than 90 per cent. of the land involved is railway land already earmarked for the rail link project and some distance from residential areas. Construction will be undertaken as part of the overall rail link works and will not add significantly to the environmental impact. The comprehensive regime for environmental protection put in place for the rail link Act will also apply to this scheme.

I hope, therefore, that your Lordships on all sides will support a scheme which has so many benefits. The support of this House for the Motion today will be consistent with the expressed will of the last Parliament, which strongly supported the principle of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill in both Houses without a division. Approval of the Motion today will enable the scheme to go forward for detailed consideration at a public inquiry in due course.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, in rising to support this order, perhaps I may first declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. I was interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, about 32 days sitting in Select Committee. I remind him that, if this order is approved in this House, there will be a public inquiry and we shall see whether the total length of time for the passage of the order through both Houses and for the public inquiry is longer or shorter than its equivalent for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill. That is something that we shall be looking at in a few years' time.

The noble Lord, Lord Methuen, also mentioned rail freight. I hope that I can put his mind at rest somewhat over the capacity for rail freight in the London area. Earlier this week, Railtrack announced that it would develop a kind of freight bypass for London, going round through Redhill and Guildford to Reading, for freight that does not need to go into or out of London. It is to be hoped that to some extent that will mitigate the problem of capacity constraints within the London area.

I have supported the Channel Tunnel rail link for a very long time, beginning long before I arrived in your Lordships' House. But I have always felt that the rail link was wanting without a station at Stratford and without a proper connection linking to the lines going beyond London. It is a credit to the people of Newham and East London generally that they have fought so hard for the station in the face of much opposition from the previous government, for reasons that I fail to understand. As the noble Lord, Lord Cadman, said, Stratford is a most wonderful transport interchange and it is desperately in need of a little economic regeneration. There are many arguments for building an interchange station there and I strongly support the inclusion of that part of the order.

Similarly, doubling the connection to the North London Line has to go in. I remind your Lordships that what is included in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act was originally intended as an emergency line only, so that if a train were stuck in a tunnel and could not get into St. Pancras, it had a way out without going backwards, which is alleged to be difficult. There was never any intention of running through trains north of London. It is a tribute to the present promoters, who have seen the need to avoid reversing in St. Pancras, that they have now come forward with a very sensible scheme. So I support both parts of the order in that respect.

I should like briefly to revisit one or two matters which I raised in various debates in this House on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill. My first point relates to the construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link and specifically to the matters contained in this order. I should then like to move on to the operations.

As regards the construction, there has been a need for as much material as possible to come by rail. There have been ongoing discussions between the promoters and the English, Welsh and Scottish railways over facilities for the transfer of the aggregates and cement to King's Cross. Some rather unpleasant negotiations took place on the night that the English, Welsh and Scottish railways companies were transferred from British Rail, which seemed to have the effect of removing any security of tenure of the aggregate plants from King's Cross, even though they were required to service the construction. I believe that that issue has now been resolved. But there is still the problem of how many tracks are needed to unload the aggregates. It is very sad that that discussion is still going on about a year later. If there are not sufficient tracks to unload the aggregates, they cannot come by rail. It is as simple as that. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will use her best endeavours to encourage the promoters and the others involved to sort out that problem quickly.

Turning to Stratford, a year ago I raised the question of some of the land being available for a rail freight terminal, because there is nothing in the area left between Tilbury and Cricklewood. I quite accept that on the Stratford box area, that land has to be dedicated to development to help pay for the station. But up in Temple Mills, to the right hand side, there is a very large area of land which I believe could be used for a small rail freight terminal. It is ideally placed to service a fruit and vegetable wholesale market just across the river from there. It does not even have to have a security of tenure so long as it can move from one place to the other. Again, the negotiations have been going on intermittently for a year with no firm commitment or agreement and I hope that that is something else that my noble friend can further by putting pressure on the promoters.

Turning to the construction generally, I looked up some figures for the Channel tunnel construction the other day. On the UK side, 6,500 trains were used over three or four years to bring materials to the construction site. I hope that the promoters will comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the various undertakings given and bring everything that they can in by rail. It will save an enormous amount of environmental damage to local roads in the Stratford and King's Cross area as well as down the line.

I turn now to the operations. The noble Lord, Lord Cadman, raised the question of the through trains north of London and frontier control activities. He is absolutely right to raise that matter; I raised it a year ago. As I understand it, no progress has been made since that time. It is remarkable that in 1997 the promoters are prevented from carrying national passengers on international trains—they are not really international trains; they are inter-Community trains.

