HC Deb 16 June 1999 vol 333 cc327-48

11 am

Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town)

In opening this debate, I do not think that it is at all inappropriate to seek your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, simply to mention that this is national bike week, and that today is national cycle to work day, which is strongly supported by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. This morning, I personally participated in the events, by cycling from Barking to Westminster, via Tower Hamlets and Covent Garden.

I am sure that the House will wish to congratulate everyone involved in supporting those events, including the all-party cycling group and the British Heart Foundation, which—wholly appropriately, Labour Members may think—was giving out red roses. I should also like to thank the Minister for Transport in London for her personal support for cycling and cyclists. Her support is very much appreciate by those who are involved in cycling.

Yesterday, in his statement, the Deputy Prime Minister best summed up the essence of this debate when he described a "joined-up London". That is exactly what is required.

I shall briefly deal with only three matters—as I know that several colleagues also wish to speak—the first of which is the definition of integration. Secondly, I shall give some examples of good practice in my own constituency and in east London generally. Thirdly, and most importantly, I shall describe the creation of a London orbital line, which would link the East London line, the South London line, the West London line and the North London line.

Integration is not only about theoretical connections or construction projects. Although those are important, integration also encompasses many other matters, such as accessibility generally, and the ability of people with disabilities to access the transport system. Integration is also about ensuring that connecting modes, such as the bus network—which is much maligned, but does an excellent job—feed adequately into the underground system, the rail network and the docklands light railway. It is also about signage—including the language used—in transport hubs and connecting stations, so that individuals feel comfortable with where they are and where they are going.

One of the most advantageous aspects of the London underground is that even tourists seem to be sufficiently comfortable with how the system operates to be able to arrive at a station, look at a map, enter the underground and arrive at a completely different part of London. Maps are therefore very important. I commend DLR for producing integrated maps showing transport modes other than DLR—a model which is being copied by other operators, and can only improve transport in London.

Security in the transport system, too, is very important, and is achieved not only by closed-circuit television but by ensuring that stations and other venues are staffed.

The debate is about user-friendly transport—which includes indicator boards notifying passengers when the next bus or tube will arrive—so that we have not only theoretical integration, but physical and even emotional integration, allowing people to feel comfortable and confident in using public transport. Everyone involved in the issue is promoting that type of integration, and much progress is being made in achieving it.

I should like to echo the comments made yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister in paying tribute to all of London Transport's staff. In the majority of their activities, despite many problems, they are very efficient, helpful and courteous. I am sure that many hon. Members have seen many more rude passengers than rude staff members, who provide an excellent service.

In Poplar and Canning Town, unlike in some parts of London, we are well served by transport links. In my constituency, we have the docklands light railway, the Jubilee line extension, London City airport, a variety of bus routes, the District and Central tube lines and the London-Tilbury-Southend line. We are also right next door to the channel tunnel rail link, which will be in Stratford.

My constituency also has many good examples of integration, such as at Limehouse station and the newly reconstructed West Ham station, and especially at Canning Town—which has a state-of-the-art station to interface the bus network, the Jubilee line extension, Silverlink and DLR. The Canning Town station is clean, safe and efficient. Consequently, it is becoming ever more popular.

Public transport in east London generally is becoming busier, as it carries ever more passengers. DLR, for example, previously carried about 20 million passengers annually, but is now carrying 28 million passengers a year. Although passenger numbers will be reduced significantly when the Jubilee line extension opens—from 29 million passengers annually to 21 million—they will rise to 40 million when the Lewisham extension opens. The Government office for London and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions are considering provision of extra DLR trains to deal with those increased numbers.

It has been well argued that east London will be the engine for this great capital city, to drive us into the next millennium. East London's transport infrastructure will be critical in ensuring that east London is successful in playing that role, and the London orbital should be one of the main aspects of that infrastructure.

The purpose of the London orbital is to link the East London, South London, West London and North London lines into a circular line. The South London line is run by Connex, the West London and North London lines by Silverlink, and the East London line—which has recently re-opened after a three year refit, and has some new connections, particularly at Canada Water—by London Underground.

The problem to date, however, has been that the lines do not quite link up. There is a missing link between Dalston and Whitechapel, where there is a disused railway viaduct, and another missing link between Surrey Quays and Queens Road station, in Peckham.

London Underground has proposed two schemes to join up those missing links. The first is a northern extension, which London Underground Ltd. authorised to proceed in 1997, but needs additional funding. The second is a southern link, on which, last year, the Deputy Prime Minister authorised preparatory work, and on which a decision will be taken this summer.

The two schemes would cost only £150 million. Moreover, when the links are built, London Underground could run a line from Highbury, down the East London line to Peckham, and then—on Connex lines—on to Clapham Junction, Wimbledon or Croydon. Although Wimbledon or Croydon are currently the preferred options, after working for 13 years as a firefighter at Battersea fire station, I prefer the Clapham Junction option. However, I do not think that that argument will sway LUL.

Completion of the links would make it possible to run trains right round an orbital route at no extra cost. I believe that that should happen, and much of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement yesterday seemed to be advocating such a course.

The main benefits of such an approach are that the initial stage could be under construction within the lifetime of this Parliament, and the links would reach parts of London that currently are not on the tube, such as Peckham, Battersea and Hackney. Such an approach would be an important step towards integrating tube and rail networks; improve the accessibility of regeneration areas, such as the docklands; and create new cross-London railways at one twentieth the cost of a new tube line.

The orbital would also give through-London passengers an alternative to going via the centre, improve radial journeys, and put more of south London—which currently has 40 per cent. of London's population, but only 11 per cent. of stations—on the tube map. I am not sure what south London ever did to offend the powers that be who originally designed the tube network.

Thus, at no great expense, an orbital network could be devised for London, because most of the lines needed for such a network are already in place. One can travel from Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction and on into the east end via Highbury and Islington and the North London lines with only one change. The East London line, which reopened in March last year, currently runs between New Cross and New Cross Gate. London Underground is currently looking into the pros and cons of extending that line north from Shoreditch, via Bishopsgate, to connect with Dalston. In a reply to a written question tabled in July last year, the Government stated that they were considering how best to take that project forward. The scheme, whose estimated cost is only £150 million, is relatively inexpensive because it uses much existing infrastructure. Yesterday's statement by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister clearly moves that agenda forward, which is welcome.

