HC Deb 09 June 1943 vol 390 cc701-5
31 and 32 Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (1) what arrangements are to be made to enable those employed in the essential war services and the Armed Forces to have preference in travelling from North Staffordshire and Lancashire to Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe during the holiday period for each locality;

(2) whether he can make a full statement for the guidance of all concerned in reference to reasonable travelling at the holiday period and travel of a restricted kind for stay-at-home holidays and whether any system of rationing travelling to enable those who greatly need a change to have it is to be tried?

Mr. Noel-Baker

As the answer is rather long, I will, with your consent, Mr. Speaker, and with that of the House, make it at the end of Questions.


Mr. Noel-Baker

As my hon. Friend may be aware, the railways are now carrying about 50 per cant. more freight traffic, and 50 per cent. more passenger traffic than before the war, while passenger train mileage has been reduced by about 30 per cent. Thus, passenger trains are carrying twice the load they carried in 1939. There has been a particularly heavy increase in the journeys made by Service personnel; in the last 12 months for which I have the figures, the increase was 24 per cent. This is especially true of long-distance travel; of journeys of between ma and 200 miles, 60 per cent. are made by members of the Forces; of journeys of over 200 miles, the figure is more than So per cent.

In view of this great increase of essential travel, and in view of the great strain under which the railways are already working, my hon. Friend will understand that it is not possible to grant additional trains for holiday travel, however desirable that may be. The railways have, therefore, been instructed that their passenger train mileage this summer must not exceed the mileage they were allowed last summer, and that for wakes weeks and similar holiday occasions, there must be no more trains from any town to any holiday resort than there were on the same occasion a year ago. Nor is it possible to provide for holiday travel by such schemes of rationing and priority as my hon. Friend suggests. My Noble Friend has repeatedly and exhaustively considered these proposals; he has always come to the conclusion that they would cause great inconvenience to travellers, that they would require a cumbrous and costly administrative machine, and that the disadvantages would much outweigh the advantages which they might have.

On some long-distance services, the increase of essential travel has caused constant and serious overcrowding. My Noble Friend is now considering whether on theses services a few additional trains can be allowed, on the clear understanding that they will be taken off again without warning, if war conditions so require. For the rest, however, the Government are obliged to ask the public to accept the same restrictions which were in force last year. I am confident that those who are now considering where they will spend their holidays, will decide not to travel by rail, but to leave the limited space which is available to those who, in the interest of the war effort, require it most.

I gratefully acknowledge the help of those who have organised programmes for holidays at home. The shortage of rubber and fuel makes it impossible to relax the general restrictions on Road Transport Unposed in recent months, but I hope that, where vehicles and personnel permit, something may be done in normal off-peak hours to help workers to enjoy the entertainments which these programmes provide.

Mr. Ellis Smith

We appreciate the difficulties arising out of transport, but is my hon. Friend aware that those who have now been engaged on manual work and essential services for four years are beginning to feel the strain and that the managements in industry and the representatives of the workpeople desire that the workpeople should be given some relaxation, and, if that is so, should it not be done on an organised basis; and is he also aware that this will have an effect on production?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir, I am constantly aware of the increased and increasing strain to which war workers are exposed, and my hon. Friend will understand that I make a statement like this only with the utmost reluctance I and regret, but I am sure that the workers themselves will share our view, that, in this year more than in any previous year, it is essential that train capacity should be reserved for troop movements and for the movement of war material and that the war effort must come first.

Mr. Smith

Will the Minister consider the advisability of approaching the Railway Executive with a view to seeing that those who have been engaged for so long in industrial centres should receive preference where possible?

Mr. Noel-Baker

That is a very difficult question, and I would not like to make an unconsidered answer, but, broadly speaking, the arrangements will be the same as last year, and I hope that they will give an equally satisfactory result.

Sir Ralph Glyn

Will my hon. Friend consider, in consultation with the Minister of Production, the.publication of the statement hp has just made in factories throughout the country, because if excursions are organised, great disappointment will be caused to those who can go if no arrangements are made for them?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will consider that valuable suggestion.

Mr. Buchanan

Will the Parliamentary Secretary consider providing extra accommodation on long-distance trains, particularly for Service men; and is he aware of the crowded accommodation on trains between London and Glasgow and the North of Scotland? So many of these men have to travel, and cannot he do something to ease their problem; cannot he reserve extra accommodation for those who have to travel on service?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I would not like to promise that we could add coaches to existing trains, because nearly every locomotive is pulling the maximum number of coaches it can take, but when my hon. Friend reads the statement he will see that on some long-distance services we propose, by the addition of a few extra trains, to relieve the very great congestion which now exists.

Sir A. Southby

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the term" workers includes 99 per cent. of the people in this country and especially the very large number of people who serve in His Majesty's Forces?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will bear that in mind. It also includes the railway train crews, who, perhaps of all workers, have been subject to the greatest strain, and who during the next winter may have a greater strain than ever before.

Mr. Rhys Davies

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Department will bear in mind the depressing psychological effect it will have upon the millions of workpeople in Lancashire if they are not able to spend a few days' holiday at Blackpool?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have said in my statement already that the arrangements that were made last year will be in force again this year, but I do not believe that any worker will be psychologically depressed by the fact that we want to keep the trains to promote the war effort.

Dr. Russell Thomas

When considering the matter, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that many who are fighting our battles in the East have not had a holiday for several years?

Mr. Pritt

Will the Parliamentary Secretary consider whether, by taking off a sleeping car which holds only 12 or 14 people, he could not make room for a large number of additional passengers?

Mr. Noel-Baker

We have already cut sleeping cars to the bone.

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