§ Mr. Fearn
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to respond to the recommendation of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities that his Department should commission a study of a Berne gauge line from the channel tunnel to the midlands and north-west, to be able to carry a mixture of containers, demountable bodies, and road trailers; and if he will make a statement.393W
§ Mr. Freeman
The Select Committee's report was debated in another place on 4 March. During the debate my noble Friend, Department of the Minister of State, Transport, said that it was clear that the cost of converting a rail route or routes to a continental gauge would be very high and that British Rail's initial strategy of using small-wheeled wagons for the larger continental containers was the right one. He added that the Government might consider whether a gauge conversion study related to the longer-term future would be sensible. So far we have not seen any case for such a study.
§ Mr. Freeman
We have no plans to amend section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987, which prohibits Government subsidy for international rail services. We are prepared to consider subsidy for any non-user benefits arising from the use by commuter services of a rail link between the channel tunnel and London.