HL Deb 05 December 1991 vol 533 cc15-6WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements are being made to carry forward work on the Government's preferred route for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My right honourable and learned friend announced on 14th October the Government's preference for a route which terminates at King's Cross and which approaches from the east, via Stratford. He also invited British Rail to undertake such refinement of the route as is necessary to enable him to safeguard it.

Work on the route is now underway. British Rail should have created a new mapping base for the easterly section of the route by the end of the year. Work on defining the line and engineering it in sufficient detail for publication, consultation and environmental assessment should then begin in the New Year. Officials from my Department, the department of the Environment and the Treasury are closely involved and are already discussing parameters for the work, such as the freight role of a new line. The consultants appointed by the Department of the Environment to undertake the study of the development potential of the east Thames corridor will be kept in close touch. Ove Arup, who originally conceived the easterly approach via Stratford, are being invited by British Rail to join their team of consultants.

It is the Government's intention that the rail link should be taken forward by the private sector. We shall therefore be appointing a merchant bank early in the New Year to advise the Government both about private sector interests while the line is refined and on the best way in which to hand over the project to the private sector in due course. The merchant bank will act as the department's point of contact for developers and other private sector interests with a potential interest in funding and developing the rail link.

It is still too early to say when public consultations can begin. But it is important that the local authorities are involved at an early stage. We are still considering how this might best be organised, but again we would expect arrangements for a consultative forum to be in place early in the New Year.