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St Pancras To Sheffield Line

Volume 77: debated on Monday 15 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he has recently held discussions with the chairman of the British Railways Board regarding the further electrification of the St. Pancras to Sheffield line.

Is the Minister aware that the deep, abiding, and growing concern about the future of this vital line has resulted in the past year alone in three conferences of all the councils along the line? Rather than accentuating people's fears by stating that the line is not in danger, when everyone knows that it is, will the Minister now allay those fears by stating that it is intended to carry out the planned electrification of the line beyond Bedford and gradually further up over the years?

If there is deep concern, it is because the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends have been peddling it. There is no cause whatever for such concern. British Rail has shown its faith in the line by introducing high speed trains on it only two years ago, resulting in a 20 minutes faster run to London and an increase in the number of passengers of between 15 and 20 per cent. Against that background, the hon. Gentleman should know that it is inconceivable that the ideas that he has been peddling should ever come to fruition.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Derbyshire county council, no doubt with local elections in mind, is planning yet another conference on electrification of the railway? Will he let the council know that there are cheaper ways of communicating with British Rail and with the Department?

My hon. Friend is right to point out that the future of the line, the way in which it is managed and operated and any investment proposed for it are entirely matters for British Rail. He is thus also right to suggest that if people are worried or concerned about the line they should address themselves to British Rail, which will provide the same reassurance as I have given today.