British Railways (No. 2) Bill

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 27th April 1988.

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Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Second Reading [15 March].

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South 7:24 pm, 27th April 1988

I am grateful for the opportunity to continue the debate that was unfortunately curtailed on 15 March. On that occasion I made some side remarks about the former Great Northern railway that went up to Bradford.

On this occasion I should like to concentrate upon the fact that a number of the new works listed in the Bill are interesting because, on several occasions, the track beds are former railways, which are now to be restored to use. That is welcome, but it would have been more helpful if the British Railways Board had been more cautious about closing those tracks in the first place. It would also have been helpful if the Government had not financially pressed the British Railways Board so that it had to look for other means of obtaining revenue, even if that meant closing the railways that it was supposed to run. The Bill illustrates that failing, because several of the private works will utilise existing track beds. Indeed, some of the compulsory purchase items relate to track that must be bought back from the owners to whom the British Railways Board sold the track beds.

The preservation of railway rights of way by the British Railways Board and other public bodies, such as local authorities, is important because many of us, especially Opposition Members, have argued that use of the railways will increase—we have made that argument for the past 20 years. There has been an increase in passenger usage. In the past 25 years we have argued against many of the closures; we said that the majority were mistaken and foolish and were helping to erode the national network. In a minor way, the Bill reflects the truth of those statements.

I wish to consider clause 18, which deals with a level crossing in the parish of Steeton with Eastburn. The Bill gives the British Railways Board powers to close that crossing once a road bridge has been constructed by the Secretary of State in connection with the Kildwick to Beechcliffe section of the improvement of the Airedale Trunk Road. The closure of the level crossing at Steeton will save the board between £30,000 and £40,000 a year in terms of operational costs, repairs and maintenance. What will be done with that money? The board will not have to spend that money to provide any alternative level crossing facility because a road bridge will be constructed by the Department of Transport. Presumably no cost will be borne by the hoard, so the board will have a net saving of quite a considerable sum.

I hope that the money will be used on the railway because Steeton—it formerly had a station—is on the line that runs from Leeds to Carlisle. I suggest to the promoters of the Bill that when the board can obtain savings, it should use every possible opportunity to put that money towards helping to maintain the Settle-Carlisle railway. The level crossing is on the route of that railway, which was constructed to give the Midland railway, running north from Leeds, access to Scotland. It is germane to the argument that the money saved on the level crossing should be invested in the Settle-Carlisle railway.

The £30,000 to £40,000 which will be saved on Steeton crossing would be over and above the £500,000 which the local authorities have offered to help restore Ribblehead viaduct. As the House will no doubt remember, the Minister for Public Transport is mulling over the local authorities' proposal. In reply to a written question today, the Minister said: The local authorities have offered £500,000 towards the capital costs of restoring Ribblehead Viaduct subject to the following conditions:a. that British Rail continue to maintain and operate the line;b. that the line's future be guaranteed for a period of at least 20 years;c. that the contributions are a 'one-off' which should not be seen as setting any precedent and no further requests for financial support should be made. If, through the legislation, British Rail can make a saving, naturally the qualification about the one-off contribution from the local authorities would be more practicable. The answer continued: d. that the revenue support contributions already agreed for the next two years will not be extended beyond that period. The Minister may make a statement shortly about the retention of the Settle-Carlisle line. That magnificent and beautiful railway runs from Settle junction and is connected to the main network on the very line with which the Bill deals. I hope that the Minister will announce shortly, if not tonight, that the Settle-Carlisle line is to be preserved and used for visitors and people who live in the Yorkshire dales. Thousands of people are waiting with bated breath for that announcement.

The local authorities have been blackmailed into accepting the position, because the Minister wanted to put the odium of closure on the local authorities rather than take it on his own shoulders. The local authorities have come up with a significant amount of money. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will use this opportunity to say that the line has been saved.

Photo of Mr Gary Waller Mr Gary Waller , Keighley

I support the hon. Gentleman's feelings about the Settle-Carlisle line. As the line cannot be justified in purely transport terms, as I think many would agree, although it is justified on the wider view, is it not right that the local authorities should make a contribution, bearing in mind that some of the benefits which would flow from the retention of the line are benefits which local authorities exist to promote?

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I do not want to digress too much from the Bill, but this legislation is a possible source of revenue to help the Settle-Carlisle line. If the hon. Gentleman compares the cost of the Aire valley trunk road with the modest cost of maintaining this line, he will see that the road user is getting enormous investment compared with the railway user. I do not agree with him that the railway is not justified on transport and economic grounds. After all, it is a section of British Rail in which income equals expenditure. As the hon. Gentleman will know, when British Rail announced the closure of the Settle-Carlisle line, it was embarrassed by a breakdown on the west coast route which forced it to divert all traffic to the Settle-Carlisle line. It is an important diversionary route. The efforts of British Rail to divert freight traffic from the route, in a feeble and misjudged attempt to prove that it was not a part of the national network, came to naught.

The line has potential and this legislation would provide additional revenue which British Rail, with the approval of the Minister, could divert to it. The section of railway which we are talking about is supported to some extent by the local passenger transport authority.

When Steeton level crossing is closed, there will be much redundant equipment. Some of it will be in good working order and it could be transferred to a line like the Settle-Carlisle line, which is not the crack inter-city route it used to be when it was part of the midland main line to Scotland. I hope that British Rail will consider using that equipment to keep the Settle-Carlisle line going rather than break it up and throw it to one side. The House often forgets that there are many ways of keeping railways running. One is using redundant materials from elsewhere. If the BRB had the will, it could do that to help this magnificent railway.

Clause 19(3), which refers to a new level crossing, says: The Board may, subject to such requirements as the Secretary of State may from time to time lay down, provide, maintain and operate at or near the new level crossing such harriers, lights, traffic signs and automatic or other devices and appliances as may be approved by the Secretary of State. No doubt the Minister supports the legislation, as we all do, because it means an improved railway network. Nonetheless, the safest level crossings are those with interlinking electronic or mechanical devices between the closing of a barrier or a gate and signals for the passage of trains.

I draw this to the Minister's attention because the Department of Transport over the past quarter century has allowed the standard of operation at the level crossings to deteriorate. It has removed employees in the interests of "economy" and "efficiency", which means that there have been accidents. I have operated an interlinking system, which is insisted on by the Department of Transport on the Worth valley railway. It is perfectly proper. There are two level crossings on the line, which operate with interlocking signals. I urge the Minister to keep this under careful review to ensure high standards of safety.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight , Derby North

When accidents happen, does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is not due to the lack of employees but to the lack of gates? There seems to be a policy of removing level crossing gates and merely having crossings operated by flashing traffic signals, with the result that on occasions motorists attempt to jump the lights. That is when accidents happen.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I was being, as usual, a modest, cautious observer of the passing scene. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that the removal of gates has caused difficulties. Foolish motorists can manoeuvre around the single pole barriers. Sometimes there are no barriers or just a pole, or a pole with a falling fence attached to it. It is a retrogate step. Over many years we have established a high standard of railway safety, which is zealously supported by railway employees.

Financial constraints imposed by the Government have led to pressure on BRB to get rid of employees, which results in a lowering of safety standards. Many stations are no longer manned. With signal boxes covering ever longer route mileages, the signalman cannot keep as good an eye on security. Vandalism on British railways nationally costs about £20 million a year. It is foolish to have to repair faults arising from vandalism when, by employing more people, British Rail could obviate it. Indeed, it is worth pointing out to the Minister that the BRB threatened to sack some members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen who, two days before the fire at King's Cross, were distributing leaflets pointing out that there were dangers in the operation of King's Cross and other underground stations.

The increasingly rigid attitude of British Rail management in that respect is counter-productive, and disheartening for members of ASLEF and the NUR, who do a good job and give excellent service. Those works cannot be carried out effectively if the management is not prepared to co-operate with the trade unions. It has been put to me by members who have spent 30, 40 or 50 years working on the railways that they have never known such an autocratic and rigid attitude.

That attitude is induced and engendered by the Government. The best way of working is always by co-operation rather than confrontation. The rail trade unions have never sought otherwise, and management should not try to insist on confrontation, as they have so often done—most recently at King's Cross. I am told that there are difficulties also at Leeds, which is one of the biggest depots in the country.

Photo of Mr Gary Waller Mr Gary Waller , Keighley

The hon. Gentleman's link between safety and manpower is not born out by the facts. At the time when the predecessors of British Rail employed three or four times the number of people it does today, railway accidents took the lives of several hundred people every year.

Photo of Mr Gary Waller Mr Gary Waller , Keighley

Rail is now one of the safest forms of transport, yet the relationship with the number of people using the railways is more aligned to the number of staff reductions. The link between manpower and safety cannot be drawn in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) has got his statistics wholly wrong. I cannot recall one year in the operation of the railways when hundreds of people were killed. Today, the number of mortalities can be counted on the fingers of two hands, at most. Those killed are usually not passengers but railwaymen working on the line without adequate safety precautions.

The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) said that, without barriers, new dangers are created at railway crossings, and there have been a number of horrific accidents. The installation of automatic crossings, with or without barriers, is due to the removal of level crossing keepers in order to cut operating costs. At the same time, reasonable levels of safety must be maintained. British Rail operates trains carrying staff who try to catch those who trespass or throw things on to the railway line.

That is done, at considerable cost, because over many miles of track there are not enough railwaymen working —either as a matter of routine or because signal boxes have closed. Maintenance is now undertaken by machinery or by roving gangs instead. Many stations are left unmanned or have closed. For all those reasons, the railway tends to be more vulnerable.

