HC Deb 31 January 1949 vol 460 cc1459-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Collindridge.]

7.26 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield)

I wish to bring the attention of the House back from the rather fascinating atmosphere of the future which we have been discussing this afternoon in connection with the Special Roads Bill, to the rather unpleasant reality of certain present transport facilities. Necessary and important as is the Bill which has just received its Third Reading, I regret to say that my constituents and those of other hon. Members who represent districts to which I shall refer are rather loth to accept this future planning of road transport as a substitute for the urgent needs with which they are faced every day.

I wish to raise this evening the question of travel facilities in North London west of the River Lea. This area roughly represents the district which covers Tottenham, Edmonton, Enfield and out as far as Cheshunt, and touches such areas as Southgate, Wood Green, Stoke Newington and Hornsey. The neighbouring areas of Barnet and so forth are also affected. I am tonight concerned with the facilities from Tottenham and Edmonton out as far as Enfield. The population of the whole area is something under 700,000, and of Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield nearly 400,000. A very large number of those 400,000 residents travel to and from their work daily, and, in a great number of cases, come up to the commercial areas of the East, Central or West End districts of London.

The facilities in this area have been extremely poor for a very long time past, and there is a long history of agitation for improvement. It was not until 1944 that the local authorities in the district got together and formed what they called the North London Conference. In association, on occasions, with various ratepayers' associations, they have been engaged in drawing up what they consider useful suggestions, which they submitted to the railway companies, before they were nationalised, to the London Passenger Transport Board and to the Minister himself. It was only in the last resort that this North London Conference and myself decided to raise this matter on the Floor of the House. Recently, we held a meeting with the Chairman of the London Transport Executive and representatives of the British Railways Executive, in the hope of obtaining some promise or hope of improvement in the near future. Unfortunately, these meetings gave us no such satisfaction, and that is the reason why I am raising this matter now.

The existing facilities are similar to those of 50 years ago. The only railways which serve this area—and they use steam trains—are the Liverpool Street to Cambridge line, which passes through Clapton, Tottenham, Edmonton, Ponders End, Brimsdown and Enfield Lock; the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town line, which goes through Seven Sisters, Silver Street and Lower Edmonton, and the Kings Cross to Hertford line, which passes through the centre of Enfield itself. The present facilities are really worse than those which existed in the latter part of the last century because the loop line from Lower Edmonton to Cheshunt Junction was closed in 1909. That line served the then growing area of Edmonton and Enfield. Although it has been closed down for the last 40 years, it has been kept in repair and has been used in emergency, mainly for goods traffic. It would be quite practicable to put that line into operation again.

Any hon. Member who has experienced travelling from Liverpool Street to Enfield will have had a unique experience. He will have travelled in old railway carriages similar to those used on the old Great Eastern line, or, if he travelled from Kings Cross, similar to those used on the old Great Northern line 50 years ago or more. The steam trains in use are all old stock, and the stations are all, without exception, extremely dilapidated. The line passes through a poorly developed district, from the railway point of view, inasmuch as there is a great number of level crossings which constitute, of course, a great inconvenience to the industry of the area. It may be interesting, historically, to travel on this line, because, in a way, it is like paying a visit to a railway museum, but it is presently nauseating. I am not sure that this old-fashioned, antiquated line should not be handed over to Arthur Rank for use in making period films.

The only direct improvement which has taken place anywhere near this area has been the building of the extension of the Piccadilly tube from Finsbury Park to Cockfosters. The building of that extension, in the view of the people who live in my constituency, and, I am sure, in the constituencies of other hon. Members in the neighbourhood, is that it was a mistake to extend that tube away from a populated district out into the wild country where the only gain was a series of new developments and very large profits made out of property deals. The nearest station to Enfield on the Piccadilly line is Oakwood which is situated some two and a half miles from Enfield Town itself, and some four or five miles from the extreme east of Enfield. There is a bus connection, but to travel by the Piccadilly line to Oakwood means being landed in Southgate outside of Enfield and having to queue prior to completing the journey by bus. The extension of the Piccadilly line from Finsbury Park through part of Tottenham, Wood Green and Southgate to Cockfosters, created a series of bottlenecks where interchanges take place between the tube and the buses, mainly trolley buses. The main bottlenecks are at Finsbury Park itself, Manor House. Turnpike Lane and Wood Green.

