HC Deb 27 November 1995 vol 267 cc919-20
11. Ms Glenda Jackson

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to improve the transport system in London. [653]

12. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has for improving public transport in London. [654]

Mr. Norris

The Government plan a continuing high level of investment in London's transport system, with increasing benefits to passengers from greater efficiency and increased private sector involvement.

Ms Jackson

What confidence can any Londoner have in the Minister's reply? Since 1991, his Government have broken every funding promise that they have made to London Transport so that we now see in London a deterioration of services and a year-on-year rise in fares. What guarantee can he give to Londoners that they will not see yet another reduction in funding to London Transport in tomorrow's Budget?

Mr. Norris

I suppose I might offer to Londoners the fact that, at 1995–96 prices, investment in London in 1975 was £241 million. By 1979, it had grown to a staggering £257 million. It is now running at £1,085 million. That might be some reassurance even to Londoners exposed to a constant diet of misinformation from the hon. Lady.

Mr. Carrington

Will my hon. Friend review his Department's policy on funding the introduction of bus lanes? There is no doubt that, on the right roads, bus lanes are extremely beneficial, but in the wrong place they can cause serious damage to the local businesses in that road; that is particularly so in Fulham high street. Before he funds the introduction of any more bus lanes, will my hon. Friend seriously consider the cost benefits of bus lanes and in particular their impact on the local communities through which they run?

Mr. Norris

I am aware of the problem to which my hon. Friend refers. He has been assiduous in bringing it to my attention. As he rightly says, when properly installed, bus priority measures are at the heart of a more effective public transport system. However, it is essential for the local authorities, together with, in this case, the Traffic Director for London, to ensure that a proper balance is maintained between the interests of all parties, including the interests of frontagers, of shopkeepers, of those who want to walk along adjacent pavements and of the public who travel by bus.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Minister agree that there is considerable spare capacity on London's rail network inside the Greater London council area at weekends? Would it not be sensible to provide an even more economical overall ticket for adults and children on Saturdays and Sundays, thus making it possible for families who own motor cars to travel economically by public transport, which is not possible at the moment, and so to fulfil the Government's objective of reducing the amount of road traffic?

Mr. Norris

I look forward to the train operating companies recognising, when they are in the private sector, that one of the most important ways in which they will improve their profitability is to expand the number of people who use their services off peak—precisely at weekends, when they have all the infrastructure in place and want to do everything that they can to encourage more people on to their services. As for ticketing, the hon. Gentleman knows the present system very well. The off-peak travelcard arrangement is extremely useful around London and, if one is making more than a couple of journeys, particularly in the central area, already represents extraordinarily good value for money.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the investment of £1 billion in the Northern line and £25 million in the Morden and Golders Green depots by GEC?

Mr. Norris

I will indeed. The bringing forward of the Northern line trains by using the private finance initiative is a major step forward for London Transport. It gives us the opportunity to give the travelling public in London who use that line reliable and modern trains many years earlier than would have been possible if the private finance initiative had not been encouraged and brought forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is crossrail going to go ahead?

Mr. Norris

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on a particularly attractive outfit today. Quite what the black is intended to convey I shall leave to others' imaginations. The Government remain committed to the provision of effective infrastructure for London and recognise the value of the crossrail project.

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