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Timetables (Changes)

Oral Answers to Questions — Railways – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th November 1958.

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Photo of Mr Somerville Hastings Mr Somerville Hastings , Barking 12:00 am, 5th November 1958

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission that the change of trains from winter to summer services and vice versa should take place on the same date as the change to summer and winter time.

Photo of Sir Richard Nugent Sir Richard Nugent , Guildford

No, Sir. This is a matter of management for the British Transport Commission. The Commission informs me that the present dates for the changeover in the timetables correspond as nearly as possible with the beginning and end of the main seasonal holiday movements. To alter these dates to coincide with the change of time would mean running summer services when there was no summer traffic to fill them.

Photo of Mr Somerville Hastings Mr Somerville Hastings , Barking

Will the Minister agree that the changing of timetables at a regular date would go some way to make good the inaccuracies which exist in local timetables at the present time?

Photo of Sir Richard Nugent Sir Richard Nugent , Guildford

I think that the answer to that supplementary question would really come more aptly in answer to the next Question, but I would agree broadly with the hon. Gentleman's point.

Photo of Mr Somerville Hastings Mr Somerville Hastings , Barking

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission that, on change from winter to summer services or vice versa on the railways, timetables may be printed so that the public may know in advance which of the trains they have previously been able to travel by are taken off.

Photo of Sir Richard Nugent Sir Richard Nugent , Guildford

As this is a matter of management, a direction would be out of place, and it is for the British Transport Commission to deal with. The Commission tells me that it aims to publish the summer and winter timetables at least six weeks before they come into force, but preparing them is a complex operation, and last-minute changes may cause delays.

Photo of Mr Somerville Hastings Mr Somerville Hastings , Barking

Is the Minister aware that the local timetables between Reading and London are never available until at least three weeks after the change has taken place, and that there are very considerable changes at both winter and summer?

Photo of Sir Richard Nugent Sir Richard Nugent , Guildford

As the House is aware, I am not responsible, nor is my right hon. Friend, for compiling these timetables. I shall be glad to convey to the Transport Commission the hon. Gentleman's comments. I know that the Commission is trying to speed up the preparation of the timetables, but it is a complex and difficult business; the Commission does the best it can.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport , Knutsford

What is the good of publishing any timetables at all when no effort is made to make the trains run to any set time? is my hon. Friend aware of one typical instance, namely, the last train from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), the 6.20 from Macclesfield due to arrive at 10.30, which never arrives until well after 12 o'clock, when there are no taxis and no porters?

Photo of Sir Richard Pilkington Sir Richard Pilkington , Poole

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the frequent unpunctuality of trains, he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission to revise its railway schedules.

Photo of Mr Harold Watkinson Mr Harold Watkinson , Woking

Unpunctuality is due to many variable causes. The problem is a matter of management for the British Transport Commission, but I know that where train timings become unrealistic owing, for example, to major engineering works under the modernisation plan, the schedules are reviewed, and in this winter's timetables a number of expresses have, in fact, been re-timed. If my hon. Friend has in mind other trains which ought to be re-timed in this way, I am quite willing to bring them to the attention of the Chairman of the Commission.

Photo of Sir Richard Pilkington Sir Richard Pilkington , Poole

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have many such examples? Is he also aware of the very large numbers of complaints there are under this heading? Does not he think that it is time that British Railways took that same pride in punctuality to which we were used before the war, under private enterprise?

Photo of Mr Harold Watkinson Mr Harold Watkinson , Woking

I quite agree that punctuality is the essence of a modern railway system. Why I gave the Answer I did is that, for example, in the electrification of the London—Manchester line, there are very extensive engineering works. Therefore, what I offered to do—if hon. Members feel that, due to these works, re-timing ought to take place, and will let me know—was to call attention to it.

Photo of Mr James Harrison Mr James Harrison , Nottingham North

In general, has the Minister any evidence regarding the improvement in the punctuality of these trains over the past five or six years? Is not it on record that there has been a substantial improvement in punctuality?

Photo of Mr Harold Watkinson Mr Harold Watkinson , Woking

I think that it depends on the trains. The modern diesel trains keep very good times, but I am afraid that some of the older steam trains are not so good.