At all these places during the rush hours, both in the morning and at night, there is a large interchange from trolley-bus to tube, or vice versa. This is particularly marked during the evening peak hour period when there are long queues of people waiting in unpleasant conditions for the buses or trolley-buses. The time spent queueing at these points each day by very large numbers of people in this area is considerable. The main trouble is that there is no rapid and convenient means of travel from this area to Central and West London. One has either to go by the old fashioned, unmodernised steam trains to the east of London, or travel by trolley-bus or bus to the Piccadilly tube and interchange.

I want to ask the Minister tonight what is being done to solve this very serious problem. To get to Edmonton from anywhere in Central London takes some 65 minutes, whichever way one travels. To travel to Enfield by road or by tube and road takes a minimum of about one and a quarter hours, the distance being only some 15 miles. That shows how inadequate are the facilities.

There are three possibilities of improving the travelling facilities to this area. First, there is the short-term one of improving road travel. That would be extremely difficult to do because the roads in this area are already very congested. We know the difficulties confronting London Transport in putting more buses on the road. Even if more buses and trolley-buses were put into service, I doubt whether the facilities would he much improved owing to the congested roads and the long queues which are a sequence of this state of affairs. Secondly, there is what I might call the medium-term solution, which is the electrification of the railway lines from Liverpool Street to Cambridge and from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town; the electrification of the loop line to which I have already referred, and which is known as the Churchbury line, which runs from Lower Edmonton to Cheshunt Junction, and which could quickly be brought into use again, and the electrification of the Kings Cross to Enfield Town line and the modernisation, apart from electrification, of all three of those lines.

In my view, electrification is the only practical solution to the problem of travel facilities in this district, because only thereby could the people be attracted back on to the railways. These railway lines are so antiquated, and their services so unreliable that the greater proportion of the people prefer to use the buses and trolley-buses, not because travel is quicker—indeed it is far slower—or because it is more comfortable—which it is not—but because there is a serious discrepancy between the fares charged on the buses and those charged on the railways. I shall deal with that point a little later.

The North London Conference to which I have referred held a meeting with Lord Latham a few weeks ago, and at this meeting Lord Latham informed us that there had been a working party appointed presumably by the British Transport Commission, and on which British Railways and London Transport were I assume represented. This working party was appointed for the purpose of examining the travel facilities in the whole of the London area. At this meeting Lord Latham was pressed to give some information on the plans for meeting the problem in the North London area, and he said that it was accepted that railway transport facilities in Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield required improvement. The statement that the railway facilities there required improvement was a really beautiful masterpiece of understatement. Lord Latham continued by stating that there were proposals to meet the problems in this area. The need for adequate access both from the city and the West End had not been overlooked. The plan included proposals which, if accepted, would solve the rail traffic problem in North London, not only as it exists at present but for many years to come. It was envisaged that these works would fall into the group of works of first priority, although it was not possible at that stage to determine a priority of works within that group.

I want the Minister to give an assurance that the works which are proposed by the working party will include the improvement of facilities in this area, and will be given first priority within the group of first priorities. I ask him for that assurance because this area merits first priority. It merits first priority because nothing has been done, despite continuous agitation for the last 50 years at least. During those 50 years there have been considerable developments in the area, and there is now considerable house building and commercial building in progress. Take, for instance, the area quite close to Manor House where there is a very large development of flats by the London County Council, and where the position is becoming worse all the time.