My hon. Friend on the Front Bench, the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) worked on the railways all his life before coming to the House and he is nodding his head in agreement. The new works set out in the British Railways (No. 2) Bill—

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I will, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish this sentence.

Those proposed works will be improved if the management is prepared to take a positive attitude towards the trade unions. I have found over many years that railwaymen in particular are devoted to the system they serve and want to do a good job.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but is it not true that the work traditionally undertaken by gang men can now be undertaken by machines? Provided that innovation is adopted with safety, no human life will then be at risk. Ten years ago, say, such maintenance was the cause of unfortunate accidents.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

As I remember it, the Hither Green disaster was caused by a cracked rail that was subject to mechanical inspection. Although we may denigrate ourselves as human beings from time to time, if we give some devotion to our work, we are all better off for it. The Hither Green disaster was an example of a lack of human inspection leading to a serious track failure. I believe that there can be both types of inspection.

I do not object to the improvements set out in the Bill. The jobs need to be made easier, and perhaps that will result in the work being performed better. At the same time, we should not get rid of people purely from an accounting point of view. If we do so, we may live to regret it. Some would argue that the King's Cross disaster could he blamed on a diminution in the number of staff there and a lack of concern for safety as a result of management seeking to reduce the number of staff.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

Will my hon. Friend go further and say that, in the recently published report on the 1986 disaster at Colwich junction, when, tragically, one railwayman was killed—albeit no passengers were injured—the Department of Transport's own inspector pointed to the lack of footplate inspection staff as a reason why the driver of one of the trains involved made the mistake he did? That inspection starkly illustrated the dangers of withdrawing staff for the sake of saving money and the likely consequences of such an economy in terms of safety.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I am grateful to my hon. Friend; he has considerable knowledge of railway matters and follows these issues closely. He will recall, as I do, that, in the early 1980s, railway inspectorate reports pointed to a reduction in safety levels as a result of the pressure on maintenance expenditure. In criticising any lowering of level crossing standards, I place the onus not on the railway inspectorate, which aims at the highest possible standards, but on those who pursue a policy of putting profit and loss before service.

The qualification introduced by the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) about the electrification of the London midland line has my support, but the question of profit and loss rears its head again. The railway that really needs electrification is the midland line, which has more gradients and curves, and which needs the added traction that electrification would bring—more so than the GN line, which is relatively straight, and on which a considerable amount of money has been spent ironing out the curves at Peterborough, Grantham and other places. However, because of the greater passenger utilisation of the former Great Northern railway, it is that which most easily satisfies the criteria set by the Government. In terms of operational improvement, the greatest benefit would be to the midland line out of King's Cross.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

My hon. Friend means St. Pancras.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Of course I meant the midland line out of St. Pancras, and I hope that Hansard will correct my momentary error. How could anyone forget the greatness and majesty of St. Pancras in showing that the midland railway had arrived and that the head of all England was not in London, but was at the Derby locomotive works and management centre?

In the context of the profit and loss into which we shall enter in respect of the private works and improvements proposed, it is worth pointing out that the electrification of the Great Northern railway is being penny-pinched for the sake of seven or eight miles, from Leeds to Bradford. I remind the Minister that Bradford was the first city to have Pullman trains, initiated by the midland railway. It is a major city, and it causes considerable resentment that the operating efficiency of British Rail—if that is what concerns the Minister—is to be sullied by the fact that when the electric trains reach Leeds, under the recent electrification, a diesel locomotive will be hooked on the end and the whole lot will be dragged to Bradford interchange.

Electrification should create jobs and produce operating efficiencies. I cannot imagine that British Rail will for long justify a stud of locomotives at Leeds just to haul some trains over the remaining spur between Leeds and Bradford. In a very short time, we shall hear talk of economies and cuts, as we have so often before. I urge the Minister yet again to consider the additional electrification on the GN line, at the same time as taking into account the entreaties and representations of his hon. Friend the Member for Harborough.

No doubt some of my hon. Friends will make out a good case for electrification of the midland main line out of St. Pancras. If the Minister wants some testimony to his career as a Transport Minister, nothing could be better than to do a good job on the GN line and get the overhead wires running all the way from King's Cross to Bradford. Let him not stint or penny-pinch. Then he will not be remembered in Bradford as the mean-minded Transport Minister. I want him to be remembered as the man who supported railways by electrifying a number of lines, and most of all by ensuring that the Settle-Carlisle railway is retained for future years. I hope that he will come to the House very soon to tell us that he will do that.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam 7:51 pm, 27th April 1988

The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), is still the Member of the European Parliament for Sheffield and a part of Chesterfield. I also see, behind him, one of my colleagues from Sheffield, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), who is a former Member of the European Parliament.

Since joining the House I have discovered the inadequacies of British Rail in many shapes and forms. Let me ensure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I stay on the right lines—at the risk of making a pun! The Bill touches Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster, which entitles me, as a former leader of the Opposition on South Yorkshire county council, to speak on the subject. As someone once reminded me, the finest thing that ever came out of Leeds station was the train to Sheffield.

Having listened to what British Rail has to say about the improvements that it wishes to make in various areas of south Yorkshire, I have discovered that the majority of people who buy a ticket to travel by British Rail want to arrive safely, to sit in a clean carriage and to obtain a seat. They are not bothered about the type of food that is served, the livery that is worn or whether there is a telephone. They are concerned about the time at which a train leaves one city and arrives in another.

I have also discovered that Sheffield and London are cut off from each other from 9.40 pm until 7.39 am the following morning. I have also discovered that it is impossible to leave for, say, Doncaster—as you probably know, Mr. Deputy Speaker—at any reasonable time.

In a former incarnation I corresponded a fair amount with the Minister, explaining that the subsidy provided by the South Yorkshire passenger transport authority was excessive. While we had the cheapest fares of any metropolitan county, we also had the highest rates, and were paying very dearly for them. In various letters I explained to the Minister that Sheffield seemed to be off the beaten track. The Minister, quite rightly, stands at the Dispatch Box and tells hon. Members on both sides of the House that that is a matter for British Rail, but we do not seem to have an opportunity to speak to British Rail.

My parliamentary colleagues from south Yorkshire will probably be pleased to hear what happened when I said that I was not very enthusiastic. I did British Rail the courtesy of saying what I thought of the way in which it treated its passengers: after all, I am one of them. I said that I could not get out of London after 9.40 pm, and could not leave until the next morning. Suddenly, British Rail was prepared to put on a train that left for Sheffield at 11 pm, from May 1989. I do not know whether the word "blackmail" can be used in this place, but I thought it very wrong that that should happen so suddenly.

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) in his plea for the electrification of the St. Pancras-Sheffield link. The city of Sheffield needs to be revitalised. The world student games and the presence of the urban development corporation mean that Sheffield needs a further lift to put it back on the map of the United Kingdom. It needs a rail service of which it can be proud, and an urban link. Those things are not available.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight , Derby North

Is not the motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) deficient, in that it refers only to the city of Leicester? If there is a good case for electrifying the main line as far as Leicester, does my hon. Friend agree that there is an even stronger case for going further, through Derby and on to Sheffield?

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

I thank my hon. Friend for his guidance. When I was a much newer Member, I committed a flagrant sin. I caught one of those "change at Derby" trains, as I thought that I could get back to Sheffield more quickly. That, as I discovered, was another fallacy. I spent a happy hour sitting in the station hotel—which, believe it or not, adjoins the station—drinking Coca-Cola, until the train arrived. I agree that the line should go past Leicester and right up to Sheffield.

Until 5 May, I am still a member of Sheffield city council. I do not know whether a fickle finger was pointed at me, but none the less I remain there. I have been a member of the council for 21 years—and I am only 26 now! During that time we have tried to improve the service that Sheffield obtains from British Rail.

I have read the Bill, and I see that work is being done at Darton and Barnsley. Work is also being done at Rotherham, at Kilnhurst and—as the hon. Member for Bradford, South said—on a crossing at Doncaster. I accept that all that work is needed, but I think that we need other things. We need a service of which everyone can be proud. We need electrification. We also need to "push it back", as I put it, to ensure that instead of travelling from London to Sheffield by road, people are prepared to travel by British Rail. All entreaties, whether they are made to the chairman, the area manager or the regional manager, seem to produce no progress. There seems to be no forum between the House and British Rail. If anything comes out of this debate, I hope that it will be such a forum.

I support the need for electrification and the need for passengers to travel between cities of importance such as Derby, Sheffield and Leicester. If one travels the 30 miles to Doncaster to catch a train there, one can be in London in the excellent time of one hour 38 minutes. Once electrification comes to Doncaster, the time will come down to an hour and a half, and some of my south Yorkshire colleagues may be able to confirm this.

I rang Radio Sheffield to explain the changes that have been made today, but first I had to listen to the British Rail timetable announcements that the trains coming into Sheffield from London were 80 minutes late for various reasons, and that the trains to Wakefield would be late leaving for other reasons.

Sheffield has a second-class rail service, which is not good enough, because we are a first-class city. The sooner something happens between British Rail and the Government to ensure that the first-class city of Sheffield has a first-class service from British Rail, the better it will be for the people of south Yorkshire, including the electorate of Hallam.

8 pm

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn , Sheffield Central

It is not often that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) and I are on the same lines, but on this occasion we are. Unfortunately, the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) stops at Leicester, but I am sure that, as well as being supported by the hon. Member for Hallam, others who would like the line to go a little further north—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. In case there is a misunderstanding, perhaps I should inform the House that Mr. Speaker has not selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr).

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn , Sheffield Central

That is unfortunate, because there is a need for discussion about the electrification of the midland main line in the context of the Bill.