I know that frontiers still exist in this country, but it must be possible to come up with a regime which allows the frontier control people to accept as normal custom and practice a system of processing people on the train. If they need advice on that, they should look back to a morning in March when I returned to London from Paris on the first train of the day. There were six British frontier control people on that train. If the train had been full they would only have had to process 40 people each per hour, and the train was not full so they were probably down to around 10 people per hour. I am sure that they spent the night in Paris on business, but one wonders quite what they were doing there.

There is plenty of time to process people on the train. There is plenty of time to do the necessary checks before the train goes into the tunnel. The consequences of not doing that are that the trains going north of London—even those travelling to London, but I shall stick to those going north—cannot carry national passengers. Problems will occur when the north of London Eurostar starts operating later this year. It will start from Manchester or Glasgow on its way to Paris. One will not be able to get on to the train at Glasgow and get off at Crewe or Stafford; one will not be able to get on to the train at Stafford on the return journey and get off at Glasgow. Consequently, there will be a large number of empty seats on that train as it gets further from the tunnel, yet there is plenty of time for the frontier control people to process people as the train enters the tunnel. Bearing in mind that we recently read that London & Continental has had to delay its financing process because its traffic and revenue numbers are not up to scratch, surely that is something the Government could consider to assist the company in encouraging more people to use the trains when it launches its extremely important service north of London later this year.

The noble Lord, Lord Cadman, mentioned the immigration service on the trains. I should like to put it the other way round and say that the immigration service is a service to the people using the trains and not the other way round. I hope that the Minister will be able to pass on our comments to the Customs and Immigration services and all the other frontier control people so that when London & Continental starts its service north of London later this year, it can start as it ought to continue; that is, with open stations. When the train reaches Ashford or London on the way to the tunnel, the checks should be done on the train.

I conclude by commending the order to the House. I fully support it and wish it a fair wind in the public inquiry.

8.25 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I begin, unscripted, by echoing the last few paragraphs of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It is critical—I may have misheard him; he mentioned Stafford but let me concentrate on Stratford—that the trains create a journey opportunity from the west coast main line into East Anglia. The train existed in the old days in a different form—in fact, some of us went on the last trip—but in terms of passenger convenience, journey opportunity and especially in terms of viability, his argument is well made.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, reminded us, this is the first TWA order to reach this House. The only other one that I can remember—that in relation to the Great Central Railway—died in another place last summer. I cannot think of a better way or a better subject with which to start the process in this House tonight, though I would prefer the expression "national benefit"—on which the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, also touched—to "national interest". One's interests and one's benefits are not always the same thing. But if I am to say what I find good about the order—and there is a great deal—let me say it briefly.

The order is good for London. It gives us a third Eurostar station by adding Stratford to Waterloo and St. Pancras. That must be good as a matter of consumer choice and will surely be even better in terms of contributing to solving the chronic congestion problems that exist in the city itself. The order is good for Kent to London commuters because of the benefits of integrating with existing infrastructure at Stratford, as has been mentioned already. I refer to Anglian Railways, Great Eastern Railways, the Docklands Light Railway, the Central Line and the Jubilee Line extension.

I originally thought that this issue was largely a passenger matter. But the other part of the order, the West Coast link, benefits not only passengers, but also potentially the through-freight from the Continent. We have already discussed trans-frontier freight and anything that makes trans-frontier freight easier must be welcomed.

Perhaps I may mention three caveats. So far I have spoken of all the things that I find good in the underlying order. There are three points which I do not say are bad, but which I should not like to see overlooked. The first is the matter of employment. Most noble Lords will have seen the brief. Putting it shortly, potentially 15,000 jobs may be created in an area of the Stratford hinterland where there are 90,000 unemployed. However, we must not overlook the Docklands experience. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs were either created or safeguarded. Sadly, not many of them seemed relevant to the local unemployment problem. I hope that the Stratford Promotion Group, whose brief is extremely helpful, will not overlook that fact.

I hope also that all parties concerned will remember the needs of a group unmentioned either when the order went through another place, or so far this evening or in the brief. I put it bluntly: I refer to the needs of the disabled. We must make sure that they have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful benefits that we have been discussing this evening.

I have one final concern: the timetable. It seems to be as long or as short as the public inquiry, and transport infrastructure inquiries have a habit of expanding not only into the time available but well beyond it. I believe the longest on record at the moment is Stansted; but that will soon be overtaken by Terminal 5. Much closer to home and more personally I can remember an infrastructure inquiry in the New Forest which was scheduled for two working days but actually took 30.