In respect of the southern extension, London Underground appears to have two favoured alignments: New Cross Gate to East Croydon or West Croydon, or from Surrey Quays on to South London rail lines, but with services to Wimbledon via Streatham and Tulse Hill. The Surrey Quays link would make use of largely disused land to connect with existing rail lines north of Queen's road, Peckham.

London Transport, Railtrack and the Association of Train Operating Companies attended a conference last year to discuss ways in which the organisations could work more closely together. The objective was to improve integration, and I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London attended. As a result, four different working groups were set up to consider different aspects of integration. The first is physical integration, and LT has appointed a project manager to ensure that action is taken quickly on matters such as joint maps and a combined timetable. There are working parties on fares and ticketing to improve links; on public affairs issues; and on long-term schemes and strategies, in a joint arrangement with ATOC. The long-term working group is considering the bigger issues, preparing briefing documents for the new mayor and assembly next year, and working toward a common stance.

On the orbital network, LT would argue that, in world-city terms, there might be a role for enhancing the network, but it will obviously depend on the mayor's strategy. In addition, there is the question of funding. The Government have stated that, if road pricing is to be acceptable, the money derived from it must be used to fund public transport, such as bus priorities, road calming measures or pedestrianisation. However, revenue derived from car travel could usefully be used for schemes such as the extension of the East London line, which would be relatively inexpensive. The extended line would naturally form part of an inner orbital network. It is possible that the mayor might be encouraged to form an orbital network if it conforms with his or her other policies and priorities.

The orbital might come about naturally: as other schemes came to fruition, they would simply need to be linked up—for example, the Croydon tramlink already covers one quarter of the outer orbital network. Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister spoke of "joined-up London", and referred to the London link plan connecting the five airports with the channel tunnel rail link. He mentioned expanding the network from its current form by adding the Jubilee line extension, the docklands light railway extensions, the Croydon tram and the Thames water taxis. I believe that London's transport network is doing an excellent job in the circumstances, but it could do much better.

I am grateful to Archie Galloway, chairman of the East London Group, for writing to me in support of the London orbital. His group represents 10 London boroughs, the City of London corporation, local business and regeneration agencies, and it launched a brochure on the case for the orbital yesterday. I should also like to express my appreciation to my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea (Mr. Linton) and for Putney (Mr. Colman), who have worked hard to promote transport issues in London with parliamentary colleagues and those outside who are interested or involved in transport.

The case for the London orbital is well made, and my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and his Department are clearly looking in that direction. I anticipate further progress being made between now and the arrival of the new mayor and assembly next year.

11.14 am
Mr. Martin Linton (Battersea)

I, too, welcome the announcement made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister of a private-public partnership in which London Underground and Railtrack will together examine ways in which the surface railway system and the London underground can be linked. My right hon. Friend has been a long-term advocate of such a linkage between tube and rail in London, which, in a useful phrase, he described yesterday as "joined-up London". He also mentioned some of the major schemes that could flow from that linking: for example, the five airports around London and the channel tunnel rail link could all be linked into the same railway system, thus enabling swift communication between them.

In a debate such as this, we can focus closely on London and consider in detail the possibilities opened up by that statement. One scheme that is explicitly included in the discussions between London Underground and Railtrack is the East London line extensions, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) referred. I am sure that the northern extension, which would link the East London line to the North London line will be mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), just as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) will refer to the southern link that will link the East London line to the line into Croydon. That will enable tubes to be run from Highgate down to Croydon and Wimbledon and give the first tube interchange for the Croydon tramlink, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies) is so enthusiastic.

I shall concentrate on another possibility, which is that of running trains from Highgate around to Clapham Junction, via either Brixton or Streatham Common. The important thing is the link to Clapham Junction. The reason for my interest in the scheme and for my having asked many questions about the East London line, which lies many miles from my constituency, is that my constituency contains Clapham Junction, which is one of the oldest and most famous large stations in London. It was built in 1863 and, many years ago, it became the busiest station in the United Kingdom—indeed, the busiest in Europe, and it still has signs that advertise that claim. Its name has become famous world wide: Harold Macmillan used the phrase, the "Clapham Junction of politics" to mean a place that everyone has to go through; and, in a music book, I even discovered a description of the chord of the diminished seventh as the "Clapham Junction of music", because it is the chord from which one can go anywhere.

Clapham Junction has entered popular currency in many different ways, yet it is not on the tube system. That omission is a long-standing and keenly felt grievance of the people of Battersea, and it needs to be put right. My reasons are not purely parochial; there are many reasons why that link should be made. Many commuters do not want to go to a central London terminus, but to some other part of London. Entering London from any direction other than the south or south-west, they are able to get off the train and on to the tube system before they reach a terminus; but that is not possible coming from the south or south-west, because Clapham Junction is not on the tube. More important, a scheme such as the London orbital would allow access to the tube system by many communities in London that do not currently have such access.

Quite apart from linking up with the East London and South London lines, the network would lead to a link to the West London line, which goes from Clapham Junction up to Willesden Junction. It is sorely underused by rail passengers—few even know of its existence. Until recently, there was only one stop on the line between the two junctions, at Kensington Olympia, but last month another stop was opened at West Brompton. Apart from those two stops, the line passes without stopping through the rest of Battersea, through Sands End in Fulham and through a station in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) which is intriguingly named North Pole—it was closed many years ago, but I believe that it should be reopened. At Willesden Junction the line joins the North London line, completing the London orbital route that we are seeking.

That orbital route has long been dreamed of. It was suggested many years ago by the Greater London council. The Railway Development Society and Transport 2000 have campaigned for it under the name Outer Circle. The story is rather like Frobisher's search for the north-west passage. Only since yesterday have we been able to say that it can be done, because only when the two missing links in the East London line are joined up does the orbital route become possible.

That creates three important possibilities for travellers in London. One is for commuters going to Docklands or north London rather than the terminus who want to avoid the hassle of going through the centre of London. They will be able to make a direct connection with an orbital route. Another important use is for through London passengers. Many people have no business in central London and come to the capital only because the railway system is so centred on it. Given the option of an orbital route they might well get off at Clapham Junction, go to Willesden Junction and get on a train in another direction. A few people do that already, but not many because there is not a regular orbital train. I am convinced that many people would happily get off at stations such as Highbury and Islington or Willesden Junction, which are two or three miles from the terminus, and change to another line if they could.

