HL Deb 06 December 1967 vol 287 cc665-6

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 whether the Waverley Line, running through the Border country between Carlisle and Edinburgh, is now classed as "a socially essential but unprofitable service"; and, if no decision has yet been reached on this point, since the Government accept that all the future economic planning for the Borders as a whole hangs upon a decision, when one will be forthcoming.]


My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport is now considering, in consultation with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Railways Board's proposal to withdraw all passenger services from this line. The proposal raises difficult and complex issues and it may be some time before a decision can be reached. Should my right honourable friend's eventual decision be to refuse her consent to the withdrawal of passenger services from this line, this would be an indication that these services are socially essential; since there can be no doubt that they are unprofitable.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for that reply. But since he told us only a fortnight ago, when answering another Question, that he always tries to be helpful, may I ask him this question? In the field of Government is it considered feasible successfully to develop a development area without a railway line?


My Lords, I always try to be helpful, but I am afraid that on this occasion I may not be as helpful as I am on other occasions. I agree that to develop an area like the Borders a railway line might be essential, but as the noble Lord is aware this railway line is costing a great deal of the taxpayers' money. In view of all the complex issues, this is the reason why my right honourable friend is taking time to consider all the possible aspects.


My Lords, arising out of that reply, may I ask whether the noble Lord appreciates that this railway is an important link with the town of Galashiels, where they have the "star turn" wool trade earning dollars from America? Does he further appreciate that in America women have to wear warm Scotch clothing as they go from one pressurised building to another and that therefore this trade is likely to continue?