HC Deb 09 March 1977 vol 927 cc1406-7
23. Mr. Cowans

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has received from the British Railways Board and the National Bus Company on the possible replacement of rail passenger services by bus services following the transport consultation document; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. William Rodgers

I have received no proposals, although the Railways Board developed ideas on these lines in its response to the consultation document published some months ago.

Mr. Cowans

Is the Minister aware of the less-than-perfect record of bus services that took over from rail services and, after a relatively short time, ceased to function, thus depriving poorer communities of any transport? Will the Minister, when considering these matters in future, look into the ability of the bus company to maintain a service, and do so before the rail service is stopped, the route demolished and a community deprived of all transport, because no rail services can then be brought back?

Mr. Rodgers

I am aware of that point. My hon. Friend is right in saying that there has been a less-than-perfect record on previous occasions. If we are to have any form of integrated transport system we must approach the matter in an open way, examining how we can best meet needs with the resources available. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable that British Rail should discuss these matters with the trade unions, if that is its wish and judgment.

Mr. Hal Miller

In connection with the representations made by the British Railways Board, will the right hon. Gentleman assure me and my constituents that we shall still be able to travel to Birmingham by express bus and that it will not be withdrawn at the request of the board, thereby involving us in more expense?

Mr. Rodgers

It is not for me to give assurances or not to give them. As I said earlier, I have received no representations of the sort implied in the initial Question. I think that the hon. Gentleman will understand the difficulties. Our discussions are of a very general sort and I cannot judge the outcome at this stage.