I shall add one or two points to those made by the hon. Member for Hallam. In 1991, the world student games are to be held in Sheffield, and it is estimated that they will attract 120 countries and over 6,000 participants. To put it in perspective, that is three times larger than the Commonwealth Games and the second largest sporting event outside the summer Olympics. It will take people between two hours and 40 minutes and two hours and 50 minutes to travel the 160 miles from St. Pancras to Sheffield. That is appalling by any standards. This will be the sports window of the world and to move people to it on such a bankrupt line will denigrate the railway system of the United Kingdom. I hope that British Rail will realise how many people will be supporting that sporting event.

Even more important, in the early 1990s the Channel tunnel will be finished. It took my hon. Friends many hours of debate during the passage of the Channel Tunnel Act to convince the Government that they should start thinking about diversifying away from the Channel tunnel entrance. On the fifth occasion, when we asked them at least to persuade BR to look at the ways in which we could best utilise the tunnel for the regeneration of many of the industrial areas in the north of England, Scotland and Wales, the Minister conceded what is now section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act. There will now be consultations between BR and the Channel tunnel group as to how best the north can take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Channel tunnel. However, without electrification of the midland main line, one of the major industrial parts of the United Kingdom—south Yorkshire—may be left out yet again.

The hon. Member for Hallam mentioned Doncaster. I will not tell any secrets out of school, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but you and I are going to see exactly where the freight interchange will be. I have no doubt that the weight of evidence is on your side, because there will be electrification through to Doncaster. Therefore, I have no doubt that you will allow me the latitude to say that at least the midland main line should be electrified, because it would couple up with the major freight interchange established in the 1960s—the most advanced in Europe —at Tinsley. Unfortunately, because of the decline in industry, that has not been used, but the infrastructure is there, and it would be easy to make it one of the major freight terminals for the north if there were electrification there. That would give south Yorkshire a major asset for its regeneration.

Earlier, we heard that an urban development corporation has been declared there, and that a number of initiatives are being introduced, including an airport and the development of a science park. However, we are short of the electrification that is needed. I was talking to an Australian business man who flew into Heathrow, went on the tube to St. Pancras and then spent nearly three hours trying to get to Sheffield. He said that it is deplorable that those trying to make major investments in south Yorkshire could not get a better transport system, because that was a major deterrent to business men in the north of England. It is important that the speed of the line should be increased considerably, because, if it is not, such business men will be deterred from visiting the area and making the investments that are so badly needed.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

Is it not a fact that people travel to Doncaster, are met by company cars, and then driven to Sheffield?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn , Sheffield Central

The hon. Gentleman is correct. Some of my colleagues and I travelled on the Doncaster line the other night on a train on which every seat had been pre-booked, so a considerable number of people were standing. Many passengers were business men going to the Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield areas. They were being ferried by company cars from Doncaster to their destinations. That is ludicrous.

The electrification of the midland main line could be a major boost for the steel industry, because a considerable amount of steel is used in the electrification structures. We should seriously consider how we can assist our steel industries with major structural developments such as this.

I am about the third generation of Members of Parliament from the Sheffield area who have been arguing not just for electrification, but for the speeding up of the line. Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears, but now all the way down the line people are saying that, unless we are given at least part of the investment that BR is putting into the rest of its rail infrastructure, we shall be at a major disadvantage in the regeneration of our economies and industries. I hope that the Minister will take on board the serious points that have been made both on the Floor of the House tonight and by people and councils of all political complexions. We are all at one on the importance, at least, of the development of the midland main line, for many reasons.

In the next few years there will be two specific events which I hope will lay down bench marks and give the Government some spur to encourage British Rail. The first will take place in 1991—the world student games. We do not want to bring in the thousands of visitors to south Yorkshire on decrepit, broken-down railway lines with second-class facilities.

The second event is the opening of the Channel tunnel in 1993. We do not want to be put at a disadvantage yet again because of the difficulty of getting in and out of that area in comparison with other areas.

It is important that the electrification should go beyond Leicester to south Yorkshire. We would be satisfied if the electrification ended in Sheffield and we assisted Barnsley and Rotherham later.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth 8:10 pm, 27th April 1988

Like the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), I regret that Mr. Speaker was unable to select the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr). It is inconceivable that the Bill should go ahead without the inclusion of a firm commitment from British Rail for the electrification of the midland main line. Such a move is logical and essential. We have already had the electrification of the west coast main line, and we read daily about the electrification of the east coast main ine. We now need a definitive and certain plan for the electrification of the midland main line beyond Leicester.

The importance of the midland main line has often been misunderstood. It is the second most important transport corridor in Britain, paralleling the MI motorway. The midland line links many major centres in the midlands, including Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, Alfreton, Loughborough, Market Harborough, Kettering and Welwyn. Hon. Members representing constituencies in Yorkshire have already spoken about its importance in south Yorkshire, where it links Sheffield and Chesterfield, and in west Yorkshire, where it links Leeds and Wakefield. It is not some backwater line that has been left over from pre-nationalisation days. It is a vital artery which runs through the heart of Britain. We neglect the well-being of that vital artery at our peril.

I have been told that it makes no economic sense to improve the midland main line. That is a fallacy, because it serves major centres of population, and without doubt it is on a par with the west coast and east coast main lines. It is certainly on a par with both the west and east coast main lines as the highest earner per route mile—£151,000 per route mile in 1984. British Rail has stressed that the costs on the route are too high and that it is uneconomic and difficult to run. On occasions, it has quoted running costs as £52,000 per route mile.

It is well known that the diesel high-speed trains running on the route are expensive to service and are not really cost effective. There is an extremely good argument for electrification on economic grounds. What is sometimes referred to as the sparks effect shows that a 1 per cent. reduction in journey time generates a 1 per cent. increase in revenue. If we take that a stage further, electrification of the midland line would generate at least a 25 per cent. increase in revenue. That is a stunning figure.

We need action now. It should not be left for the future. The lead time of such a capital project is not short. In fact, it will be about six years from the time of authorisation to the time that electrification can be completed. A little later in my speech I shall allude to further cogent reasons for pressing on right now because of the immense developments in travel that are about to overtake us. We require the go-ahead in 1988, which would ensure that the service was in place in 1994.

Another argument against the midland line is that it is a difficult railway to run compared with the east coast main line.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

My hon. Friend envisages the midland line being electrified by 1994. Does he think that that would be early enough, bearing in mind that the Channel tunnel is due to come into operation in 1993? Would it not be advantageous if the two dates were to coincide?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend, who has put so much time and effort into the midland electrification project. I shall refer to the Channel tunnel later in my speech. We cannot ignore it, and no doubt we should have electrification sooner rather than later.

One of the arguments against the midland electrification is the so-called difficulty of the curved track. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is not in his place. He would know whether in the days of yore the east coast main line was the Great Northern line or the Great Eastern line. I cannot hope to put across the point with the same wisdom as the hon. Gentleman, but I am told on good authority that the so-called curve problem would be resolved by the introduction of new rolling stock. The new 140 mph Electra class 91 locomotives and the mark IV coach which can tilt on curves are just the solution for the midland line.

We now know that that train will be introduced on the east coast line in 1989. If it were introduced on the midland line, it would cut journey times by 25 per cent. The journey from Leicester to London would take just 58 minutes, and that from Sheffield to London just 110 minutes. I see the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) nodding in agreement. That would be a wonderful boost for the east midlands and for Yorkshire.

What is the converse of all that? If electrification does not go ahead, what will it mean for the east midlands, for my constituency of Bosworth and for the hosiery and knitwear town of Hinckley and its burgeoning new industries? What will it mean for Hinckley and for the people who reside in Anstey, Ulverscroft, Groby and Ratby who commute into the city of Leicester? It will mean long-term economic disaster. If we ignore the midland main line and do not modernise it, the line will die. That will affect our constituents and lead to economic suicide.

Mr. Humfrey Matins:

An electric train that runs through my constituency from Gatwick to Victoria station has led to increased economic activity in the area. Does my hon. Friend agree that an excellent train such as that, with an excellent speed, generates industrial activity?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making such a helpful point. Improved communications and infrastructure lead to increased industrial activity, which increases the revenue that goes to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I see that my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport is taking note of that.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I hesitate to intervene during the hon. Gentleman's most interesting speech. The whole world might agree that the electrification of the railways generates greater economic activity, but unfortunately the Government do not think so. They insist on strict economic criteria that exclude the provisions that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I hope that he will be able to convince the Minister as well as the rest of the House.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I must admit that, in a sense, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I hesitated about raising that point, but my constituents are concerned about the constraints that have been imposed on British Rail. I am a great believer in efficiency and effectiveness. I should hate the hon. Gentleman to misunderstand me for one second, but there is a feeling that British Rail is having to trim on the midland main line in order to support the west coast and east coast main lines.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

Has my hon. Friend considered the possibility of British Rail owning the track and the signalling and other equipment, and private trains running on the line? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, really!"] Opposition Members say, "Oh, really," but that is no different from—

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

The hon. Gentleman ought to put his money where his mouth is.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

The hon. Gentleman says that I should put my money where my mouth is. I recollect that Opposition Members used that argument when bus services were deregulated. They said that deregulation would result in no bus services. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] It is not a speech; it is an intervention. It is now possible to catch a bus from Sheffield to any other city in the north, but Opposition Members said that that could not be done. I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) should consider the possibility of British Rail running the system, with private trains being used on the line.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I suspect that Opposition Members, who are smiling at my hon. Friend's helpful intervention, may have to think long and hard about what he has said. The electrification of the midland main line may have to be carried out with private funds. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has done a great deal of hard work on this issue. I shall leave him to make that point when he speaks later in the debate, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Opposition Members may have to bite the bullet.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

