HC Deb 17 December 1965 vol 722 cc1637-53

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn—[Mr. Ifor Davies.]

12.17 p.m.

Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)

It is not very long since my constituents and those who live to the north of the Manchester conurbation had reason to be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport because of his decision to reprieve the Manchester-Bury line, which had previously been threatened with closure. But the ghosts of Dr. Beeching and previous Tory Ministers of Transport are now hovering above the line again. I cannot emphasise too strongly the concern which is felt at recent developments by my constituents. A new wave of speculation and deep misgivings have been aroused by the decisions to increase certain fares on the line and to cut down on certain services. It is for this reason that I sought this opportunity to debate the matter.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, later in the debate. His energy and zeal on behalf of his constituents who have used the line from Bury and Radcliffe, both before the threatened closure and since the recent announcements, have demonstrated how acutely aware he is of their needs. The service is for them perhaps even a more vital lifeline than it is for mine. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow), who is my own Member of Parliament and who ought to represent my interests in the House, is not here today.

The problem of the Manchester-Bury service cannot be dealt with in isolation from the general problem of rapid transit from and to city centres, a problem which Manchester shares with many other large conurbations, not only in this country but throughout the world. This problem cannot be dealt with without the context of a philosophy for transport in which social needs and costing must replace the narrow cost-accounting principle of the Beeching era.

I recall, in this respect, the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the debate on the Beeching railway Report in the House on 30th April, 1963, when he made some very pertinent comments. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Ministry of Transport will heed these words in a way which has not been apparent up to now, particularly in respect of suburban transport services, because there delays and congestion exist. The cost of accidents, redevelopment, policing and lighting have to he borne by the community at large no less than the cost of subsidising a suburban transport service. In that debate, the Prime Minister, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, said: I tremble to think of the Beeching technique being applied to another service, the Post Office. Should we close those post offices and those delivery systems which work at a loss, and keep only those that work at a profit? Two sentences later, he said: So with the railways. We may close a railway losing £8,000 a year, but suppose this means spending £250,000 on improving the roads, on providing alternative services, or subsidising bus services in those areas. Suppose we save £8,000, and then add immeasurably more in social costs through increased road congestion? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April 1963; Vol. 676, c. 911.] The cost of road congestion can be measured not only in money. It is such that the very life of our city as a viable, urban community is at stake. So long as the main radial roads—such as, in the case of Manchester, the Bury Old Road, the Bury New Road and Cheetham Hill Road—as well as the central areas remain congested and become increasingly choked the central area of the city is likely to become progressively strangled. We have to add to this the high rate of vehicle ownership and the use of vehicles which threatens to compound the problem.

The key lies in diverting traffic by means of the attractiveness of the public transport service. It may well be that one day Manchester will have a monorail from Ringway to Langley. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) has made some interesting suggestions in respect of transport in Manchester. On the line from Bury via Radcliffe White-field, Prestwich and Crumpsall and the line from the North to the centre of the city the obvious service to be cultivated, improved and made more attractive and perhaps given better publicity is the Manchester-Bury railway service. Instead of this, the opposite is now happening.

My hon. Friend must know that funds for roads are not forthcoming. The problem of congestion is naturally becoming daily more acute. The latest figures which I have—they may be slightly out of date—for the Manchester conurbation of 2,250,000 people is that of those travelling into central Manchester in the morning peak 14,000 come by private car, 90,000 come by bus and 40,000 come by rail. Roughly 7,000 of those who travel by rail use the Manchester-Bury line. Even if all the through traffic were eliminated by building ring roads round the city, and even if all the city roads were widened and adequate off-street parking provided, the 9 per cent. of the people who travel by car could be increased to only 22 per cent.

It is no wonder that at this time, when we are weakening our service, towns and cities like Stockholm, Oslo, Rome, Lisbon, Hamburg, Copenhagen and numerous United States cities are busy building systems of rapid transit or taking steps to preserve and sometimes to restore urban rail transport. As Wilfred Owen said in an interesting article on the Metropolitan transport problem in 1958: The dilemma … is that traffic continues to outstrip the rapid pace set by road builders. During the rush hours the tremendous jams on major freeway routes have reduced average speeds and intensified traffic hazards". I invite my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, or perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, to come with me and to see what happens in my constituency at the junction of Bury Old Road, Cheetham Hill, Leicester Road and Middleton Road early in the morning before nine o'clock so that he may realise the problem about which we are speaking.