However, the most important issue for inner London Members is that many communities in inner London are disfranchised from the tube system. A London orbital line would correct an ancient injustice. Large parts of south London were bypassed by the tube system, as were Hackney and some parts of north London. That happened partly for geological reasons. When the system was built it was thought to be impossible to tunnel through clay. A tunnelling expert today would say that clay was the best material through which to tunnel. There were also historical reasons that the train services in north London were longer distance lines that were less inclined to build up commuter services, so the tube was relied on for that, whereas the south London train lines developed as commuter lines.

As a result, south London, which has nearly 40 per cent. of the population of London, has only 11 per cent. of the tube stations. More insidious than that is the fact that many lines have far fewer trains per hour, which means that access from the south London suburbs—or, indeed, from Hackney—to central London is often much more difficult. It is possible to get to the centre of London quickly from Bromley, Croydon or Clapham Junction. The system is handy for those who work near the terminus, but it is not conducive for those who want to travel to any other part of London or join in London as a metropolis. That contributes to south London's reputation for having quiet suburbs with people who do their job in the City and go home at half past five, whereas north London has a more raffish, cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

Not true.

Mr. Linton

South London has changed. The train system built with that in mind is now inappropriate. Thousands of students and young people who come to work in the capital and live in south London want to be able to travel around London until late at night. They do not just want to go to work and go back home. The tourism industry in south London suffers inordinately from the fact that the area does not exist on the tube map. Millions of tourists come to London under the impression that it is almost entirely north of the Thames. Tourist attractions, as Battersea power station will become, find it difficult to persuade tourists that south London exists.

The entertainment industry suffers from the same problem. I am president of Battersea arts centre. Even though it is often the Time Out pick of the month, it is surprisingly difficult to persuade people from north London that they can catch what used to be called a British Rail train to Clapham Junction, get off, walk five minutes and find an arts centre. It is much closer than many of the arts centres that they frequently go to in north London, but it seems far less accessible. That is a problem for the parts of London not touched by the tube system.

Those in inner south London suburbs such as mine, close to the centre but far away in travel time, suffer most. My constituency is criss-crossed with hundreds of railway lines. It probably has a greater concentration of railway lines than any other constituency, even though acres upon acres of goods yards have been closed. However, it is like the ancient myth of Tantalus. We have all the railway lines, but after one stop people have to change to a different mode of transport. A two or three-mile journey to central London can often take an hour.

We should try to use the enormous possibilities that the public-private partnership opens up to revert to the original concept of the London underground. It was not built to take people to central London and dump them there. The concept was that trains would continue underground from the terminus to take people to different parts of London. That is why the Metropolitan line tunnels are wide enough to take large steam trains, although they have never been used for that. The concept of linking tube and railway lines will make it possible for the first time for people from outside London to travel in and have the advantage of being taken not just to Waterloo, but to several stations in inner London.

No other capital scheme could be started during this Parliament. Indeed, it could be completed early in the next if approval is given to the extensions later this year. At perhaps £150 million—my hon. Friend the Minister may be able to give us a better idea of the cost—it will be only one twentieth of the £3 billion that a new tube line would cost.

The third great advantage of the scheme is that it would put all London into quick contact with the regeneration areas in Docklands. It would also help many disadvantaged areas in inner London. The Thameslink line, which goes through central London, was opened for its true purpose only 10 or 15 years ago. It still has very few stations and those at Walworth and Camberwell, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), have been closed for a long time. That is probably the longest stretch of railway track in London with no station and it is in one of the most densely populated areas. Although they are close to the centre, those suburbs are inaccessible.

The orbital scheme has many advantages for regeneration, cost and time scale. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister introduced the concept of a joined-up London. Including the London orbital and other routes in the concept and joining them to the tube system will contribute enormously to the revival of inner London.

11.29 am
Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) on securing this debate. I do not know whether he accelerated the timing of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement yesterday, or whether he was just very timely, unlike some of the trains that many of us rely on. I found his comments and those of the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) interesting. We all agree that we must make the maximum creative use of the existing infrastructure. I benefited from the London orbital, such as it is, on Monday, when I travelled from Brighton to Oxford without changing, on the line via Kensington Olympia. I agree that the line is hardly used, but the potential is there.

The Thameslink service has allowed people from outside London to go through the city without having to change. The situation 10 years ago, when people had to get off at Victoria, take the tube and get another train somewhere else was simply ludicrous. People going about their business in London do not want loads of people traipsing on and off trains at different stations.

The idea of merging sub-surface lines with the tube is nothing new. I used to live at the end of the District line, at Upminster. Long before my time—pre-war, I think—that line was used for a combined London, Tilbury and Southend and underground service; one could get a train from Richmond to Southend via the tube network and overground lines. Such ideas were used in the past and it may be simply a matter of reactivating them. There used to be shared use of the Bakerloo line north of Harrow, with combined services running up to Watford Junction but that has now been cut back on the underground map.

I sympathise with the point about south London. I used to live in north London, and south London was a different world; it was pretty inaccessible, partly perhaps because of the nature of the underground map, which is representative rather than accurate in its portrayal of the distance between stations. For example, the escalator link between Monument and Bank is shown as about as long as the distance between Upminster and Barking on the District line. That would make it the longest escalator link in the world, I imagine.

Perhaps the Government could consider encouraging London Transport to devise a more creative map that shows more of the existing connections with—to use the shorthand—the British Rail network, of which many members of the public are not aware. Why are not the links to Clapham Junction and Olympia on the underground map?

I am surprised at the involvement of Railtrack and the Government's warm reception of it. The Government have been highly critical of Railtrack, with good reason, for giving a first-class service to its shareholders and a third-class service to some of its customers. We have heard about underinvestment and broken rails in the Severn tunnel and the Deputy Prime Minister has rightly been trying to force Railtrack to invest more in the network, but it seems that its reward for not doing so is to be given a share of the London underground network. We can only conclude that, had it failed even more abysmally, it would have been allowed to enter the two deep-tube public-private partnership competitions as well.