I am following my hon. Friend's argument carefully. Is he suggesting that electrification is an end in itself, or that it is a means of securing a better service for his constituents? If it is a means of obtaining a better service for his constituents, he may wish to take into account the fact that the HST trains are capable of a far higher speed than they are using on the line. It is line limitation, not the form of traction that is used, that is causing the slower speeds about which he complains. It is not true to say that electrification will lead to faster services than can now be provided. The existing HSTs are limited to 100 mph, but they are capable of 125 mph.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I take my hon. Friend's point, but the research that I have seen shows conclusively that the new high-speed rolling stock that is able to tilt on curves would lead to faster services. I am led to believe that trains would be able to travel at 140 mph on the Leicester line.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

Is it not right that the existing HST trains will soon be 25 years old? They are quite ancient. The existing line has its limitations, but new rolling stock would be able to travel much faster on it.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The rolling stock often covers 1,000 miles a day and it will come to the end of its useful life in the not-too-distant future.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

Yes. The present rolling stock is not as reliable as electric trains. If, because of a constituency crisis, hon. Members had to drive to their constituencies in cars with 120,000 miles on the clock, would they feel happy about driving out of New Palace Yard in such cars? I should not be happy about doing so. Ancient vehicles require more tender loving care, which can be translated into increased maintenance costs.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

Would the hon. Gentleman care to refute the Minister's argument by suggesting that the yuppies who have moved to Norwich and Ipswich have done so largely because of improved communications after electrification of the railway line? I hope that he will be able to convince the Minister that electrification has been achieved with 20-year-old electric locomotives cascaded —to use the lovely word that is used by Department of Transport advisers—from other parts of the country? If that can be done with 20-year-old locomotives, what could be done in Sheffield, Bosworth and Doncaster with brand new electric locomotives and rolling stock?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

The hon. Gentleman's point is valid. I intend to refer to the effect of changing attitudes to travel—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I hope that the hon. Member will not stray too far from the British Railways (No. 2) Bill.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the point will be relevant.

The hon. Member referred to yuppies. I am surprised that he did not refer to a member of his party who features in the Evening Standard today as having bought a yuppified house.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to "cascading". My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, the hon. Member for Leicester, East and I would be happy to have a few more high-speed trains cascading down the Leicester line. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has fought long and hard to get such services reinstated, and has achieved much. A certain number of east coast main line trains will cascade over on to the midland line. However, we return to the point of how reliable they will be. That rolling stock will be wearing out, and surely it is better to bite the bullet early, bring in the new electric trains and thereby cut costs.

I have referred to economic disaster in Leicestershire in the long term. There will not be economic disaster overnight, but in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, what will happen when there are main arteries running either side of a prosperous county such as Leicestershire? It will be economic suicide for the east midlands, and Leicester, Derby, Loughborough, Market Harborough, Kettering and Wellingborough will lose their inter city services and be demoted to secondary status. These towns and cities cannot be served acceptably from the east coast main line. The regional transport link provided by the midland line will be lost. If British Rail decides in its wisdom to divert the main line traffic off the midland main line and down the east coast main line, I see no future for the midland main line. The midlands will be in a terrible state.

We have touched on why we should have electric trains. We want them because they are more reliable than diesels and cost much less to maintain. With electrification, we would say goodbye to cancellations. My hon. Friend the Member for Hallam faces this problem. He has a lot of trouble getting back to his constituents. We know what a dedicated constituency Member he is. He is always there at the platform, hoping to get home to hold another surgery.

Electrification would solve the problem. There would be fewer delays and there need not be so many back-up locomotives. The amount of equipment necessary to back up the existing rolling stock is a problem. We have all been on train journeys all over the country where diesels are running and seen the cancellations and perhaps suffered when, unfortunately, it has not been possible to bring into service another half of a high-speed train unit. Such problems would end with electrification.

By the year 2000 the InterCity 125s will be nearly 25 years old and will have been travelling 800 to 1,000 miles a day, but trains will have been replaced on the east coast main line after just 13 years of service. Plans need to be made now for the modernisation and electrification of the midland main line. If it can be done on the east coast main line, it can certainly be done on the midland main line.

The arguments put forward by British Rail to electrify the east coast main line have not been put forward for the midland main line, but the same arguments apply, as I hope hon. Members agree. My fear for Leicestershire is that it is in danger of becoming a rail transport backwater.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

My hon. Friend is right. The failure to electrify and to put new rolling stock into Leicestershire will mean that growth will be restricted and businesses hindered. Where will we be when the European market is opened up in 1992? There will be an incredible new market, offering tremendous opportunities, and suddenly we will be trying to compete and to export our goods to that exciting market. What will there be? In the midlands there will be antiquated rolling stock and old cast-offs from the east coast main line—thank you very much, east coast main line. The midland will be a sort of cast-off centre line, with the fast services going up either side of it.

The fact—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam will support me—is that business will not locate where there are old-fashioned railway links. Business demands, and is entitled to, good communications. That is the way towards regeneration. I have discussed this matter with my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

It is interesting that the journey time on the Leicester-St. Pancras section has increased, although British Rail promised to reduce it once resignalling was completed at the end of 1987. The journey time from Sheffield to London is two hours 35 minutes, which means 60 mph with, typically, six intermediate stops. It is a matter of time and speed. I listened to my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport—I have heard that one should believe what Ministers say—but these trains do not run anywhere near 100 mph. It is said that they travel at 60 mph.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, yet again, for his wisdom in amplifying my points.

Running on from that—no doubt you will be glad that I am, Mr. Deputy Speaker—the demand for rail services is another aspect of the issue. That demand is increasing. The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East was good enough to draw my attention to the effect of people moving away from town. The trend is illustrated in the east midlands —in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire—in house prices. Leicestershire is the sixth most prosperous county in Britain, and that is largely due to the policies of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. That might not, of course, be everyone's idea, and I should hate in saying that to lose the all-party support that exists. There is a feeling of warmth in the Chamber.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

On reflection, does my hon. Friend think that some of the popularity must be due to the quality and calibre of local Members of Parliament?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

As a new Member I hesitate to make that point, but I accept my hon. Friend's wisdom. I have relied on his advice and help and, I hope, learnt quite a lot from him, not least from his approach to the Bill—which may not be lost on the Opposition.

As I was saying before that helpful intervention, the impact of the changing travel pattern all over the country is illustrated by increased property prices. Property prices around Harborough have increased by about 50 per cent. in much less than a year. In Hinckley, the heart of my constituency, property prices have increased by one third in six months. I am told that at stations on the east coast main line, such as Grantham and even Melton Mowbray, commuters are queuing to get on the trains. Those commuters have an impact on property prices. Labour Members, especially the hon. Member for Leicester, East, may not think that that is a good idea, but it is happening and we must face it.

With that changing pattern, it is absurd to argue that there is insufficient demand to support a vastly improved service on the midland main line. My hon. Friend the Member for Hallam and the hon. Member for Bradford, South mentioned the impossibility of finding a seat on a train without a reservation. With such a situation, it is impossible to argue that there would not be sufficient demand or revenue. It has been argued that if we increase the revenue by 1 per cent., we increase the speed and effectiveness of the trains by 1 per cent. Surely, if there is a 25 per cent. increase in revenue, there will be plenty of passengers to pay for that.

I should like to draw to the attention of hon. Members an article in today's Daily Mail, which supports that point. It is entitled "City Exodus in the Quest for Good Life" and states: The quest for a better life is leading more and more people away from the cities and suburbs, a survey reveals today. That is no quack survey. It is not one of those spurious polls that are thrust at hon. Members from time to time, stating that 75 per cent. of people are in favour of something and one then finds that the sample consists of six people. It is not one of those polls for which one pays 50p and then gets into a tangle with the taxman because one forgets to make out the sum to the constituency association, pays it in direct and is then accused of not declaring it. This is a survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.

This trend has been going on for a long time. I find it strange that British Rail has not cottoned on to that pattern of moving away from the cities. In 1931, there were 6·7 million people in inner London, whereas there are now only 3·9 million. They have gone out to the shires. They like it out there. The OPCS spokesman said: The city is becoming more and more of a workplace rather than somewhere to live. One can argue that the same is true of the city of Leicester. Villages in my constituency are becoming more and more interested in computers—[Interruption.] I mean that they are important as commuter bases. I have obviously tickled the sense of humour of the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East. At one time I worked in the computer industry, and I sometimes get my computers and commuters muddled. One can get into frightful tangles if one is making a sales pitch to computers for commuters! It can be difficult.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I shall let the hon. Gentleman sort out his computers from his commuters. He is making a creditable effort and I hope that the Government Whips will recognise that.

Let us return to the Bill and the important point that the hon. Gentleman was trying to make before he got mixed up with his computers and commuters. The effects of electrification on lines in his constituency and on the midland main line would be beneficial, and the Minister should take that into consideration when British Rail submits proposals to electrify those lines.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for guiding me back to the points that I now hope to make.

There are three lines in my constituency. There is the charming Market Bosworth light railway. I recommend hon. Members to visit my constituency in the summer so that they can chug along by steam. There is the important link from Hinkley to Nuneaton and beyond in one direction, and to Leicester in the other direction. That is a congested service and I frequently receive letters about it.

If the main line to Leicester is electrified, we are in with a tremendous chance. We should branch it out and electrify that cross-route. The electrification of other lines to form a grid is most important, particularly for Yorkshire Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Hallam might help me on this. As I understand it, it is possible to link into York a range of cross-routes. When the main line is in place we will obtain added value simply by branching out electrified lines. We should be able to channel commuters on to that line to make it viable.

