HC Deb 21 May 1984 vol 60 cc669-71
8. Mr. Tracey

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is now taking to increase competition in the provision of transport.

Mr. Ridley

We have already achieved increased competition in domestic coach and air services and we are now making progress towards liberalising air services and road haulage in the European Community. The London Regional Transport Bill allows for increased competition in the provision of public transport in London and I am now reviewing how best to relax bus licensing to achieve a wider variety of services in the rest of the country.

Mr. Tracey

I am grateful for that answer, but knowing my right hon. Friend to be a man of radical turn of mind I wonder whether he is satisfied with the progress being made. In particular, does he feel that the London Regional Transport Bill allows for adequate privatisation provision for independent transport in London, and is he satisfied with the independent provision of transport on the airline routes?

Mr. Ridley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. On the first point, I believe that the London Regional Transport Bill enables the notions of competition and private enterprise to enter London's transport at the best speed possible. We are also proceeding, not recklessly, but step by step, to increase competition on domestic airlines, and I think that the benefits of that have been noted in all parts of the House.

Mr. Dalyell

What competition is there for the Carlisle-Settle line? What is its value as a diversionary line involving Scottish trains? Knowing of the Secretary of State's radical turn of mind and of his architectural interests, may I suggest that there is a case for part of the costs of reconstruction of the Ribblehead and other viaducts being borne out of heritage funds and not necessarily out of British Rail funds?

Mr. Ridley

I never thought to be berated for radicialism by the Conservative hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), but I am grateful to him for recognising the change-about in our roles.

I can make no statement about the future of the Settle-Carlisle line, but my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State travelled on that line last week and his full understanding of all the factors will no doubt be invaluable to me when the time comes to make up my mind.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware—he will not be aware, but I am about to tell him—that I have just got off a train which arrived at Euston a quarter of an hour late, on which there was standing room only in both second and first-class, and on which the quality of the buffet facilities was lamentable? Is he further aware that when I write to the chairman of British Rail on behalf of my constituents and myself I get fobbed off with apologies and promises to try to do better? When will he bring greater competition into the railways?

Mr. Ridley

I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting here from his late train in time to ask that supplementary question. I confirm that there is competition from the north-west—he can travel by car, coach or air if he prefers—but I do not think that even he would suggest that it is possible to have competition between trains. I urge him to write again to the chairman of the British Railways Board, because I think that my hon. Friend will find that the chairman is extremely receptive to any ways in which he can improve the service.

Mr. Snape

When extolling the virtues of such competition from the Preston area, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, had his hon. Friend travelled down the M1 and M6 motorways, he might not have made Question Time at all, thereby depriving the House of the superlative answer that the Secretary of State has just given?

Mr. Ridley

Equally, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will admit that there are risks in travelling to Fenchurch street station.