The second reason I wish to put forward for granting first priority to this area is the fact that it is an industrial, commercial and developing area where there is considerable waste in view of the time that is spent in travelling and the ill-health which is experienced as a result. In addition, this area is very heavily engaged in essential production, both for home consumption and for the export drive. My third reason is that these railways have involved a very heavy investment. They are only partially used at present, and if further money were now spent on electrification the capital investment would bring in a satisfactory return in the form of increased travel and greater comfort of the people travelling daily in this area. The railways are not used in that area because the fares are far too high.

The railways will not attract people as long as they remain in that antiquated state. They would attract more people if they were electrified, but they would never run to their full capacity unless the fares were reduced, not to the same level as road fares but at least comparable to them. Take, for instance, the lines between Liverpool Street and Enfield Town, and Liverpool Street and Ponders End. The rail fares at present are roughly double those paid by people who go partly by tube and partly by road. If the difference is between 1s. and 1s. 11d. a 1ay, or 11d. and 1s. 10d. a day—and such is the comparison between the fares—people will obviously prefer to travel by trolley buses and so on, despite the discomfort.

I have raised this matter tonight because I want an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that this area will now receive the facilities it deserves, that the people living in the area will receive some consideration and that something will be done to make up to them for the past neglect of this area, which has received no consideration since the railway boom. In other areas of London there has been considerable development. There has been the enterprising electrification of the Southern Railway. The tubes have been extended in different directions, but no tube has been built to serve directly this North London area.

I conclude by asking the Parliamentary Secretary three questions, in reply to which I hope he will give me some satisfaction so that I can take back some words of hope to my constituents. In the first place, will the Minister tell us the plans which have been drawn up by this working party, inasmuch as they are relevant to this area? Is there any reason why the plans, which are presumably now being discussed by the Transport Commission prior to their discussion by the Ministry of Transport, cannot be published so that the people in the area of Tottenham, Edmonton, Wood Green and Enfield can be given the opportunity of passing their opinion on these plans instead of being presented with an accomplished fact?

Secondly, will the Minister give an assurance that in considering the development plans, absolute priority will be given to this area and that the lesser needs of any other area will not receive priority? People suffering from the inadequate facilities in this neighbourhood are convinced, rightly or wrongly, that developments are now under consideration in other areas which, in their view, do not deserve prior consideration. For instance, I know that the line out to Southend is extremely bad, but for various reasons I do not consider the conditions there are as bad as they are on the lines to which I have referred. However, there is a report that this line is next on the list, or is high up on the list for electrification and will receive prior consideration to the lines in which I am interested.

There has also been drawn to my attention a newspaper report about sinkings in connection with experiments concerning the extension of the tube southwards through Camberwell. If there is any truth in that report, it would certainly cause grave concern to my constituents in view of the fact that there has been far more development in South London in recent years than there has been in North London. Therefore, would the Parliamentary Secretary tell me whether electrification is planned for those lines, and if so whether they will receive prior consideration within the group of priorities?

The next question is that which I have only touched on and which, perhaps, is not quite so relevant, as the time available in an Adjournment Debate is limited. Will the Parliamentary Secretary say whether there is any possibility of urgent consideration being given to the question of high fares on the suburban railways and their disparity with road fares? Will he also say whether, even before a decision is arrived at on fares and charges schemes. as required under the Transport Act some experiment can be made in reducing suburban railway fares for regular daily travellers in order that the congestion on the roads can be relieved by attracting these people back to the railways? In a case where there are adequate railway facilities which are insufficiently used, cannot something be done to adjust fares so as to equalise the spread between road and railway traffic?

In conclusion, the people in these areas are exasperated by the failure of private enterprise in the past to provide adequate facilities for railway and other travel through North London, to Edmonton and Enfield. They are even more exasperated by the failure of the Transport Commission or the Minister to give any indication when there will be any hope of these facilities being improved. They were willing to put up with the bad conditions during the war, but now that peace is with us, although they do not expect immediate improvements, they do expect some indication that improvements will come in the near future. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary, in answering the representations I have made on behalf of my constituents, to give some indication of the plans and to hold out some hope that these plans are being considered in the way which they merit.