There are four key points that make the electrification of the midland line a more feasible proposition than it was before. The introduction this year of the 140 mph Electra class 91 locomotives could cut the midland journey times by 25 per cent.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

Dick Turpin's trip to York set me thinking about this point. I inquired whether there was a link between Doncaster, on the route to York, and Sheffield. I discovered that that link was run, not by British Rail, but by South Yorkshire passenger transport executive. British Rail's press release—I apologise to the House for having lost the front sheet—states: This together with a new approach to track maintenance under which the engineers are being given longer at each site to maximise the amount of work they can do during the time available, means that the impact of track maintenance work is much more predictable and suitable allowances and suitable allowances can be built into timetables before they are published. It appears that British Rail is aware that something is wrong with the track and is introducing new machinery to speed up the trains.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I have considered only the question whether fast trains can use that track, but my hon. Friend is right. The issue of the new trains and track is relevant. As a result of the development of the brilliant new trains, the amount of money needed to be spent on relaying the track will be reduced. The French had to lay a completely new track for the 160 mph train from Paris to Lyons, at vast expense. The genius of the British Rail train is that it can run on conventional curves.

That is the first key difference between the situation that exists now and that which existed a couple of years ago. The second key difference is the subject of the Bill, and that is the redevelopment of the King's Cross-St. Pancras area by the British Rail property board, to include the new cross-London mainline station for InterCity and Channel tunnel trains which, of course, will have direct links to the midland main line.

We have already seen dramatic developments in British Rail's and London Transport's approach to rail travel in London. I thought that it was an absolute scandal that so many lines, such as the one that runs by Stamford bridge and Chelsea football ground, were not open to passenger services. I could never understand why certain railway lines around London were not used.

Great things are happening. We now have the Snow Hill tunnel, albeit for light traffic, for Network SouthEast. The new King's Cross-St. Pancras development is a super-Snow Hill, with its 12 platforms at a cost of £100 million, being sunk way below the surface. We in this great capital city will suddenly find ourselves with a fantastic through station, an InterCity station of a quality that we would hardly have conceived possible until the plan was drawn up.

We shall have not only easy passenger access, which will link the east coast main line, the Great Midland or midland railway lines, but a north London cross-link. Of course, those railways are short additions to the line. They have to run only about 100 yd of tunnel on the midland line and about 400 or 500 yd on the others. They are relatively cheap to do. The idea of bringing a network of trains from the east coast main line and the midland main line into a through station in London is wonderful. We have super high-speed trains which do 140 mph, and superb new facilities being built. When we link that to my next point, which relates to the Channel tunnel, we are talking about some sort of railway network.

The Channel tunnel will be a reality in 1993. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough was quite right to say that I had been talking about 1994. When we talk about the midland main line electrification, we are really talking about 1993. That is the key year. If we do not get our act together for 1993, there will be all kinds of congestion and problems. There is the issue of where we go. We will have a funnel with the east coast and the west coast main lines, and, I hope, the midland line coming into the fantastic new station. How will they go out the other side? I cannot quite recall, but I do not think that they can go out through the Snow Hill tunnel, because it was built for lightweight traffic, but I may be wrong. I introduced my remark by saying that I was not sure.

The point that I want to make—never mind the Snow Hill tunnel—relates to the situation that faces Channel tunnel traffic running between London and the south coast. A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be able to go to Japan and travel with a special train pass around the four Japanese islands. One can travel at a tremendous rate around Japan and see it very well. At Tokyo airport there is not only an ordinary Japanese rail network, but a private system, which was built through the suburbs to alleviate the tremendous traffic that flows to Tokyo airport.

With the expected volume of traffic going through the Channel tunnel and the enonnous development on the French side—I am not saying that we do not have a development of tremendous credit, and more credit to my hon. Friend the Minister for pushing ahead with it—on the basis of my experience, there must be a case for building an entirely new railway line down to the south coast. I am thinking of a private line. If constituents are to have a proper service to get their goods through the tunnel to Europe—to Berlin, down to Naples, Lisbon and other destinations—I wonder whether it will be feasible, however brilliant the signalling system is, to run heavy trains on that commuter system.

Photo of Mr Keith Speed Mr Keith Speed , Ashford

I have listened with interest to my hon. Friend. Any sympathy that I may have had for his case is fast evaporating if he wants to drive a new railway line down through the suburbs of south-east London, through Surrey, Kent and my constituency. We have long debates about the tunnel. This is a debate about the British Railways (No. 2) Bill. I urge my hon. Friend to stick to the midland main line, which I am sure he knows well, and leave Network SouthEast to hon. Members who know it well.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for preventing me from straying. I was not advocating building a railway line across a green belt, but it is possible to run lines along existing lines. That is the way it is done in Japan. As we are tackling the problem in such a sophisticated way, with the tremendous mainline station in London and all the money that will be spent on it, it may be necessary to take some action.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

The point that my hon. Friend is trying to make, and making well, is that the chunnel—the Channel tunnel—is of no use to the east midlands unless the London-midland line is electrified. The Channel tunnel will be used only by electrified trains. Therefore, without the electrification of the London-midland line, the Channel tunnel offers no opportunities to the east midlands.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for helping me on that point.

We have a sophisticated new transport system. It must be sensible to make improvements to the track for the Channel tunnel—I shall leave it at that—but the midlands should be included in it.

Hon. Members will recall that trains that do not run on the new electrified track will not be able to go to Europe. That is of tremendous concern. On the east coast and west coast main lines, high-speed trains will race through to goodness know where—right to the southern foot of Italy. The constituents of the hon. Member for Leicester, East will have to go to King's Cross or St. Pancras, and change there. That is not right. If the midland main line is electrified, two trains a day will run from Leicester to Europe. That will be wonderful.

The towns and cities that are served by the midland main line will enjoy that superior service only if it is electrified. In contrast, the west coast route will receive at least four day services and two night services, while the east coast route, which serves a smaller population—this is a significant point—will have three day trains and one night service. Where is the justice in that?

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

About 12 trains a day run from the major cities of Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham to London and back, whereas smaller towns such as Kettering and Wellingborough have about 16 to 18 trains a day, even though InterCity provides a service to all those major towns and cities. Even without the electrification, which I dearly want, I contend that areas such as those represented by my hon. Friend and myself are badly served by British Rail.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

My hon. Friend puts his case eloquently and speaks from the heart. I speak from the heart, and I assure hon. Members that if I did not feel so strongly about this issue I would not be advancing it in the way that I am.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

What about a fatigue allowance?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am not sure that a fatigue allowance would be permitted.

The Channel tunnel is soon to be completed, there is the new St. Pancras-King's Cross terminal, with its wonderful new underground platforms, there are the new high-speed trains and there will shortly be a new cross-London market of 12·5 million people. It will be feasible to run trains from Sheffield to Brighton, so the market for travel will increase enormously. British Rail has recently run more trains through the old West Kensington station—

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

If trains ran through the old West Kensington station they might run into a District line train, and that could cause all kinds of complications.

There will shortly be a vastly increased travel market. When a service is increased and routeing is improved, there is an increase in demand. That has been well illustrated by what has happened to long-haul air routes around the world. One can now buy a round-the-world ticket from firms in London for £800. Is it surprising that demand has rocketed? There is now a better global service, and its cheap price has increased demand.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

To assist my hon. Friend, I shall give a quotation from a British Rail press release dated 1 March. It concerns an investment of £306 million in the east coast main line to London. It says: The secret lies in new engineering techniques and the purchase of 11 track stabilising machines. These permit trains to run at full speed as soon as engineering work is finished. It continues, and this is where the savings will be made: The result is a 16 per cent. savings in track laying costs"—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would care to make his own speech? He is making many interventions. An intervention is a pertinent comment or a question to the hon. Member who has the Floor. Will the hon. Gentleman make his pertinent comment and allow the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) to proceed with his speech?

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

I think that I was expecting too much assistance from Opposition Members. The press release says: InterCity will save £1,000 per day in brake wear on the London-Edinburgh journey alone, and £213,000 a year in fuel savings from a smoother ride.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I shall have words with him after the debate about attempting to lead the House astray.

If you will forgive the pun, Madam Deputy Speaker, I do not want to get into a loop, but I must return to the issue of curves. The implications of what has been said by the opponents of the electrification of the midland main line is that the new high-speed tilting trains cannot run on that track. On 30 October 1975, an advanced passenger train E, a test train, ran from Leicester to London in 58 minutes. Let it never be said that that is impossible. It ran on the old unimproved track with its problems and curves, and since then the track has been developed, so there could be an even better service.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that British Rail management was so impressed by the performance of the APTE that it ran the train straight into the scrap yard in 1980 and no one has seen it since?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning that. There are times when efficiency involves cutting certain projects. I may be out of order when I say that the TSR2 was cut by I forget which Government. I think that it was the Labour Government who cut that brilliant technological project.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

The hon. Gentleman was still at nursery school then.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I remember that happening when I was at school and it had a great effect on me and—I was about to say my honourable schoolmates—my not so honourable colleagues. Indeed, as far as I remember, most of them were thoroughly dishonourable and disreputable. We had fairly extensive opportunities to study railways there and my interest came about because I always had a Boy's Own interest in trains. There is a valid point in that, Madam Deputy Speaker, because if one studies train sets at an early age, one develops an affinity with them and that makes it much easier to understand these complexities.

