HC Deb 10 May 1990 vol 172 cc383-4
6. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he next intends to meet the chairman of Northern Ireland Railways to discuss service improvements.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

I will continue to meet the chairman as the occasion requires. Sir Myles Humphries is retiring in June after 24 years as a chairman dedicated to improving service for customers.

Mr. Foulkes

I am glad that Sir Myles is dedicated to improving services—it is more than can be said for InterCity. Will the Minister tell the House what action the Northern Ireland Office is taking about the axing of the Stranraer to Euston sleeper, which is as vital for Northern Ireland as it is for the south-west of Scotland? If, as I suspect, his answer is that the Northern Ireland Office has done little or nothing on that, will he get together with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Transport, and tell British Rail to put the service back into operation immediately?

Mr. Bottomley

If more people had used the service, it would have been more commercial. The Department in Northern Ireland made representations to British Rail. It takes seven and a half hours to get from London to Stranraer and costs £53 second class. I have no doubt that anyone travelling with the hon. Gentleman would find that as time and distance passed they would become sleepy so there would be no need to pay the extra £20 for the sleeper. Most people who go to Northern Ireland now fly.

Mr. Beggs

I welcome the views expressed and the support of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), but I very much regret that, as he said, the Northern Ireland Office has failed to weigh in and support the promotion of that service. We consider that it is important to maintain it. When the Minister meets the chairman of Northern Ireland Railways will he suggest getting together with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Transport with a view to promoting the service because it could be of great economic advantage to south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Mr. Bottomley

Perhaps I could ask the hon. Gentleman to come and see me, and we might do a joint survey on how many times hon. Members representing Northern Ireland have used the service in the past year. That would give an indication of what weight we should put behind the representations that have been made.