HC Deb 06 June 1962 vol 661 cc462-4
35. Mr. G. Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport what recent general directions he has given to the British Transport Commission as to the closure of the main line railway services and terminals; and if he will make a statement.

50. Mr. Hayman

asked the Minister of Transport what proposals have been submitted to him in connection with the future of the West Region main line railway west of Plymouth.

Mr. Hay

My right hon. Friend has given no directions to the British Transport Commission about the closure of any main line services or terminals. I understand that the Commission has no plans to close sections of the Western Region main line west of Plymouth.

Mr. Wilson

Is my hon. Friend aware of persistent rumours that there is about to be a closure at Plymouth? Does his Answer include a categorical denial that there is any foundation for that? Can he give an assurance that, should there be any proposals which would affect main lines, the parties interested would have ample opportunties for consultation before any action was taken?

Mr. Hay

Yes, Sir. The rumours to which my hon. Friend has referred have been somewhat persistent in the West Country and I am very glad to have the opportunity of denying them. For the future, if in fact any proposals of this kind were made, the Transport Bill at present before Parliament contains a new procedure for dealing with matters of public interest in connection with the withdrawal of services.

Mr. Hayman

Will the Parliamentary Secretary go further than that and give an absolute assurance that under no circumstances will his right hon. Friend agree to any proposal to close the line west of Plymouth, in this generation at least?

Mr. Hay

I think that the hon. Member is asking me to commit myself much too far, certainly for this generation.

Dame Irene Ward

Is this little mouse the answer which my right hon. Friend, as has been freely stated in the Press, is supposed to be giving? Is he aware that these persistent rumours have a very serious effect on property and that it causes great anxiety to masses of people not to know what their future is to be? When are we to have a proper statement, either from my right hon. Friend or from Dr. Beeching, as to exactly what is to be done about our railway services?

Mr. Hay

I am very glad to have had the opportunity today to deny a particular rumour which has been circulating. As to the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, we have made it clear on a number of occasions that until the traffic studies which Dr. Beeching is carrying out are completed no final decisions or statements can be expected.

Mr. Strauss

Would not the most satisfactory statement which the Minister could make be one which suggested that profitability should not be the main or only consideration in closing branch lines, but that public service should also be a factor taken into account?

Mr. Hay

I think my right hon. Friend might make an even more popular statement—that the deficits of the British Transport Commission had diminished to vanishing point and the load was taken off the taxpayers' shoulders.

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