HC Deb 03 June 1997 vol 295 cc180-1
32. Mr. Rhodri Morgan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he has to assist electrification of the main railway line from Paddington to south Wales and the west. [477]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Glenda Jackson)

The United Kingdom has secured £0.65 million of European Union funding for a study of potential improvements to the Great Western line. The study is being carried out by Railtrack and is already under way. The Government are committed to the railway network being run in the public interest with higher levels of investment and we are considering how best to achieve that.

Mr. Morgan

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her new job. Will she confirm that the service between London Paddington and Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea is the last major inter-city line in western Europe that uses diesel, not electricity? The GWR company can improve its livery, but it cannot improve delivery under the current technology. Does she agree that, until it goes electric, the initials GWR will stand, not, as they did in the old days, for God's wonderful railway, but for a godawful woeful railway?

Ms Jackson

I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome. I reiterate our central commitment to ensuring that the vast amounts of public money that are still going to our railways should produce the best quality public services. My understanding is that, as part of a 10-year plan, Great Western Trains will invest up to £30 million to deliver a more flexible rolling stock fleet. It is part of our commitment to creating a genuine public service on our railways that all franchisees will be closely monitored to ensure that they meet the commitments that they have given.

Sir George Young

Will the Minister explain how the higher levels of investment to which she has just committed herself will be assisted by a windfall tax on Railtrack?

Ms Jackson

I find it astonishing that the right hon. Gentleman, who, as Secretary of State for Transport, oversaw the profligate waste of taxpayers' money on rail privatisation, including £450 million for consultancy fees alone, should make such a point. I repeat that the Government are committed to the vast amounts of public money that are still going into our railway system being used to produce the highest quality services.

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