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Rail Traffic (Scotland)

Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1982

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6.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport how freight and passenger rail traffic in Scotland for the most recent available three months compares with the equivalent three months of the preceding year.

I understand from the British Railways Board that the figures are 14·2 million passenger journeys and 2·841 million tonnes of freight for the 12 weeks ended 31 December 1981. The figures for 1980 are 14·1 million journeys and 2·884 million tonnes of freight.

Does the Minister realise that there is great concern in Scotland, where the railway is often the only lifeline during the bad winters that we have almost every year, about the effect of reductions in British Rail's finances? Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that it is not the Government's intention that any railway line in Scotland should close?

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the position. This year's grant on the PSO basis is £100 million more than originally claimed last year. That will give the resources to the railway to provide the services needed in the areas that he has mentioned.

Is my hon. Friend aware that some of the lines in Scotland should be kept open for strategic reasons? If the main East Coast line were closed north of Arbroath, the only alternative would be the present line between Montrose and Perth, which is scheduled for closure. That could have a dramatic effect at strategic times.

I appreciate the importance of the point that my hon. Friend makes. He knows that running the railways is a matter for the British Railways Board. It be assisted by the considerable grant that is being given to it this year.

Is the Minister aware that we had hoped that he would do better at his first Question Time than give the House misleading information? The cut in the PSO is £15 million in real terms. That will do great damage to the railways.

I must deny the hon. Gentleman's statement. Last year's claim was £644 million. At 1982 prices, that amounts to £704 million. This year's grant is £804 million. Therefore, that is £100 million more than was originally claimed last year.