HC Deb 28 July 1947 vol 441 cc5-8
2. Mr. A. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Transport what special steps are being taken to speed up the repair of crippled wagons loaded en route and at wagon works.

Mr. Barnes

Capacity for repairs of wagons has been reinforced by the use of Royal Ordnance Factories and other premises not normally engaged on this work,' and this process is continuing wherever suitable works can be made available. The output of repairs is now some 2,000 to 3,000 a week in excess of corresponding output last year, in spite of shortage of materials, especially steel and timber. Priority of supply has been granted, and as it becomes effective in increased deliveries, output of repairs should improve still more.

3. Mr. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Transport how many and what types of new railway wagons have been put into service so far this year; and what is the target for 1947.

Mr. Barnes

Fourteen thousand, six hundred and forty goods and mineral wagons, and 1,540 of other types so far. The target figure for all types is 47,000.

4. Mr. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Transport what special action is being taken to improve the turn-round of railway wagons at terminal depots, in view of the urgent need for rolling stock.

Mr. Barnes

Reduction of turn-round depends on two factors, reduced time in transit, and quicker loading and unloading at terminal points. The railway companies are paying close attention to both, but, in the case of delays at terminals, require the active co-operation of employers and workpeople. Instructions have been issued to all Government Departments, and the active assistance of the Regional Board, the National Production Advisory Council for Industry and the National Coal Board has been enlisted. The National Joint Advisory Council have also agreed to co-operate. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me this opportunity of impressing on all concerned the importance of speeding up the loading and release of wagons and other means of transport, in particular on Saturdays in establishments conditioned to a five-day week. Saving one day in turn-round on each journey would give us 50,000 extra wagons.

Mr. Davies

Would my right hon. Friend consider whether it would be helping to increase demurrage charges so as to penalise the people who are delinquents in regard to railway wagons; and would he take account of the fact that wagons are sometimes scrapped merely because they are somewhat old, but which have, in fact, been rebuilt in the course of their running on the railways?

Mr. Barnes

The question of the increase in demurrage charges has been very carefully considered, but the opposition to it from traders generally is very strong, and, so far, it has not been felt necessary to impose that additional charge on industry. I hope that co-operation may give us better results. With regard to the point about more wagons, I could not, of course, give any assurance that an occasional mistake has not been made in the examination dealing with over one million wagons, but I think that, on the whole, care is taken to sort out the good ones.

Mr. Walkden

Is not the statement which my right hon. Friend has just delivered to the House very similar to the arrangements which were in operation last winter when we lost 232,000 tons of coal due to the shortage of wagons and locomotives; and can he tell us whether anything besides persuasion is going to be put into operation this winter? Will there not be some form of punishment for those who do not help the nation to see that wagons get a quicker turn-round?

Mr. Barnes

I would not say that the position this year is exactly the same as last——

Mr. Walkden

Very nearly.

Mr. Barnes

Not at all. The priority being accorded to locomotives and wagons should make a very substantial addition to the output. With regard to the point about the loss of coal, my hon. Friend should realise that coal is lost every winter in peacetime in this country through dislocation, from time to time, in transit facilities.

Mr. William Shepherd

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of wagon repairs has been lost by the reduction in working hours?

Mr. Barnes

I could not give a reply without notice, but, obviously, it is fairly substantial.

Mr. Sparks

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there is adequate equipment for loading and unloading at railway terminal points?

Mr. Barnes

No, Sir. I am not satisfied.

9. Brigadier Rayner

asked the Minister of Transport what instructions have been given by his Department about the scrapping of old wooden railway wagons.

Mr. Barnes

In August, 1946, I issued instructions that requisitioned wagons built prior to 1901 should be withdrawn from traffic when they required certain uneconomic repairs. The majority of these wagons are being broken up to provide material for repairs to other stock, and a number are being employed for internal user purposes.

Brigadier Rayner

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a good many of the big wagon repairing firms consider that old but repairable wagons are being broken up under Government instructions much faster than new ones are being provided, and that this fact is likely to add to the gravity of the severe transport crisis which will soon be upon us?

Mr. Barnes

Sometimes there is truth in a general observation, but it is much more helpful if the facts can be submitted so that they can be examined.

30. Brigadier Rayner

asked the Minister of Supply what is the present monthly production rate of the 50,000 16-ton coal waggons ordered; and what monthly production rate was anticipated at the time of the order.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. John Wilmot)

Production is running at a rate of about 1,500 a month. It was originally intended to complete the order in five years, which would have meant an overall average output of rather less than 1,000 a month.

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