7.51 p.m.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)

This is one occasion on which it is possible to find complete agreement with an hon. Member opposite. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) not only for his excellent speech tonight, but for bringing about that conference which we had upstairs with Lord Latham. On that occasion we discussed this problem with Lord Latham but at the end of the discussion there was a look in his eye which suggested that he would "take it into consideration." We all know that look when we see it in the Minister's eye and Lord Latham gave me the same impression. I do not think he really appreciated how acute is this problem.

As the representative of Wood Green and Southgate, I would agree that the problem of my constituents is not as aggravated as that of Enfield, but the two boroughs are of course affected. It is depressing enough to arrive by any method at Liverpool Street, especially by one of these antiquated ghost trains, but the excessive charge for tickets has added too much to the burden at the beginning of the day, and too much to the burden of going home. The boroughs of North London have great character; they are all individual in their way. It is a very good thing that people should live there and work in the City. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary smiles. We are now discussing "les miserables" and the smile of the Parliamentary Secretary, which we all like so much, should be removed while we are discussing "les miserables" of North London. The Minister does not know what is going on under the Socialist regime at the present time, in these years of Socialist misrule through which we are passing.

The hon. Member for Enfield criticised, I think, the extension of the tube to Cockfosters, saying that there had not been very much building there. He said there had been more speculation than building. Cockfosters has now been brought into the new Southgate constituency. It will almost certainly be represented by a Conservative at the next election and I predict a building boom as a result. The houses which the Minister will not now permit to be built will go up like mushrooms and the tube extension will prove to have been justified.

The third question which the hon. Member for Enfield asked the Minister was whether he could adjust the disparity between road fares and rail fares. That question was answered in the previous Debate today. The Minister may not think he answered it, but he did. We were discussing the building of new roads and how they might compete with the railways, and with complete assurance the Minister said that the competition between them does not matter because "under national ownership we can adjust these things." Here is the same problem. The Government now own an antiquated ghost railway and they also own, or the Transport Commission owns, all other forms of transport involved. Now it is for the all-powerful Government to look into this policy and for the Ministry of Transport to obtain immediate plans for electrification. What does it matter what it would cost? It does not matter in any other nationalised industry, so why pick on North London for the exception? For once there is a good reason for expenditure because the people of North London have been badly treated in the past.

My hon. Friend has spoken of the hardship imposed upon the travelling public of North London. Perhaps he may get into trouble if I call him "my hon. Friend," but as he is a neighbour and a man of good sense, I shall call him my hon. Friend and be glad to do so, especially on this one occasion. The hardship imposed on the travelling public of North London is something which I think the Minister should inspect personally. He should travel at crowded times early in the morning from Enfield to Liverpool Street and at 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock at night he should take the trip back again. If he does, he will learn something about transport which may cause him to wonder.

In conclusion, I repeat that although this may be a costly concern, it is nevertheless one to which the Ministry should give serious thought. They should consider the wear and tear of people who have to set out on these long journeys in all weathers to carry out their essential work. If anything can be done to make the journey more comfortable, more human, more decent, it should be done. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will earn our appreciation if he will give some real thought to this problem so that we may all join in smiling with him.

.57 p.m.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Perhaps I may support the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) as one of the sufferers from this situation which has been described so adequately by him and partly described by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). When the hon. Member for Wood Green talks about the sufferings of the people of North London under the Socialist regime I would remind him that this is one of the most horrible legacies which this Government have taken over from the bad old days of private enterprise. Indeed, the situation would never have arisen, and the travelling problem of Tottenham, Edmonton and Eastern Enfield would not be as it is today, if it had not been for the costly blunder, or the costly racket—as some people believe it was—of deliberately extending the Finsbury Park-Piccadilly tube not into the densely packed areas along the main road of Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield but into what the hon. Member described as the wilds of Cockfosters and Oakwood where, in fact, there was at that time hardly a cottage, never mind a house.

