§ 4.4 p.m.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE rose to call attention to the problems affecting transport in the Greater London Area; and to move for Papers. The noble Duke said: My Lords, before I move the Motion standing in my name, I think it only right, particularly because of the views expressed by certain noble Lords opposite last week, that I should declare an interest in this subject, in that I have a house in London; and, indeed, I suppose I should declare a second interest in that I also have a motor car in London. I hope noble Lords opposite will not think I am disqualified from speaking on the subject.
§ The problem of traffic congestion in Greater London has been with us for a very long time—certainly during the whole of my lifetime, and, no doubt, a good deal longer than that. To be fair, it is a problem of success; for if London were not a great, thriving, bustling, city, with millions of people living in it and with well over 1 million men and women coming into the city to work every day— to say nothing of the tens of thousands who come into the capital every evening for a night out—the problem would not exist. Traffic congestion is one of the side effects of prosperity.
§ Statistics are very dreary things, and in order not to weary the House I will give all of them at one go. But in discussing this problem, I think it is important to realise its size. Since 1952, the population of Greater London has fallen by 190,000, while that of the outer country areas has risen by some 550,000. Thus, in the whole area covered by the London Transport Board there is a net increase of population of 360,000 people. One-and-a-half million people enter Central London each working day between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Of this number, 73 per cent, is served by rail (35 per cent, by British Railways and 38 per cent . by the Underground), a further 17 per cent. is served by buses, and the remaining 10 per cent. represents private road transport. In ten years, between 1954 and 1964, traffic by all kinds of public transport into Central London increased by 5 per cent. The number of passengers 512 using British Railways rose by 25 per cent.; the number of those using the Underground rose by 10 per cent.; but —and this is very significant—the figure for bus passengers decreased by no less than 30 per cent. During the peak period, between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., it is estimated that 68,000 cars enter Central London every weekday. Of that number, two-thirds carry only the driver. This is an increase of private car traffic of no less than 84 per cent. in the past ten years.
§ The number of cars registered in Greater London was, in 1964, approximately 1.4 million—an increase of 30 per cent. over the number in the previous five years. But it is estimated that less than 40 per cent, of the householders in Greater London own a car for their personal use; so it must be expected that the number of cars in Greater London is likely to grow rapidly as car ownership continues to expand. Some people estimate that by 1980 there will be 18 million cars in Great Britain as compared with 8 million in 1964.
My Lords, those are all the statistics with which I propose to weary you; but I hope they will give some indication that the problem we are talking about and trying to tackle is a problem of great size. Members on all sides of the House are only too well aware of the problem from their own bitter personal experience. In the other place on Thursday, the Minister of Transport stated the Government's broad objectives for dealing with traffic congestion in London. For clarity, I should like to quote what he said:
… first, to call a halt to the deterioration of London's transport facilities—of all kinds—and to make the positive improvements necessary to meet the economic and social needs of a great city, and to ensure that the traffic vital to those needs shall have freedom to move; secondly, to take measures to ensure the best use of scarce road space; thirdly, since we regard public transport systems as essential, to ensure that necessary public transport services are not only maintained but improved; fourthly, to find means to achieve a more equitbale distribution of the burden of paying for London's transport in all its forms."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 722, No. 23, col. 688; 9/12/65.]
§ My Lords, no one will have any quarrel with these aims. These objectives are admirable. But they are only words, and it is deeds that we require before the problem can be solved. During the past 513 13 months we have had a formidable flood of words from the Govenment on many subjects, not least on transport, but we have had precious few deeds. Now, however, the Minister of Transport has done something: he has authorised an increase in the fares to be charged by the London Transport Board and by the Railways Board; yet, at the same time, the Minister announced that it would be necessary to take steps to discourage the use of private cars in Greater London, particularly during peak periods. My Lords, this is an Alice in Wonderland world. The increase in fares will have one certain effect; it will discourage people from using public transport rather than their own vehicles. Yet the use of private cars is also to be heavily penalised. It is not so much a matter of "Pay your money and take your choice", as having no choice but to pay more money.
