HC Deb 22 May 1995 vol 260 c582
4. Mr. Gunnell

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he now expects the companies set up for the purchase of rolling stock to be able to place firm orders. [23881]

The Minister for Railways and Roads (Mr. John Watts)

No companies have been set up specifically to purchase rolling stock. The purchase of new rolling stock remains a matter for British Rail until the rolling stock leasing companies are sold later this year.

Mr. Gunnell

Is the Minister aware that the Transport Select Committee and BR chairman Bob Reid both recognise that we have the longest hiatus that we have ever had in producing rolling stock and that this year, for the first time since 1948, there has been no budget for new rolling stock? Is that not why jobs are being lost in York, Hunslet and Wakefield and what does the Minister intend to do about it? It is not sufficient to give the pat answers that we have heard today.

Mr. Watts

UK trains currently on order include Networkers for British Rail, mail trains for the Post Office, Heathrow express and channel tunnel trains and new trains for the Jubilee line and the Northern line. Once the rolling stock companies are privatised, of course, they will have access to the private capital markets and will be able to take a longer-term view of investment needs.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that the experience of the bus industry demonstrates clearly that when the private sector becomes involved it invests very heavily in new modern rolling stock? Indeed, in one instance, it has invested more in new vehicles in one year than had been previously been invested in 10 years. That surely demonstrates that the same will happen with the railways because new vehicles cost less to maintain.

Mr. Watts

My hon. Friend is right, although I should remind him that British Rail has invested more than £4 billion in new rolling stock since 1979 and that in the past 10 years more than 4,000 new vehicles and locomotives have been brought into use.