We must be careful before we hand over more of our rail infrastructure to Railtrack, given its poor performance so far. I hope that belt-and-braces contracts will be signed to ensure that it does not get another milch cow for its shareholders, leaving people in London, and the Government, wringing their hands and wondering what has gone wrong.

One of the technical questions that need to be answered is about the effect on overground suburban services. I am not sure whether it is intended that underground or overground rolling stock should be predominantly used. There is an acute shortage of rolling stock, and that which is used on the overground lines, which would presumably integrate with the underground network, is in many cases very old indeed. The Connex services from my part of the world use 1963 trains, and I think that 1954 trains run from Uckfield; certainly they were built before I was born, and they are still in daily use. What would the criteria for new rolling stock be?

All the underground system is third rail, as are many of the suburban services, but the north London services use overhead lines, so that complication needs to be sorted out. I am also slightly concerned about the capacity of the underground system to handle more trains. We can do a certain amount by increased signalling, but my understanding from talking to London Underground employees and my colleagues in London is that one of the problems is not signalling but station capacity. If we had more trains, the congestion on platforms, which is a real hazard, would only get worse. For example, London Bridge station is regularly blocked to prevent people from accessing the platform until one or two trains have gone.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that there may be a danger that the Government will take this opportunity to reduce the urgency of the Crossrail proposal? The suggested link has always been the Treasury's answer to Crossrail; it is the cheap version, allowing the Heathrow express to run along the top of the Circle line and into Liverpool Street. Better integration is on offer, but no new capacity. We should be wary of an excuse to drop the urgency of the Crossrail project.

Mr. Baker

That is a helpful intervention. We need to do both: to use our existing infrastructure in the best way but also to have new schemes giving access to areas such as Hackney—which Crossrail would serve—that would not benefit from the orbital link.

The Minister for Transport in London (Ms Glenda Jackson)

I can understand the hon. Gentleman's regarding the intervention by the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) as helpful, but it was less than helpful in its failure to point out that it was the previous Administration who shelved Crossrail.

Mr. Baker

That is equally true. I can agree with both Front-Bench representatives who have intervened on me.

There is a Treasury input in the public-private partnership proposal. The hidden hand of the Treasury is always there, trying to ensure that as little public money as possible is spent on the project and that as much of it as possible is shunted off to the private sector. We have heard that there are problems with the timetable and we do not know when deals will be concluded and contracts signed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Brake) did not get an answer when he asked: If there is a further delay to the PPP plans, what allowance has he"— the Deputy Prime Minister— made for the extra finance that will be required to ensure that maintenance and investment continue? At what point will he show that the public-private partnership is best value, and will he use the public sector comparator to do that? Are the Government holding discussions with other consortiums … about the possible integration between the national rail network and the sub-surface lines … or is only Railtrack in the running?"—[Official Report, 15 June 1999; Vol. 333, c. 161.] Those questions, with respect, were not answered yesterday, so I am hoping that if I repeat them today my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington and I will be able to read the answer in the Official Report tomorrow.

Why are the Government so opposed to the idea of a public interest company, which could provide the investment that the underground system needs? Do not large older systems such as London's tube network require access to predictable long-term sources of capital, including the ability to borrow against their own revenues? Allowing London's new transport authority to borrow, free from the artificial public sector borrowing requirement constraints, would enable it to access a capital market at far less expense than any private sector borrower. Why have the Government ruled that out and taken a more uncertain route?

There are problems with station capacity. Railtrack has said that the new Canada Water station on the East London line is unable to take more than four-vehicle trains and that peak demand "may cause serious overcrowding." That does not sound like a world-class transport system.

Significant investment will be required in signalling, station capacity for passengers, platform capacity, rolling stock, new connections, dealing with the third rail overhead problem and ensuring that suburban overhead services do not suffer as a consequence. I welcome the idea of using infrastructure, but I put those points in a constructive manner to the Minister and ask her whether proper estimates have been made and, if so, who will pay.

If an agreement is finally concluded and signed with Railtrack, will it be under any obligation to extend the network, perhaps to take in Crossrail, or, perhaps, to consider new connections, or will it simply be there to make the most of the existing infrastructure? If we are to give Railtrack yet another helping hand—which I did not expect the Government to do—we should exact a high price for it, and I hope that the Government will do so.

11.41 am
Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

I am delighted to join in the debate and I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) has raised it. I want to concentrate on the vital missing link in the London orbital, which in Hackney we describe as the east London tube line extension. As we have heard, there are two gaps, one in the southern area and one in the northern area. I want to concentrate on the urban regeneration consequences of filling in that vital missing link.

I have been arguing the case for the east London extension for about 10 years. I think that it was about eight years ago that I raised it in an Adjournment debate. I am glad to see that there is much more support for it now than there was then. In those 10 years, Ministers and shadow Ministers have come to Hackney and said that it is a super idea, but they have gone away and not much has happened. The only real thing that has happened is that, after a lengthy and cumbersome Public Works Acts inquiry, the Secretary of State has given permission for at least the northern missing link to be filled in.

But now we are told that we must await the arrival of the Mayor of London. To the putative front runners, whether it be Trevor Phillips for Labour, Jeffrey Archer for the Conservatives or—well, I will not mention my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) because my pager tells me that to do so would be off message—I would say that I could neither vote for any of them nor recommend that anyone else should vote for them unless they can give a copper-bottomed guarantee that this will be a top priority when a Labour Mayor of London is elected.

The scheme will have a huge number of regeneration consequences for the London borough of Hackney. Although £150 million is petty cash for the railways, this is not some small scheme for us. The regeneration consequences of the east London tube line extension are enormous. Hackney is the third most densely populated authority in Britain. More than a quarter of its population live in the corridor of the proposed east London tube line extension on the orbital route, and they are waiting for the benefits to flow from it. Unemployment in Hackney is double that for London and Britain, and is comparable only with the highest rates in the north west and the north east of England. In some wards in the east London tube line extension corridor, the rates are three times the London level.

In that corridor are 2,500 businesses, employing 30,000 people, so two-thirds of all Hackney's jobs are in this new line catchment area. We estimate that 14,000 jobs are waiting to be created if the missing link is put in, 8,000 of which will be directly attributable to the new line, and the others will be offshoots of the new line.

