asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he has received any proposals from British Rail for the electrification of the route from Bedford Midland to Leicester or for works to facilitate such electrification; and if he will make a statement.
We have received no such proposals from British Rail.
Nevertheless, is my hon. Friend aware that a conference was held on 15 March at Leicestershire county hall to consider the future of electrification? Bearing in mind that there is already electrification as far as Bedford, will my hon. Friend talk to British Rail about the matter? The minutes of the conference show support for further electrification. The line is already electrified between London and Bedford, and there has been a doubling of the service.
British Rail is involved in the electrification of the east coast main line, the Cambridgeshire service, the Tonbridge-Hastings service and the East Anglia service. I understand that BR is considering a proposal for the electrification of the Bedford-Kettering section, with a possible link with Corby, but I have not yet received a formal proposal on the matter.
Will not the Minister accept that it was only pressure from Sheffield city council, Members of Parliament and others that persuaded BR to run high-speed trains in the first place? British Rail opposed the proposal for a considerable time. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that the Midland main line is treated as the poor relation among BR's main line services and that if it is left to the BR management to make such proposals the citizens of Sheffield and other stations on the line will wait for a long time for an electrified service.
The hon. Gentleman says that the Midland line is a poor relation, but in view of the substantial investment, the introduction of modern rolling stock and HSTs and all the other ways in which BR has improved the service, I believe that many other parts of the country would be glad to be treated in a similar way.