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Railways (Diesel Units)

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th December 1980.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 12:00 am, 10th December 1980

asked the Minister of Transport what funds he will make available to the British Railways Board to enable early replacement of the ageing diesel multiple unit fleets.

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

The railways board is working on possible replacement designs for its diesel multiple unit fleet. Investment priorities are, however, a matter for the board within its overall investment and finance limits.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that rail passengers in Lancashire, Greater Manchester and many other areas outside Greater London are having to put up with travelling conditions that would cause a commuter strike if they were imposed on passengers in the London area? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman pay an official visit to the rail services of north Manchester and Lancashire to see for himself how bad the services are? Given the funds available to British Rail, how long will it be before the rolling stock that is being used, which is more than a quarter of a century old, is replaced?

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

British Rail is at the moment spending money on refurbishing about 300 of its DMUs per year. It has not come to us with any proposals for investment in new DMUs, because it is still designing replacement vehicles. The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that in the spring British Rail will be experimenting with a passenger service with a lightweight DMU design on the Preston-Blackburn-Colne service. I shall certainly consider making a visit to the area to see that new vehicle in operation.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer , Eye

When does British Rail expect to announce its decision on the experiments on the lightweight service in Eye? When will British Rail, in addition to its strictures on investment, publish some comparison of manning between European countries, so that we may know the truth?

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

My right hon. Friend has visited and used the line in Mid-Suffolk where the new Leyland vehicle is being tried. We are following that experiment with as close an interest as is the board, because that line seems to offer great opportunities for cost-cutting and will enable rural services to be maintained at reasonable cost to the taxpayer.

There is a later question on the Order Paper on, international comparisons. They are difficult to make exactly. I agree that comparisons of productivity, manpower and other matters need to be made in addition to the statistics that are convenient to a campaign today.