Not all those new jobs will be taken by Hackney people, but the unemployment rate in Hackney is expected to fall by 10 per cent., which is a massive fall, once the line is up and running. In addition, we calculate—this was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton)—that the link with central London and docklands could provide another 2,500 jobs for Hackney residents and many jobs for residents from other parts of east and south London.

In addition to that, Hackney's age profile is such that during the next five years a huge surge of school leavers will come on to the job market, and unless the line is up and running, many of those school leavers will not have a job at all, even with the excellent work being done under the new deal.

Like Battersea and certain other areas in London, we do not have a tube at all, so two-thirds of Hackney's work force travel outside the borough. Some use private cars, although car ownership is also at almost the lowest level in London. Many use the buses, although they are becoming less and less reliable. Therefore, this is a critical reliable route for the people of Hackney. To make a quick comparison, neighbouring Islington has three tube lines. Its demography is almost the same as Hackney's, yet it has 50 per cent. more local jobs. I suspect that many of those are related to the transport in the area. Therefore, the orbital line is critical for Hackney.

I make one last political point. The supremo for the scheme is the Deputy Prime Minister. He has been to Hackney, as has my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London, to look at the scheme, and we were delighted to see them. We are concerned about the long hard struggle and the long wait that we have had. Some people in Hackney are asking whether the Deputy Prime Minister can cut the mustard on this one. We have always regarded him with affection. We see him as the Mike Tyson of politics. But we are beginning to wonder whether he is losing his ability to strike the knock-out punch, or, to put it more prosaically, where will the money come from and when will we get it?

Originally, we were told that London Transport would give us the money straight out. Then we were told that it would be part of a private finance imitative. Now we are told that it will be part of a public-private partnership. We do not blame the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions; we blame the Treasury, as ever. We are all fed up with these Treasury gyrations and gymnastics. I should like my hon. Friend the Minister to tell us that the money is coming shortly.

11.47 am
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) on initiating this important debate in the House. I agree with everything that has been said by my hon. Friends, and, perhaps, even with the odd thing that has been said by Opposition Members.

Eight years ago, I was shadow Minister for Transport in London, and I produced a report then which stated: Through the election of a Greater London Authority, Labour will return to London the strategic planning it so desperately needs. We will link land use and transport planning to provide greater access at lower environmental costs. We will set higher standards for every aspect of public transport and maximise the integration of different modes to provide easier, more pleasant and more reliable travel. I am delighted that old Labour's promises are being so forcefully fulfilled by new Labour today.

I also acknowledge that the process by which the proposals came to us through the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday was undoubtedly encouraged by the activities of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) and all the work that his group has done in trying to advance the case for transport integration in London.

I add my specific support to the extensions of the East London line. As others have said today, south London and, in the case of Hackney, north London, are ill served, or served not at all, by the underground system. Therefore, it is crucial to have the extension from New Cross Gate to Croydon.

My constituency will stand to gain a tremendous amount. We have made no job calculations, but we expect a real boost to the local economy and to providing access to jobs that exist elsewhere which are not easily accessed at the moment. Regeneration is at the heart of the economic progress that is being made in my constituency.

The partnership between a progressive Labour authority and the Government is producing a welcome and essential fall in unemployment and an improvement in the local economy and environment. However, we want more. Yesterday's report about the premature deaths suffered by people in this country from the effects of car-borne pollution should spur us all to access the railways. In my constituency, much of the car exhaust comes from vehicles passing through to other parts of London. We need to be able to reduce reliance on that form of transport, and the integration of London's railway services will be important to that end, however it is done.

The East London line extension group has argued that, although the necessary investment to build the two extensions to the line amounts to £150 million, the extension will boost the £1.5 billion investment provided through regeneration schemes in the affected areas. That will foster jobs in general but also, I hope, the growth of the creative and arts industries.

My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea mentioned that such industries are important for many people, but my area has many practising artists and creative institutions. We want to extend the links with their counterparts across the river, such as have already been established between Lewisham Art house and the Whitechapel gallery, for example. Such links create jobs and add to the richness of London life.

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister set out his vision of a connected London and talked of new connections between all the major transport hubs. As the plans progress, I urge the Government to think carefully about the local integration of different modes of transport and the stations that they serve. Again, a local example could be the blueprint for much of what the Government want to achieve.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town, in opening this debate, referred to the criteria defining integration. I agree with everything that he said about what that means, and that it is more complex than merely providing a variety of services or linking hard rail, light rail and the underground.

In Lewisham, there are 28 passenger rail lines, which go into central London and out towards the south. There are 39 major bus routes, serving numerous destinations, and the docklands light railway will soon extend through my constituency and into Lewisham. However, it seems to me that most people learn to use—and keep on using—a single route. They have great difficulty in planning other routes to places that they visit occasionally or when they want to make a change. That is a critically important matter. We need better sign provision and maps, and must enable people to maximise their use of rail through improved connections. There is no doubt that that is the integration that we need for the 21st century.

The Lewisham challenge partnership is led by my local authority. It proposes that the locality needs a new type of integration. The Lewisham passenger transport interchange proposed by the partnership deserves the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister. It is the subject of a bid under the single regeneration budget and represents an important model. The bid document states that the aim of the bid is to improve the ease of use of interchange by reducing the time taken for transfer between services and make the service more attractive to commuters currently using private cars and to connect the stations more directly with the leisure, retail and business activity within the town centre and the wider community. That is of crucial importance. As has happened in so many other boroughs, towns and other parts of London, our railway station has been cut off from the town centre by railway lines, two major roads and the extensions necessary to carry car-borne traffic. Reintegrating people, transport services and leisure and business activities gives rise to some very important issues.

The new interchange will also promote and exploit transport's potential to encourage business. Employers as well as employees are concerned about integration, which will help with employment links across the Thames and throughout the region. The improvement to the natural and man-made environment will make the interchange more attractive and pleasant to use.

I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to look carefully at what is happening in my area as an example of how to move forward, and to bear in mind the discomfort suffered by so many people when the East London line was out of action. We all want to see the new proposals go ahead, but due regard must be given to the travelling lives of passengers and customers when the new works are in hand.