The network of roads and car parking spaces which would be necessary to allow access to the centre by private car makes this type of solution impracticable if not undesirable from the point of view of preserving the character of the city. Paradoxically, in this situation, we have rendered the service less attractive and less effective, while the urgent priority should be to halt the current deterioration of the quality of public transport services and to improve the quality and standard in many cases, particularly on this line.

Already—and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe may have something to say about this—bus time schedules are being thrown out by congestion. The ratepayers will have to bear an enormous cost in order that extra buses and services may be provided. The alternative offered for equivalent distances in travelling by bus bears no comparison with a frequent and regular train service along this route. Yet, in spite of this, cuts have recently been made and prices increased. These have been made at precisely the peak periods when the rail service is most needed.

I am fully aware of the problem. I know the difficulties involved in having rolling stock lying idle all day, or for a major part of the day. But this is inevitable, and it has to be measured against the social cost to which I have referred and the social priorities involved in dealing with the commuter problem.

I am most perturbed by a statement in a letter written to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe, who very kindly has put all his papers at my disposal in a most generous way. The statement says: The Minister … would expect the Board to take such steps as may be open to them to achieve economies consistent with the provision of a service to meet essential needs". I want to know whether this means only a skeleton or token service, or a service which will be so unattractive that passengers will cease to use the line and thus give British Railways the final excuse to close it. This is the unpleasant logic of the vicious circle into which we seem to be entering.

The fear locally is that by diminishing the attractiveness of this line British Railways will be able to say, "It is not paying. Now we have a good argument for closing it". This is the fear of many people in the constituency to whom I have spoken and in the area where I live. The existing daily peak hour return ticket has now been withdrawn. Therefore, passengers are expected to buy three-monthly or monthly unlimited travel season tickets. This is not easy at a cost of £10 19s. 0d. and £4 1s. 0d., respectively, for an ordinary family man with a moderate income.

Also there will be four fewer trains in the morning peak and six fewer trains in the evening peak. The Sunday service from Bury to Manchester hardly merits the name of a service. There will be five fewer trains in the morning and evening peaks from Manchester to Bury. Some calculations have been made on the basis of this. It would seem that there are 1,861 passengers for four trains, that is, 465 passengers for one train. But each train has a capacity of only 372. It seems that on every train 93 people will have to stand. I wonder how long people will be prepared to put up with this before deciding to use some other form of transport. Let it not be forgotten that on 6th January, 1964, off-peak services were reduced from one train every 20 minutes to one train every 30 minutes. Certainly early and late trains were also withdrawn. Therefore, there is a gradual erosion of the railway service.

The proposal was made, I understand by the staff side, for a train from Bury between 7.30 and 8 a.m. and another at a suitable time during the evening peak. I understand that this was rejected. This left the staff with the impression that there was a deliberate attempt to force passengers away from the service.

Yet, the Minister, in making his decision, recognised the necessity of the line. He noted the extent to which the line is used, particularly by large numbers of commuters in and out of Manchester at peak hours, and that closure would cause serious hardship to those making essential daily journeys by reasons of the congestion on the corresponding roads. He also recognised the present contribution of the line to the transport system of the conurbation. Those were the words of the Minister.

My objection to current developments and possible closure are very much those which I outlined at the time in the objection I submitted against the closure that was threatened under the previous Government. I outlined a number of specific objections to the closure which I should like to repeat, because they are of close interest to the people who use the line.

Children travel to various schools along the line. I used it myself for six years when going to Bury Grammar School. There is also the Stand Grammar School and one to which, of course, I did not have entry—the Bury Grammar School for Girls—as well as the Bury Convent High School, the Radcliffe Technical College and Bury Technical College.

Another of the problems is that of mothers with young babies, and I have experience of this in a personal sense. My wife, for example, would take the train rather than the bus to go into Manchester, because that is the most useful means of transport for people so placed. Many housewives along the line who have children find it of great benefit when going to do their shopping in Manchester, as do people visiting relatives along the line.

