Clause 40

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 27 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Duty to co-operate

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 23, in clause 40, page 27, line 2, at end insert

‘, but is an asset which enables the construction, maintenance and operation of Crossrail to occur.’.

In the same vein as many clauses in the Bill, clause 40 contains provisions to ensure that those charged with  the building and operating of the Crossrail network are afforded all possible assistance by those who own and operate existing rail assets. Specifically, it gives the nominated undertaker the power to require facilities owners and operators to co-operate with them by force of an agreement. The explanatory notes state that Crossrail will, by necessity,

“interact with the existing railways”,

so it is certainly obvious that, as set out in the clause, there is a need for this provision. My intention in tabling the amendment is to ensure that there is absolutely no scope for doubt as to which of those assets we are talking about. I do not wish to return to the alcoholic allusions that we went through last Thursday—I think we have probably done that one to death. My concerns in this case, however, are similar. As the clause stands, it seems that the nominated undertaker can take action with regard to any railway asset anywhere. Although I am sure that the Minister is about to reassure us that the nominated undertaker will not use that power haphazardly or unsystematically, I cannot see any reason why we cannot specify on the face of the Bill that the assets that require the exceptional powers must be those that relate to Crossrail. Otherwise, there is scope for ambiguity. I believe that the amendment is rational and that the Bill would benefit from its inclusion.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Crossrail will clearly interact a great deal with other railway assets both before and after it is built. For example, in the central area new Crossrail tunnels and stations will be constructed in and around existing underground stations and running tunnels and there will be more than £2 billion of Crossrail investment on the national rail network. Generally, the preferred option will be for whoever is appointed as the Crossrail nominated undertaker to address interface issues with owners of other railway assets on the basis of standard industry mechanisms. Clause 40 is, therefore, a provision that we should not need to rely on often.

However, the existing arrangements that govern both the national rail and London underground networks—that is where the interfaces will mostly come from—might not address all the issues that could arise in relation to a major new project such as Crossrail. It is therefore prudent to have the ability to resolve them.

It is important to point out that the clause works both ways: the controller of a non-Crossrail railway asset can also invoke the provision and require the nominated undertaker to agree how a matter is to be resolved. The object is to ensure that neither the nominated undertaker nor the other party can act unreasonably in dealing with a problem related to the interaction of the Crossrail works with overland or underground railway assets.

The amendment presents two problems. First, it would limit the nominated undertaker to using the power only where the non-Crossrail asset was one that enabled the construction, maintenance or operation of Crossrail to occur. In fact, problems could arise in relation to a wide range of railway assets, not just the subset.

The clause already requires the nominated undertaker to meet the test that the matter at issue must be one that affects the construction, maintenance or operation of Crossrail. We believe that that is the appropriate qualification, rather than the stricter test that the amendment would set.

The second problem is that the limitation that the amendment would impose would not apply in respect of subsection (2), so the provision would be unfairly weighted in favour of the non-Crossrail party. I do not imagine that that is the intention, but it would be the effect.

My key point is that the creation of Crossrail, for which I detect considerable support in the Committee, should not be impeded because an interface issue with another railway network cannot be resolved. Nor should Crossrail cause unnecessary problems for other railway networks without there being a means of resolution. The clause is an essential back-up provision that recognises the fact that integrating a new railway on the scale of Crossrail is difficult but should never be impossible.

I hope that that is explanation enough to persuade the hon. Member for Wimbledon to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:45, 27 Tachwedd 2007

It is indeed a very full explanation. Certainly, I would not want the unintended consequence of subsection (2) not falling within the limitation, and that is a considerable demerit in my drafting of the amendment. The Minister mentioned the circumstances regarding the asset where those powers would be required. Can he give us an example of where it would not be an asset that enabled the construction, maintenance and operation of Crossrail?

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

One example that springs to mind would be where a Crossrail tunnel was being built very close to, or perhaps underneath, an existing London underground line. Although that particular line would not be defined in the terms of the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, it would nevertheless be necessary to come to some agreement with London Underground to allow the unimpeded progress of the construction to take place.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

That was an interesting explanation. I would have thought that that was exactly the asset that would enable the construction of Crossrail. None the less, I take it that the Minister is trying to be helpful and I accept that my amendment would have an unintended consequence as it relates to subsection (2), which is my drafting error. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 40 ordered to stand part of the Bill.