HL Deb 22 June 1964 vol 259 cc5-8

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether details can now be given of the dates when further extensions to the London Underground system will be started and when it is intended to commence the works required to relieve the traffic congestion on the railway outside London Bridge.]


My Lords, it would be for the London Transport Board and the British Railways Board, respectively, to put forward proposals on the questions to which the noble Lord refers. To date, Her Majesty's Government have received no such proposals.


My Lords, is it not a fact that for many

Following are the details referred to above in Lord Chesham's answers to supplementary questions:

years plans have been prepared for extending the Underground; and in view of the need to lessen road congestion and ease travelling in London, is it not desirable for the Government to take the initiative if the London Transport Board and British Railways have not done so? Also, just as in the same way bad congestion on the road at Hyde Park has been relieved by improvements there, is it not possible that the same kind of congestion on the railways could also be relieved if money were made available for improvements on the railways at these difficult points? Will not the Government initiate action on this important matter as soon as possible?


My Lords, my noble friend knows, of course, as well as anybody in the House, what are the statutory obligations and duties which rest upon the two Boards I have mentioned. There are certainly plans in existence, because I think the London Transport Board are a forward-looking body, and in fact some were referred to in an address given by one of the members of the Board, Mr. Anthony Bull, on December 2 of last year, and they included some quite important projects. What is standing in the Board's way at the moment is that, before they finalise their ideas, they feel they should wait for the result of the London Traffic Survey, which, after all, has been initiated entirely to meet the kind of situation about which my noble friend is worried. They are also very largely financially extended with the present construction of the Victoria line, and they have a further obligation to try to pay their way. There is also the consideration of financial prospects.

So far as the obligation of the British Railways Board is concerned, about which my noble friend has asked, I can tell him that they are actively considering at the moment how, by reshaping their traffic and schedules, they can make much better use of the existing lines. As he knows, the kind of improvement he mentioned in his question is a long process, and an expensive one. In other words, if I can borrow an expression from the road side of my Ministry, they are trying traffic engineering, pending highway engineering.


My Lords, is my noble friend not aware that, owing to the depth at which foundations must be made for the new high buildings that are going up in London, it may not be possible to carry out the line of route of an Underground which is desirable and necessary unless that line of route is known well in advance. Therefore, is this not a further reason for saying where the lines of route will be, in order that no new high buildings can go up above those lines of route and so prevent them from being built in future?


My Lords, of course the London Transport Board are in close consultation—which goes on all the time—with the London County Council and other authorities on the subject of these matters. My noble friend must agree that it is a little difficult to plan precisely where you want to go until you know for sure where you do want to go.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is not the case that London Transport have to take into account the Minister's policy of putting as many motor vehicles of all sorts on the roads, which thereby automatically compete and take traffic off the two public transport systems? Therefore, is not the Minister's policy calculated to make the London Transport Board and British Railways go easy?


My Lords, I am astounded to hear the noble Lord say that. It puts him in isolation again, because most of the criticism of my right honourable friend that I read seems to be devoted to the fact that he is trying to put them off the road.


My Lords, will the noble Lord give consideration to further encouragement of the London Transport Board to extend the present proposed Victoria Line to the South-West, through Pimlico and under the Thames, where there is a great shortage of Underground stations?


My Lords, I understand that they have a project to extend the Victoria line to Brixton, but they cannot extend until it is built.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the Government have advised the London Transport Board that, in connection with any new tube projects they may have in mind, they will be considered on the same social cost-benefit basis as was used to justify the Victoria Line?


No, my Lords, at the moment I cannot say.