Holidaymakers find the line a great boon for the same reason when they have a large amount of luggage. There is always the danger that if a holidaymaker starts his journey by another means of transport than rail he will go on by another means of transport. Sometimes, I believe, the Ministry of British Railways tend to underestimate the line as a feeder for the main line services from say, Victoria or Exchange stations. I know that closure or even the weakening of services along the line would affect nurses and hospital staff, as well as visitors to patients in hospitals in my constituency at Crumpsall, Booth Hall and Springfield. Some of them would be placed in a very difficult situation. The same applies to workers at I.C.I. Dyestuffs Division, with its very large factory, and residents along the line would certainly be affected by any deterioration of the service or closure.

One has also to take into account new estates. In my constituency, we have the new estate near Bowker Vale station, off Blackley New Road. There is a new estate at Whitefield. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe may refer to the possibility of a new estate in Bury.

Surely, one has to relate the transport needs of the community to future planning and to the future development of communities on the north of the Manchester conurbation. It is my earnest contention that it will be cheaper to subsidise the line—I understand that the saving from the reduction of services is only £14,000—than to bear the other cost burdens that would arise from closure such as I have mentioned in the form of congestion, accidents, policing, lighting of roads and the rest.

This is a very important problem for Manchester. Why cannot we have an outside firm to look into the accounts and finances of the line? There are rather disturbing rumours that many of the figures which have been given to the public are inaccurate. I do not know whether there is any truth in this. All I can say is that the rumours would be disposed of if we had an outside firm to do this.

I want to know what costing has been done of accidents and of other items which are borne by the rates, including the results of increased traffic density on the radial roads and in the central area. What is the cost of these factors and of alternative transport services which might well have to be subsidised by the ratepayer? What public relations work has been done to get people to use the line, to sell it to the public and to attract commuters? What has been done on the line to achieve economies in staff? The staff ratio of British Railways is remarkably high when comparison is made with the Continent. We have been presented only with a fait accompli based upon the existing financial difficulties. Only the knowledge that the previous Government, in an act of unmitigated folly, proposed the closure of the line prevents me from making my strictures in respect of British Railways today more harsh than they already are.

I want to know when we will get a coherent transport policy which reflects the needs of planning and urgent development and which decides upon a balance between different forms of public transport. The Bury line is a microcosm of the whole transport problem. My constituents can judge the effectiveness of the Ministry only on the basis of action taken concerning this line. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who has been so good as to come here today and who has to deal with all too many of these transport problems, will take heed of what Manchester says today and do tomorrow in London all that needs to be done to reverse this retrograde step which has now put the line in jeopardy again.

12.38 p.m.

Mr. David Ensor (Bury and Radcliffe)

I am indeed grateful to have this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to the situation concerning my constituency of Bury and Radcliffe. I am also grateful for the help and assistance that I have been given by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), because we are both intimately and vitally concerned with this railway line.

The House will, no doubt, remember from what we have been accustomed to call the Beeching Report that it was suggested that this line should be closed. For some time before I had the honour to become a Member of this House, I was very active with my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley in attempting to get that decision reversed and hoping that we would be able to persuade the Minister of Transport not to consent to the closure.

As the House knows, we were fortunate enough that in February this year my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport refused to consent to closure of the line. That, however, was not the end of the story as one might have expected. It was, indeed, only the beginning. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley, I think that we have been too kind to British Railways following their subsequent behaviour.

There is no doubt whatever that this line is part of the lifeblood of my constituency. A vast number of people use this railway to go to work in Manchester every day. As my hon. Friend has said, it is used by a great number of schoolchildren and people who attend technical colleges down the line at Radcliffe and elsewhere. It is used also by a vast number of householders, particularly young householders, who have to go to do their shopping in Manchester. As we all know, it is quite impossible to take a pram or a folding chair on a bus, whereas it is quite a simple operation to put it on the train.

When my right hon. Friend the Minister said that he would refuse to agree to closure of the line, he said at the same time that he hoped that the Railways Board would take certain steps to see what it could do in achieving a compromise. That is what we all want. On this side of the House in particular, perhaps some of us have always said that a railway service should be a public service and that it should be provided for the benefit of the people of the country. Some of us would go further and say that it was about time that we got a great deal more heavy traffic off the roads and put it back on to the railways.

