§ 22. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
asked the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has for the improvement and integration of means of heavy freight transport between the industrial areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire, and in particular between Manchester and Sheffield.
§ Mr. Bennett
Is my hon. Friend aware that there are strong rumours in the Greater Manchester area to the effect that British Railways intend to close the line between Sheffield and Manchester via Woodhead? Will he deny these rumours and once again stress that the Labour Government are committed to an integrated transport policy and that it would be disastrous in that area to close a railway line and thus put further traffic on to already congested roads?
§ Mr. Horam
I agree with my hon. Friend that it would be a mistake to put further traffic on to already congested roads. We are about to consider the question whether there should be additional road links between Manchester and Sheffield. The question of the rail link is essentially a matter for the board of British Railways, but it should certainly bear in mind the considerations my hon. Friend has mentioned.
§ Mr. Flannery
Will my hon. Friend accept from me as a Sheffield Member that there is very strong feeling in Sheffield as well as in Manchester about the projected closure of this railway link and that only this morning the Sheffield Press reported that there was a distinct likelihood of strike action, so deep is the feeling about the possible severance of this link?
§ Mr. Horam
I note what my hon. Friend says, but this is in the first instance a matter for the board of British Railways. The board is under an obligation, laid down by the House, to make a profit, or at least not to lose money, on its freight traffic, and it must make this 1431 its first consideration, although it must also bear in mind the other considerations my hon. Friend has raised.