HC Deb 21 May 1958 vol 588 cc1294-5
41. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation by how much it is proposed to increase the capital investment programme for railway modernisation for each of the years 1958 and 1959; how the totals to be authorised compare with those planned to be spent on the accelerated programme of British Railways before the capital restrictions imposed in 1957; and by what year it is now anticipated that the modernisation programme will be completed.

Mr. Watkinson

On the understandings described in my letter of 5th May to the Chairman of the B.T.C., the Government are prepared to authorise additional investment in railway modernisation of £25 million for the two years 1958 and 1959. This will make the total investment for the two years about £15 million more than the original estimates made by the Commission before the investment cuts were made, but less than the totals forecast in the regional budgets produced subsequently. There has been no change in the date forecast for the completion of the modernisation plan. Much of it is well ahead of schedule and the object of the increased capital investment which the Government is now prepared to authorise is to accelerate the more immediately remunerative items.

Mr. Davies

I welcome the fact that additional capital investment is to be permitted to enable the British Transport Commission to accelerate its modernisation plans, but would not the Minister agree that it is most regrettable that these cuts were ever made in the first place? Would he not also agree that these cuts were made without adequate consultation with the Commission, which has put the Commission into a serious position?

Mr. Watkinson

No, Sir. The cuts were made after full consultation with the Commission. They were made as part of the Government's policy to restrain inflation, which has been notably successful. Now the Commission has come forward with a detailed "shopping list" showing how, for a certain amount of money, it can expedite the provision of things like diesel locomotives, and so on, which are immediately remunerative. Therefore, I think that the whole examination has been useful and presents a solution which is the best in all possible circumstances.

Mr. Popplewell

Can we have an assurance that any expenditure in which the British Transport Commission has been involved in having to cancel trains and pay compensation will not now be a liability to the Commission, as a consequence of Government action?

Mr. Watkinson

I answered a Question the other day which said that no such question arose.

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