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European Union Transport Networks

Volume 264: debated on Monday 23 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he next expects to meet his European Union counterparts to discuss the improvement of European Union transport networks. [36471]

I plan to attend the Transport. Council on 7 and 8 December at which I would expect progress with the development of trans-European transport networks to be discussed.

When the Secretary of State attends that meeting, will he press the very strong claims being made in south and north Wales to complete the European transport networks, which are currently under threat due to privatisation? Will he also give a commitment that there will be high quality rail services from our west Wales ports to Europe?

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to accept the premise on which he based his question—that privatisation poses some threat to the railway service in Wales. Having put that on one side, however, I assure him that I shall of course fight the United Kingdom's corner in the discussions as hard as I can. It is worth pointing out that of the 14 priority projects endorsed by the Essen European Council, four are projects in which the United Kingdom has an interest. As for the future programme, the hon. Gentleman is entitled to suggest some of the networks to which he referred as they are eligible under the TENs framework.

In discussions with his counterparts in Europe, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of the A120 as a strategic network? Is he aware that the dualling of that road is badly needed, not only for traffic travelling from the east coast ports, but to serve the airport at Stansted.

I am happy to confirm to my hon. Friend that I am well aware of the strategic importance of the road to which he has referred.

Is the Minister aware that my colleague Robin Teverson, a Member of the European Parliament, persuaded the European Parliament to make rail links through to the west country, Exeter and Penzance the highest European priority for investment, bringing in European funding towards those improvements? It is understood, however, that Ministers are opposing that inclusion. Given that Ministers need to approve the inclusion, will the right hon. Gentleman argue for the improvement that the west country needs?

My understanding of the situation is somewhat different from the hon. Gentleman's interpretation. My understanding is that at the June Transport Council the Government put forward the addition of both the Waterloo-Exeter rail line and the Taunton-Reading line to the draft trans-European networks. Those additions were approved by the European Commission and by the Council of Ministers.