As my hon. Friend has said, one travels to Oakwood or Cockfosters, is disgorged into the wilds and then has to wait for a bus coming from Potters Bar so as to take a 4d. bus ride into Enfield. It was a very unfortunate situation for visitors until the name was changed to Oakwood, because when they arrived at a terminal station in North London from the north and tried to find their way to Enfield they might be unfortunate enough to get on to a tube train to Enfield West only to find that they were in the heart of the country. Perhaps the Minister could tell us why this extension was made, because, in fact, it was a crime against the North London community. I have heard some quite unsavoury stories about why it was done—land rackets, and so on.

However, certainly, a very large extension of the Piccadilly Tube line, which had been advocated for many years by the people and authorities of North London, was granted and was built, and, for whatever reason, was diverted whither it was not wanted at all. Obviously, populations are beginning to grow round about the stations on the line, but the fact remains that through the overcrowded areas there is no additional transport, although a mile and a half or two miles to the west of them there is a very fine tube line. As it is, people are disgorged at various stations who queue up for the buses to travel west. It is a very serious situation, and the action that took the Piccadilly extension where it is, can hardly be described as anything less than a crime against the people of North London. I should not like to repeat some of the stories I have heard of why it was done. If the Minister could tell us we should be much obliged.

The fact remains that the situation along that line is one which existed in the 'twenties, and which caused tremendous agitation, and gave rise to the development of the Piccadilly Tube; but the problem is still there, and I endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Wood Green, that rather than look at a map of the tube lines to see how the red lines are distributed through North London, the Minister should take the trouble to travel from Liverpool Street to Enfield. If he has his gas mask still, I would advise him to take it with him. Then after making that journey he should sit comfortably in a Piccadilly Tube train which will take him into the lovely, isolated countryside by Oakwood or Cockfosters. Then he will understand the history of the thing and see the contrast between these two areas. I am sure that when he has seen that contrast, he will look very carefully into the problem.

We all know the difficulties of doing something all at once. The hon. Member for Wood Green, like his hon. Friends, would like us to clear up the muddle of pre-war management in a year or two. That cannot be done, but I think the Minister should give very serious thought to what was said by my hon. Friend to see what can be done to relieve this problem immediately. I hope he will give us an assurance that nothing will be done in the future in regard to the development of London transport resembling what was done in the case of this Piccadilly Tube extension, before we had the advantages of nationalised control.

8.4 p.m.

Mr. Irving (Tottenham, North)

I think that hon. Members representing North London constituencies and the residents of North London will be extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) for having raised this question. It is not a new one; it has been with us for a long time; but it has been aggravated since the end of the war by the return of hundreds of thousands of the population to that area. I am afraid that there is no immediate prospect of relief except by trolley buses or petrol buses. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) that some mistake was made in the development of the Piccadilly line. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) has said that he will be the Member for Southgate after the next General Election. I shall be the Member for Wood Green. The argument about the development of Cockfosters is not a sound one, because the Abercrombie Plan for Greater London provides that there shall not be development in that area, so that there will be transport facilities without additional population. On the other hand, the population of Tottenham is increasing. It has increased each year since the war by thousands, and that increase will go on, until we can transfer some of our surplus population to new towns.

Mr. Baxter

If Wood Green goes Socialist after the next General Election, and if Enfield votes Socialist again, the refugees are bound to come to settle in Cockfosters, even if they have to double up in houses.

Mr. Irving

It will be fine for the people of Edmonton and Tottenham if they can send some of their population there and make it a new town. The real difficulty is the tube extension from Manor House. No other possible extension could help very much the Tottenham population. It is true that the electrification of the line from Enfield to Liverpool St. would help considerably, but I think that there is a disadvantage, in that people do not like climbing steps, and at nearly every station from Enfield to Liverpool St. one has to climb 20 or 30 steps to reach the platform, and that fact would delay the use of the electrified line—although, of course, if there were no alternative it would be accepted.

