HC Deb 04 October 1939 vol 351 cc1931-2
22. Sir G. Gibson

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will strongly urge the Railway Executive Committee to provide at least one fast service of trains for each of the principal industrial centres to London and back each day?

39. Major Milner

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that the present restrictions on railway travel are causing serious loss and inconvenience to the travelling public, and a great waste of public money; and whether he will now considerably modify these restrictions on the understanding that they may be re-imposed if the necessity arises?

Captain Wallace

I can assure my hon. Friends that the railway companies are alive to the importance of continuing to improve passenger train services as and when possible. I would, however, point out that there is a very heavy freight traffic of urgent national importance to be dealt with, and that, owing to lighting restrictions, this traffic has to be handled during daylight hours to a much greater extent than in normal times. It is, therefore, necessary to limit passenger services to trains of maximum capacity running at moderate speeds and making intermediate connections.

Sir G. Gibson

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware of the fact that whereas normally I travel in two and three-quarter hours from London to Leeds, it now takes between five and six hours for each train, and, further, that if I leave the House of Commons after five o'clock in the evening, I cannot get to Leeds until three in the morning? Is that reasonable? Cannot something be done? Even in the daytime it usually takes about six hours.

Captain Wallace

I am exceedingly sorry for my hon. Friend, but I can assure him that he is by no means alone; in fact, we are all in the same boat. I would invite the attention of the House to the very important considerations which I stressed in my answer, regarding the freight traffic of urgent national importance which must, in the interests of the prosecution of the war, have priority. Considerable improvements have been made in the passenger services during the past 10 days, and the railway companies hope to continue to improve them as circumstances permit.

Major Milner

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that all working railway men, without exception, say that there is no justification on the grounds that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has given for the restrictions imposed, and that many faster trains might well be put on the lines, notwithstanding the slight additional traffic that there is?

Captain Wallace

I feel bound to accept the advice which is given to me by the Railway Executive Committee, who have been chosen to run the railways on the Government's behalf.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that travelling from Newcastle to King's Cross men of the Forces were compelled to stand all the way? Is not that a scandalous state of affairs?

Captain Wallace

It is very unfortunate that anybody has to stand, but I must repeat what I have said about the exigencies of war time.