HC Deb 25 February 1981 vol 999 cc861-2
1. Mr. Soley

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what studies the Greater London Transport Division of his Department has made of the comparative running costs of public transport in other European capital cities.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Norman Fowler)

None as such, but the division has access to a wide range of studies, including those undertaken by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory and by International organisations.

Mr. Soley

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Parisian contributes 40 per cent. in fares towards the running costs of public transport, while the Londoner contributes 60 per cent.? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman's Department recognised that a modern transport system needs public funds and that, without them it will decline, with all that that implies for the economy?

Mr. Fowler

It is clear that a modern transport system—whether in London or anywhere else—needs some support. We are discussing what form that support should take. The hon. Gentleman seems to be advocating the spending of yet more money, which can come only from taxpayers and ratepayers.

Mr. Booth

Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that his car sharing scheme shows no signs of solving the major problems that face London Transport? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the study commissioned by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory shows that the scheme's major effect has been to draw passengers away from the bus service and towards cars that would, in any case, be used? Is not the only solution to the major problems facing London's public transport system greater investment and a policy of lower fares?

Mr. Fowler

The right hon. Gentleman has widened the question. Car sharing was never thought to be a complete solution to all the problems that face London and the rural areas. However, both in city and country areas, it contributes towards a solution. The Government have taken the restrictions off car sharing. Indeed, that is in line with the Labour Government's policy. However, I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not like to be reminded that the Labour Government pursued that policy.

Mr. Dover

Did my right hon. Friend notice that the London Transport executives gave evidence to the Select Committee a few days ago which showed that 73 per cent. of the costs of public transport in London could be attributed to labour? Will my right hon. Friend try to get comparative figures for European cities?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, Sir. However, the operating costs of all passenger transport undertakings involve a high proportion of labour costs. The lesson, not only for London Transport but for all transport undertakings, is that we must place the highest premium on the best productivity that we can manage.

Mr. Spearing

Although I concede the Secretary of State's point that public support must come from rates or taxes, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the British practice of putting a high proportion of costs on to the traveller is out of line with the practice in most countries and in most urban areas?

Mr. Fowler

It is out of line with what takes place in Paris. However, the hon. Gentleman should inquire of London businesses whether they wish a further addition to be made to their rate burden.

Mr. Spearing


Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman may shout "taxes", but he should ask the taxpayers whether they want to pay even higher taxes than they do at present.