HC Deb 10 February 1947 vol 433 cc30-2
64. Sir Ralph Glyn

asked the Minister of Transport when he was first aware of the serious position of the main line railways in regard to shortages of locomotives carriages, wagons, coal supplies and track sleepers, respectively, arising from causes beyond the control of the railway companies.

Mr. Barnes

The deterioration of railway rolling stock, and reductions of railway stocks of track sleepers, are the results of enforced deferment of maintenance and replacements during the war and since, and of heavy wartime traffic. The accumulation of these arrears was, of course, known at the time I took office, and was beginning to show its effects in varying degrees. During the winter of 1945–46 the condition of the wagon stock gave me particular cause for anxiety. Special steps were taken, and have been sustained, to expedite repairs, and large orders for new wagons of standard type were placed by my Department. Deterioration of the locomotive stock became marked at a later date. Stocks of sleepers, already much below normal, fell sharply during last year owing to unexpected failure of supplies. Stock of railway coal have been reduced, in common with stocks of all other users, owing to inability of production to keep pace with consumption. I have throughout kept in close touch with the situation.

Sir R. Glyn

Does the Minister agree that those factors have been beyond the control of railway executives, and directors?

Mr. Barnes

I think that my reply, it it is carefully read, will show that they are the direct consequences of the war and, of course, even since the war the railways have had no let-up.

Mr. W.J. Brown

Will the Minister tell us how many locomotives, and how many trucks, we have exported from this country since the end of the war?

Mr. Barnes

I think that question should be put down to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Since it is the policy of the Government to spend part of the American Loan on capital goods, will the right hon. Gentleman look into the possibility of placing orders for rolling stock in the United States?

Hon. Members


65. Sir R. Glyn

asked the Minister of Transport what order of priority has been given to supplies of labour and materials for the following requirements of the main line railways, permanent way materials, rolling stock construction and repairs.

Mr. Barnes

The construction and repair of railway rolling stock command first preference for the filling of labour vacancies. Materials such as steel and timber for permanent way and rolling stock are allocated in accordance with available supplies, and with the estimates of requirements made by the appropriate Government Departments.

66. Sir R. Glyn

asked the Minister of Transport to what extent passenger train speed restrictions will have to be introduced this year on the main line railways owing to shortages of sleepers for the track; and what steps he is taking to obtain adequate supplies to minimize the effect of this.

Mr. Barnes

I hope that it will not prove necessary to impose restrictions on speed on main routes during the first half of this year, and I can assure the hon. Member that all possible steps are being taken to secure improved supplies of timber sleepers wherever they are available. Arrangements have also been made to increase the production of concrete sleepers in this country.

Sir R. Glyn

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to make public the fact that unless the necessary amount of sleepers is produced it will be absolutely impossible to continue to operate the railways and to maintain the trade of the country?

Mr. Barnes

I think it is obvious that if we have not the necessary supplies of sleepers available, that state of affairs will arise. At the moment, attention is being concentrated on augmenting supplies.

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