HC Deb 09 June 1998 vol 313 cc868-70
31. Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull)

If he will make a statement on progress on the Jubilee line extension. [43259]

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)

Tunnelling and track laying for the Jubilee line extension are complete; 58 of the 59 new trainsets have been built, and the last is under manufacture. Work on station fit-out and electrical and mechanical equipment is well under way. On-site testing of the signalling and communications software has begun. London Transport has undertaken a thorough review of the programme, and plans to open the entire line in spring 1999.

Mr. Taylor

Will the Secretary of State accept from me that the Jubilee line extension is extremely important—almost as important as the Birmingham northern relief road—but will come as poor deliverance to travellers unless he can sort out industrial relations on the London underground?

Mr. Prescott

It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman considers the Birmingham northern relief road alongside the Jubilee line. That road was delayed for well over 10 years owing to the previous Administration's failure to make any decision whatever on the matter. I agree that the Jubilee line extension is an important first new underground line for this generation. It will provide many interchanges, and will be an important part of the integration of London's transport system, and absolutely essential for the millennium.

Mr. John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead)

Having visited the Jubilee line, does my right hon. Friend share my view that it is a shining example of civil engineering excellence that has brought much-needed regeneration to an area of London which has probably suffered more job losses than any other part of the country? Does he agree that, if the Conservatives had not abolished the Greater London council, the Jubilee line would probably be up and running, alongside the Woolwich rail tunnel and metro, which are well on target for opening in the new millennium?

Mr. Prescott

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Jubilee line is a good piece of engineering. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will be sad that it was delayed for 12 months, although, to be fair to the people involved, one delay was caused by the failure of a tunnel at Heathrow, which had implications for construction for six months, and the other was caused because the signalling system was not as modern as we had hoped. That cannot reflect on the management of the Jubilee line—I am satisfied that the management is doing well and that the line will be opened in the time that I have mentioned.

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the concept of the Jubilee line was one of the great achievements of the previous Government, and that it is in danger of being ruined by this Government's incompetence? Will he repeat the confirmation that he has just given, or will he accept that there is serious danger that it will not be running at full capacity by the millennium? Will he attempt to remedy that by increasing work on the line from 16 to 24 hours a day? Will he deny reports that contingency plans have been drawn up for bringing in visitors to the dome by coach, through the Blackwall tunnel, because the Jubilee line will not be able to cope with the volume of traffic? In short, will he stop messing up a good Tory project?

Mr. Prescott

As is so often the case, the hon. Gentleman's remarks are not consistent with the truth. He should consider what has happened on the Jubilee line and the reasons for the delay, which I have mentioned. The extension will be completed: it was started by a publicly owned enterprise and it will be finished by a publicly owned enterprise. The previous Government decided to invest in private entrepreneurial business such as the channel tunnel link, which failed totally. We have had to reorganise it, so he has been a bit unfair in his ideological comments.

The hon. Gentleman should examine the amount of traffic that is expected to be carried to the dome by the underground—which is about 40 per cent., so it makes sense to consider alternative transport. Not everyone will travel by the underground. People will go by bus, by train and by other means of transport, including a river service, which we have brought back and which the previous Administration could not maintain. We are not doing too badly after all.

Forward to