Rail Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th July 1989.

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Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 12:00 am, 17th July 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he next expects to meet the chairman of British Rail to discuss rail services in the Principality.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

My right hon. Friend is in frequent correspondence and discussion with senior staff of British Rail at regional and national level. He expects to meet the chairman again soon.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

In the light of the incompetence shown by the chairman and his senior staff in the current rail dispute, can we in Wales have any confidence that they will show the necessary dynamism or vision in respect of matters of great importance to Wales such as the electrification of lines and preparing for the Channel tunnel? If the Prime Minister does the dirty on the Secretary of State for Wales, can we expect him to apply for the job of chairman?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I understand the hon. Gentleman's position as he is sponsored by the National Union of Railwaymen. However, he will be aware that the Transport Salaried Staffs Association and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen have accepted the 8·8 per cent. offer. I am sure that the House will come to its own conclusion about British Rail's conduct of its affairs. With regard to the Channel tunnel, the hon. Gentleman will know that British Rail has been conducting meetings throughout the land with a view to preparing a document, outlining its plans, for publication before the end of the year.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

When the Secretary of State next meets the chairman of British Rail will he suggest sending a task force to France to see how the French are linking their railway system into the Channel tunnel and emphasise to him the need for direct rail links from south Wales to the main continental centres?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I am sure that British Rail will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said. We are well aware of the preparations on the other side of the Channel. However, preparations are being made in this country.

Photo of Mr Keith Raffan Mr Keith Raffan , Delyn

Is my hon. Friend aware of the great concern in north-east Wales, particularly among business men and industrialists, that the Welsh Dragon does not stop at Flint or Prestatyn, although it stops at Stafford, Lichfield and Nuneaton? Will he suggest to the chairman of British Rail that the Welsh Dragon either stops at more stations in north-east Wales or is renamed the English Unicorn?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I am well aware that the train does not stop at Flint, but British Rail tells me that that is for a good reason—that very few passengers get on or off there.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

How can they get on or off if the trains do not stop there?

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Ceredigion and Pembroke North

The Minister will be aware that there are two major railway stations in my constituency—Aberystwyth in Cardiganshire and Fishguard in north Pembrokeshire with its vital Irish connection. The next time the Minister meets the chairman of the board will he press him to spend more on those two stations to make sure that they can play a major part in the economy of Wales? Will the Minister write to me afterwards?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

These matters are among those that are discussed with British Rail. I am well aware of the position of those ports and their importance not only to the hon. Gentleman but to the whole economy of west Wales. I am also aware of their importance in trade with Ireland.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

Will my hon. Friend have a word with the chairman of British Rail about the quality of service between Swansea, Milford Haven, Haverfordwest and the other stations in Pembrokeshire where we are forced to suffer 25-year-old diesel multiple units? They are filthy, hot in summer and cold in winter and do not have enough accommodation for passengers' luggage on this holiday line. Will he also tell the Opposition that their continued support for the National Union of Railwaymen against the passenger has meant that my constituents have been unable to keep hospital appointments in Swansea, Carmarthen and London on the days on which the railways are not operating?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I can tell my hon. Friend that British Rail is investing at a record level—some £781 million in the current year—and that is due to increase over the next three years. I hope that some of the money may find its way into some of the services that are being criticised in Wales.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

As the Minister previously acknowledged the success of initiatives by Mid Glamorgan and South Glamorgan county councils with British Rail in opening new stations and new services, does he recognise that the spending plans of the Government and the high inflation rate for which the Government are responsible imply a real cut this year of £104 million, or 20 per cent., in British Rail's external financing limits? Is that not the cause of most of the complaints that have been made by hon. Members? Does the Minister accept that this constraint and his refusal to put in more Welsh Office money is undermining the public interest? Will he offer more money to expand local services and reopen lines such as the Vale of Glamorgan line, with a spur to Cardiff Wales airport to benefit the whole region, as was argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith)?

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

The hon. Gentleman is clearly not in touch with the Labour county council of south Glamorgan. It is entirely up to that council whether to make a proposal about the Vale of Glamorgan line.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

The hon. Gentleman says "Not true." I defy the hon. Gentleman: the statement that I have just made is true.