HC Deb 11 March 1959 vol 601 cc1249-50
41. Mr. Page

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, in view of the British Transport Commission's inquiry into the possibility of the sale of such of its land as is not at present used for purposes of its undertaking, what further consideration he has given to proposals for the disposal of the whole of the Commission's railway undertaking, other than the permanent way itself, thus assimilating rail transport with trunk-road road transport.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

It has always been the Commission's policy to dispose of land not likely to be required for the purposes of its undertaking, and it has therefore made no special inquiry.

No proposals on the other point raised by the hon. Member have been put to us.

Mr. Page

Is my hon. Friend aware of the growing public dissatisfaction with the operation of the railways as a nationalised undertaking? Is he also aware that there can scarcely be more dissatisfaction among the employees, who are threatening to strike because they are convinced that they are 20 per cent. underpaid? Is my hon. Friend further aware that if rail transport were relieved of the upkeep of the permanent way, in the same way as road transport is relieved of the upkeep of the roads, it could be run as an efficient service under public enterprise?

Mr. Nugent

I do not think that shifting the cost of maintaining the permanent way would be a solution. There are bound to be complaints until the modernisation process has been completed, but the upward trend of passenger traffics over recent months seems to give some indication contrary to what my hon. Friend suggests.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Would the Minister point out to his hon. Friend that the difficulties with which the railways are confronted are due entirely to Government policy? Secondly, is not it regrettable that his hon. Friend has only now come round to the point of view that the integration of road and rail transport is necessary? Will the Minister ask his hon. Friend whether he voted against the denationalisation of the road haulage industry, which is responsible for the limitation of integration?

Mr. Nugent

As the Government are responsible for financing the modernisation of OUT railways, I think that the hon. Members' supplementary question is out of place.

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