Skip to main content

Rail Closures

Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on his policy towards major railway closures that require his consent.

I have frequently made it clear that I do not want to see substantial cuts in the passenger network. Against that background, I consider individual proposals on their merits.

The Secretary of State has always said that he would be opposed to major railway closures. Against that background, will he now reject any attempt by British Rail to close the Leeds-Keighley-Settle-Carlisle service? Will he also confirm that the diversion of the Nottingham-Glasgow service is not a backdoor method of closing the Settle-Carlisle railway, which is one of the most beautiful scenic routes in the country and a precious national asset? Will the right hon. Gentleman set his face against any reduction or closure of that route?

There are no proposals before me to close the routes mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. Like other hon. Members, I have read the somewhat irresponsible scaremongering stories of threatened widespread closures, but no such proposals of the kind mentioned by the hon. Gentleman have come before me. As I have already said, if such proposals do come forward I must consider them individually on their merits. However, I repeat what I said earlier—I do not want to see a substantial cut in the passenger network.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that his careful reply to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) represents a slight change in view from that of his predecessor, who tended to regard the present rail network as sacrosanct? While I welcome his reply, will he take steps to ensure that British Rail clearly states how much money is being lost on some of its lines, so that the House and the country can be sure that the vast amount of money going into the British Rail network is properly used for the best transport needs of the country?

The words that I used in reply to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) were the same as those used by my predecessor. My hon. Friend is right to be concerned—as I believe are British Rail and the taxpaying public—about the substantial sums that finance rising unit costs in the railway network. That is one reason why I have taken the decision to ask a member of Peat, Marwick and Mitchell to look at the finances and causes of rising unit costs on, the railways, and that is why both British Rail and the Government wish to see a review of the railways finances and objectives in order to safeguard both the performance of the railways and taxpayers' money.

In view of the delicate discussions that are now taking place with Lord McCarthy's tribunal, is it not inappropriate for the Government to announce major cuts and for the British Railways Board to talk about 3,000 white collar redundancies? Surely that is a delicate and sensitive point that does not help when these discussions are now taking place.

We are obliged to make clear the size of the social grant at the beginning of the financial year. We are obliged to do so under EEC regulations as well as for sensible accounting practice. That was, therefore, the right thing to do. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman of earlier exchanges at Question Time when it was made clear that, far from this being a cut, it is a substantial increase, bearing in mind the original claim last year. It is a judgment imposed by myself and is considerably lower than the even higher claim that British Rail put forward this year. It is £100 million more than the original claim put forward at the beginning of last year.