HC Deb 28 January 1981 vol 997 cc913-4
7. Mr. Heddle

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he plans to meet the chairman of British Railways in order to discuss progress on the experimental vehicle projects.

Mr. Fowler

The lightweight railbus is an important development which I shall want to discuss fully with the chairman. I believe that the railbus could certainly prove to be a major innovation for the board's rural services.

Mr. Heddle

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he confirm that that will hasten the introduction of low-cost rail service, particularly in rural areas in the West Midlands and the Birmingham commuter belt?

Mr. Fowler

I do not wish to regionalise the matter, in spite of my constituency interest in it. The new lightweight railbus is cheaper than the diesel multiple unit, and a new DMU would cost twice as much as the new experimental bus.

Mr. Maxton

In terms of experimental vehicle projects, will the Secretary of State say when the advanced passenger train will finally be introduced on the Glasgow to London line? Is he aware that I appreciate that it is not supposed to fully experimental, but the time that it has taken would imply that it is?

Mr. Fowler

That is a question for the British Railways Board. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are three prototypes. It is up to the board to make a statement on when the service will be introduced.

Mr. Peter Mills

While I welcome these new railbuses, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is very important to test them thoroughly in hilly areas such as the South-West of England? Will he see what can be done to introduce these experimental railbuses on the Exeter to Barnstaple line and the Plymouth—Bere Alston line? Is he aware that that would give them all the experimental work they needed?

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful for that suggestion. One of the proposals that we are considering at present is a demonstration project on a rural line, which would include not only the vehicle, but improvements in signalling and modernising the level crossings to see whether we can simplify the procedure, with the aim of achieving a more cost-effective service. That is the way forward, rather than some of the experiments that have been carried out in the past.