As a Member for Bolton, I intervene in the debate because Picc-Vic is not simply a rail project but a transportation artery upon which the economic and social life of my constituency could well depend. We are concerned not only that my right hon. Friend the Minister has refused permission to proceed in 1975 but that no date has been given for the initiation of the scheme. Our town plan is at the least, delayed by the uncertainty, if not placed in jeopardy, as is the office building that we intended to carry out, to take advantage of the central Manchester office survey, which indicated that 22 per cent. of the firms interviewed would move out of the city centre, some of them, presumably, to Bolton. Our entire transportation strategy and miscellaneous projects arising therefrom are also in jeopardy.
What concerns me also is that the borough is becoming more and more a wasteland of desolate cleared sites awaiting transportation projects which never seem to materialise. When I entered the House I had to ask the Department of the Environment for money to help rescue tenants and residents whose homes had been jeopardised by a road scheme which will not come into being until next year at the earliest. On the interchange development of the Picc-Vic scheme, for example, almost 12 acres of central development land now lie sterile, without financial return to the ratepayers, in a year when rates are soaring.
In the midst of an oil crisis, has my right hon. Friend considered how much traffic could be moved from the private motor car to the rail system if the go-ahead were given? Did he consider how many roads will have to be extended, renewed and developed if the project is not allowed to go ahead?
I remind my right hon. Friend that the Strategic Plan for the North-West emphasised that the crying need of the region generally was for the improvement of the quality of life. Because of the wider bearing of the project on the social and economic life of my constituency, I challenge my right hon. Friend to visit Bolton, to see the situation at first hand and discuss the wider implications and effects of his decision.