HC Deb 24 February 1970 vol 796 cc970-1
19. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Transport how many miles of track were being used by British Railways on 1st January, 1970; by what percentage the route mileage had declined between 1st January, 1965, and this date; and what was the comparable percentage reduction between 1st January, 1960, and 1st January, 1965.

Mr. Murray

Figures for 1st January, 1970, are not yet available. They will be published, as usual, in the Railways Board's Annual Report for 1969. Total track mileage in use on 1st January, 1969, was 33,976. The decline in route mileage between 1st January, 1965, and 1st January, 1969, was 22.2 per cent.; between 1st January, 1960, and 1st January, 1965, it was 13.5 per cent.

Mr. Taylor

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the closures of lines are going at twice the rate under the Conservative Government? That being the case, can he say whether the previous estimate of minimum mileage announced by his right hon. Friend's predecessor will be adhered to?

Mr. Murray

We do not say that. What the hon. Gentleman has to take into consideration is the fact that percentages do not tell the whole story and that the Government—[Interruption.] One can always tell when the Opposition are not going to like what is about to be said. They start to jeer. The Government are paying nearly £60 million per annum to keep open socially desirable services.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Government are telling the whole story? Is it not a fact, as the hon. Gentleman has now admitted, that route mileage closures under the present Government have been at nearly twice the average of the Conservative Government? Does he now agree with the Prime Minister, who described the Beeching Plan as "an act of vandalism"?

Mr. Murray

This Government always tell the whole story—[Interruption.] I suggest that that reaction shows that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like it. This Government have recognised the need to stabilise the situation and have greatly increased the confidence of the staff and the users of our railways.