I end by saying that, in 1836, the first urban railway in the world was opened, to great excitement, in my constituency. It ran between Greenwich and London bridge, and Deptford station is still being used to this day. Of course, I was not around at the time—

Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Lady is old Labour.

Joan Ruddock

On the contrary, I am absolutely new Labour. However, I can imagine the enormous excitement that that innovation must have brought to south London. Since then, the railway has suffered from much neglect. Trains are so overcrowded, late and in such poor condition that many Londoners are completely disenchanted with the rail system. But I believe that we are now at the beginning of a new age of great excitement about the use and integration of rail and underground systems, from which all Londoners will benefit.

11.57 am
Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North)

I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) on securing this debate, and wish to express my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Linton) for the leadership that he has shown in recent months in helping to build the case for the orbital network. They have set out a powerful and persuasive case for seizing and developing the opportunities presented by yesterday's statement.

Safe, affordable and reliable public transport is the key to tackling traffic congestion in our city. It will bring immeasurable benefits for London's economy and help to tackle social exclusion, as well as making London a cleaner and more pleasant place to live in. Like other Labour Members, I warmly welcomed yesterday's statement by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister about the London link scheme that will link the national railway and the underground. Greater integration has to make sense in terms of making the best use of available capacity and improving the potential for passengers to make journeys through London and on the orbital route.

It makes sense for Railtrack to be a partner in the developments, although it will have to improve on its investment and management record. I speak with passion on that subject, as I depend on the Bakerloo line, to which the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) referred earlier. That line goes as far as Harrow and has suffered continual disruption because of signal failures throughout the 1990s. The surface train and underground network extending from Watford, through Queen's Park station and into Baker street has been less effective than it could have been because of the signal failures that have plagued it. I look forward to the Government and the rail regulator being firm and tough in negotiations with Railtrack to ensure that the company delivers.

My purpose in contributing to the debate is to stress the need to fill the gaps that at present are left by the underground and surface rail services. The orbital network presents a great opportunity in that regard but, to fulfil our wider ambitions for public transport, we must make sure that swathes of the inner city are not excluded.

Surface train services that interconnect with the underground should be able to operate as regularly as most suburban bus services, giving passengers confidence about reliability and frequency. That is the only way to make sure that people use the underground as an alternative to their cars, particularly for getting to work, when punctuality is of the essence. In my corner of west London, a densely populated inner-city community is squeezed between two important rail lines—the West London line and the Paddington mainline and channel tunnel link. Properties on those estates need soundproofing to insulate them from the noise of the trains that pass virtually under their windows, but the people there have no access to either service.

Silverline plans to run trains on the West London line from Clapham to Barking, covering half the London orbital route through north London and offering numerous interchanges to the tube and other lines. Unless there is a station at North Pole road, however, thousands of people on the William Sutton Trust estate, the Peabody estates and the Hillfarm estate in north Kensington will have no means of accessing the service.

A proposal to reopen a station at North Pole road has been under consideration for decades. About three years ago, Railtrack concluded that only three additional stations should be provided on the West London line between Clapham and Willesden junction. There will be stations at West Brompton, which I was pleased to see open recently, at Shepherd's Bush and at either Chelsea harbour or North Pole road. I understand that capacity is not sufficient to win priority for North Pole road.

The exciting opportunity presented by the public-private partnership and the orbital network makes this the right time to seize the chance to reopen that station. If that means delivering extra capacity or re-routing freight traffic to enhanced alternative routes, so be it. Unless we resolve those problems, we will not create the comprehensive integrated network that we need.

Several hon. Members have mentioned the ways in which regeneration interacts with an integrated public transport system. In 1992, north Kensington city challenge identified the area's poor transport infrastructure, congestion and unreliable bus services as a major barrier to employment. Public transport links remain extremely poor, particularly to the south of the borough and the employment opportunities of west London.

In particular, links are poor to the Park Royal industrial estate, which has been assisted with European money, and which provides many employment opportunities. Although north Kensington is close to that estate as the crow flies across Wormwood Scrubs, the community has no means of reaching it by public transport. If there were a station at North Pole road, people would be able to change at Willesden junction to get to jobs on that estate.

The single regeneration budget scheme that is tackling unemployment in north Kensington has illustrated the fact that the physical isolation of the major estates affects the social exclusion of residents. It also contributes to the 13 per cent. unemployment in the St. Charles ward—40 per cent. more than the inner London average. Local surveys confirm that there is extreme dissatisfaction with public transport in north Kensington, not only for employment reasons but because of the isolation of young parents and young people's inability to get to entertainment venues in the evenings.

I believe that there is an overwhelming case for services that link us to the orbital network. Kensington and Chelsea council would welcome proposals to release capacity for local services and new stations, and so would I. North Kensington is not alone. Similar cases have been made for Hackney and south London. Labour Members share an enthusiasm for what the orbital network can deliver in the context of wider investment in the surface and underground networks. Will Railtrack help to deliver extra capacity to make the links work and to take us towards a 21st century network that will leave no socially excluded islands abandoned at its centre?

12.4 pm

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) on obtaining today's debate and on its timing. His prescience must be valued by his constituents, as the debate comes just one day after the Government's major statement on the subject. I would not dream of suggesting that his success was due to anything other than heavenly inspiration.

I share the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for national bike week, and I was at the front of the queue with him at this morning's successful event. Some of those who attended are more regular bikers than others who turned up for the photo opportunity. I do not include the hon. Gentleman in that remark. I got there on my own bike and so did he, but one or two hon. Members were there just for today, and were looking forward to slipping back into their ministerial cars.

I enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's tour d'horizon around the integration projects that are expected to flow from the ideas currently in play. He was enthusiastic about spending the proceeds of new taxes that will be imposed on Londoners with cars and businesses that have car parks. That did not sound very new Labour. He dreamt of spending revenues before a single penny has been collected. We remain opposed to those taxes because it is unfair to withdraw Government grants from local authorities for public transport in London while making Londoners pay extra.

Ms Glenda Jackson

Is that another U-turn in Conservative policy? The hon. Gentleman knows that road charging and a workplace levy would be an empowerment for local authorities that chose to use them rather than a statutory requirement. During the Committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill, the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) said that the Conservative party supported congestion charging in principle and supported a private non-parking levy for everywhere in the United Kingdom except London.

