HC Deb 11 June 1990 vol 174 cc6-7
5. Ms. Quin

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has any plans to revise his Department's policy towards bus deregulation.

Mr. Freeman

No. Deregulation has resulted in greater diversity of service for passengers and more bus mileage at lower costs.

Ms. Quin

Is the Minister aware that the figures clearly show that since bus deregulation traffic congestion on the bridges over the River Tyne has increased greatly and that deregulation has caused great difficulties for our previously excellent, integrated transport system? Will he cast dogma aside and make urgent proposals to exempt areas such as Tyne and Wear from this crazy policy?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Lady may know that highway authorities already have the power to prevent bus operators from using certain streets or parts of their area if there is congestion. Obviously, congestion on the bridges over the Tyne begs the question whether there should be further infrastructure investment in roads and bridges over the Tyne. That is not a matter for the passenger transport executive, but next time I visit Gateshead and Newcastle I shall look into congestion, specifically on the bridges.

Mr. Higgins

Does my hon. Friend agree that bus deregulation has greatly improved bus and coach services to the general benefit, but that it is important that competitive pressures should not lead to bus drivers being encouraged to break the speed limit? Will he look carefully at the present arrangements for examining tachograph records and provide for a general survey of them to ensure that the speed limit is not broken?

Mr. Freeman

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's comment that deregulation has brought many benefits to the travelling public. Naturally, there has been innovation. About 7,000 minibuses have been introduced in more than 600 places. I shall make inquiries about tachographs and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his advice.

Ms. Ruddock

The Minister's answers on deregulation are not only complacent but misleading. Does he accept the Association of Metropolitan Authorities' report that since deregulation the number of bus trips has fallen by between 100 million and 200 million more than would otherwise have been expected? Does he accept that significant among the negative factors affecting the public is the much-reduced availability of common ticketing and abnormally high levels of passenger service changes, exemplified in Greater Manchester where 90 per cent. of the services were changed within 12 months? Finally, is he aware that, on present trends, the average vehicle life of a conventional bus will be 43 years, whereas before deregulation it was 16 years?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Lady selects her statistics carefully. Bus deregulation has brought many benefits to the travelling public, including more bus miles run—some 18 per cent. up—more choice and innovation and a better service.

Mr. Forman

Although I recognise the benefits of bus deregulation in other parts of the country, will my hon. Friend be cautious about any increase in that policy in Greater London? Will he assure the House that any bus deregulation in Greater London will have an eye to the present problem of buses being one of the less-used parts of the public transport system? They need to be more fully and effectively used if we are to deal with the problem of congestion in Greater London.

Mr. Freeman

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's cautionary note. No decisions have yet been reached about the timing of the deregulation or privatisation of London buses.

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