§ 3. Mr. Butterfill
asked the Secretary of State for Transport what projects of rail electrification are currently awaiting his approval.
§ Mr. Moore
We have approved five major electrification projects submitted in the last three years. There are no further submissions outstanding. Work on four of the five electrification projects, including Bournemouth to Weymouth and Kings Cross to Edinburgh, is going ahead. The fifth, Tonbridge to Hastings, is already operational.
§ Mr. Butterfill
Does my right hon. Friend agree that quite apart from the benefits that these electrification schemes will bring to industry generally, they will also bring substantial benefits for the spreading of tourism away from London and especially to Dorset?
§ Mr. Moore
My hon. Friend is right. When I had the pleasure of opening one such scheme, the local authorities 670 and the mayors of the areas involved were anxious to impress upon us the critical importance of tourism. Electrification will help tourism by improving not just the time but the quality and service of the trains.
§ Mr. Maxton
Is the Minister aware that there is considerable anger in the west of Scotland at British Rail's proposal, following the electrification of the King's Cross to Edinburgh line, that fast trains from Glasgow should be re-routed through Edinburgh? Is he aware that there is great anxiety that this will cause considerable damage to the passenger routes in the west of Scotland and generally to the line between Glasgow and London? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is just rumour."]
§ Dr. Michael Clark
When granting approval for electrification, is it my right hon. Friend's intention also to approve the installation of automatic open level crossings? If so, will he bear in mind that such crossings have a poorer safety record than conventional crossings and that there is a great deal of resistance to them in both country and urban areas, as shown by petitions from my constituents in South Woodham Ferrers?
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
Is the Minister aware that the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has caused vibrations as far down as Carlisle and far north west of England? I assure the Minister that there is general dissatisfaction about it all the way from Preston up to Glasgow. Will the Minister look at that issue?
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
Has the Secretary of State had sight of the Government's report to the EEC, highlighted a week or so ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), in which some very disparaging remarks are made about the infrastructure in Wales? When will we have electrification of our railway lines? Why should Wales always be last in the queue?
§ Mr. Moore
I must confess that I have not personally read every one of the 17 volumes of the report to which the hon. Member refers, although I have, of course, read everything in relation to my transport responsibilities. The Government's record on electrification is outstanding. It is extraordinary to hear a Member whose party when in government approved only £71 million worth of electrification projects criticising the Government's approval so far of £474 million. That contrast illustrates the absurdity of some of the current debate.
§ Mr. Pavitt
In view of the changes at the north London line terminal, what are the plans for electrification there?
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is the Secretary of State aware of the great increase in traffic at the stations of Linlithgow, Polmont and Falkirk High and the success of the Edinburgh to Glasgow line in recent months? In those circumstances, is he sure that an added electrification route from Kings Cross to Edinburgh and then on to Glasgow will not damage the successful traffic between Edinburgh and Glasgow? This is very important to my constituents.
§ Mr. Moore
I always consider the hon. Gentleman's detailed comments carefully. I am not aware of the precise details about increases in traffic, but I shall consider the matter. I do not imagine, however, that what the hon. Gentleman has said denies the high quality investment which most people regard as of great benefit to the east coast line.
§ Mr. Snape
Will the Secretary of State reconsider the statement that he has just made—that every case for electrification that has been received from British Rail has been approved? Will he consider the Manchester to Blackpool electrification case, which the Minister of State denies having rejected, presumably erroneously? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that line should be electrified on economic grounds and because it would be a satisfactory diversionary line in case of problems on the west coast main line?
§ Mr. Moore
To be precise, I should have said that there was one application a while back regarding Cambridge. It did not relate to the Blackpool to Manchester connection. There was no application from British Rail in that instance. The application, which was considered las year, was an application by the local authorities. When the application was examined, it was thought that sprinter diesels would provide most of the benefits at a much lower cost to taxpayers and ratepayers. I therefore reaffirm what I said about British Rail applications.