HC Deb 10 March 1982 vol 19 cc829-30
3. Mr. Bob Cryer

Secretary of State for Transport when he next expects to meet the chairman of British Railways to discuss investment in track and permanent way structures.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Howell)

I meet the chairman frequently to discuss this and other matters of mutual interest.

Mr. Cryer

No doubt the Secretary of State is aware that British Rail is very concerned that the lack of investment may be causing a deterioration in permanent way structures and track maintenance. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that an inquiry is conductd into the derailment of a freight train today at Leeds? That train was hauling a flask that usually contains nuclear waste, but which was, fortunately, empty. An inquiry must be held to ensure that no such accidents could arise from a deterioration in the standards of track maintenance due to lack of investment.

Mr. Howell

In the first case, such incidents are for British Rail to consider. Track renewal and maintenance has been put outside the investment ceiling to enable British Rail to spend the required amounts. However, British Rail must find the resources from within its overall budget. That must be its main commercial need and that is the way that it must organise its business.

Mr. John H. Osborn

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the amount of investment in track and so on depends on the demand for the service? Is it not an unfortunate fact that British Rail will have to learn the lesson that British Steel learnt two years ago? Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that money spent must be spent on a service that others want to use?

Mr. Howell

Those are lessons that those working for British Rail, those managing it and British Rail travellers will bear in mind when considering the future of the British Rail system.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that over three months ago he agreed to the request of the Britih Railways Board for a thorough-going review of British Rail finances? Why has there been no appointment of a chairman or committee, and no mention of the terms of reference? When will the right hon. Gentleman give us that information and when will he set the review in motion?

Mr. Howell

I hope that that review will take place shortly. However, as a result of the severe disruption and the difficulties experienced in persuading ASLEF to recognise the importance of productivity to the future of the railway system, difficulties have arisen. However, I hope that the review will go ahead shortly.