From Tottenham's point of view I think the only possible solution would be an extension from Manor House to, say, Waltham Cross. I understand that there is an engineering difficulty there. In the rush hours the Piccadilly line runs a train a minute, which is as much as one can expect, and any additional burden would break down the present arrangements. The real need is for a new tube from Leicester Square to Manor House to take the additional traffic. The reason, I understand, that the tube was not extended from Manor House to Tottenham was that the population was expected to develop westwards, and there was a great expanse of the Lea Valley which could not be built on at all. Therefore, it seems to me that it will be a long time before we can get the best developments for the people of Tottenham.

Meanwhile, I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the only possible way of giving immediate relief is for additional trolley buses to run from Ponders End and Edmonton and Manor House through Tottenham—or additional petrol buses. It may be said that there are not sufficient trolley or petrol buses, but I think that the congestion could be considerably reduced if trolley or petrol buses were turned round at Manor House instead of going to the terminus. If the trolley buses were turned round at Manor House, where there are facilities for turning buses, it would relieve considerably the congestion caused by the thousands of people coming out of the tube at Manor House. There is another small point. The No. 76 bus service should be extended. Unfortunately, it stops at High Cross. It would help if arrangements could be made for the No. 76 buses to run through Edmonton.

I know that there are capital expenditure difficulties in this problem, but it seems to me that not sufficient pressure is being brought to bear by the Minister of Transport on the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to getting capital expenditure for giving better transport facilities for the people of North London.

8.8 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. James Callaghan)

I think everyone will agree that this has been an interesting Debate, and that we are very much indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) for the way in which he put his case. I thought it was an example of studied moderation that was more likely to convince than some of the passionate rhetoric we hear now and again. I thought he summed up the position admirably. Indeed, he has saved me a great deal of trouble by so doing, because I shall, as it were, merely make marginal comments on some of his remarks. He rightly said that this matter has a very long history. I am afraid I do not know the reason why Cockfosters and the open country was chosen as the destination for this particular North London Tube.

Mr. J. Hynd

My hon. Friend can guess.

Mr. Callaghan

My hon. Friend says I can guess. If I did so, I should probably be right. But the conclusion that I think it is fair to state is that whatever the merits of that particular line, whatever its potential merits, there is no doubt that the existing needs of the people already resident in that part of North London were neglected. That conclusion must follow from the examination of the situation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield stated, the facilities today are the same, broadly, as they were 50 years ago with the exception of a branch line, called Churchbury which was closed down in 1909. This has a familiar ring for me. It is the old story that we hear about private lines in competition with buses and trolley buses. This branch line had to close down, because it could not compete with the fares charged by the tramways 40 years ago.

My hon. Friend suggested, and then dismissed as a short-term remedy, the provision of more buses. He was probably right when he said that that was a mere palliative which would not greatly help. For one thing it would not deal with the length of time to get into the West End or into the City from that particular area. One of the problems here, which does not affect the length of waiting time to get on a trolley bus, is the fact that once a passenger gets on to a trolley bus it takes a long time to get into London. Putting on more buses will not help that aspect of the matter, because the congestion of the traffic, as my hon. Friend said, would not reduce the time taken by people to get in from Enfield, Tottenham and other areas into central London.

I thought it right to have an examination made of the waiting time in queues, because if the people in that part of London were suffering from this disability it was not right that they should be asked to suffer a greater disability in waiting time than any other part of London. I have been handed some figures which show that, in point of fact, the waiting time of queues in this area is no greater and no less than that in any other part of London. On the inward journey from Enfield and Winchmore Hill trolley bus waits do not exceed more than eight minutes. That is an average time. On the services outwards to Manor House, the waits do not exceed five minutes as the average time. I have a number of figures here, but I will not go into them in detail. However, I can say to my hon. Friends who have raised this point——

Mr. Irving

Could my hon. Friend say what hour of the day those times represent?

Mr. Callaghan

That is an average time over a long period every day covering a substantial period. London Transport Executive have travelling inspectors whose job it is to check up on these matters. This is no average time for two isolated days, but is an average over a very long period.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me whether he has the figures for Manor House at the peak hours say, from 5.15 to 6.45?