This topic was well raised last Thursday when my noble friend Lord Kinnoull asked an Unstarred Question. Of course, I agree that all interests concerned should have the chance to argue their case; to have their day in court, to use our expression; to have their time at bat, to use the Americanism. I hope the inspector's remit will be such, however, that relevance to the works we are discussing overrides irrelevance. A public inquiry can seriously prejudice the viability of a concept such as Stratford and the west coast main line link. I do hope that this will not turn out to be the case.

Yesterday afternoon I travelled from Brussels to Waterloo. The journey was immaculate and it was punctual; it took me almost five hours from Brussels to my own home. If Stratford had been available, I could probably have saved 30 minutes. That is just one more reason among many, albeit a personal one, for welcoming this order.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Crook

My Lords, I too welcome this order. I am sure that we shall all benefit from it. I do not wish to waste time by repeating what has already been said, so I shall be brief.

The Channel Tunnel rail link is a continental railway. It is not clear, however, whether it will be built to take continental-sized trains like the French TGV. Their trains are bigger than ours and they will not fit. If that is to be the case, then we are in trouble. This should be emphasised with reference to the North London link, because immediately there is no prospect of continental trains running along it. The west coast main line will not take them. That link ought nevertheless to be built to a size that can cope with French trains and where, inevitably, our lines are made bigger.

We should also warn that it would be a pity if the Stratford station construction followed the short-sighted approach at Ashford International, where it has been beautifully arranged so that French trains cannot stop at the Ashford terminal station but will bypass it. Goodness knows why!

Finally, I have a question for the noble Baroness. There is a remarkable little phrase in paragraph 12 of the order: "subsoil or under-surface". In the Oxford Dictionary "under-surface" apparently applies to the "under sides of the shafts of a cart". It is also fairly obviously the underside of the wings of an aircraft. Would the noble Baroness please let me know what it is supposed to mean in the context of this order?

Leaving that aside, I strongly support the order.

8.33 p.m.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, my apologies to the next listed speaker. I enter the debate because I find myself in a difficult situation. I thought we were to hear the details of the works before we heard the Government's view, so that we would know what we were talking about.

When the Channel Tunnel Bill came to this House it was opposed. It was opposed because some people wanted a public inquiry into the whole question of the Channel Tunnel in order to assess its consequences for the rest of the country. One of the points, put quite forcefully, was that the present problem in Great Britain was too much development in the south east, thereby creating a barrier between the rest of the country, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the Continent, where the large growth that we need will evidently take place.

The argument against a public inquiry was, "We can settle it without that; rest assured that we will be looking very carefully at the prospect of linking the Channel Tunnel, particularly with the West Coast Line". That was accepted, and we all went along with the idea that that was what would happen. It would not be a question of transferring in London passengers from the north to the Channel Tunnel. There would be a direct line from the north west, Northern Ireland and Scotland right through the south east to the Continent. At the time I thought that was a perfectly reasonable thing to say. On the Order Paper today, however, I see, in the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington, railways near St. Pancras to provide access between the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the West Coast Main Line by means of a connection to the North London Line". At first I took that to mean that we were to get a physical link by rail between the rest of the country through the Channel Tunnel without any stopping at all or any interference of that progress in London. It now appears, when I look at the schedule of works, that there is no mention of the West Coast main line. It merely talks of a connection to the North London Line. If my reading of the situation is right, once again the movement from the rest of the country will come up against a barrier. I look forward to being told that I am wrong. I had no hesitation in subscribing to my party's view at the time of what was the real solution to the traffic problems and development problems of Great Britain. I have no hesitation in reaffirming that.

I had a word with the Minister beforehand. I thought that by now I would have heard the details of what exactly was to happen. I have not. I hope still to hear them, and I hope that they will be along the lines of the assurances given to us when the public inquiry did not take place. If one thing has been very firmly established—it was, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, who said so—it is that what is proposed is good for east London and the Jubilee Line. Yes, it is very good for east London, and to hell with the rest of the country's development. There are too many developments going on in London.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I said that the link to the West Coast main line opened up all manner of passenger and freight opportunities that were good for the rest of the country. He will see that when he reads my speech tomorrow.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I hope the noble Lord is proved right when we hear the details of exactly what is the link between the north west main line and the Channel Tunnel—not London, but the Channel Tunnel. I hope I am wrong, but I would be very surprised if that is so.

The problem is that all the developments in this country are too London-oriented. People are looking for developments in London and the south east. In my opinion and that of many people in the provinces, too much development is being ploughed into London. It is time some of it was pushed back where it belongs—among the majority of people in this country.

