§ Mr. Corbyn
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the visit of the Minister for Railways and Roads to the Barking to Gospel Oak line on 28 October, what conclusions he has reached in respect of the ability of the line to produce an improved passenger service; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Watts
My visit confirmed my view that the franchising of North London Railways, the operator of the Barking-Gospel Oak branch, will not only safeguard the current level of service on the line, but will bring about major improvements in its performance. My hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London gave details of the 481W franchising director's plans for the franchising of NLR in his oral answer to the hon. Member on 28 October, Official Report, columns 324–25.
Not least among the benefits of franchising will be the replacement of all the rolling stock currently operating on the branch by the year 2000. I understand that Railtrack is to embark on a strategic study of the Barking to Gospel Oak route, to assess the scope for further developing its use by passenger and freight traffic.