HC Deb 09 March 2004 vol 418 cc1373-4
13. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

If he will make a statement on the administration of the infrastructure of the rural railway network. [159442]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport(Dr. Kim Howells)

Responsibility for the infrastructure of the rural railway network rests with Network Rail.

Miss McIntosh

I am grateful for that full reply. Will the Minister comment on the Strategic Rail Authority's consultation document, and in particular on the alarming implication that local authorities such as North Yorkshire county council may have to pay for some rural railway networks in future? Will he also confirm that the rolling stock that is to be passed to voluntary groups and local authorities will be in the best possible state, and that the speed limit that is set will ensure that the structure will not be inferior to other parts of the network?

Dr. Howells

As the hon. Lady knows, the document that the Strategic Rail Authority has published is a consultation document. I should remind her that, in general, community rail lines are typically local or rural in character, have a speed limit of 75 mph or less, run a service that is of an hourly or lesser frequency, and have a single operator or one franchise operator plus freight, so there is a lot of leeway. This is not about closures or loading new costs on to local authorities, but it certainly is about trying to tap the existing potential for perhaps running some community railways better.