HC Deb 18 July 1979 vol 970 cc1751-4
2. Mr. Bagier

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to meet the chairman of the British Railways Board.

3. Mr. Beith

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to meet the chairman of the British Railways Board.

29. Mr. Straw

asked the Minister of Transport when he next intends to meet the chairman of the British Railways Board.

Mr. Fowler


Mr. Bagier

When the Minister meets the chairman, will he assure him that he does not want to see any more Beeching-type cuts? Will he also assure him that there will be necessary investment in rolling stock for rural transport and cross-country routes such as the Newcastle—Sunderland—Middlesbrough route? Does he agree that unless there is such an assurance there will be Beeching-type cuts as a result of the complete breakdown of available stock?

Mr. Fowler

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. Investment levels are under review. I repeat what I have said before: I have no intention whatsoever of presiding over a fresh round of Beeching-type cuts on the railways.

Mr. Beith

Will the Minister discuss with the chairman of British Rail the bad recent punctuality record on the East Coast main line which has affected passengers and the delivery of national newspapers in the North of England? Is he aware that British Rail attributes this not to the problems of the Penmanshiel tunnel but to there not being enough locomotives? Will he consider the investment implications of that?

Mr. Fowler

There have been problems involving that tunnel. I shall discuss the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman with the chairman of British Rail.

Mr. Straw

Will the Minister also discuss with Sir Peter Parker the appalling state of the diesel units used on the Preston-Blackburn and Colne-Blackburn-Manchester lines, many of which are more than 20 years old? When will those units be replaced?

Mr. Fowler

The board is aware of the unsatisfactory condition of some of its fleet of DMUs and is considering making replacements. Some replacements should be complete by the end of the year. I am ready to give urgent consideration to any proposals by the board for a programme of construction.

Mr. Alan Clark

Does the Minister agree that the chairman of British Rail's vanity is not matched by his competence?

Mr. Russell Kerr

That is not saying a lot.

Mr. Clark

Will the Minister suggest to the chairman, as a publicity gimmick of the type on which he is keen, that he might personally wash one compartment?

Mr. Fowler

I am not sure who my hon. Friend was getting at in the last part of his question. I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the chairman's attention. It is common ground that the current chairman, Sir Peter Parker, has made and is making an outstanding contribution.

Mr. Anderson

Has the Minister noted in the recent package from President Carter in response to the energy crisis a new emphasis on public transport in the United States? When the Minister discusses this matter with the chairman of British Rail, will he be prepared to say that he will devote the resources necessary to electrification and to the increasing use of rural lines and pricing policy to ensure that Britain also comes to terms with the energy crisis?

Mr. Fowler

I noted what President Carter said. It is clear that the United Kingdom will have to take on board some of the matters to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. However, our public transport provision is infinitely better than that in the United States.

Mr. Trippier

I appreciate that lighting is essential at the junctions of bypasses and on slip roads to motorways, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the further installation of light standards along the full length of the M62 and M66 is unnecessary expenditure? Does he agree that public money would be better spent on repairing secondary roads throughout the country on which every hon. Member—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know whether that comes under British Rail.

Mr. Fowler

I understand my hon. Friend's concern and I am aware that he has a question on the subject on the Order Paper. I shall leave my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to answer it.

Mr. Booth

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is no provision within British Rail's present capital programme for the replacement of the many diesel multiple units, which is now urgent? Will he be discussing with the chairman of British Rail the increase in the capital programme for British Rail that is necessary to meet that urgent problem?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, I shall discuss that important matter with the chairman. As I said to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), it is one of the issues that I shall want to take up with him.