Mr. Jenkin

Once again, the Minister has misunderstood Conservative policy, but we are not discussing that point this morning. The Government are fond of claiming that the taxes raised would be hypothecated, but hypothecation means nothing unless it provides additional money. If the Government are withdrawing grant and replacing the shortfall with the taxes—

Ms Jackson

We are not.

Mr. Jenkin

The Minister is doing that.

We have heard valuable speeches from the hon. Members for Lewes (Mr. Baker), for Battersea (Mr. Linton), for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck). We all want more investment in infrastructure, and we share the dream of integration. The previous Conservative Government did not have a bad record on either. We oversaw completion of the Victoria line, began the Jubilee line extension, and opened Thameslink and the docklands light railway. I sat on the Committee that dealt with the Croydon tramlink, another Conservative project. The much acclaimed Heathrow Express was opened by the Prime Minister with a great fanfare, and the Minister herself gave it a prize at the Railway Forum dinner earlier this year.

Ms Jackson

The Railway Forum gave the prize.

Mr. Jenkin

I saw the hon. Lady there, and I saw her present the prize.

Ms Jackson

The Railway Forum gave the prize.

Mr. Jenkin

If the hon. Lady is suggesting that she did not believe in the prize that she handed over, far be it from me to allow any unparliamentary expression to cross my lips.

Where will the money come from for the further integration that we all want?

The black cloud that looms over London Underground is the dreadful public-private partnership, with which the Government have replaced the investment plans that they inherited from the Conservatives. The Government cancelled those plans as soon as they came into office, in the name of a publicly owned and publicly accountable service. That has been followed by two years of absolute stalemate. The morale of the tube's staff and management has plummeted. It is a bit rich for the hon. Member for Deptford to say that old Labour's promises are being fulfilled, the day after the Government announced that the privatised Railtrack will provide the capital and investment for which the tube has been crying out.

According to the Labour party, Railtrack was public enemy No. 1 because it made profits and doubled annual investment in the railways. It has been transformed into the rescuer of the public-private partnership for the tube. We must welcome the fact that the Government are at last talking sense, but there are many questions to be answered about the PPP.

It is envisaged that three infrastructure companies will be involved in the PPP. Why is one of those companies, the sub-surface tube, being let to one bidder on a privileged basis, with no competition? How are we to know whether Railtrack is being forced to strike a good deal for the taxpayer? We shall never know, because there will be no competition. A deal has been sewn up between the Government and Railtrack.

There will be proper competition for the deep tube, and we welcome that. We understand why the Government made that decision; their original plans for the PPP were paralysed by the fact that Railtrack was by far the most credible bidder for all the tube, so it was difficult to get any competition in bids for any of the infrastructure companies. By giving Railtrack privileged access to the strategic part of the tube in which it is interested, the Government will ensure that there is better competition for the other parts of the tube.

That prompts the question of when the proposals will be implemented. The Government originally promised that the contracts would be tendered last autumn, but yesterday's statement was little more than a declaration of intent; there is no agreement between any of the parties and the Government say that only pre-qualification will be completed by this autumn.

The greatest irony is that we are expected to take the Government seriously when they have been complaining for two years that Railtrack is not investing enough, but they are now placing the future investment in the sub-surface tube in Railtrack's hands. How are we to have any confidence that Railtrack will invest enough if the Government do not have confidence that Railtrack has invested enough in its existing responsibilities? How will the Government ensure that Railtrack will invest in the tube? The lesson is that two years of paralysis, no decisions and no policy have left the Government in urgent need of taking the best available opportunity as the clock ticks on.

The Government need to learn that there is no point in briefing against Railtrack, damaging its credibility in the City and undermining its share price and its ability to raise the funds that the Minister wants it to invest. She needs to understand and explain to people that Railtrack profits are good for investment because they will strengthen its balance sheet and enable it to borrow and to finance the investment that the Government want it to make in the surface railway as well as in the tube.

What rates of return will Railtrack be allowed to earn? Will there be track access charges for tube trains running on Railtrack-maintained track or will there be a simple rate of return contract? What would be a fair rate of return? What profit will Railtrack make on this deal? Who will provide the ultimate financial guarantees? Will there be a repeat of the channel tunnel rail link financing, in which Railtrack rode to the rescue of the deal, backed by £3.5 billion of Treasury guarantees? Much to the satisfaction of the Minister and her colleagues, Railtrack's profits on the channel tunnel rail link will be made on the back of those Treasury guarantees. Is that what is meant by a public-private partnership? At least our privatisation proposals for the tube would have put the risk entirely on the private sector so that it earned its profits rather than having them backed by the Government and the taxpayer.

The fundamental problem is the financial illiteracy of the PPP. A report published by Professor Stephen Glaister and others said: The PPP threatens to impose burdensome long term pressures on Underground operating revenues, including the prospect of continually rising fairs, in order to pay back up front investment by private contractors. In a public-private partnership, private sector investment does not come free; it has to be paid for. If one increases the capital in the business, one must increase the revenue to service the capital to provide the return. Where will that revenue come from? Will it come from higher fares, or from further subsidy to which the Treasury has yet to agree?

There are two underlying factors. First, the £7 billion that has been promised for investment in the tube does not compare favourably with the £7 billion invested in the tube during the last 10 years of Conservative Government. The proposals will not transform management attitudes or increase the efficiency of the operation of the tube, as privatisation is doing in the railways and other industries. The situation will stay the same, without a great bonanza of new finance.

The second factor is the deadline. In response to a parliamentary question on the comprehensive spending review, the Government made it clear that the Treasury will completely stop financing the tube in 2000–01. The deadline is therefore next April. The Minister and her colleagues say that they are not negotiating the PPP against a deadline, but I say to them, "Pull the other one." The Treasury is holding a gun to her head because the Government know that if they end up having to finance the tube out of her Department's expenditure, cuts will have to be made elsewhere to make up that shortfall, as the Government had to do as a result of cancelling our privatisation proposals.