Having been slightly flippant, I must return to a serious and important point, and the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East may care to note it. So far in this debate we have not heard a word about what will happen to the east coast main line electrification engineers who are building the line. What will happen to them when the line is completed? We have a brilliant, dedicated team of people. Are we to break up the team? I say no, and I appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister to give a commitment that that superb team of engineers who are powering the east coast main line electrification northwards should have their jobs guaranteed and should be switched to another project—

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I did not intend to score political points tonight, because I was looking for the hon. Gentleman's support.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) does not have a job for life?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks, but in the spirit of the debate in which we seem to have all-party agreement on this midland main line electrification it would be churlish of me to try and score points off the hon. Gentleman, although I am tempted to do so.

Electrification is not just an issue for Members of Parliament. The House should be aware that Leicestershire county council, Derbyshire county council, Nottingham county council and Sheffield city council are sponsoring a study to reinforce the case for electrification. Hon. Members will recognise that as a clear illustration of the deep and heartfelt feeling that exists in and around the east midlands. My constituents will be aggrieved if they do not have the same sort of services as others when the Channel tunnel is built and amazing new rail links are built in London which will get them and their goods, such as their hosiery and knitwear exports, to Paris or wherever they want to go.

There is tremendous economic growth in my constituency. New companies are moving into the area and it is a major distribution centre. We need such a link, and we need this kind of support. I draw the House's attention to the fact that these county councils—perhaps unusually because of their different complexions and attitudes—have joined together to control the situation.

There was much that I hoped to say tonight—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

I wonder whether I can assist my hon. Friend with his case for electrification. The journey time from London to Edinburgh is 25 minutes shorter, at four hours and 23 minutes. The journey from Newcastle to London is 269 miles, which is completed in three hours or less, at 90 mph. The fastest journey is two hours and 50 minutes. The fastest time for the journey from Leeds to London is two hours and eight minutes. Time, as we all know, and as Opposition Members will appreciate, is money.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I do not know whether my hon. Friend is dropping a tactful hint when he says that time is money, but I assure him that I am not being paid for this delivery tonight. I am hesitant whether to leave some points to be made by my hon. Friends. One of my hon. Friends is shaking his head.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

The hon. Member mentioned the service to Leicester, and one of his hon. Friends tabled an amendment on the subject, which was not selected. He has also mentioned the cross-party support that there has been, not least from the Nottinghamshire county council, for further extension and electrification. Will the hon. Gentleman address some of his remarks to places slightly north of Leicester?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I hope that the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) will have a chance to make that point. The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I have not majored on Nottingham tonight, but, if I had, I might have had problems driving through my constituency tomorrow. The first thing is to get the line built to Leicester. That is what we are talking about. One of the arguments that is made about the electrification of the main line—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

I advise the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) that Nottingham was discussed before he graced the House with his presence. Nottingham has been included in our great plan.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I was saying, before yet another helpful intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam, that there is one other argurnent—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

There is one further point. My hon. Friend and I come from adjoining constituencies. Leicester is the central town for Leicestershire, but Nottingham is close to my constituency. A number of my constituents would be grateful for electrification through to Nottingham, which is their nearest centre. Large sectors of the county of Leicestershire would benefit also from electrification through to Nottingham. It is therefore in both our interests.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

In just outlining my speech, which is all I have had time to do so far, it has not been possible for me to go into the matters that pertain to other lines. However, it is very helpful that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) has brought up this matter.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

It is important that the hon. Gentleman clears up the contradiction. He has stated that he would not wish to return even to his own constituency if he added his voice to the issue of the wider scope for electrification. His hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) said that there was a wider strategy. What I am asking my colleague the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) to elucidate—I am sure that he can do so at some length—is the strategy for electrification. Surely it is not a matter for parochial constituency interests and the idea that "It must go to my constituency and no one else's," because if that is the hon. Gentleman's view, electrification will not go to any hon. Member's constituency.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He accuses me of having a constituency interest, but I cannot think that his interest in Nottingham is anything other than parochial. If he thinks a little more carefully about what I have said, he will realise that I have spent a lot of time on strategy and concentrated on Leicester because I am a Leicestershire Member and proud of it, as the hon. Member for Leicester, East, who has been good enough to listen to my words will know—

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

The hon. Gentleman says, "Not for long."

I do not want to appear parochial, but we must take first things first.

I now want to turn to the success of the electrification of the St. Pancras-Bedford stretch. Before that line was electrified, we were told in a whole range of arguments why that could not be done; why it would be a great waste of money; why it could not possibly work; and that there was not the time, the people or the equipment to do it. All the old arguments were trotted out.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission's September 1987 report, "British Railways Board: Network SouthEast" Cm 204, contains a case study of the St. Pancras-Bedford line electrification. It shows that once the initial difficulties had been overcome that part of the line became relatively profitable after electrification, and has remained so.

If hon. Members want further confirmation of that, they could go to the Library to ask for Mr. Michael Bonavia's 1986 hook, "Twilight of British Rail". Chapter 10, which is somewhat inaptly named "The electrifying experience" because Bonavia is talking about closures, argues that the Bedford-Sheffield line is an obvious candidate for electrification. Bonavia states: The Midland main line (Bedford to Sheffield) is an electrification scheme that would also be facilitated by the work already done". This is the work to which I have already referred—the 50 miles of main line which, as he puts it, is now "under wires". This would also be a conveniently self-contained project so far as the principal passenger services are concerned"—[Interruption.] Hon. Members should wait, because he then states: more so in fact than the east coast main line. Here we have an expert—

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

Does the hon. Gentleman concede that Michael Bonavia's book was written before the onset of the 2·7 per cent. return which the Government now expect on InterCity services? Given that expenditure on InterCity services runs, as I understand it, to about £600 million and that the expected income would be £500 million, will the hon. Gentleman concede that the money to those that £100 million gap has to be found from somewhere and that it may well come through major closures on the very sections of lines that he is proposing should be electrified, and that that would be the responsibility of his own Government?

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for arguing the case for privatisation, or at least private investment. Typically for an Opposition Member, he thinks in terms of reductions, but we are talking about increasing the service. It may be important at times to have injections of private capital. Perhaps on another occasion, or even this evening, we will hear some profound and interesting proposals for alternative funding from my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

The hon. Gentleman has introduced the political spice that may have been missing from the debate by mentioning privatisation. Would not building up and boosting the east coast main line electrification make it the prime target for privatisation, so that there would be a major diversion of further services from the very lines that he would like electrified?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. This is a wide debate, but it does not spread as far as privatisation.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I am grateful for that intervention, because if the Government, in their wisdom, decided to privatise the east coast main line, the proceeds of that sale—

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

The hon. Gentleman has said a great deal. I meant to say that we have had a warm feeling this evening because there has been—

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

It is rapidly cooling off.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

I would not want it to cool off. I was not hoping to make political points, and if I have been flippant, I had not intended to be—

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

The hon. Gentleman has not been flippant; he has been long-winded. He has been speaking for 70 minutes, largely due, Madam Deputy Speaker, to your and your predecessors' tolerance, and he has said little about the British Railways (No. 2) Bill. It might be amusing for juvenile—or even senior—Conservative Back Benchers to delay legislation such as this, but it means that important work which could be done from one end of the railways to the other is delayed. I tell these Conservative Members for nothing that this is likely to lead to exchanges through the usual channels tomorrow.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The debate can, to some extent, extend beyond the contents of the Bill, but it must relate to the Bill. I remind the hon. Gentleman of that.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

The points that I have been making about the electrification of the main line from St. Pancras to Leicester and beyond have not been made lightly. I say that in all sincerity. It is essential to the east midlands and to the long-term well-being of my constituency. This has not been a time-wasting exercise, because this subject must be dealt with. If I did not feel so strongly about it, I would not be in the Chamber tonight.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East 9:23 pm, 27th April 1988

We have heard an interesting, albeit drawn-out speech from the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick), largely concerned with the need for the electrification of the former midland railway main line from St. Pancras, and I shall return to that subject in a moment.

First, however, I want to refer to the Bill and the detail of the works therein. Speeches by the Minister and myself are in no way intended to truncate the debate and, provided that they succeed in catching your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, hon. Members on both sides are free to refer to the Bill at whatever length they like.

An unfortunate aspect of our parliamentary procedures is that when the British Railways Board—I rarely defend it because, unlike Conservative Members, I have no great faith in its philosophy or some of its policies—wants to carry out the smallest or mildest alteration to the existing railway network, or to construct any new lines to add to it, a Bill is necessary, and that enables hon. Members on both sides to block the work by tabling appropriate blocking motions. Indeed, hon. Members can raise the need for better or electrified railway services to and from their constituencies.

I wish that such procedures were available for our road network, but hon. Members will be aware that roads are built and maintained and the money spent without reference to the House. Without causing undue offence to the hon. Member for Bosworth, the fact that he spent so much time on the east coast main line illustrates that it is about time that our procedures regarding British Railways Bills should be reformed.

Work No. 1 in the Bill relates to the development of a spur railway at Battersea in connection with the development of Battersea power station as a leisure centre. I hope the House will note that that proposal is made with the financial support of the developers. I hope that the Minister can tell us that that financial support was a condition of planning permission for the development. If not, that support is none the less welcome, and perhaps it may set a precedent. If the envisaged use of the new leisure centre matches the forecasts, it is perhaps as well that a new railway line has been proposed; otherwise the prospect of hon. Members entering or leaving this place by road would be considerably diminished. I hope that I shall not be considered parochial for saying that.

Work No. 4 relates to the construction of running loops east of Ashford for Channel tunnel traffic. The hon. Member for Bosworth touched upon that in his long-drawn-out contribution. Apparently his call for additional railway lines in Kent was resented by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). I regret that he is not in his place at present.

