HC Deb 15 May 1963 vol 677 cc1321-3
29. Mr. R. W. Elliott

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give details of the advice he has received from the Transport Holding Company, the Passenger Vehicle Operators' Association and the owners of municipal bus services as to their ability to replace passenger train services in England and Wales with adequate alternative bus services in the event of the Beeching proposals as to rail closures being carried out.

61. Mr. G. Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give details of the advice he received from the Scottish Omnibus Group, the Tilling Group, the British Electric Transport, the Passenger Vehicle Operators' Association and the owners of municipal omnibuses as to their ability to replace closed railway passenger services by adequate omnibus services in the event of the implementation of the Beeching Report.

Mr. Marples

When I met representatives of all the main groups in the bus industry in early April, they assured me of their fullest co-operation in working out arrangements to provide new or strengthened bus services to meet passenger needs when railway services are withdrawn. They told me that, while particular local cases might need a considerable effort, the information available did not suggest that the railway proposals would set them an impossible task nationally.

Mr. Elliott

I thank my right hon. Friend for that most encouraging reply. Has he not been further encouraged by the announcement today by the chairman of the Public Transport Association, who believes that he can provide in practically every case a comparable service? Will my right hon. Friend give some indication of the frequency of the new bus services compared with train services, and also some idea of comparative costs?

Mr. Marples

The statement today was most encouraging. On the question of alternative services provided by buses, there are a number of points which we have discussed with the bus operators and which should be borne in mind. These include the timing of the buses so that they coincide with trains, the number of additional buses needed, road-side shelters—which have not been often mentioned in this context—and the whole problem of luggage. I would not exclude the possibility of trailers behind buses for luggage if we find that the luggage cannot be carried in the buses themselves.

Mr. Wilson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Scottish Bus Group put out a memorandum indicating that it could deal with luggage in Scotland? Have other companies given such an indication?

Mr. Marples

They were all quite confident that, one way or another, they would be able to solve the problem.

Mr. Strauss

When the Minister talks about adequate alternative services, does adequacy to him mean a schedule which will get passengers to their destinations in approximately the same time as by train? If the right hon. Gentleman is convinced that the substitution of buses for rail services will be adequate in that sense, he is the only person in this House who believes it.

Mr. Marples

A large number of considerations must be borne in mind, and the question of adequacy will be one in the first place for the transport users' consultative committees.

Sir J. Maitland

How long will it take for the bus companies to get into a position to be able to satisfy these requirements? What is the length of time it takes to get a new bus, or will the present buses be used although they are not equipped to take luggage?

Mr. Marples

The bus companies have made inquiries and there will be no difficulty about the supply of new buses if and when they are needed. But I believe that all these considerations have been taken into account by the bus companies, which have first-class managements.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman estimate how many additional buses are to be put on our overcrowded roads?

Mr. Marples

Estimates based on the nationalised bus undertakings, which provide 80 to 90 per cent. of the stage carriage services in their areas, suggest that the number will be about 700.