§ If I am to keep my speech within a reasonable limit I hope that the House will forgive me if I treat the subject in somewhat general terms. To solve the problem there must be both long-term strategy and interim, short-term tactics to alleviate the situation while the long-term steps take effect. Taking the strategy first, clearly, if the London traffic problem is to be permanently improved a number of things must be done. First, the traffic going to Great London must be separated from that which at present goes through Greater London. Here the motor box plan, projected by the Greater London Council, is surely a proposal which should be looked at very closely because by providing easy routes round Central London, through-traffic will be diverted away from the central area. It seems to me that there is much to commend this scheme, and I sincerely hope that the Government will give it most favourable consideration.
§ Next, those people coming to London either for business or pleasure must be cajoled, both by the "carrot" and by the "stick" to use public transport rather than their own vehicles. This must mean an improvement in the standards of public transport. Travel on the Underground to-day during the rush hours means that human beings are herded together in a way in which if they were cattle would lead to the whole country's being in an uproar at such treatment. Thirdly—here the previous Conservative 514 Government made considerable progress —office accommodation must be diverted away from the Greater London area. Fourthly, it will be seen from the Report of the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries concerned with public transport that the Committee considered that the Ministry of Transport should take a new look at the question of staggered working hours. This idea has languished for a long time, and if the Government would take steps in this connection it would be of substantial long-term help in easing the traffic congestion.
§ Steps should be taken to provide a greater extension in car park facilities at surburban Underground stations, so that people may drive from their homes to the Underground and travel by Underground to a point near to their place of work. I know that the provision of such car-parking facilities is an extremely expensive thing and that at present they are uneconomic to run. To make them more economic there is no reason why legislation should not be introduced to allow the London Transport Board to sell petrol, oil and accessories, and indeed to service and maintain the vehicles.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, what the noble Duke is saying is most interesting. Is he advocating, presumably on behalf of his Party, that a nationalised industry, British Rail, should now enter into competition with private enterprise in selling petrol and spare parts for motor vehicles and the like?
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I am merely saying that we are attempting to tackle the problem of congestion and that it would help enormously if people could leave their cars outside London. I stick to what I said: that if the burden is so great, we must explore the possibilities of easing the financial burden.
Finally, I turn to the long-term aspect and the question of buses and, to a lesser degree, taxis. The first bus was introduced into London 136 years ago. It was a horse omnibus. Since then we have removed the horse and replaced it with an engine, and we have put a roof on the vehicle, but other than that I cannot see that there has been any alteration in the design of buses since 1829. Surely it is possible, with modern methods of design and technique, to produce a 515 vehicle which would carry at least the same number of people in more comfortable conditions than they are now carried in a vehicle whose design has not changed but is, in all basic respects, exactly the same as it was when it was introduced.
The same, to a lesser extent, applies to taxis. Noble Lords may remember that a few years ago there was an ill-fated scheme—I never quite knew why it failed —to introduce mini-cabs. These vehicles could convey, though in some discomfort, four passengers, just as an ordinary taxicab does, but I should have thought that they occupied about one-third of the space taken by a taxicab. Both omnibuses and taxicabs are part of the London scene and visitors from overseas gaze on them and say, "Aren't they wonderful"; but they are also antiques, and if we wish to advance into the modern world, as I am given to understand the Prime Minister is anxious that we should, I suggest that a long look should be taken at the design of the vehicles at present plying for hire in the Greater London area. I have indicated a few of the steps which could be taken, and no doubt there are many others which noble Lords taking part in a debate will refer to.
I now turn to what I call the tactical side of the problem, the steps that we may take now to alleviate the chaotic traffic conditions which all to often overwhelm London. Travelling about in the Central London area, one cannot fail to be struck by how traffic conditions change in a comparatively short time. For example, if one arrives at the House at about lunchtime, one finds the traffic in Parliament Square is frequently jammed to a standstill. Yet when one leaves this House an hour or so later it will be flowing freely, only to congeal once again as the evening rush hour approaches. It is not only in our economic affairs that we wish to do away with "Stop-Go". We should do it equally with London traffic, so that, like our economy, it may expand and flow steadily and evenly, day and night.