The hon. Member for Bosworth made a valid point about the inadequacy of the existing railway line between London and the Channel tunnel mouth. That inadequacy might be overcome if the running loops east of Ashford were extended as far as necessary in both directions to create a four-track main line between the mouth of the Channel tunnel and the new Channel tunnel terminus at Waterloo. I do not expect the instant agreement of the Minister to that proposal, but I hope that he agrees that the existing railway network is inadequate for the envisaged additional traffic when the Channel tunnel is open.

In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), I should also like to comment on Work No. 7, which relates to the installation of barrier machines at a level crossing in Lincoln. The existing gates are to be replaced with full lifting harriers. I always believe that it is inherently unfair that 50 per cent. of the cost of such works must be met within British Rail's budget. The purpose of such barriers is to protect motorists from the consequences of their own stupidity. The practice of driving around half barriers as they are lifting or ignoring the warning lights place motorists in considerable danger and occasionally—as we saw a couple of years ago at Lock ington—places train travellers in some danger. We believe that the cost of such works should be met entirely from the roads budget, which appears endless when other matters are considered.

I return to the question of the midland main line and whether or not it should be electrified. Although it would be unfair to describe all hon. Members who are in the House at the moment as railway buffs, there is a consensus that the line should be considered for electrification. I think that proposal would be supported by hon. Members in the Chamber. With such proposals being judged as they are, and with the problems of proving the case financially, it is unlikely that the go-ahead for that will ever be given.

In an exchange at Transport question time on 18 April, the Minister said that the proposed electrification of the railway line between Manchester and Blackpool would cost £12 million. He should remember that he could not buy much motorway for that sum. The Minister thought that it was more cost-effective and efficient to use Sprinter diesel multiple units between those two points.

If one considers the Manchester-Blackpool line in isolation on a strictly cost return basis, that might be true, but we did not build the M55 motorway to Blackpool on such a basis. It would be stupid to consider the M55, which runs from a field north of Preston to a roundabout at Squires gate, solely as a road linking Preston and Blackpool. No one would build a motorway on that basis. Yet only 10 days ago the Minister said that it would cost £12 million to electrify the Manchester-Blackpool railway line. He was considering it in isolation; he did not take into account the fact that it would give British Rail an electrified diversionary line to Scotland. It would enable trains from Euston to Scotland to go via Manchester, although that would take longer. The possibility of generating more traffic is ignored.

A similar proposal for the midland main line is likely to be greeted in the same way. Of course, the midland main line from St. Pancras is electrified as far as Bedford. The Minister may need to consult his advisers, but perhaps he could tell the House—if not tonight, at some time in the future—whether such electrification proposals would be considered on the basis of the additional traffic which would be generated between London and Sheffield or London and Leicester, or whether they would be measured against the likely increase in traffic between Bradford and Leicester or Bedford and Sheffield.

Given the track record of the Department of Transport in these matters, the Department is likely to say that, because the line is already electrified as far as Bedford, as part of Network SouthEast rather than the InterCity network, it can take into consideration only passengers travelling north from Bedford to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield. I do not say that that is how the proposal would be evaluated, but it would not surprise me if it were done in that way. I hope that the Minister will let us know exactly how proposals for the electrification of the whole of the former midland main line from St. Pancras would be evaluated.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) talked about bad late-night connections from Sheffield. If one looks at British Rail's timetable, it is non-political to point out that anyone who wishes to head north out of London faces the same problem. Those who wish to go south from London are better treated.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I will give way after I have made this point.

It is a fact that those for whom late-night services have been traditionally provided live south of London, so far as railway management is concerned. All-night services have long been provided from stations such as Waterloo and Victoria for those people privileged—if that is the right term—to live south of London, yet such services have never been provided for those of us who are, perhaps, wise enough to live in the frozen north.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

There are three trains serving the London to Doncaster route. There is one at 22.55 hours, which arrives in Doncaster at 1.29; one at 23.20 hours, arriving at 1.20; and another at 23.59, which I do not commend to the House, arriving at 4.03 hours. Again, it is the east coast route that is provided with the rolling stock and a better timetable.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I largely agree with the point that I believe the hon. Gentleman seeks to make. British Rail's costs are largely fixed because the equipment is in situ and the track exists. It is a short-sighted policy on its part not to run trains. I do not like to be fair to British Rail, but one must recognise that such a policy is forced upon it by the Government, because it is often more economical not to run trains. The ultimate—and I hope that I am not writing the Tory party's next manifesto for it—is to save £1 billion a year by not running any trains at all. I do not know how one would tackle the congestion, but such a philosophy might appeal to the hon. Member for Hallam and his right hon. Friend the Minister, and to those in the Department of Transport who prefer to play at road building and road repairing than sending cheques to the British Railways Board to pay for a proper rail system. I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's point and hope that it will receive a response from the Minister.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of British Rail's second-class service to Sheffield. I am sure he will join us in our next censure motion, or whatever, on the Department of Transport for the niggardly way in which it has approached the funding of British Rail services.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I do not want to ruin the hon. Gentleman's promotion prospects, but I did not make that speech—he did. The logical conclusion to his speech is that there should be greater funding for the midland main line to Sheffield, and we certainly agree. The hon. Gentleman also joined my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) in emphasising the need for greater expenditure on the provision of Channel tunnel services, with which I am sure we also all agree.

One reason why the Opposition were anxious to put clause 40 of the Channel Tunnel Bill onto the statute book, ensuring that British Rail will by the end of next year publish its countrywide plans for both passenger and freight traffic, was that we knew full well—as does the rest of the House, if it were honest—that British Rail puts forward no proposals for investment, electrification, or whatever, unless they meet the criteria laid down by the Department of Transport.

The Minister says more often than some of his predecessors, "I have received no proposals from British Rail about electrification or about Channel tunnel developments for freight facilities, extra passenger facilities, new locomotives and rolling stock. But if I do receive any such proposals, I will consider them." All of us, if we are honest, will recognise that that is a con. Regular contact is maintained between the Minister's Department and the British Railways Board. The board is left in no doubt that if it makes proposals that do not meet the investment criteria previously laid down, retribution will be both swift and terrible. The result is that it does not put forward any proposals unless those proposals meet the strictly laid down financial criteria demanded by the Department.

I fear—and I believe that the House fears—that if such procedures are continued into next year, British Rail will once again be found wanting in regard to provision for additional Channel tunnel traffic and certainly in regard to hon. Members representing south of England constituencies. Britain will drown under a tidal wave of heavy goods vehicles.

Either the railway—including the midland main line —is properly equipped to take advantage of the additional traffic likely to be generated in 1993 when the Channel tunnel opens, or it is not. If it is not, I have no doubt that there will be additional pressure for duplicate motorways, for the widening of existing motorways and for even greater expenditure on the building and strengthening of bridges. That again might please the Minister and some of his colleagues, and it will probably delight many of his advisers in the Department of Transport, but I do not think for a moment that such proposals will make him popular with the electorate in the south of England. Certainly such an approach would do nothing to gear up the north of England and the midland main line as far as Sheffield to enable it to take advantage of the additional traffic generated by the Channel tunnel.

This has been a fascinating debate on a Bill whose total expenditure comes to £7·8 million. I think that the hon. Member for Bosworth spent more than that in five minutes of his 75-minute contribution. It just goes to show that, of course, Conservative Members are in favour of public expenditure restraints—hut not when they affect their own constituencies.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire 9:41 pm, 27th April 1988

It may be helpful at this point if I give a brief indication of the Government's view on the Bill.

The Government have considered the Bill's content, and we have no objection in principle to the powers sought by the board. The Department has only one point outstanding with the Bill's promoters, and I hope that it will be cleared up satisfactorily.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) raised a number of points, particularly on the services provided by British Rail for his constituents. He will appreciate that the London-Sheffield timetable and the scheduling of train services are a commercial matter for British Rail. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) chuckles. Surely he does not really suggest that we in the House should start to draw up the timetables for British Rail's operations. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman made some sensible comments about the use of the House's time for purely constituency suggestions relating to major investment.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

All that I suggest is that, as the Minister and his Department lay down the financial constraints under which British Rail must operate and tighten those constraints year by year—indeed, reduce the finance available for running British Rail services—he should not complain when I "chuckle", as he puts it, when he tells the House—misleadingly, in my view—that these are matters for British Rail management. He is the man with his fingers on the financial windpipe of British Rail, as we all know.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what has been happening under the present Government. We have been reducing the revenue subsidy to British Rail and increasing investment substantially. The investment figures that have now been approved by Ministers would have made him green with envy had he been a Minister in the previous Government, with responsibility for railways. He knows only too well that, had he been in a position at any time to improve investment on anything remotely approaching the scale on which I have had the privilege to improve it, he would have considered himself a very good friend to British Rail, the railway network, the railway unions and the travelling public. With the new timetables, the last train to Sheffield, at 21.40, is being speeded up by over a quarter of an hour. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam will be delighted with that information.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

As I said, the problem is timing. I cannot see how hon. Members can be in the House and vote and still catch a train that went as they passed through the Lobby.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

Next year there will be an additional service to Sheffield at around 11 o'clock in the evening, and that will enable my hon. Friend both to cast his vote and to get back to his constituency.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

Will the Minister claim credit for that, is it a matter for BR management or, most likely, does it have something to do with the usual channels?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

I assure the hon. Member that I do not claim credit for it. I am merely drawing attention to the fact that this is part of British Rail's plans for the future, and we are debating the British Railways (No. 2) Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) clearly shares my enthusiasm for trains, although I regret that he does not share my enthusiasm for British Rail. He referred to the midland main line as a vital artery, and I wholly agree with him on that. However, he seeks electrification of that line on a number of grounds, some of which are not as firm as he had assumed. For example, he asserted that the high-speed trains that now service that line are 25 years old and clapped out, but that is not the case. They were built in 1975, and while I agree that there are points concerning their reliability which I shall draw to the attention of British Rail, it is not necessarily true that the only way of solving the problem is by scrapping them.

