Motorway Construction

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th June 1980.

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Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley 12:00 am, 25th June 1980

asked the Minister of Transport what percentage of public expenditure by his Department in 1980–81 and 1981–82 will be spent on motorway construction; and what percentage on railway electrification.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

Planned expenditure on motorways and trunk roads is £302 million in 1980–81 and £298 million in 1981–82—at 1979 survey prices. That is about 13 per cent. of the public expenditure programmes for which our Department is responsible. Railway investment is not classified as public expenditure by the Department. The British Railways Board's investment ceiling in these years is £277 million—at 1979 survey prices—and I understand that it plans to spend about £8 million on new electrification schemes in each year.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

In the light of the Venice communiqué to which the Prime Minister is a signatory, would it not be more sensible to concentrate on an electrified railway system which can be powered essentially by coal, rather than on building more and more motorways, which will need an oil-based traffic system, when we will not have any oil?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

We have a study in progress on the electrification proposals for British Rail and we are awaiting the final results of that in the summer. We accept that there is a future for electrification of considerable parts of the railway network in this country. But that is not a case for abandoning motorway building as well. There is a rough balance between road construction spending and railway investment in this country.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

May I make it clear that I have an interest in this question? Is my hon. and learned Friend satisfied that the British Rail electrification programme is realistic, bearing in mind that those companies trying to export electrification schemes need to have a firm foundation to work on in this country?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

I am sure that it is realistic. As part of the study we are considering how far it is justified to go in for a major programme in the future. We all expect the amount of electrification of the rail network to be increased in the future.

Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon

Is the hon. and learned Member aware that we would welcome any additional expenditure on rail electrification? Will he consider roads electrification, bearing in mind the decisions of the summit conference that we should use more coal and nuclear energy? Will he therefore encourage the return of the trolley bus to our roads?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

The Government would not object to the reintroduction of trolley buses to our roads but there are no proposals forthcoming at present. There is a great deal of interest and research in electric vehicles of all kinds and the Government are anxious to encourage that.