HC Deb 24 July 1975 vol 896 cc312-3W
Mr. Lamborn

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now make a statement about railway freight losses.

Dr. Gilbert

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment drew attention on 30th June to the emergence of a rail freight deficit for 1975. He then said that the Railways Board was examining urgently ways and means by which this loss, which is now estimated at£70 million, could be eliminated. The board's losses are due both to the current economic recession and to increased costs arising from inflation.

British Rail, has, therefore, taken short-term measures to cut back on working expenses and to increase its freight charges. It will be applying to the Price Commission for a further increase in charges from October. The aim is to eliminate the freight loss as quickly as possible, and British Rail is making searching reviews of all its freight activities designed to increase revenue and make savings by better use of manpower and other resources and by rationalisation of services. The trades unions will be consulted.

I expect the results of the board's reviews to be available to me in the autumn, following which the Government can take a view about future freight strategies. Meanwhile, I have agreed to payment of a grant to meet the loss in 1975 on the board's freight activities after deduction of the net profit from other ancillary businesses. A Supplementary Estimate will be presented to the House for approval as soon as possible. Sums made available meanwhile will be issued from the Contingencies Fund.