Rail Bus

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st July 1981.

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Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Lichfield and Tamworth 12:00 am, 1st July 1981

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made by British Railways on the introduction of the rail bus on rural branch lines; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler The Secretary of State for Transport

I understand that the railways board will be testing prototypes of the class 140 lightweight diesel multiple unit and the rail bus in service throughout the summer.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Lichfield and Tamworth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a considerable export potential for the rail bus? Will he ensure that British Railways take every possible step to capture that lucrative market in a thoroughly commercial way?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler The Secretary of State for Transport

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. If we can develop a low-cost vehicle and build it efficiently, there is no reason why it cannot be successfully exported. There is considerable interest in it from other countries.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

What work is being carried out by the Secretary of State's Department to establish the cost benefits to British Railways of the switch from diesel multiple units to the rail bus?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler The Secretary of State for Transport

During the next 12 months British Railways will try out and experiment with both of those vehicles. I hope that we shall be able to organise a demonstration project that will aim to evaluate exactly what the hon. Gentleman wants to see.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

Is my right hon. Friend aware that certain lines in Britain, for example, from Ashford to Lydd, must be kept open for goods traffic to cart nuclear waste from power stations? Is not that a good example of where experiments could take place? Are British Railways considering that possibility, and will he encourage that?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) has a Bill before the House which may help in that area. On the general principle of my hon. Friend's question, I am sure that it is right to concentrate on seeking to reduce the operating costs of rural lines rather than for ever being concerned with cutting off the lines. We have turned our back on that policy. We are trying to achieve a cost-effective railway system and a rural railway system.