HC Deb 19 March 1980 vol 981 cc392-3
5. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Minister of Transport whether any proposals have been put to him by the British Railways Board for further investment in main line high-speed rolling stock.

Mr. Fowler

I have not received any proposals since those referred to in my reply of 23 January to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn).

Mr. Watkins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the East Coast main line between London, the North-East of England, and Scotland, many Inter-City trains are seriously overcrowded and the position is constantly worsening? Will he accept that that demonstrates an urgent need for additional rolling stock?

Mr. Fowler

I am aware of the complaints of overcrowding on that line. However, approval has been given for 95 high-speed trains, and 60 of these are already in service.

Mr. Adley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, regarding investment in highspeed rolling stock, electrification or the Channel tunnel, British Railways feel increasingly that they could obtain funds other than Government funds were they not restrained by current legislation? Is my right hon. Friend considering discussions with the chairman of British Railways to change the financial relationship between the Government and British Railways over profitable new investment?

Mr. Fowler

I am starting discussions with the chairman of British Railways, and am prepared to consider that point.

Mr. Flannery

Is the Minister aware that, although the trials and building of the high-speed rolling stock took place in the Derby area, the line from Sheffield to St. Pancras is steadily deteriorating and a diversion is necessary on the main line from Edinburgh to complete the journey in 31 hours? Will he take action? Is he aware that South Yorkshire believes that it is considered a non-viable area because it does not have a proper rail connection?

Mr. Fowler

I do not accept that generalisation. We have recently approved four high-speed trains on the East Coast main line. I am prepared further to consider the position of Sheffield.

Mr. Gummer

I understand that my right hon. Friend is to visit my constituency in the autumn. When he does so will he note the great need for highspeed anything on the line to Norwich? When he considers these proposals, will he bear in mind the bad journey that he will experience on his way to Diss?

Mr. Fowler

I am not sure that I regard that as the best way to persuade me to visit my hon. Friend's constituency. I shall certainly look at transport provision, including rail provision, in the East of England.