Be that as it may, the Railways Board, having been told by my right hon. Friend in February this year that it would not be allowed to close the Bury to Manchester line, which today carries traffic to the extent of many thousands of passengers a day, has in my view done everything that it could in a backhanded and miserable, mean way to achieve by some other method what it could not achieve legally. Closure of this line was refused. What has been done is to put up the fares and withdraw peak hour transport with the result, I am reliably informed, that some 1,800 passengers a day will now either have to stand, or take an alternative method of transport into Manchester.

I do not think it is carrying one's imagination too far to suggest that 1,800 passengers are not going to put up indefinitely with standing on a journey from Bury to Manchester which takes some half an hour, which means, of course, that some other form of transport will be taken by those people. There are only two other forms of transport, private car or a public bus service from Bury to Manchester. Those of us who represent these areas know perfectly well that in the peak hours, somewhere between 8.30 and 9.45 in the morning and approximately between 4.45 and 6.15 in the afternoon, the Bury to Manchester A.56 is jammed already. It is nothing unusual for one going by car to Manchester at that time in the evening to take anything up to an hour and half for that journey of seven miles. That is nothing unusual.

What is even more important is, what are we going to do with those 1,800 passengers a day who are obviously going to be driven off the line and on to the road not only by the fact that British Railways have withdrawn the peak hour trains but also—and I use the word advisedly—have had the impertinence to raise the fare from 3s. 10d. to 5s. 8d. That is calculated to drive people off the railway line. So in about 12 months' time British Railways will come and say to my right hon. Friend, "We are losing money. We cannot go on like this. We want you to close the line because we are losing 2,000 passengers a day." Well, of course they are going to lose 2,000 passengers a day when they put up the fare from 3s. 10d. to 5s. 8d. and take off a high percentage of the peak hour trains, which means people will either have to stand or——

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

My hon. Friend is making a substantial and impressive case against any cut-back in railway services. Would he agree that, from the information he is presenting to the House, there is a very strong case for talking of the expansion of the suburban services in Manchester, and that in fact British Railways have opportunities to improve suburban rail services in various parts of the Manchester conurbation, certainly in south Manchester? Would he agree further that unless we do have an expansion of suburban rail services the roads of Manchester will very soon be choked to death by unnecessary traffic?

Mr. Ensor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that situation. Of course that is true. What we do not want in South Lancashire is a cut-back of suburban traffic. We want an increase in rail services, not only for Bury but for other parts of South Lancashire.

To continue the argument, a grave situation was that, when, under the Beeching Report, it was suggested that this line should be closed, one naturally had to assume that some other form of transport would have to be provided for the thousands of people who wished—indeed, not only wished, but had—to travel from Bury to Manchester every day; and I am informed that if that line had in fact been closed the cost to the Bury Corporation would have been in the neighbourhood of £500,000 to provide an alternative bus service to get the people who wished to go there into Manchester. That alone is a very large sum of money for a county borough which is by no means a large one and of the size of Bury in my constituency. The tragedy of it would have been that, having had to spend that sum of money on the bus service, we should have added incalculably to the chaos of the traffic in the morning and evening and should have spent all that money on providing buses which, indeed, would probably have been used for only an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.

I regret it if I have sometimes spoken rather strongly, perhaps, but I feel very strongly about this question and especially as it affects my constituency, because this railway is vital to my constituency. It is part of its lifeblood, and I shudder to think what might happen if this railway were closed. The unpleasant aspect, as I have reminded the House—and I charge British Railways on this very point—is that this is a backhanded, miserable, mean and unpleasant attempt to close this line which they could not get legally closed, and I am entirely in support of what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

Before my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary replies, may I ask him a question with regard to the tariffs generally on this line and on suburban services in Manchester generally? Could he in his reply itemise the factors which have given rise to the increase in tariffs on suburban rail services in Manchester?

