HC Deb 21 May 1958 vol 588 cc1295-6
51. Mr. G. Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in the light of the railway wages settlement, he will make a statement on steps which the British Transport Commission have agreed with him to take to improve their financial position.

52. Mr. Strauss

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what economies in the running of the railways were agreed upon between himself and the Chairman of the British Transport Commission in the discussions preceding the final wage negotiations.

Mr. Watkinson

The general steps which the British Transport Commission is taking were set out in the Chairman's letter of 2nd May. These measures were put in hand on 1st May and have since been intensified. They will result in heavy cuts in services and thus reductions in manpower as the following examples show.

Cuts in train mileage, including the withdrawal of services on main line routes, will become effective on 30th June in the Western Region which plans to save nearly 100,000 train miles in total weekly; the London Midland Region has already made a reduction of 690 trains a week and will make further economies by 30th June.

Other regions are also active, and proposals to close unremunerative services which will come forward very shortly to Transport Users Consultative Committees include one from the Eastern Region, eight from the London Midland, nine from the North Eastern and fourteen from the Western.

I am seeing the Chairman of the Central Transport Consultative Committee this afternoon.

An approach has already been made to the Consultative Committee concerned for the withdrawal of the passenger service between Newhaven and Dieppe during the winter months, and the Southampton/Havre service is under discussion.

Wagons are now being withdrawn from service at a rate of 3,000 per week.

I am satisfied that the Commission with the co-operation of the unions has made a good start, and I shall keep the House informed of further progress.

Mr. Wilson

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if it would be possible to give reports from time to time as to the actual progress made with these economies?

Mr. Watkinson

Yes. I shall be delighted to do that. At the end of my Answer, I said that I intended to keep the House informed.

Mr. Strauss

While, of course, we all welcome good economies in this public service, can the Minister give an assurance that the many cuts he has now suggested will not in fact as a result interfere with a good public railway service to this country? In view of the fact that the cuts are so extensive, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the question arises in the minds of most hon. Members who have listened to him today of whether our railway service is being severely damaged by the cuts he has announced?

Mr. Watkinson

I do not take that view, nor does the Commission. The facts are that these cuts are part of the policy of streamlining our railway service to make it fit in with the twentieth century and not the nineteenth century.