Traffic jams form very quickly by the creation of knots of traffic which rapidly lead to a great tangling up. I believe that one of the primary causes of these knots is the loading and off-loading of vans in busy thoroughfares at busy periods of the day. I believe that the Government should insist, if necessary by 516 legislation, that on and off loading by lorries should be forbidden in the Central London area—I do not want to be rigid on these figures—between, say, 8.30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Again and again one sees traffic blocks in Central London which are caused by the off-loading of vans. It is not possible for the traffic to flow smoothly through our narrow streets when vehicles can draw up on one side or the other, or both, and on and off load.
I come now to the question of parking meters, which I should be the first to admit are marvellous sources of revenue. Against that is the fact of cars being parked at the sides of the road and occupying road space which otherwise might be used by moving vehicles. This can, and does, lead to congestion, particularly in the narrow confines of so many London streets. Rather than having more and more parking meters, let us have more and more underground car parks, so that the stationary cars can be taken off the road and not interfere with moving traffic.
Then there is the question of the size of the motor car. I think it would be only fair and just that those who occupy more road space should pay more for that privilege. I suggest that there should be a change in the system of the taxing of private cars, so that the overall size of a vehicle is taken into account in the assessment of tax. The present tax rate offers no financial inducement to own and drive a small car. If taxation by size were to lead to a modification in the design of such cars as the Austin Princess, it would be no bad thing.
Finally—a very simple point, but one that would make a lot of difference—there should be a final and total banning of all U-turns in the Greater London area. Much has been done in this direction by the previous Minister of Transport, but I think that this principle could he extended, with great advantage, so that, if I may make a bad joke, the U-turn becomes strictly "non-U", and anyone who indulges in this practice should be liable to a substantial fine. These are only a few ideas. I am sure that noble Lords taking part in the debate will have more and probably much better ones. I would emphasise again that the last thing that I wish to do is to minimise the problem. Every weekday, morning and evening, London is faced with a vast 517 logistic problem, and if we do not tackle it now, at once, London will become increasingly paralysed. It is no good not doing things because it will be a long time before they have effect. For a day dawns, five years have passed, nothing has been done and the problem is far worse. In recent years we have had a perfect welter of reports—the Buchanan, the Smeed and the Morgan Reports, and the Report of the Select Committee. But the time has come when talking and writing has to stop and action begin.
My final word is this. In a speech in another place last Thursday, the Minister gave notice of penalising the private motorist in London. In my view, such action would be to admit that one of the greatest inventions of the last hundred years, the internal combustion engine, has defeated its own purpose. To take the steps of which the Minister gave notice would he a confession of failure. I do not believe that that point has been reached yet, and I do not believe that it need necessarily ever be reached if the problem is tackled by the Government right away. But should the Government admit defeat and try to take action on the lines the Minister indicated, I hope that the saying, "Charity begins at home", will be remembered. In any clash of interest between those who live in Greater London and those who, for one purpose or another, come into London, I think it is only right and fair that the interests of the former should prevail. Let London primarily be for the Londoners. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am sorry I rose before the Question had been put. I was in such haste to agree with the noble Duke in suggesting that all U-turns should be "non-U". I am grateful to the noble Duke for two reasons this afternoon. The first is that his Motion gives us a chance of discussing in more detail the points affecting transport in the Greater London area, and, secondly, it gives us a chance of looking at the behaviour of my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary.
518 I should like, if I may, to take the latter first, and I would say to him that over the past few weeks I was extremely angry with him. I do not know whether I am speaking now more in sorrow than in anger, but I am going to say exactly what I think, whatever my governing feeling, because I think that my noble friend has really and truly no idea of what he conveyed to the House by his attitude. I have known my noble friend for many years, ever since I entered the other place in 1950, and I hope he will not mind, particularly in view of what I am going to say, if I tell him that I have always had a very high regard for him. I have heard him say in another place and in your Lordships' House that he has the cause of transport very much at heart. This I accept. I have heard him say. equally, that he has at heart the cause of both pedestrians and motorists. Indeed, recently in your Lordships' House my noble friend went on record as saying that anything he or his Department could do to further the safety of pedestrians would be done.