Mr. Callaghan

No. The figure I have given to the House is the average waiting time, not the waiting time at peak hours.

Mr. Irving

It is no use.

Mr. Callaghan

It may be no use to my hon. Friend, but it is certainly of use to me and to the House, because it enables me to make an average comparison between the waiting time in that area and in other parts of London. If we are going to take a peak hour as an average, my hon. Friend might care to go and see what it is like at Millbank or Oxford Street, and see how long he has to wait for a bus to take him home, because that is just as good a statistic as one can fairly take as to the average waiting time. I have given a figure to the House which in my view shows that the waiting time does not vary upwards or downwards in that area over other areas. As I said, however, that is only a partial aid. What is really wanted is to expedite the journey, and as my hon. Friend said that cannot be done by putting on more trolley buses.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Before the Parliamentary Secretary leaves this point, will he check up whether it is not a fact that on occasions at the peak hour people at the Manor House have to wait twenty minutes? I have experience of Manor House and of Turnpike Lane. During the day one may wait a minute or two at the most, but at the peak hours, when most people travel, the wait is considerable.

Mr. Callaghan

I will get those figures if they are any help to the hon. Member. There is no difficulty in getting them. But if he examines them he will find in comparison with figures for other areas that the waiting time at the peak hours is no greater and no less than it is in other parts of London, so that they will not help him in his case. The point I am raising at the moment is the time people have to wait before they get into a vehicle, which shows that there is no particular hardship imposed on the people here which is not suffered by everyone who in these days has to wait in a queue.

Perhaps I ought to explain a point in connection with the trolley bus services in London generally. This area is not alone in the way in which it suffers in this connection. As far as trolley buses and buses are concerned London Transport have been in singular difficulties. During the war Chiswick Garage was used for an aircraft works, which, in a way, prevented them from maintaining their fleet of buses in the way they would like to have done. Since the war they have, of course, been curtailed in their programme because of the excellent export value of British buses. British buses can be sold anywhere in the world and we have been able to sell them anywhere in the world with the consequence that we have gone short at home.

Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)

Keep more buses and less motor cars.

Mr. Callaghan

If my hon. Friend challenges me on that point, let me put this consideration before him. There is no use having buses at home and travelling to work in comfort if when a worker gets there there are no materials to work at in the factory because no buses have been exported. That shows the wisdom of the Government in planning exports and in deciding how far we can afford to send buses abroad or to keep them at home, because we have to preserve a delicate balance between the essential needs of the travelling public on the one hand and the need for exports in order to pay for raw materials and food on the other. That is the dilemma with which the Government have been concerned throughout their whole term of office.

London Transport have, as I think is well known to the House hired 550 coaches in order to relieve congestion and those coaches have made a material contribution. They also expect this year, because of the lift in production of motor buses, to get many more buses than they got last year. The figure may well nearly be double what they got last year. I must enter this proviso, that that does not mean that they can immediately introduce a large number of new services, because there are so many over-age buses in London that many of the new buses will have to be used in order to replace veterans which are getting very tired. It is time some of them had a rest, and that means that London Transport in this year probably will be only able to give a better service in the sense of having better buses than some of the veterans, which will start to leave the roads during the next 12 months. I wanted to say that about the buses and trolley-buses because the point has been raised although, as my hon. Friend recognised, it will not greatly ease the problem so far as Enfield is concerned.

The hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. Irving) asked not only for additional trolley buses but that they should be turned round at Manor House. This is a technical consideration in which I am not well versed but I am told that if buses are turned round at Manor House, the people living beyond will not feel very pleased about it because they will have to get off at Manor House instead of going on.

Mr. Irving

They can go on to the Underground there.

