HL Deb 17 May 1965 vol 266 cc271-3

2.42 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government on what grounds the Minister of Transport decided that the suppression (in order to save a few thousand pounds) of the passenger service on the important Ipswich-Lowestoft-Yarmouth line would not represent a "major closure"; and whether they are aware that such a suppression, besides causing great distress, would be the negation of any sensible regional transport and economic planning.]


My Lords, my right honourable friend has reached no conclusion as to whether this is a major closure to which his consent ought to be refused. All that he has decided is that it would be better in this case to reach a decision when the report of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee is available and when he has made a full examination of all the wider social and economic effects of closure.


My Lords, is it not a fact that last November the Government said that they would not undertake any major closure "before the elaboration" of some wider economic and transport policy, and does he not agree that among the lines scheduled for closure in the Beeching Report the line from Ipswich to Yarmouth is, by any showing, among the most important, so that its closure would represent a major closure?


My Lords, so far as this line is concerned there is an alternative route: Ipswich-Norwich-Lowestoft. Part of it is almost a parallel line. But there is the difficulty that there are a number of sizeable places—Wood-bridge, Saxmundham, Halesworth and Beccles, for example—which are served by the first line but which would not be served by the alternative. In order to get the Record straight, since the noble Lord referred to my right honourable friend's Statement perhaps I may read it. He said: …I mean by a 'major Closure' one which is likely to conflict with regional transport plans. I shall not be able to decide whether a particular passenger closure falls in this category until I have studied it either in advance of publication, under the special procedure announced in my statement or in the normal course after receiving the report of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee on hardship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 702 (No. 15) Col. 61, November 18, 1964.] I hope that all local interests desirous of making representations will do so to that Committee.


My Lords, if I might venture further on the second part of my question, is it not a fact that this line serves a district in East Suffolk which will be, so to speak, the hinterland of the large new town planned for Ipswich, which is to have 70,000 inhabitants? Those people are bound to travel backwards and forwards; therefore it is not merely a parallel line, it is an important line in its own right.


My Lords, Ipswich is the start of the line, it is not in the middle of the line, and the development of the South-East Plan will be taken into account when my right honourable friend, in conjunction with other Ministers, comes to a decision.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that the words of my noble friend Lord Gladwyn, "great distress", are likely to prove, in so far as I can judge, a considerable understatement?


Great distress to whom? People living in these rural areas could assist in this matter if only they would use the transport which is provided by the railways.