The effect on traffic levels is one of the factors that I expect the British Railways Board to take into account when bringing forward proposals for investment in new rolling stock.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important, when assessing those proposals, that there should be hard information as to their effect? Is it not probable that modern rolling stock would not only prove more attractive to the fare-paying customer but would reduce maintenance and cleaning costs? On well-used lines, such as those to Hove and Brighton, would it not be well worth while experimenting to see whether more custom was obtained as a result of using better rolling stock than we now have to suffer?
I have listened carefully to my hon. Friend. Research in London and the south-east shows that passengers' main concerns are over punctuality, reliability and cleaner carriages. One must achieve the proper emphasis, but I shall certainly consider my hon. Friend's suggestions.
When making provision for the new rolling stock on the London to Southampton line, which I hope will be soon, will the hon. Gentleman ensure that the drivers of those trains are provided with protection from such assaults as occurred last Saturday, when a driver was robbed of £50?
Further to the answer given to the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury), will the Minister tell his right hon. Friend that if the Government were to allow British Rail to increase its investment potential in new rolling stock and repairs, the people of Shildon and Horwich would not be faced with the redundancies that currently hang over their heads?
The hon. Gentleman knows that Government support for British Rail is at a record level and that it is for British Rail to generate extra resources for investment, by increased efficiency. The hon. Gentleman has posed a misleading question about Shildon because that deals with wagon repair and production and it is as a result of the profound change in investment in the new wagon system that the difficulties at Shildon have arisen. It is this which British Rail Engineering Ltd. must face.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is much outdated rolling stock serving the commuters of the Carshalton area, some of which is as much as 30 years old? Would it not be a good idea to impress upon British Rail the urgency of providing new rolling stock, as that would enable it to provide a better and more comfortable service?