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Trans-Siberian Railway

Volume 973: debated on Thursday 8 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what estimate he has made of the effect to date and the likely effect over the next 10 years on British shipping of the competition offered by the Trans-Siberian railway.

Trade sources indicate that transit traffic via the Trans-Siberian landbridge has grown by some 60 per cent. since 1974. There has undoubtedly been some loss of traffic from the traditional shipping services—with consequent adverse effects upon the revenues of United Kingdom lines serving the Far East. It is impossible to quantify this but the competitive impact of the land-bridge will grow over the coming years as Soviet ports and railway facilities are improved especially if more Far East destinations, including Australasia, are served.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has made any estimate of the proportion of British exports to the Far East that now uses the Trans-Siberian railway; and, for purposes of comparison, what is the proportion of such German, French, Dutch and Belgian exports that uses this route.

We estimate that some 8·5 per cent. of United Kingdom liner cargo exports to Japan were carried by this route in 1978. No comparable figures are available for exports from other European countries.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has made an estimate of the related cost per ton of freight moved from United Kingdom ports to Far East ports by Western Conference line ships and by the combination of such ships and the Trans-Siberian railway.

Rate comparisons are difficult because of the wide variation in tariff structures and pricing policies. It is our understanding that rates for many individual commodities carried via the landbridge are significantly below conference rates.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what consultations he has had with trade and shipping Ministers of the EEC and OECD countries about the increased competition being offered to British and Western shipping lines by the Trans-Siberian railway system; and if he will make a statement.

My Department regularly discusses this issue with our OECD partners and has placed our concern on record with the Soviet authorities.