HC Deb 25 November 1991 vol 199 cc619-20
8. Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to announce the programme for improvements on London Underground following the increased funding announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman

As well as the Jubilee line extension and completion of the Central line modernisation, London Underground's programme is likely to include improvements to stations at the southern end of the Northern line; more refurbished trains starting with the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines; and the redevelopment of Waterloo underground station.

Mr. Cox

I note that reply, but is the Minister aware that Londoners want improvements in the foreseeable future? How much of the money that we are told is available will achieve that? What real consultations will there be with the commuters who use London Underground? Will the improvements include some to the disgraceful service on the Northern line which goes through the constituencies of many hon. Members? Specifically, in my constituency, when will the escalators at Tooting Bec station, at last, work?

Mr. Freeman

As for the level of investment in the existing underground system, the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that the recommendation of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, that about £700 million per annum should be spent on the existing railway, will be met in 1993. That represents a significant increase in investment, and that will help the hon. Gentleman's constituents.

Mr. Carrington

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable disquiet about those people whose homes are above the proposed route for the east-west crossrail and over the Chelsea-Hackney line? There is concern about the effect of the noise and vibration from the trains that will run through the tunnels. Will my hon. Friend ensure that sufficient money is available in both of the projects to ensure that there is proper environmental protection for those who live above the tunnels?

Mr. Freeman

My hon. Friend will know that each of the three new major tube lines—the Jubilee line, crossrail and Chelsea-Hackney—will be subject to a rigorous environmental impact assessment. I give my hon. Friend the assurance that vibration on the ground is one of the factors that will be taken into account.

Ms. Ruddock

Is the Minister aware that one of the most frustrating experiences of Londoners travelling on the underground system is to find that lifts and escalators are not working? Is the hon. Gentleman aware also that the programme has been slowed down in the current year, with the consequence that only last month London Underground had to report that one in 10 of its lifts and escalators was out of order? Will he now prioritise the repair and refurbishment programme for London Underground's escalators and lifts? Will he back that priority by ring-fencing the money that is devoted to that programme? Will he also admit that there is no so-called new money for the refurbishment of the Northern line and the carriages on it?

Mr. Freeman

Over the next three years, the Government will provide London Underground with almost double the amount of grant that it has received for the past three years. That will go a long way to ensuring that the escalator modernisation programme is enhanced and accelerated. That is one of the purposes of the money. The hon. Lady talks about London Underground and makes criticism of it, but the criticisms are not matched by one extra penny being promised for it by the Labour party.