asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the cost of the Palestine railway; whether it has been handed over to the Palestine Government; and, if so, what have they paid for it?
The railways in Palestine include a section of the Hejaz Railway, the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway, and the railway constructed by the British Army during the War. Besides constructing the last-mentioned line the British Army did some reconstruction work on both the other two. I am unable to give a figure for the total cost of the whole of this work; nor would it be reasonable to ask the Palestine Government to refund to the British Exchequer the whole cost of a railway line built for military purposes, and not with a view to civil or commercial requirements. All these railways are now operated by the Palestine Government. An expert valuer sent out by the Disposals and Liquidation Commission is now engaged in estimating on a commercial basis the value for disposal purposes of the railway constructed by the British Army and of the work done on the other sections. Both His Majesty's Government and the Palestine Government have agreed to accept the valuation of this gentleman, and the amount fixed by him will be treated as a capital debt from Palestine to the Imperial Government bearing interest at a rate to be fixed later and payable by such instalments as the financial condition of the country may permit.
Will the same principle be followed in connection with Iraq railroads, and are they too being valued?
It is a long way from Egypt to Palestine and Iraq, and, I think, might form the subject of a separate question.
I asked whether the same principle will be followed.
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will put the question down on the Paper.
asked the Secretary of State for the. Colonies what was the cost of the railway from Kantara to Palestine; what is the amount of traffic now passing over it other than troops; what is the cost of its maintenance; whether the Palestine Government have been asked to take it over; and what is their reply?
I am informed that the cost of the Kantara-Rafa Railway was £1,300,000 exclusive of labour charges. The cost of maintenance for the current financial year is estimated at about £202,000. The revenue from traffic other than military is estimated at the present time at about 70 per cent. of the total earnings. The control of the railway is now vested in the Air Ministry, acting on behalf of the Colonial Office. The Palestine Government who work the railway share any profit or loss equally with His Majesty's Government. They have not been asked to take over the ownership of the railway, which is situated in Egyptian territory.