HL Deb 19 October 1984 vol 455 cc1189-91
Lord Gainford

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much is being invested in the electrification of British Rail's London to Edinburgh east coast main line.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the British Railways Board proposes to invest £306 million (at 1983. fourth quarter, prices) in electrifying the east coast main line and in new locomotives and rolling stock for the electrified services. The alternative of renewal of the diesel stock would have cost £162 million. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport gave his consent to this expenditure on 27th July.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I not only thank my noble friend for that Answer, but congratulate him on his promotion. I am very flattered that his first utterance from the Front Bench should be in answer to my Question. On the information that he has just given us, can he say how long the electrification scheme will take? Is there any guarantee from British Rail that disruptions in existing services will be kept to a minimum while the construction is taking place?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, perhaps I may thank my noble friend for his very kind words. A full electrified service to Newcastle and Edinburgh is planned by British Rail from May 1991. Services to Leeds are planned to start in 1989, and shorter distance services to Huntingdon and Peterborough in 1987. British Rail is determined to minimise the effects on its customers of electrification construction work, and proposes to do 95 per cent. of the work under cover of routine track possessions for engineering and maintenance, which would have been necessary in any event. It is planning on the basis that at worst, and for the longest trips, journey times should be extended by no more than eight minutes during the construction phase.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, may I offer my congratulations to the noble Lord? Is he aware that Teesside is one of the most important industrial areas in the country? With this new investment and the improvements, will it be possible to ensure that occasionally the mainline service goes through Middlesbrough on the way to Edinburgh?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind words. The proposal at the moment is that the electrification should extend to Leeds, but it is for British Rail to judge whether investment in such electrification would be justified. It does not propose further electrification, except to Leeds, at the moment.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, may I also congratulate the noble Lord, and welcome him? May I also say how much we welcome the approval given to the scheme? Does he accept that this is the type of infrastructure scheme which is so valuable in providing jobs? Has the department made any estimate of the number of jobs that the scheme will provide over a period of years, not only in the railway work itself, but also in the supply of materials and equipment? Are there any other projects still awaiting Government approval from the 10-year plan submitted by British Rail in 1982 at the Secretary of State's request?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind words. The construction of the electrification scheme should, I hope, produce between 2,000 and 3,000 new jobs. On the question of future electrification plans, the Government are ready to approve any worthwhile investment offering a sound prospect for improving the financial performance of the railway. However, it is for British Rail to decide on its own investment priorities and to judge whether to bring forward proposals. The only other electrification scheme being looked at at the moment is a small one to run electrified freight services through north London, linking the already electrified west coast main line with the haven ports and terminals in north-east London and Essex.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, may I also add my congratulations to the noble Lord on his having reached the Front Bench? Is he aware that British Rail's planning has been extremely good? When it switched to electrification on the west coast line there was very little disruption. That makes me wonder whether he can tell me about progress on planning of the Glasgow to Ayr electrification. He may not have the answer immediately, but I hope that he will make inquiries and perhaps let the House know what progress has been made in the planning stage of that electrification.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his question. I do not have the answer at the moment, but perhaps I may write to him.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, while adding my congratulations to the noble Lord, may I ask him how plans are getting on for a high speed train in this country? Is he aware that for a few years now France has had one which runs between Paris and Lyons? Is it not time that we started to have one here?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I think that that question rather falls outside the scope of the Question on the Order Paper. If the noble Lord would like to put down a Question, no doubt we can provide an Answer.

Lord Ferrier

My Lords, when my noble friend writes to the noble Lord will he send me a copy of the letter, or perhaps have the information published in the Official Report?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes, my Lords.

Lord Annan

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether in the consideration of this investment British Rail has made any deal on improving productivity? Such productivity deals in the past have not been notable for their success.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Government's decision was based on a detailed and rigorous appraisal, which showed the scheme to be justified on its financial merits. It should achieve a real return of 7 per cent. I cannot say as to any precise productivity deals.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, can the noble Lord confirm that the cost of the investment will be met from funds generated internally by British Rail? If that is so, will he reassure the House that it will not be at the expense of investment elsewhere in the country?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the costs will, indeed, be met from British Rail's own funds, but cost savings and revenue benefits will more than outweigh the capital costs. There is therefore no case for separate or special funding by the Government, and British Rail has not asked for it. On the question of future investment, British Rail has invested almost £2 billion at today's prices since 1979, plus another £100 million a year on continuous welded rail. British Rail intends to invest in excess of that amount in the next five years.

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