In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Matthew Carrington, MP (Fulham), Mr Gummer said: 'I welcome the Chancellor's announcement in his Budget statement today that a new extension of the Docklands Light Railway to Lewisham will be built and financed by the private sector.
'Private sector companies will be invited to bid during 1994 for a concession to construct the extension. Construction on the £100 million project is expected to start soon after and the extension should open in 1997/98.
'This is another major step toward improving London's infrastructure and I am pleased to give it my approval. This scheme, together with the £1.9 billion Jubilee Line extension, highlights the Government's commitment to public transport in London. The Government has already confirmed that a new east- west link, the CrossRail scheme, will go forward as a joint venture with the private sector.
'It will boost the regeneration of both the Docklands and of the areas the new extension will serve. I am asking DLR Ltd and its owners - the London Docklands Development Corporation - to give this project top priority.
'The extension, which received Parliamentary approval in May this year, will go through a new tunnel under the Thames south of the Isle of Dogs and terminate at Lewisham where it will connect with British Rail. The journey time from Lewisham to the City will be less than 25 minutes; from Lewisham to Canary Wharf about 15 minutes. The costs of the project have been closely examined, and initial indications are that for the project to proceed, it may be necessary to omit two planned stations at Island Gardens and Cutty Sark. Consultation will take place before a final decision is taken.
'The project is a joint venture under the Government's Private Finance Initiative which encourages private sector investment in capital projects which have traditionally been carried out by the Government. Lewisham LBC will contribute £5 million towards the joint venture.