My hon. Friend also asserted that electrification of itself would increase speed. That is untrue. I can illustrate what I mean. The west coast is electrified and the maximum speeds on it are less than the speeds on the east coast main line with high-speed trains.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

Was I not correct to say that, if the new Electra class 91 locomotives and the mark 4 coaches were introduced on the line from St. Pancras to Leicester and beyond, they would have a dramatic increase in speed? I was not trying to mislead the House.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

I am happy to clarify that point for my hon. Friend. As I have said, the west coast main line, which is electrified, is slightly slower than the east coast main line, which is not electrified. Therefore, it is not true that electrification of itself leads to higher speeds. In the case of the midland main line, the speed limitation is 100 mph and that is a restriction because of the track, the curves and junctions, and because of other such factors. Electrification does not change those limitations and electrifying it would not achieve the purpose that my hon. Friend suggests.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

No, let me just finish this point.

My hon. Friend claims that the Electra, which is a 140 mph locomotive, would be faster. There is no point in having a faster engine if it cannot go at its maximum speed. My hon. Friend also asked whether tilting coaches would enable a higher speed to be achieved. He may be right, but tilting coaches do not require electrification. Indeed, he told the House that in 1975 the APT ran from Leicester to London in 58 minutes. However, he did not tell the House that it was not electrified. In fact, it is an illustration of the point that I am making that higher speed does not require electrification. That APT run used a gas turbine engine with two coaches and two power units. All the other traffic was cleared off the line to give it a free run. I hope that that demonstrates to my hon. Friend that electrification will not necessarily achieve the purposes he has in mind.

Photo of Mr Peter Snape Mr Peter Snape , West Bromwich East

I hope that the Minister—albeit inadvertently—was not seeking to mislead his hon. Friend. The APT, which alas is in the scrapyard, was electrified eventually and used on the west coast main line. Does the Minister concede that electrification means faster point-to-point timing because of the greater acceleration of electrified locomotives and rolling stock? If diesel trains are just as efficient as electric trains, why have the Government approved the electrification of the east coast main line?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

The decision between electric and diesel involves a careful technical assessment related to very heavy initial outlay on electrification and low operating costs, or low outlay on diesel and high operating costs. Which is the most economical way of providing the service depends upon the frequency of the service and a number of other factors.

I shall return to whether there may be a case for the electrification of the midland main line, but any assessment will not be on the grounds of speed put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth. As I have demonstrated, and as my hon. Friend was kind enough to advise the House, the APT did that run in 58 minutes. It had a gas turbine engine and was not electrified. I understand my hon. Friend's desire for faster, more punctual and more reliable trains. However, before he advocates electrification as a means of achieving that, he needs to assure himself that there are no other more economic means of achieving the same objectives.

There is a somewhat vicarious relationship between the British Railways (No. 2) Bill and the intensity with which we have been discussing this aspect. I understand that my hon. Friend has definite views and ideas, which I hope he will discuss with British Rail. There are facts which, although my hon. Friend may not like them, he should discover, discuss and assess. I suggest that he talks with British Rail. If he is still not satisfied with what it is doing and how it proposes to go about it, my door is always open to my hon. Friend and to other hon. Members who wish to discuss the midland line. When he has spoken to British Rail, I shall be happy to discuss with him any conclusions he might have reached about the midland main line.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East rightly drew us back to the British Railways (No. 2) Bill and asked me some questions. The first concerned the Battersea leisure centre and its rail connection. I understand that the developer formed his own view that rail would enhance the viability of the project. Since the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East and I share an enthusiasm for rail, we can take some delight in that commercial view. The hon. Member also asked me about the four-track lines he would like to see running from Ashford to the Channel tunnel terminal and from Ashford to Waterloo. The lines are judged adequate for the Channel tunnel, but we need to look carefully at the future level of demand, capacity and speed. That is why British Rail is assessing these matters. It is to report to me in June this year.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the speed on that line and to the amount of investment in it. Comparisons are always made with what happens in France, but in France the TGV Nord, that will run from Paris to Calais, is primarily a line that is designed to go from Paris to Brussels and from Brussels to Amsterdam and Cologne. The relatively small section of line that has been constructed between Paris and Calais means that expenditure on Channel tunnel-related matters is very much less than the total expenditure on the TGV Nord. When that is compared with British Rail's expenditure proposals, the difference is not so great as is generally assumed. The fast train services in northern France to the Channel tunnel ride on the back of the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam-Cologne plans.

The hon. Gentleman wanted to know whether British Rail had put forward proposals and whether they met the Government's criteria. The hon. Gentleman knows that, as from this year, InterCity is operating commercially, thus fulfilling the policies of his party when in government, that travel between major urban centres should not be subsidised. I do not imagine that he will renege on the views of his party when in government. A return of 2·7 per cent. is an exceedingly low requirement.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me whether Britain would be crushed under a load of road vehicles. The Channel tunnel will ensure that an immense amount of freight that would otherwise have gone by road will go by rail.

There is now only one petitioner against the British Railways (No. 2) Bill. He will have an opportunity to present his objections to the Select Committee, which will be in a very much better position than the House to examine in detail the issues involved. It will have the added advantage of expert advice being at its disposal. I recommend that the Bill be given a Second Reading and that it should be allowed to proceed in the usual way to the Select Committee for detailed consideration.

Photo of Mr Patrick McNair-Wilson Mr Patrick McNair-Wilson , New Forest

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 165, Noes 50.

Division No. 280][10 pm
Aitken, JonathanBurns, Simon
Alexander, RichardBurt, Alistair
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelButcher, John
Allason, RupertButler, Chris
Arbuthnot, JamesButterfill, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Atkins, RobertCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkinson, DavidCarrington, Matthew
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Chapman, Sydney
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyChope, Christopher
Beggs, RoyCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bevan, David GilroyCormack, Patrick
Blackburn, Dr John G.Couchman, James
Bonsor, Sir NicholasCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Boscawen, Hon RobertDavis, David (Boothferry)
Bottomley, PeterDay, Stephen
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaDevlin, Tim
Bowis, JohnDickens, Geoffrey
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardDorrell, Stephen
Brazier, JulianDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bright, GrahamDover, Den
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterDunn, Bob
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Durant, Tony
Browne, John (Winchester)Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Budgen, NicholasFallon, Michael
Fenner, Dame PeggyMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Maude, Hon Francis
Forman, NigelMeyer, Sir Anthony
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Forth, EricMiller, Hal
Fox, Sir MarcusMills, Iain
Franks, CecilMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Freeman, RogerMitchell, David (Hants NW)
French, DouglasMolyneaux, Rt Hon James
Gale, RogerMorris, M (N'hampton S)
Garel-Jones, TristanMoss, Malcolm
Gill, ChristopherMoynihan, Hon Colin
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesNeale, Gerrard
Gorman, Mrs TeresaNelson, Anthony
Gower, Sir RaymondNeubert, Michael
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Grist, IanNicholls, Patrick
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hannam, JohnPage, Richard
Harris, DavidPaice, James
Haselhurst, AlanPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hawkins, ChristopherPorter, David (Waveney)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Portillo, Michael
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Rathbone, Tim
Holt, RichardRedwood, John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Rossi, Sir Hugh
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Rowe, Andrew
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Ryder, Richard
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Janman, TimShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Jessel, TobyShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Kilfedder, JamesShersby, Michael
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfieid)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Kirkwood, ArchySpeed, Keith
Knapman, RogerSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Squire, Robin
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Stanbrook, Ivor
Lee, John (Pendle)Steel, Rt Hon David
Lightbown, DavidStern, Michael
Livsey, RichardStevens, Lewis
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lord, MichaelStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lyell, Sir NicholasStradling Thomas, Sir John
Maclean, DavidSummerson, Hugo
Major, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Malins, HumfreyThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Thurnham, Peter
Townend, John (Bridlington)Wheeler, John
Trippier, DavidWiddecombe, Ann
Trotter, NevilleWilshire, David
Twinn, Dr IanWood, Timothy
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Walker, Bill (T'side North)Tellers for the Ayes:
Wallace, JamesMr. Patrick McNair-Wilson and Mr. Michael Colvin.
Waller, Gary
Watts, John
Anderson, DonaldMacdonald, Calum A.
Armstrong, HilaryMcGrady, Eddie
Ashby, DavidMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Madden, Max
Benn, Rt Hon TonyMahon, Mrs Alice
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Martlew, Eric
Buckley, George J.Meale, Alan
Caborn, RichardMichael, Alun
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Morgan, Rhodri
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Morley, Elliott
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Nellist, Dave
Cox, TomPike, Peter L.
Cryer, BobRuddock, Joan
Cunliffe, LawrenceSnape, Peter
Dixon, DonTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Evans, John (St Helens N)Tredinnick, David
Farr, Sir JohnVaz, Keith
Faulds, AndrewWareing, Robert N.
Foulkes, GeorgeWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Golding, Mrs LlinWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Wilson, Brian
Hoyle, DougWise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Wray, Jimmy
Ingram, Adam
Knowles, MichaelTellers for the Noes:
Lofthouse, GeoffreyMr. Irvine Patnick and Mr. Tim Boswell.
Loyden, Eddie

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly and agreed to

Bill read a Second time and committed.