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Swinden Quarry-Grassington Rail Service

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2006

1. What estimate he has made of the cost of reinstating the railway from Swinden quarry near Linton to Grassington. (76574)

We have made no estimate of the costs of reinstating the railway from Swinden quarry to Grassington, but the current north Yorkshire local transport plan refers to a study of this proposal that was made in 2002.

It is disappointing that the Government have not made an estimate, because at the moment quarry traffic runs to within two miles of Grassington, which, as you know Mr. Speaker, is the capital of lower Wharfedale—deep in the Yorkshire dales. At a time when we are trying to get people out of their cars to enjoy the countryside, surely it makes economic sense, political sense and good social sense to reinstate that railway and get people to the beauties of the dales without their having to rely on their own transport.

I agree that it is beautiful part of the world. My hon. Friend is a great champion of the need to improve the local railway and I know that he has raised many issues about it. However, the study did not show a positive cost-benefit ratio and therefore the business case has not been made. As he knows, we are investing a record amount in the railway. I am only sorry that I cannot be helpful to him today.

The concern of the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) for my constituency is touching from a neighbour and I am grateful to him. Will the Minister note that, over the last few weeks, there have been four reports on the condition of the countryside, all of which highlight the problems of rural transport? If any resources were to become available for extending passenger rail links, will he bear in mind that getting ordinary people who do not have the means of transport to work and enabling them to carry out their normal daily tasks is more important than transporting tourists to the Yorkshire dales?

Rural railways and local railways are important, which is why we have developed the community rail partnership and why we are seeing investment in community rail. At the same time, there have to be enough passengers to justify the service. If there is a case for extending rail links in the future, that will have to be made by the local authority, working with Network Rail. We are keen on developing community rail, which is why the partnership has developed well.