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Railway Travel, Christmas Period

Volume 395: debated on Wednesday 1 December 1943

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Major LYONS:

71. To ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what steps are being taken to prevent increases of unnecessary passenger travel at Christmas?

I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to make a statement in reply to Question No.71. On each day from 23rd December until 28th December, the number of long-distance passenger trains which each railway company may run, and the total train mileage of long-distance passenger trains, will not exceed the number or mileage run on any ordinary week-day or Sunday, as the case may be, in December, 1942. Service leave will be adjusted to prevent travel by members of the Forces so far as practicable on those days; civil servants will not be granted leave, unless they mean to spend it near their place of work; the arrangements for granting free or assisted travel to civilians, including evacuated civil servants, transferred Civil Defence workers, and relatives visiting evacuees, will be suspended. The few remaining restaurant cars will be withdrawn from 22nd December until 28th December.

I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for this opportunity of reminding the House and the public that the strain imposed on our transport system by essential war needs will be greater during the coming winter than ever before. I trust that the public will understand that, if they make unnecessary journeys, they will increase the load on our heavily burdened railways, and that they will probably meet with great difficulties and suffer great discomfort.

Will the Minister reconsider his decision, in view of the fact that there are all those Scottish girls transferred to England and that this is the only opportunity for them to get home to see their own people in that area?

I am afraid that many cases of what perhaps might be called hardship will arise, but I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that the strain on railway travel and, above all, on the train crews is very great, and we must not risk any interruption of essential services during the coming winter.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how far civil servants will be allowed to travel from their work in order to spend this leave?

Will the Minister take into account the special position of Scotland, where, within Scotland itself, there is not the same pressure on travel at Christmas time, and that it would be unwise to restrict, for example, Service men and others and prevent them from having the opportunity of travelling at Christmas time when it would not be any serious tax upon the rail facilities?

The long-distance travel in Scotland is mainly from Scotland to England or vice versa.

Will not the Minister try to persuade ladies not to travel so much on main-line trains, as generally speaking they form nearly 50 per cent. of the travellers to-day?

Will my hon. Friend consider the experiment of eliminating altogether during this period first-class travel and the issuing of first-class tickets specifically for this season?