HC Deb 18 July 1994 vol 247 cc8-10
8. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) private cars, (b) buses and (c) other vehicles are currently using London's roads; what this figure was (i) 10 and (ii) 20 years ago; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Norris

I am afraid that the figures that my hon. Friend wants are not readily available in the form that he requested, but, for instance, between 1972 and 1990, the number of motor vehicles crossing the cordon line around inner London in a 24-hour count rose by 16 per cent.

Mr. Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that more and more of my constituents are being forced on to the roads—

Mr. Flynn

Riding horses?

Mr. Greenway

Well, certainly Shanks's pony, and no doubt some of them would like to use horses to overcome the problems of getting to work that are posed by the strike. Is not it outrageous that they are being exploited— and constituents throughout the country are being exploited — by a group of people whose best interests would be served by their getting back to work and staying there?

Mr. Norris

I am afraid that my hon. Friend is right. His constituents will investigate other means of getting to work and some, no doubt, will continue to use them when this sorry dispute is over. It seems to me to be an absolutely classic case of how to commit industrial suicide.

Ms Glenda Jackson

Is the Minister aware that my local authority, Camden, today issued a report showing that European Union guidelines on nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone have been breached consistently in the past month? What additional funds are the Government attempting to find, first, to create more bicycle lanes in my local authority and, secondly, to provide a properly integrated public transport system for London and Londoners?

Mr. Norris

I am never greatly surprised by anything that Camden council does, but the Government acknowledge that the problems of air pollution are extremely serious. The hon. Lady should know of the extensive pattern of works and programmes that is in place to improve air quality, of which improved facilities for cyclists is an important element. She will be aware of the 1,000 mile cycleway that the Department of Transport has sponsored, which I am pleased to see boroughs taking forward. I hope that she will note that a number of Labour boroughs have seemed to be extraordinarily unwilling to introduce their 1,000 mile cycleway plans, but perhaps she will urge them to do so more quickly.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend accept that during the years of economic growth in the 1980s the number of people commuting by car in central London fell and the number of people using public transport rose, and is not it a tragedy that in the past month and a half every single person who relies on the railway, as many of my constituents do, has been shown that the railways are unreliable and that most of the investment will be delayed by this ridiculous strike? Is not it about time that RMT-sponsored Members of Parliament started siding with the traveller and not with antiquated union agreements?

Mr. Norris

My hon. Friend must be entirely right. It cannot be anything other than sheer industrial lunacy to kill the basis of the industry that one hopes will provide one's future employment. That is exactly what the RMT signalmen are doing in the dispute. The sooner they understand that, the better they, and Londoners, will be.

Mr. Raynsford

Why was the Minister so coy about revealing the figures? Does he accept that, over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the volume of traffic involving private cars and lorries coming into London and, simultaneously, a drastic and very serious decline in the use of London's buses? Does he recognise that that is the path to disaster in London? Until the Government understand the lesson and change their policy, all that Londoners will have on offer is a nightmare of increasing congestion, pollution and traffic chaos.

Mr. Norris

I am delighted to say that, as London has had a Conservative Government for most of the past 20 years, economic activity has increased substantially and the amount of traffic has increased with it. However, the hon. Gentleman should get his facts right. The number of passenger journeys on London's buses increased by 8 per cent. between 1982 and 1992.

Mr. Jessel

Given the enormous importance of both bus and car traffic in London, will my hon. Friend send for papers from Kingston council about its intention to close Kingston bridge for repairs for an entire year? That will cause enormous disruption as there will then be a six-mile stretch of the Thames within Greater London without any road bridge.

Mr. Norris

I understand my hon. Friend's quite proper concern about Kingston bridge, which is in his constituency. I hope that he will appreciate that it is not a bridge for which I have direct responsibility. However, if my hon. Friend would care to discuss the matter with me, I will certainly do what I can to assist.

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