Berlin Traffic (Soviet Restrictions)

Oral Answers to Questions — Germany – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th May 1949.

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Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes 12:00 am, 25th May 1949

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what restrictions the Soviet authorities have placed on traffic to and from Berlin; what has been the effect of these restrictions; and what explanations have been received of the reasons for their imposition.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for the length of the reply. The Soviet authorities have imposed, or retained, since 12th May a number of restrictions on traffic to and from Berlin. Individually these may appear to be insignificant or technical in character. Collectively, their effect has been to limit the volume of supplies entering Berlin.

These restrictions include an insistence that all trains proceeding to Berlin must now be drawn by Soviet zone locomotives manned by Soviet zone crews. Prior to 1st March, 1948, Bizonal locomotives and crews were used and this practice was based upon a Soviet request in 1945.

Secondly, Soviet officers have been permanently installed at principal Western sector stations dealing with Allied traffic and are insisting upon supervising working of trains. They have instructed Reichsbahn officials that they are to refuse any Allied instructions not passed through them. This system did not obtain on 1st March, 1948.

Thirdly, the Soviet authorities have now stated that only the Helmstedt line may be used for traffic to Berlin. Before the blockade, a variable number of goods trains to Berlin was permitted to pass by alternative routes through Cebisfelde and through Probstzelle.

Fourthly, the Soviet authorities have contended that they are only obliged to provide facilities for a total of 16 Allied passenger and Allied and Kommandatura freight trains to Berlin a day. In fact, in the months previous to the blockade, the average number of trains was considerably higher than this.

Fifthly, the Soviet authorities, departing from previous practice, have placed restrictions upon the use of the autobahn from Helmstedt by commercial traffic to Berlin. They have also demanded documentation and permits for the movement of freight by road which were not required before the blockade.

Sixthly, they have insisted upon a new system of documentation and registration for barges entering from the Western zones. These documents have been forthcoming in very limited numbers and they appear to confer only a limited right of movement within the Soviet zone.

Vigorous representations have been made to the Soviet authorities in respect of each of these departures from pre-blockade practice. As a result, there have been relaxations on a number of points.

Photo of Mr Anthony Eden Mr Anthony Eden , Warwick and Leamington

The right hon. Gentleman said just now that some of the traffic had been interfered with and delayed. Can he give any idea of the percentage of the traffic affected by these various restrictions?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

I am afraid I cannot give a mathematical figure. I can only say that it has lessened the flow of traffic into Berlin without by any means throttling it.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

In order to ensure the continuance of traffic into Berlin, are any steps being taken to reintroduce the three posts on the autobahn which we had before the restrictions were imposed?

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

Can the hon. Gentleman say what is the reduction in the daily volume of tonnage of materials sent by rail or by road?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

Not without notice. Perhaps I might try to get the figure and let the hon. Member know.

Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas:

Will my hon. Friend indicate the nature of the interference with traffic, particularly with railway traffic? Are the goods displaced, or transferred, and in what respect is there any guarantee that goods in the train are delivered at the end of the journey untouched?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

I think my original reply gives details as to that.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

Are these matters being discussed in Paris and, if not, would it not be better to see that the question of free traffic is raised before going forward with more important matters?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Norfolk Southern

Discussions are proceeding in Berlin on this matter.