Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster, Conservative) The hon. Gentleman rightly makes the case for the benefits of extending Thameslink to each and every one of the 50 stations from the Sussex coast up to mid and, indeed, north Bedfordshire, but does he recognise that ensuring that we have sufficient capacity in the centre of London-this obviously applies to the Crossrail debate as well as to the Thameslink debate-is of crucial importance if there is not to be the overcrowding to which he referred earlier?
Patrick Hall (Bedford, Labour) Indeed, the whole of the programme is predicated upon delivering that capacity through engineering changes and improvements in the core, in central London. The scope of the Thameslink network opened up by engineering improvements in the core, which have just been referred to, will greatly increase beyond the Bedford-Brighton corridor, extending to Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn in the north and to a large number of destinations south of London. Work is well under way in delivering the Thameslink programme. The first phase was completed on time and on budget in March 2009, and essentially prepared for the main construction phase that we are now in, but we should not take that preparation for granted, as it was all about enabling services to run as smoothly as possible during the main construction phase. We have already benefited from a superb new station at St. Pancras International, which replaced the appalling King’s Cross Thameslink, and we will soon see delivery of a new station at Blackfriars, which will span the Thames. It will be ready in time for 2012. Farringdon station has been transformed, including preparation for an interchange with Crossrail, which will greatly increase connectivity for millions of people throughout the Thameslink network as well as east-west along Crossrail itself.