HC Deb 21 December 1960 vol 632 cc1296-8
24. Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Transport how many new electric rail services under the capital development programme are to be opened in the near future.

Mr. Marples

The British Transport Commission plans to complete three electrification schemes in 1961. These are the electrification of the London, Tilbury and Southend line, and extensions to the electrification schemes already in operation on the Kent Coast and Glasgow suburban lines.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley - Davenport

Will my right hon. Friend not agree, from his own unfortunate experience in Manchester, that every time British Railways open a new rail service they celebrate the occasion by making all the trains later than ever? For the convenience of the public, therefore, would he consider opening these new services very early on Sunday morning?

Mr. Marples

Certainly. Especially as I know my hon. Friend is always at church at this time.

Mr. Strauss

When will the Minister be able to give us some information about the completion of the London to Crewe electrification?

Mr. Marples

A few days ago I received the revised estimates from the British Transport Commission. I will consider them, and I hope to make a fairly early announcement.

Mr. Albu

In view of the difficulties which have occurred in electrification recently, will the Minister assure the House that in the new plan of the railways there will be no weakening of the central technical control of the railway system so that the railway engineers are not put in a still worse competitive position vis-à-vis their suppliers?

Mr. Marples

That can be raised in the debate but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have that in mind because technically we want to try to put these matters right. It is not a matter for rejoicing but we want to put it right as quickly as we can both in the interests of the travelling public and in the interests of the manufacturers.

36. Mr. Redhead

asked the Minister of Transport what proposals he has received regarding changes in the capital allocation for the electrification of the railways.

Mr. Marples

I am not sure what changes the hon. Member has in mind. It was necessary to establish the British Transport Commission's provisional investment allocation for 1961 before a detailed programme for that year was available. This allocation took account, however, of known commitments, including electrification, and made provision for certain expenditure on other schemes. These latter, which have now been specified in a detailed programme for 1961, will be considered on their merits under the existing procedures and in the light of the four-year programme which the Commission has now submitted to me.

Mr. Redhead

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is essential for his proper and full consideration of any such proposals respecting electrification, that he should at once decide to widen the inquiry that he announced two days ago concerning the failure at Glasgow to include, at least, the similar experience on the Eastern Region where, after eighteen days of operation, an entirely new system broke down and it was necessary for British Railways to announce that all the engines supplied by the English Electric Company were to be returned to the makers for rectification of a serious fault.

Mr. Marples

The problem is not similar to the one in Glasgow. They have not found out the reason for the failure in Glasgow, whereas in the Eastern Region they think they have.

43. Mr Mackie

asked the Minister of Transport what capital expenditure he has authorised for further electrification of the railways.

Mr. Marples

No specific authorisation of capital expenditure has been made for railway electrification schemes other than those already in hand. Other electrification schemes included in the Commission's 1961 programme are at present under consideration. I cannot yet say what investment may be authorised for these schemes which will have to be studied in the context of the Commission's proposed four-year programme which has just been submitted to me.

Mr. Mackie

Before the Minister authorises the expenditure of any further money on electrification, will he ensure that there is no further debacle such as there has been on the North London line in the last four weeks since it was opened? The hon. Member for Enfield, East has twice had to walk home because of breakdowns. The general public is sick of it. The Minister should examine this matter more fully. Although there were no explosions on the North London line, which is what happened in Glasgow, I want the Minister to be aware that there have been more breakdowns on the North London line than there were on the Glasgow line.

Mr. Marples

I share the general desire to get the electrification right. I hope that the technical failure recently experienced will be only temporary, but it was one of the reasons for the pause in the modernisation programme and the reassessment of it.

Mr. J. Harvey

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Members of Parliament in North-East London have been receiving vast numbers of angry representations from their constituents about the chaos that has developed? We must all be profoundly concerned, not only about the inadequacy of the electrification which has taken place, but about the constant delays in making any definite decision on the Victoria Line, all of which very adversely affect our constituents. We hope that something definite and positive will be done about these matters in the very near future.

Mr. Marples

I will take note of what my hon. Friend has said.

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