asked the Minister of Transport if he will visit the Sheffield-Woodhead-Manchester railway line.
Will the Minister think again about his answer and decide to visit the Sheffield-Woodhead-Manchester line? Does he realise that the imminent closure of the line is in contradiction with the view of Sheffield city council, the South Yorkshire council, the Manchester council and the Labour and trade union movements in both areas? Is he aware that nobody can understand why the line should be closed? Is he further aware that it is to be closed against the wishes of local people by remote officials? Will he discuss the matter with the people concerned and challenge the proposed closure?
The decision on the future of the line is a matter solely for British Rail. It is not a matter for Ministers. As I said in a recent Adjourment debate, in response to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. McKay), British Rail has consulted every conceivable interested body and has been doing so for a long time. I have no doubt that British Rail is fully aware of the views of those bodies mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. If it is a redundant freight line, obviously it is common sense, and in the interests of the rail network, that steps should be taken to close it.
If my hon. Friend is unable to visit the railway line at Sheffield, will he find time instead—
Order. No. The Minister will not have time this afternoon.
Will the Minister seek to ensure that a little vision is applied? Does he realise that we are discussing an important east-west line? Is he aware that, if it were used for development in connection with improving the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation it could greatly facilitate east-west links and the development and expansion of our exports?
I appreciate the importance of east-west links over the Pennines. However, there are no fewer than four railway lines that cross east to west in the area. There is a great excess of capacity over predictable freight needs in the area. It is proper for British Rail to examine the possible closure of one of the four lines. The Manchester-Woodhead line needs millions of pounds spent on it to modernise it to the same electrification standards as the rest of the network. It would be wrong for Ministers to insist that that money is spent there or to give a higher priority to investment in that project than to other parts of the network.