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British Rail

Volume 33: debated on Wednesday 1 December 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what will be the maximum investment expenditure possible by British Rail operating within the external financing limit announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the current year and next year.

The British Rail investment ceiling is £462 million in 1982–83 and £497 million in 1983£84.

How much of that figure is available to British Rail for investment, because, increasingly, British Rail says that it is unable to meet the investment programme by reason of the constraints placed upon it by the Government?

As my answer will have shown the hon. Gentleman, the investment ceiling is not one of those constraints. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question must lie in British Rail containing its operating costs and in generating the funds available for investment up to the substantial ceiling that I have outlined.

I was delighted that my right hon. Friend visited my constituency on Saturday of last week, although, sadly, I had to be with my regiment in Preston. What percentage of the resources that my right hon. Friend has announced today will be available to British Rail to assist with the commencement of a Channel tunnel, which is vital not only to the United Kingdom and industry in the North-West—which would benefit greatly from a rail-only tunnel—but to the construction industry?

I was delighted to visit my hon. Friend's constituency recently, but I cannot—

The right hon. Gentleman was probably even more delighted that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) was not there.

I had a very pleasant time.

However, I cannot answer that question. There are later questions concerning the Channel tunnel. At the moment financial viability is being examined by a group of banks. They have not yet reached a conclusion, but, when they do, I shall be in a position to advise my hon. Friend further.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that British Rail has put forward proposals for investment in a modified form of the advanced passenger train to run between Glasgow and London? When will the right hon. Gentleman be able to announce the go-ahead for the modified form of the APT, so that it can at last run between Glasgow and London carrying fare-paying passengers?

May I assure my right hon. Friend that, should he visit Folkestone, he will be able to see the site of the Channel tunnel—and I promise not to be in Preston when he comes?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that invitation. It is nice to be in demand.

Will the Secretary of State deny any speculation that the new advanced passenger train will run, not to Glasgow, but only as far as Liverpool and Manchester?

The precise arrangements for the use of the train are a matter for British Rail. These are matters that should be announced by and referred to the chairman of British Rail.