HC Deb 08 July 1996 vol 281 c17
14. Ms Glenda Jackson

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for improving public transport in London. [34696]

Mr. Norris

The Government's plans for improving public transport in London were set out in the recently published transport strategy for London.

Ms Jackson

I thank the Minister for that reply—albeit it is 17 years too late. Does he agree that dial-a-ride is a vital part of public transport for Londoners with disabilities? Does he also agree that the number of complaints about the service that is now offered to users of dial-a-ride is increasing? Will he therefore reconsider his refusal to meet one of my constituents—a user of the service—so that he might meet some of those who are so dependent on it and hear at first hand their complaints and discover a way to improve such a vital service?

Mr. Norris

I make two points to the hon. Lady. First, it ill becomes her to talk about investment in London Transport. I remind her that, in 1978, the last year for which her party was responsible—I am talking now in 1996 prices—total investment in London Transport and London Underground was £203 million. The figure this year was £1,102 million—more than five times as much in real terms.

Secondly, the hon. Lady should know—I suspect that she is too busy with her ASLEF activities to have noticed—that we have protected the budget for dial-a-ride. The budget is ring-fenced within London Transport. It has grown consistently in real terms over recent years and dial-a-ride provides in London the best service for disabled users of any comparable city anywhere in the world. I know of the hon. Lady's constituency case. I have told her that I cannot meet her constituent because I have an obligation to many other users of dial-a-ride, but I am always willing to hear constructive suggestions on how to make the system work better.

Sir Michael Neubert

Will it surprise my hon. Friend if I point out that one way in which to improve public transport in London would be to establish passenger high services on the River Thames, a greatly underused highway through our capital city? Can he offer any prospect of progress on that front?

Mr. Norris

I can indeed. As my hon. Friend knows, I established a working party to examine the viability of passenger services on the Thames two years ago. That working party has stimulated a good deal of activity on the river, and the Port of London Authority is currently organising a proper auction of available pier slots to determine how a viable service might be provided.