8.38 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, we on these Benches support and welcome the order which the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Cadman, have explained to us so well. I also thank the Minister for her kind words. I am sure that we shall have many interesting debates; it is certainly "all change" for us.

I am pleased that the Minister is continuing with the previous government's policy on construction of the high speed link, thereby exploiting the advantages of the private sector in a major Private Finance Initiative or, as it is now known, a private-public partnership.

The line will be routed through east London to achieve the regenerative benefits mentioned by the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Cadman, and many other noble Lords. The order will allow for the construction of the international and domestic station at Stratford. This will make it much easier to travel to and from France and the rest of the Continent from the regions rather than just from the south east, as many noble Lords have pointed out so well.

Of course there will be some objections to the scheme but, as many noble Lords have said, these will be best handled by the public inquiry. It is to be hoped that the inquiry will not be too protracted. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, covered that point very well.

In due course the Government may have to make a decision regarding landfill tax and what to do with the spoil from the works. A satisfactory outcome may make it possible to use rail haulage to rail-connected landfill sites rather than use road haulage to landfill sites near London. I do not expect the Minister to respond to this point. It is merely an observation.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred to the use to be made of the other Stratford railway lands and Temple Mills. It may be a little late to address the particular issue that the noble Lord raises. However, the planners and indeed the Minister will need to strike a balance between developing derelict railway land on the one hand and not inadvertently constraining future rail developments on the other.

The noble Lord also made some interesting points regarding customs and immigration formalities. The Minister's right honourable friend the Prime Minister is right to maintain the nation's control of immigration. The controls need to be effective but they do not necessarily need to be burdensome. The noble Lord also referred to the upgrading of the twin-track connection between the west coast mainline and the CTRL. With the twin-track facility, any serious problems at St. Pancras Station can be easily overcome. I am pleased that this very wise decision was made.

I have today very briefly studied the plans for the CTRL scheme between Stratford and St. Pancras and I was struck by the opportunities that will be presented to the construction industry. However, it will require large sums of money to build the railway and there will be risks attached to it. I am quite sure the Minister understands that profit is the reward for taking risks. But does she understand the loss of confidence attached to applying windfall taxes to projects that turn out to be successful? The Private Finance Initiative will work, but only if it allows for private profit as well as private risk.

The noble Lord, Lord Cadman, mentioned the "travelator" between the new station and the existing station. Today I detected some doubt as to whether the walkway will be mechanical. I am, I think, much fitter than many of your Lordships. However, I still find long walks with luggage very tiring. I hope that the developers will rethink this point carefully. It is not, of course, a matter for the Minister to comment on.

This order is part of the process initiated by the previous government. We have in progress the Heathrow Express, ThamesLink 2000, the Docklands Light Railway extension to Lewisham, the Croydon tram link and the Jubilee Line extension, all programmes inherited from the previous government. I am sure that the Minister will want to continue this process. I hope that she receives the resources necessary to carry on. I look forward to hearing what she has to say in reply to the debate.

8.43 p.m.

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, this has been an extremely useful if short debate in which there has been a large measure of agreement on the merits of Eurostar's proposals. The noble Lord, Lord Cadman, gave a helpful summary of the proposals and set out persuasively the promoters' case for the House passing the resolution. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, conveyed clearly the Opposition's support for the proposals in principle. Further endorsement was given by all the other noble Lords who spoke in the debate. I hope it will also be given by my noble friend Lord Sefton, with the reassurances about the opportunities that we believe the west coast main line connection will give for regional development and regional passenger travel.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley, the noble Lords, Lord Mountevans and Lord Methuen, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, raised their concerns over the issue of immigration controls. Those are technically not transport matters. However, what was clear to me, listening on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, was the strength of feeling on this issue, and I shall certainly take away those representations and put them in front of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Crook, that I hoped to get inspiration or assistance in replying to him in detail about definitions of "subsoil" and "under-surface". I fear that I am not able to do so this evening but I undertake to write to him on the issues.

The application for the order was made in January by Eurostar (UK) Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of London & Continental Railways, which successfully bid for the contract to build the Channel Tunnel rail link. The works contained in the draft order were not included in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act because the decision in principle to proceed with them came too late for inclusion in the Bill without seriously prejudicing its progress.

The proposed station at Stratford will provide a new intermediate stop for international and domestic services using the CTRL. It will enable passengers to make connections with other railway services at Stratford such as the London Underground Central and Jubilee Lines, the Docklands Light Railway, the North London Line and the Great Eastern Line. The station will thus give passengers a wider choice of access to international and domestic services on the CTRL and make an important contribution to the Government's declared aim of establishing a more integrated public transport system.

