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Greater Manchester

Volume 167: debated on Monday 12 February 1990

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2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is the level of funding for Greater Manchester passenger transport authority for 1990–91.

The Government are making available to the Greater Manchester passenger transport authority £58 million in grant and credit approvals. We have given the go-ahead to the Manchester airport terminal 2, to the rail link to the airport and to the Manchester Metrolink light rail project.

I thank the Minister for that information. Will he consider the possibility of increasing that funding, by instructing British Rail to make a refund to Greater Manchester passenger transport authority, because of British Rail's failure to provide the service that it was contracted to provide during the past 12 months? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that during that period—the Secretary of State has made this point—trains have been late or cancelled and service in the Greater Manchester area has been totally inefficient? Does the hon. Gentleman further agree that a refund should be made to the authority and fares cut, not increased? British Rail should come up with the goods for paying passengers in Greater Manchester, instead of providing a poor-quality service.

I have to be rather careful on this subject. As the hon. Gentleman may know, if the PTA decides to pursue a case against British Rail for non-performance because it feels that BR has let the passengers down, that case will ultimately go to Ministers who might have to arbitrate. I think, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will understand if I cannot comment much on this point. Fares are a matter for the PTA. The £58 million in grant and credit approvals that has been made available to Greater Manchester PTA is a substantial amount, which will enable a significant range of passenger projects to go ahead.

Of course, there is lots of jam tomorrow for the British Rail passenger in Greater Manchester, but what about now? As the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) said, many trains have been late or cancelled and there is sheer, unadulterated misery for many commuters from Stockport and elsewhere in Greater Manchester. Has that arisen, as suggested in the press, because of the late delivery of Sprinter trains? If so, who is to blame? How did that happen? What is to be done about it? When can something be done?

My hon. Friend has done his constituents a great service in bringing their difficulties to my attention. I have great sympathy with those people in making difficult journeys. My hon. Friend identified one reason—late delivery of trains—but there have been unconnected reasons as well, such as delays in the work at Piccadilly station. It is not for me to attribute blame between the parties, but I am pleased to say that I understand that the class 158 Sprinters should be delivered in the spring and early summer, which should benefit my hon. Friend's constituents.