HL Deb 04 December 1963 vol 253 cc962-4

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the doubt which appears to exist as to whether British Railways or the local authority are responsible for seeing that there is adequate car parking space near main line stations, whether they will see that this doubt is resolved and adequate car parking facilities provided near Horsham Station as part of the conditions to be fulfilled before they can give their sanction to the closure of the Horsham—Brighton railway line.]


My Lords, responsibility for providing car parking space generally lies with the local authorities, but this does not prevent other bodies, including private enterprise, from providing off-street parking if they wish to do so. The Railways Board have power to provide parking space for persons using their services and they may acquire land for the purpose. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has not yet received the report of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee on hardship in connection with the Board's proposal to close the Brighton—Horsham passenger service. I cannot say, therefore, what decision he will reach, or what conditions he may attach to his consent, if he decides to give it. But I might remind my noble friend that my right honourable friend has said he will take all relevant factors into account before reaching his decision on any passenger closure proposal; these would include any implications of the closure for parking needs.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his, on the whole, satisfactory Answer. Will his right honourable friend the Minister bear in mind that, should he find it necessary to give sanction for this line to be closed, it seems rather unjust that the local authority should have to provide parking space in order to enable British Railways to divest themselves of what they allege to be a loss?


My Lords, I do not think I can go further than to repeat that my right honourable friend will take into consideration all relevant factors. If that is one, he will take it into consideration.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that the problem that has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, may well apply to many stations and townships surrounding London where closure of branch lines is imminent? Would the noble Lord not agree that when Parliament considered the Transport Bill an endeavour was made to lay a duty upon the Railways Board and local authorities who may be concerned to ensure that adequate car parking facilities were available, with a view to persuading motorists to travel to London by train instead of bringing in their cars? Further, would the noble Lord not agree that where car drivers are parking their cars in towns in order to come to London by train they are causing tremendous congestion in those towns? Would the noble Lord not agree that it is no good leaving it to three authorities to act independently, but that there should be a duty laid upon the local authority and the Railways Board to see that there are adequate car parking facilities for those people wishing to travel by train and leaving their cars outside London?


My Lords, I am invited to take part in a four-stage agreement. What in fact I do agree with the noble Lord about, and have never attempted to disagree, is that there may well be a problem in one place or another, or in many places, in this regard. I do not think anyone has ever disagreed with that. I also believe—although I do not think I was inivited to say so—that we should be in danger if we generalised on this subject, because in some cases it will be appropriate for one authority to provide the car park and in other cases another authority. I think these cases must be judged item by item.