HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc587-9
29. Mr. Damian Green (Ashford)

If he will make a statement on plans for promoting access to the dome. [66788]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson)

The millennium experience at the dome aims to be largely car-free and to offer comprehensive and effective public transport access. Over 95 per cent. of the expected 12 million visitors will arrive by public transport. The New Millennium Experience Company will ensure, through its marketing strategy and information provided with dome tickets, that visitors are fully aware of the most convenient public access modes and routes.

Mr. Green

For many of those visitors, the most convenient access mode will be the Jubilee line extension, if that is built in time. If it is not, what contingency plans does the Minister have to convey visitors to the dome? Will we all have to be strong swimmers?

Janet Anderson

Whatever is necessary to ensure that people can get to the dome will be done. The Government are confident that everything necessary is being done by London Transport and Bechtel to ensure that the line opens later this year in time for the millennium dome celebrations.

Mr. John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead)

Does the Minister share my view that one of the lasting beneficial legacies of the dome will be the improvements in public transport to an area of south-east London which has probably lost more jobs than any other part of the United Kingdom? Does she share my concern that access by river will be almost exclusively from the west of the dome? Will she meet her colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to consider the development of ferry services to the east of the dome, to Erith, Thamesmead and beyond?

Janet Anderson

As my hon. Friend will know, we expect 1 million people to travel by boat from central London to the dome, using new river services. I recognise his concern and, as he knows, I have agreed to meet him soon to discuss that.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Freeze the river.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey)

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is on to an interesting point, and I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on the intriguing article in The Guardian today which suggests that the Thames will be frozen to enable royal access to the dome. Does that not take the idea of cool Britain a little too far?

Janet Anderson

That was one of the hon. Gentleman's better jokes, but they are not terribly good and I hope that they will improve. That article is pure speculation and I assure the hon. Gentleman that there are no plans to freeze the Thames.

Mr. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)

Will the Minister do what she can to encourage people to access the dome by bicycle? For example, she could point out that most rail companies operating in and out of London will carry bicycles. Will she also ensure that the London cycle network along the banks of the Thames is ready in time and that there is adequate cycle parking at the dome for people who want to bike there?

Janet Anderson

As my hon. Friend knows, we take that seriously and we want to enable as many people as possible to travel to the dome by bicycle. As he also knows, the new riverside cycle/walk link to historic Greenwich, and improvements to existing cycleways in the area, will help. We shall make sure that there are secure facilities at the dome where people can leave bikes and motorbikes.

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

May I return the Minister to the question asked by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green)? Does she accept that the head of London Underground, no less, has suggested that the Jubilee line may not be completed on time? What does she think is the percentage chance that the line will be open on time? If it is not open on time, how will people get to the dome? There is a dependence on the Jubilee line, which cannot be met by other means. Will there not be a catastrophe if the line is not open on time?

Janet Anderson

The hon. Gentleman may not know that following that report in The Independent on Sunday, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport stated that Mr. Smith had been misrepresented by that newspaper. He went on to say that nothing in this life is absolutely guaranteed, but I repeat to the hon. Gentleman what I said earlier: the Government are confident that everything necessary is being done by London Transport and Bechtel to ensure that the line opens later this year and in time for the millennium dome celebrations.

Forward to