§ Mr. N. McLean
asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement on the proposed closure of the lines north and west of Inverness.
§ Mr. Marples
I have now considered the reports of the Scottish Transport Users Consultative Committee in consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland. We have taken account of the advice he has received from the Highland Transport Board and the Advisory Panel on the Highlands and Islands and of all the representations made to us.
The ultimate annual savings the Railways Board expected to make from the complete closure of the Kyle line were about £120,000 and from the Wick Line £240,000. On the other hand the transport problem in the Northern Highlands is of a special nature; the T.U.C.C. have reported that the closures would cause extreme and widespread hardship; and there is strong evidence that 109W at present there are no adequate alternatives for long-distance travel on these lines, and there are not likely to be for some years. I have therefore decided that in present circumstances I must refuse my consent to the closures.
The Highland Transport Board have started a detailed study of the transport requirements of the area and the future of these rail services as a whole will, no doubt, be reconsidered in the light 110W of their study, of the progress made with road improvements, and of other developments in the economy and transport of the area.
I am still considering whether certain of the intermediate stations could be closed to passengers without causing hardship, but in view of the widespread anxiety about the future of these lines as a whole I have thought it right to make this early announcement on the main issues.