I wonder if my noble friend realises how he seems to have changed on this matter of pedestrians? In London, what is suggested is either unnecessary, too expensive or irrelevant. He gave the House the impression, when answering questions on November 24 last, that all pedestrians were second-class citizens as compared with motorists. My noble friend Lord Champion says, "Oh, no"—I am sorry, but he ought to know me better. I am going to give him the column number. My noble friend was asked, not by me, but by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, from the Opposition Front Bench (at col. 904), if he would remember that there was such a thing as aiding pedestrians. On the matter of loading and unloading vans in, for example, Oxford and Bond Street during peak hours, on October 27, the Minister told me, first, that this impediment was not increasing and then, in reply to a supplementary question, he explained why it was increasing. Later, on November 30, instead of replying to the Question on the Order Paper, my noble friend referred me to a long letter from the Greater London Council, which did not answer the Question put down. I will return later to this letter.
519 I hope that my noble friend realises why I am making these points. It is not with any animosity towards him, but with very considerable feeling, as a Back Bencher, that Members should not be treated in this way when they are trying to help on a serious problem. First, on the point of obstruction in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, when I referred to "the undue difficulty" caused to vehicles by goods vehicles loading and unloading, my noble friend told me:… it all depends on the interpretation one puts on the word ' undue '."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 270 (No. 11), col. 1131; 30/11/65.]Of course it does. But I suggest that that is no way to treat serious questions, and I do not think that is the way for a Minister to treat any Member of this House who—even if he or she is being a nuisance—has gone to considerable trouble to try to find out the facts of the case. I can only assume that my normally courteous and most helpful friend has got such a weak case to present that he finds himself embarrassed.
I should like to come to the second section of my remarks and look in more detail at what we were unable to discuss at Question Time—first, the problem of vans loading and unloading, and, secondly, the safety of pedestrians. Included in both of these, as I think my noble friend would agree, is the vital question of the reasonable flow of traffic in Greater London, be it motorist or pedestrian. On the matter of vans, I return to my Question of November 30, which concerned the impediment to other traffic caused by vans loading or offloading during peak hours in Oxford Street. I asked my noble friend what periods and dates were covered by the inquiry that had been made. As I have already told the House, in reply, I had this long, courteous and detailed letter from the Greater London Council. Apart from being incorrect, this letter was extremely general. Apparently no specific inquiry had been made at all.
Obviously, my noble friend is entitled to ask me, on what grounds I say that this letter was incorrect. I do not believe that anyone in this House; I do not believe that any driver of public or private transport; I do not believe that the police themselves, accept as true the statement that 520in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street no undue difficulty to vehicles is caused by goods vehicles loading and unloading in them.I think it is quite untrue, and totally inaccurate; and I cannot be more definite than that. I see this happening every day. In common, probably, with many of your Lordships, I live and work in Central London. Travelling on a bus along Oxford Street during normal working hours is one long crawl, if one gets a crawl at all. I do not know whether my noble friend would say, "Why?". It is because of vans loading and off-loading. And if my noble friend finds this difficult to believe, the proof is quite easy to find, and I would ask him to go for a crawl on a bus and find out.
My noble friend may recall that at Question Time on November 24 I told him of the ten lorries or vans I had passed in Bond Street, just from Fenwick's corner to the end of Bond Street, offloading at 11.45 a.m. I told him that traffic could not get by. In addition, these vans were on both sides of the street, which is a narrow street. If he wants further details, one van was actually making cement on one side, and another was off-loading it down the other side at another site. This resulted in single-line traffic. When the single-line traffic could move no more, we got jams. These are facts. They are facts that I have seen for myself. They are not a figment of my imagination.
