BRITISH RAILWAYS (No. 2) BILL (By Order)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 1979.

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Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw 12:00 am, 26th June 1979

I agree with the hon. Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson) that there is an urgent need for expansion of railway services. That need exists in the Manchester city centre—the inner city area. I believe that expansion should take place not only in surface rail services but in the provision of underground rail services, too.

I support the detailed analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) in opposing the provisions for works Nos. 1 and 2, set out in clause 5. I was grateful to my hon. Friend for putting the matter in historical perspective. He was right to say that Manchester has not enjoyed the transportation investment that it has a right to expect. It has seen areas such as Tyne and Wear, London and Liverpool attract appreciable Government financial support in improving their transportation systems. It is now Manchester's turn to be considered for greater national financial support to improve transportation in the city centre.

We do not intend to embarrass British Rail by opposing the proposal for works Nos. 1 and 2, because we are not opposed to progress as such. Equally, we do not oppose the Castlefield curve, but we believe that that curve is only one part of a larger and better package that should be provided. We see this as only one part of a larger scheme designed to serve the community in Manchester in order to achieve greater penetration of the Manchester commercial, business and shopping centre.

My hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side explained that the Castlefield curve will provide a surface rail link between the north and south of the city. I believe that it will do little to assist the convenience of those who work and shop in the centre. The figures that I have seen indicate that the provision of the Castle-field curve will involve public expenditure of between £7 million and £10 million. That expenditure should not have been proposed without detailed study of alternative systems of public transportation to serve the city centre. If we proceed with this public expenditure in building the Castlefield curve, we could pre-empt for ever a direct or intermediate Underground system for the city centre in Manchester which would provide the city centre penetration to which I referred.

To embark on the Castlefield curve may inhibit any possibility of ever embarking on the underground tunnel which is envisaged as the first stage of the Pic-Vic scheme.