Mr. Callaghan

I am bound to say that the technical and commercial people who have gone into this are not satisfied that by helping the people at Manor House in this way they would not do an injury to those living beyond, and I cannot pronounce on that technical point tonight.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield asked me three questions. He asked what are the plans of the working party, and can they be published. I ought to explain that this working party arose out of the Inglis Report. After the County of London Plan had been heard, my right hon. Friend asked the Inglis Committee to report on the effects of this plan on transport in London. They produced a report which my right hon. Friend submitted to the British Transport Commission as soon as they were set up. They have been to work speedily and, within 12 months of getting on their harness, their working party which has been considering the Inglis London Railway Plan is now ready to report. When my hon. Friend met Lord Latham a month ago, he was told that the working party was nearing the completion of its work. I understand that it has completed its work and that the British Transport Commission will be ready within a few days to send to the Minister their comments on these proposals. I am sure my right hon. Friend will consider sympathetically the suggestion of my hon. Friend that they should be published if they are in a suitable form. There is nothing to hide, and the greater the number of minds given to this, the better.

Then he asked for an assurance that there will be absolute priority given to this area. He said that Southend was not so bad and that he had heard there would be borings for a Camberwell Tube, I do not think my hon. Friend really expects me to give him an assurance of absolute priority to this area. I do not know whether I ought to declare my interest, but I live in South-East London——

Mr. Ernest Davies

I thought as much.

Mr. Callaghan

We are under no doubt whatever in that area about the inadequacy of parts of our travelling system. I do not need to take a trip to North London to see what conditions are like. Sometimes I come up before 8 o'clock in the morning on a workman's ticket, I cannot step into the carriage without standing on somebody else's toes the whole way. There is no doubt that, taking London as a whole, during the last few years it has outstripped its traffic capacity. I cannot give my hon. Friend an assurance in advance of seeing the report and its recommendations that absolute priority will be given to any one area. There are a number of areas that are all pretty bad in London at the present time.

On the question of fares, my hon. Friend asked that railway fares should be made comparable with road fares. A review of fares is precisely the intention of Section 76 of the Transport Act. The British Transport Commission are charged with the responsibility of reviewing all fares and of making new proposals to the Transport Tribunal. They will then argue the matter out, it will be publicly considered, and decisions will be given. That will not be a short process and it would not be proper to ask the British Transport Commission to take one small line in isolation and try to deal with it in advance of the big job they have to do. If I may adapt a phrase it seems to me better to let sleeping anomalies lie, because if we dealt with this matter we would cause repercussions and anomalies to areas everywhere throughout London.

There is no doubt that a tube is the right solution in the long run, but at the present cost of building it amounts to about £1,500,000 per mile of tube, and if there are to be 10 to 15 miles of tube, it will be seen what a major capital investment project this would be. There are not many projects of that order throughout the whole of the industrial field in Britain today, and to ask that that should be given absolute priority is something upon which I could not give an answer tonight. It may well be that electrification of the line, including the loop, might be a part of the long-term solution, but that is not a cheap or easy matter. Although the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) says with gay insouciance that it does not matter if the industry makes a loss, the Act says that the industry should try to make a profit, and I do not notice any tendency on the part of the hon. Gentleman's party to say it does not matter about a loss provided they are giving service to the public; that is not the tenor of the headlines in the newspapers the day afterwards.

In conclusion, many of us who travel over these lines in London realise what a terrific problem London transport has become. Sometimes people ask, "Why should we stagger hours?" It is perfectly reasonable for them to wonder why they should fit themselves into the transport system rather than the transport system accommodate itself to their requirements. The plain truth, as I see it, is that in many parts of London the transport system cannot be made to fit people's requirements. Capital investment of the order of scores of millions of pounds will need to be undertaken if they are all to travel in reasonable comfort. As a result of the developments in the huge population in this great metropolis over the last few years, people's travel habits must of necessity be fitted into the capacity of the existing transport system.

I know only too well the feelings of people who travel in these carriages from the suburbs to London, arriving at their destination battered and weary before starting their day's work. This major problem is only one of many which confronts the Government and it must, I fear, be a question of fitting the solution of this one into the solution of the many others, all of equal importance, with which the Government are now attempting to deal.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Half-past Eight o'Clock.