HC Deb 18 March 1985 vol 75 cc615-6
1. Mr. Tony Banks

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if, when he next meets the chairman of London Regional Transport, he will discuss the expected effect of the January 1985 fares increase on passenger-miles travelled on its bus and underground systems.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

Our discussions with the chairman of London Regional Transport cover a wide range of matters, including LRT's future business prospects.

Mr. Banks

Will the Minister tell the House why the Secretary of State is allowing the chairman of London Regional Transport to cut a further 39 bus routes in April? Is the Minister aware that if that cut takes place one quarter of all London's bus routes will have been affected by cuts since London Transport became a Government quango? When the Minister or the Secretary of State next sees Doctor Bright, can he be told that Londoners do not want any more one-person-operated buses because they consider them to be slow, inefficient and dangerous?

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman must not believe everything that he reads in the newspapers. As be hon. Gentleman is chairman-elect of the Greater London council, I have to tell him that the net effect of LRT's plans for the buses is a reduction of 0.6 per cent.—about 2 million passenger miles out of a total of 170 million bus miles. Of the routes which have been changed, only three are not covered by other buses. There has been a loss of 2.25 miles of bus route because of a change in demand. In other areas where demand has been established, new bus routes have been introduced. One-person-operated buses are a major contributor to cost savings. They are used across the country without any real difficulty. The hon. Gentleman ought to be looking for improved services for passengers instead of, as he seems to be doing, staying in the past.

Mr. Tracey

I tend to share my hon. Friend's view of the partial remarks of the chairman-elect of the Greater London council. However, does she agree that the ratepayers of London will be much more enamoured of the professional stewardship of LRT than of the blanket subsidies which were being thrown at London transport by the GLC, since those were simply a drain on ratepayers' pockets?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend is right. Had the GLC gone ahead with its planned subsidy levels, the marginal external benefits at those levels would have been equivalent to only one seventh of the increased cost which would have fallen upon the ratepayers. That is exactly why business management was required in London Regional Transport.