I emphasise again that yesterday's statement was no more than a statement of intent, and there is no agreement. Ultimately, we must place our faith in Railtrack. It rescued the channel tunnel rail link and it will rescue part of the tube, but the Government need to promise themselves that they will have better relations with Railtrack than in the past to enable the company to raise the finance to do the job that the Government want it to do.

12.17 pm
The Minister for Transport in London (Ms Glenda Jackson)

I join other hon. Members who have contributed to this debate in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) on securing the debate. If timing is all, my hon. Friend has everything. It is entirely typical of the contributions of the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) that in his opening remarks he impugned the impartiality of the Speaker's Office in the selection of Adjournment debates.

With the exception of the hon. Member for North Essex, the other speakers in the debate, including my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea (Mr. Linton) and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore), the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), have all warmly welcomed the innovative proposals launched by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in his statement yesterday.

We propose to link up surface and underground rail to create, in a telling phrase, a joined-up London. Speaker after speaker referred to the benefits that those proposals will bring to their constituents and the importance of transport infrastructure for regeneration, job creation and tourism. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), who has had no small hand in the groundwork for our innovative approach, spoke of the improvements to the environment that will result from the creation of a joined-up London.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham)

While my hon. Friend is on the subject of joining up London, may I make a plea for Peckham to be joined up? A railway line, which shakes people's windows, runs past Camberwell Station road, but there is no station on that road, so can we please have a station there again? Also, could Peckham be put on the tube map, otherwise people will think that it is a place to which one never goes or leaves? We want to share in the regeneration through the underground coming to Peckham.

Ms Jackson

I shall certainly pass on my right hon. Friend's concerns about the absence of Peckham from the tube map.

Speaker after speaker has not simply settled for the proposals on a joined-up London and a London orbital rail link, but used them to trigger their powers of imagination, creation, energy and innovation. They see the enormous potential in taking such an approach.

The only person who has significantly failed to see the benefits of the proposals is the hon. Member for North Essex, who expressed concerns about them. At the moment, London Transport and Railtrack are only exploring the details of the proposed public-private partnership, yet the hon. Gentleman worried whether the taxpayer would be getting a good deal—that comes from a member of a party which, in government prior to 1997, was responsible for selling our railway infrastructure to Railtrack for a fraction of its worth. His party spent hundreds of millions of taxpayers' pounds on the privatisation of our railways. It proposed privatisation of the tube—with only a reduced network and the requirement for public funding for at least four years following privatisation. Had such a privatisation gone ahead, it would itself have taken more than four years to achieve. The contract for the channel tunnel rail link that his party signed collapsed almost a year after the ink had dried on it.

Railtrack indeed has had a major part to play in saving the channel tunnel rail link, as my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said. Everything is on time and on budget, and central and essential to that is the deal that he cut. Not one additional penny of public money was put into that restructured deal, which has ensured that the rail link can be saved. That deal means that, in an infinitely shorter period than the previous Administration envisaged, the channel tunnel rail link will revert to the private sector. There is only a 99-year lease on the line, and not a 999-year one, which the previous Administration signed away.

We have made it abundantly clear that not only the proposals launched yesterday but the overarching PPP, which will attract to the underground money that the lamentable stewardship of the previous Administration significantly failed to secure, will be approved only when we are assured that they will truly produce the best cost benefit for the taxpayer and provide the kind of service that both London and Londoners need.

Others who welcomed yesterday's announcement included those in the private sector, which is extremely interested in submitting—I trust—competitive bids for the PPP. Indeed, one senior source from the relevant part of private sector which will be bidding was quoted in yesterday's Evening Standard as saying: This is good news … The private sector is confident it can provide dramatic improvements for the Tube. In a somewhat schizophrenic approach to what has been proposed, the hon. Member for Lewes on one hand argued that there should be no restraint whatever on public spending, but on the other became much exercised over the costs of the PPP. We have made it abundantly clear that of course public sector comparators are part and parcel of ensuring that, once the decision is taken, it will be rooted in Government confidence that we have got the best possible value for the taxpayer, and that the service created will be the kind of 21st century public underground system that this capital city and the people who live in it so desperately need.

The proposals are part and parcel of an overarching approach to public transport in this great capital city and, as my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, of ensuring that this great city retains its competitiveness and becomes even greater globally. The proposals for the linking of surface and underground rail, which, as my hon. Friends have said, will also connect London's five airports to the channel tunnel rail link, are part of creating a truly global city for the people who live in it for the 21st century.

As all my hon. Friends have said, the proposals are to be greatly welcomed; they offer enormous benefits. Clearly, many details will have to be worked through. Labour Member after Labour Member has pointed to the importance of integrating not only the lines but other transport modes and timetabling, providing better and much more accessible information. My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town made a most telling point on accessible transport. The Government have made it clear that we believe that public transport must be accessible to all our citizens. Indeed, we are pleased that public transport providers are working towards that end.

Our proposals are aimed at righting the wrongs of the previous Administration's neglect and disinterest in funding London Underground by integrating public transport and providing the benefits of such transport over a range of areas. I have touched on some of them, as have all my hon. Friends. Regeneration, the potential for job creation and improvement in our environment are all part and parcel of improving the quality of life in this great city, ensuring that we leave for future generations a city not worse but infinitely better than that which we know.

Once again, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town and all my hon. Friends on their positive contributions and welcome of the proposals announced to the House yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr. Jenkin

Will the hon. Lady acknowledge that Railtrack is bailing the Government out on these projects and that it is therefore pointless for the Government to brief against it, because that would undermine its financial viability and credibility in the City, thus preventing it from raising the money required? Will she give an assurance that the Government's adversarial relationship with Railtrack is now at an end and that the questions between Railtrack and the regulator will be resolved as quickly as possible, so that confidence in Railtrack can be restored?

Ms Jackson

I realise that the hon. Gentleman is new to his elevated position, but I thought that even he would have been aware of the rail summit that was launched by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and convened by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. Every aspect of the railway industry was represented at it. The message from that summit, which was endorsed by all in the railway industry, was that the culture of blame is over and that the industry should work together.

Mr. Jenkin

It was a stunt.

Ms Jackson

Stunts are the only matter on which the hon. Gentleman could claim primacy over other hon. Members.

I am grateful to all my hon. Friends for endorsing the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister; it is indeed a vision. Under the proposals, the future for London is infinitely brighter.