HC Deb 06 February 1995 vol 254 cc7-8
7. Mr. John Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the requirement to replace old rolling stock currently in service on south-east railways.

Mr. Watts

Estimates of rolling stock requirements for rail services are currently a matter for British Rail.

Mr. Greenway

I thank my hon. Friend for the interest that he is showing in the future of the ABB Carriage Works in York. Will he assure the people of York, and also Kent commuters, that if, in response to British Rail's latest invitation last week, ABB makes proposals to provide new trains on the south-east region, especially in Kent, at the same cost as or a lower cost than continuing to deploy the old, clapped-out trains—some of which are dangerous, extremely dirty and not conducive to persuading commuters back on to the railway—he will do all that he can to ensure that British Rail exercises its option to build those trains, and build them this year?

Mr. Watts

On 1 February, last Wednesday, British Rail wrote to the manufacturers of Networker trains, ABB and GEC Alsthom, inviting them to say by Friday of this week, 10 February, whether they would wish to have an opportunity to submit proposals for a further tranche. BR has made it clear that any proposals must satisfy the private finance initiative criteria, recognise that the economic case for early scrapping or redeployment of existing rolling stock is weak and take into account the planned privatisation of the rolling stock leasing companies. The British Railways Board is willing to consider proposals from manufacturers which meet those criteria while recognising the order position of the rolling stock manufacturing industry. Any proposals which BR brings forward for assessment against PH guidelines will be considered as a matter of urgency by my Department and by myself.

Mrs. Dunwoody

That is a load of claptrap. Has not ABB already submitted a detailed assessment of the amount of work which it could do? Is not ABB tooled up for an existing order? Is it not the Department—not Railtrack—that is doing those bizarre things, and forcing ABB to start all over again and submit a new tender? Why does not the Minister have the guts to admit that the Government are wiping out the manufacturing of rolling stock in this country, which will cause a horrendous loss of jobs?

Mr. Watts

The hon. Lady should know that it would never have been a matter for Railtrack. On the previous occasion we debated these matters, the hon. Lady indulged in fairy tales. She has now, in her own words, moved on to claptrap.

Commercial decisions about the replacement of rolling stock are a matter for British Rail. I have explained on many occasions that the role which I and the Department have in those matters is in ensuring that the proposals fit within the requirements of the private finance initiative so that they can be taken forward.

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