HC Deb 16 December 1997 vol 303 cc127-8
37. Sir Robert Smith

What action he is taking to increase the proportion of freight transported by rail. [19432]

Dr. Strang

We aim to increase the amount of freight carried by rail. We have already taken action to boost the take-up of freight grants and we are working to get a better deal for Railfreight through the channel tunnel.

The House may like to know that tomorrow I shall be opening a new freight spur to Manchester airport which will mean that the bulk of the materials for the new runway will be carried by rail.

Sir Robert Smith

In trying to encourage more freight on to the railways, is the Minister concerned that brand new class 92 locomotives are lying idle in sidings because they do not have a safety case to travel north of Wembley? What action are the Government taking to try to ensure that that does not persist and that the class 92 locomotives go north of Wembley?

Dr. Strang

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I am sure that he is not suggesting, however, that safety is not an overriding priority. In terms of his constituency, the prospects for increased rail freight are most exciting. The distance to the channel tunnel and the investment that is taking place mean that we can look forward to a significant increase in the amount of material that is taken by rail, particularly from northern Scotland.

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