12.48 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

This is the second time in this Parliament that we have had an opportunity to debate public transport affairs in the Manchester area. Previously we had a very interesting debate with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) on the question of amalgamating bus undertakings in the Manchester area. Now my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) have raised the question of one of the Manchester conurbation's vital rail links, the electric service from Bury to Manchester by way of Prestwich. I have good reason to know of the passionate feelings of my hon. Friends who have never lacked energy and diligence since this Parliament began in pressing the claims and the needs of the population of the Manchester area in terms of transport, and I hope that I can at any rate allay some of the fears which they have expressed this afternoon and give some sort of constructive projection about the future for the Manchester area.

I referred to this as one of Manchester's vital rail links, and I did so advisedly. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley who opened the debate recalled the recent history of this line when the Beeching Report proposals had to be dealt with by my right hon. Friend.

On 29th January this year, my right hon. Friend announced that he had refused his consent to the withdrawal of the passenger services on the Manchester—Bury line as proposed under the Beeching Report by the British Railways Board. I want the House to understand and appreciate the importance of that decision. In putting forward the proposal for the closure of the Manchester—Bury electric service, the Board claimed in its representations that it would annually save the amount of £162,800 by closure. In the light of the Railways Board's serious financial position, that was the reason why the closure proposal was put forward. The number of passengers carried on the service has been mentioned, and I am advised that at the time my right hon. Friend took his decision about 7,000 passengers a day were carried in each direction, including about 4,000 peak hour commuters travelling to and from Manchester.

My right hon. Friend's decision on 29th January was a clear case of the application of the Labour Government's policy on railway closures, distinguished from the policy of our predecessors by our refusal to consider the question solely on the grounds of either hardship or financial accountancy. I hope that my hon. Friends will bear in mind the substantial sum which it was claimed would be saved by the closure.

In his announcement, my right hon. Friend Trade clear his reasons. He was influenced not only by the T.U.C.C.'s conclusi an that closure would cause serious hardship to a large number of displaced rail passengers by reason of congestion on the corresponding roads onto which they would be thrust in buses and cars, but also by the contribution that the line was making to the transport system of the Manchester conurbation. That was a vital planning point.

In Manchester, as in other great conurbations of the country, as I mentioned in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Openshaw when we were discussing the amalgamation of bus undertakings, there is now a very important study under way. We have established a comprehensive land use and transportation study on which all the local authorities in the area, the bus operators, the railway operators and everyone concerned with the future planning of the Manchester conurbation are brought together to consider in a comprehensive and coordinated way what forms of transportation are going to be required for the Manchester area in the future.

May I say in parentheses that I hope that the possibility of a monorail or the use of some new form of transport will be urgently considered by those con- cerned in the Manchester area. We want to give them every encouragement and assistance to use the benefits of such techniques.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can my hon. Friend say when he expects to know the outcome of that study and whether it will include an examination of the proposals in a recent issue of Modern Railways for a really good, electrified suburban rail service for Wythenshawe and the south of Manchester generally?

Mr. Swingler

Certainly. These studies have arisen out of the planning report in which Buchanan spoke in favour of the integration of policies on housing, town planning, transportation and so on. The whole purpose is to consider the general scheme of development of the conurbation and its transport needs, and certainly not to exclude the possibilities of new rail services, including new technical means of transport not previously used. We certainly want them to consider those.

Naturally, because of the immense complexity of the positions in conurbations that we have inherited, these studies take a considerable time. However, we hope to get some preliminary recommendations before the studies are complete on which the British Railways Board, the bus operators and so on can begin to work before we get any final plan about the future shape and size of development of the conurbation.

We therefore regard the establishment of the comprehensive land use study in the Manchester conurbation, as in others, as being extremely important, and the sorts of suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley are matters which they will bring under their purview and on which they will hope to make recommendations in the near future.

Let me be quite clear and emphatic about the proposed closure of the Manchester-Bury line. The closure was refused by my right hon. Friend in January of this year. There is no question of going back on that decision. I say that again. There is no question of going back on the rejection of the closure proposal made by my right hon. Friend in January of this year for the reasons that I have mentioned. His decision means that in our view the line and the service must be kept running. But, as I said, the Railway Boards analysed that £162,000 per annum was being lost on the running of the service, and that is a substantial sum of money.

