Channel rail link route statement blocked: Labour whips threatened to disrupt parliamentary business

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Indy Politics
MINISTERS were forced to postpone announcing the route of the Channel rail link until next week because of a threat by Labour to disrupt parliamentary business, writes Christian Wolmar.

British Rail had been told last week that the Government wanted to make the announcement on the day after the Budget even though this is traditionally a day when Labour makes its response to the Chancellor's speech.

Labour whips did not want the speech by Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, to be overshadowed and threatened to disrupt business in the same way that MPs did last week by raising points of order and forcing debates on statutory instruments which are usually passed on the nod.

The route of the link is expected to go from Ashford to Detling and Boxley, then through a short tunnel to the Medway towns. It crosses the Thames between Gravesend and Dartford and to Rainham in Essex and Stratford in east London. Union Railways, the BR subsidiary devising the scheme, has promised that its route will involve only the demolition of 15 to 20 houses. The most likely route in London is in a tunnel from Stratford to Dalston in Hackney and then along the North London line.

The delay will, however, allow Kent residents opposed to the scheme to build up their campaign. One exasperated BR manager said: 'It's another cock-up. It just allows the opponents to build up steam.'