In addition—reference was made to this point by several speakers in the debate—the development of the station is expected to create sizeable regeneration benefits for the Stratford area, which is a focal point for development at the western end of the Thames Gateway. Taking into account the scope for redevelopment of adjoining lands, including former railway lands, and the wider development opportunities in the Lower Lea Valley and the Royal Docks, the extra employment prospects for the area in the longer term could be substantial.

I listened with care to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, about whether local jobs will be created by the Stratford development. He was right to bring the attention of the House to the fact that that is not always so. At this stage it is difficult to say exactly what types of jobs will eventually be created. However, I can tell the House that LCR is working with the London boroughs of Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest to produce a development framework plan for the Stratford development lands. The boroughs will naturally wish to ensure that as many jobs as possible are created for local people.

The other main proposal in Eurostar's application, which is closely associated with Stratford station—it is the area to which the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, referred and on which he was looking for reassurance—is for a twin-track connection from the CTRL to the North London Line and the west coast main line. This will enable trains to and from the Channel Tunnel to bypass St. Pancras station and transfer directly to the North London Line and the west coast main line, thereby reducing journey times from Scotland, the north and the Midlands to and from mainland Europe. The regional development possibilities that this opens up are substantial. Stratford station would be used as the London stop on these through trains. The twin-track connection replaces the single track provided for in the CTRL Act and would greatly increase operational flexibility and reliability.

The department has received 59 objections to, or representations about, the proposed works. Copies have been placed in the Library, along with a copy of Eurostar's application and the associated documentation. The objectors have raised a number of issues concerning mainly the perceived adverse local impacts of the scheme on especially traffic levels, the environment and businesses. Reference has been made tonight to the importance of making sure that there are other public transport links, not solely dependence on car links, to the Stratford terminal. These are matters which quite properly need to be considered carefully before the order is determined. I am sure that they will be discussed at the public inquiry.

I know that concerns have been raised tonight about the possible length of the public inquiry. It is not within my powers to say exactly how long it will be. I point out to noble Lords—it was an issue that was raised in our debate the other evening—that although we tend to focus on the very long inquiries over major infrastructure projects, the majority of inquiries are nothing like that long. We would hope that this inquiry could go through a properly democratic process but not a long drawn out one.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raised an issue regarding the impact of the CTRL on rail freight, which is an area that I know is of great concern to him. He particularly asked about the provision of sidings for the discharge of aggregates and cement to the batching plants, which were covered in assurances given in the passage of the CTRL Act.

There will be one siding with facilities for aggregate discharge. The provision of a second siding providing a simultaneous discharge facility for cement depends on whether the physical constraints of the site can be overcome. I understand that discussions between LCR, the batching companies and EWS on this issue are continuing. I also understand the noble Lord's impatience at not getting a resolution to these matters. I certainly hope that it will be possible to get a reasonably swift resolution.

The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, raised the issue of access for disabled people to Stratford station. The promoters are required to comply with the advice of the rail regulator and the department's disabled persons transport advisory committee on disability matters as if it directly applied to them. I very much hope that state-of-the-art provision for disabled people will be made in this new development.

If the House passes this Resolution the Secretary of State will have a duty to decide whether the order should be made. His mind must remain open on that decision. In making that decision he must in particular have regard to the inspector's report following a detailed consideration of the proposals and of the objections to them at the public inquiry. The issue for the House this evening is whether in principle the proposals are worthy of going forward for this more detailed examination. If your Lordships judge that they are—as indeed the Government do—this Motion should be supported.

It will be open to the Secretary of State to amend provisions in the draft order or to change the planning conditions attaching to any deemed planning permission in the light of any recommendations by the inquiry inspector. The Secretary of State must also consider the environmental statement in determining whether to make the order.

In the Government's view, the objections that have been made do not raise fundamental issues which might dent our confidence in the overall merits of the proposals, which have been well supported this evening. We are satisfied that the grounds of the objections to the application are of a nature which would be best considered at an inquiry. It seems to us that the proposed works are desirable in principle. They have the potential to bring significant transport benefits by encouraging greater use of the railways, especially for travel to Europe. A new station at Stratford would help towards a more integrated public transport system in London. For the local communities in the East Thames Corridor, there is the prospect of substantial benefits. with more jobs and much-needed urban regeneration.

So the Government have no hesitation in inviting the House to pass this Resolution, while obviously reserving our position on whether, after detailed consideration at a public inquiry, the order should be made. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.