In rejecting the proposal for closure, my right hon. Friend asked the Railways Board to make a thorough review of the running of the line to see whether and where economies could be made consistent with providing a service to meet essential needs of the citizens in the area. Clearly, as my hon. Friends have implied, where a substantial amount of money is being lost it is important that my right hon. Friend should direct the Railways Board to consider what economies can be made. But the details of these economies are an operational matter for the Railways Board. The Board has been charged by Parliament with the duty of making its services as adequate and economical as possible. The losses on the railway services in general have to be carried by the taxpayer, and there are not unlimited funds available for subsidising railway services.

Since the Board is operationally responsible for the management of railway services, it is for the Board to judge what is the scope for making economies, and the Board has freedom to rearrange services providing that it does not discontinue services where the Minister has said that they are essential to meet the important needs of the population.

That is the background, therefore, to the reductions in services on the Manchester-Bury line and the local increases in fares which have been made by the Railways Board following the rejection of the closure proposal.

The Railways Board tells me that these are the maximum working economies that can be made consistent with providing a service for essential needs. Six fewer four-car train units are now required. Six drivers and five guards fewer are now employed on the service. In consequence, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe mentioned, a certain amount of standing is necessary at peak hours, but I am informed that this applies only over comparatively short distances. I have been informed by the Board that it has no plans to make any further changes in the service in the near future. I repeat again that there is no question of any policy of running down the line to prove the case for closure. The question of closure has been decided. It has been decided to keep the line open.

I should, perhaps, deplore some of the rather strong language that has been used. However, I appreciate the strength of feeling that exists about the importance of the line to the Manchester conurbation. Any railway user who is dissatisfied with the adequacy of the service after reductions have been made can, if he is unable to get satisfaction from the Railways Board and after a suitable interval during which experience can be obtained of the new service, take his complaint to the local Transport Users Consultative Committee, which is statutorily bound to consider the matter.

There is, perhaps, a habit among the public, including hon. Members, to regard the sole function of the T.U.C.Cs as being to consider closure proposals. In recent times such proposals have represented a great part of their business, but these committees are established also to consider complaints and criticisms of the adequacy of the services run by the nationalised Railways Board. My hon. Friend's constituents, in considering reductions in these cases, have a perfect right, if they fail to get satisfaction from the Railways Board, to take the matter to their local T.U.C.C. and have it argued out there.

I must say a word about fares. The changes which the Railways Board is locally empowered to make, as the operational manager, to increase fares to try to reduce the losses on the line have obviously aroused the feelings of some of my hon. Friends constituents. The important point to remember is that any regular traveller on this line—and the majority of peak hour commuters are regular travellers—can now, by taking out a season ticket for one or three months, get his daily journey at less cost than the peak hour day return which has been withdrawn. The off-peak day return fares have not been altered.

I appreciate the point that has been made about the substantial sum of money a traveller needs to buy a season ticket. But it is important, when considering the variations which the Board has made, to remember that the regular traveller can still get a season ticket in which in terms of a daily rate, is cheaper than the peak day return which have been withdrawn. These latter matters are the operational and managerial responsibilities of the Board.

If there are appropriate complaints, they should go to the local T.U.C.C., where the matter can be argued out.

I wish completely to allay any fears to the effect that any of these changes have anything to do with jeopardising the future of the Manchester-Bury via Prestwich line. The matter has been decided. As my right hon. Friend has said on many occasions at this Box, there is no statutory power for revoking the decisions which have been taken about closure proposals. In this case my right hon. Friend has taken the decision. He regards this as a vital rail link and wishes to keep this service open for consideration by those who are working on the land use and transportation survey in the Manchester area so that they have an opportunity to consider what further developments and expansion might be made, just as they can carry out the sort of cost-benefit study mentioned by my hon. Friend.

We in the Ministry are interested in promoting cost-benefit studies which take into account all the social factors. This is not an easy matter and the technique has still to be developed. We also do not have the tremendous amount of trained manpower necessary to carry out these studies. We hope to learn much more about this as a result of the seven conurbation studies which are going on now, of which Manchester is one. The studies will enable us to carry out the objectives which have been mentioned in this debate. Those objectives are to expand traffic on the railways, to attract more traffic to them as well as to discover ways and means of organising our transport services in the conurbations in a more satisfactory way in future than has been the case in the past.