I wonder whether the Minister, when he comes to reply, would tell the House whether he accepts what I have said, or whether he believes with the Greater London Council that these vehicles cause no undue difficulty to other traffic, public or private. And when he gives us that answer, will he not muddle this up with why such things happen, and why he cannot do anything about it at present? If my noble friend had said all along: "This is a very difficult problem. We know it exists, but we cannot do any-think about it", that would be one thing. But to be asked to accept a statement from the Greater London Council that it does not happen is infuriating. I hope that my noble friend will be able to correct that in his reply.
Then, I think it is time somebody said something about pedestrians. On 521 November 24 the Minister told the House:The only basic requirement is for the pedestrian to walk parallel with the flow of traffic …."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 270 (No. 9), col. 905; 24/11/65.]Will my noble friend tell me how he does this when the traffic filters? There would certainly be a very dead pedestrian if he did. On October 26 last I asked the Minister if he was aware of the serious difficulties caused to pedestrians, particularly the elderly, by traffic being allowed to filter right or left at busy junctions, such as the many arising in the West End of London. This dated back to August. I am giving the dates most punctiliously, if the House will bear with me, so that my noble friend can have them all available when he comes to reply. I think that he will find that I have quoted perfectly fairly and correctly.
On August 5 I stressed to the Minister the very real problem of crossing streets where traffic was allowed to turn right after it had crossed half the crown of the road. In this case it was Oxford Street. The Minister, if he knows that Part well (and he probably does), will realise that this is where the traffic comes up Davies Street, goes right across Oxford Street and subsequently turns right. Any of us who has to use that crossing or any similar one knows that by the time the traffic has finished filtering right the traffic lights have changed again, the main flow of traffic has resumed, and, so far as the pedestrian is concerned, it is a continuous flow. And I repeat what I said then: that it is quite impossible to get across the road. It is impossible if one is able bodied, and the elderly or infirm are, I am sure, filled with real terror. In New York, as I understand it, the pedestrians in these circumstances have the right of way. This, I think, is enforced. If we allow filtering traffic, why cannot we have similar rights of way for pedestrians enforced here?
On November 24 I raised the problem of pedestrians being unsighted or unable to see traffic light signals when wishing to cross roads. The Minister told me that a pedestrian who wishes to cross the road should be able to stand in a position on the footpath where he can see the relevant signals. I quite agree: he should be able to. The point 522 I was making was that in frequent cases he cannot. It is not my job to do the work of the Department concerned or that of the Greater London Council, but perhaps they would like to go and have a look at the north side of Duke Street where it comes into Oxford Street. To be particularly sure, I came down that way myself again this morning. From nowhere where I could stand on that pavement could I have seen a traffic light. There are many more like this in Central London. The noble Lord offered to take this up with the Greater London Council, but I think he will understand why I am not particularly attracted to this proposition. I hope that perhaps we may get a reply from him to-day.
It seems to me quite incredible, in this day and age of high accident rates, that a suggestion that at all traffic lights there should be a "Wait" and a "Cross" signal is dismissed simply because it is expensive. As I said, I think it is quite incredible. I should have thought that the authority concerned should be prosecuted for not having such signs available. As a corollary to this suggestion, I made another one: that we pedestrians must be willing to take our share in trying to sort out this appalling problem. I put forward to my noble friend a possible suggestion for consideration, that if we had these "Wait" and "Cross" signals, we should accept as obligatory that we pedestrians cross the roads at such crossings. The Minister's contribution to this point was:With regard to the pedestrian, there is always the possibility of the jaywalker being prosecuted, hut that is not one of the offences that are taken up enthusiastically by the police in London." (col. 904).I have talked to various members of the police force, and I do not find this at all. I find a body of men sorely harassed, who would like the vans dealt with as they would like the jay-walking pedestrian dealt with, so that they can get on with their job of keeping the traffic on the move.
I have been strongly critical of my noble friend, and I feel strongly critical. But, in conclusion, I should like to offer him four suggestions: they may be bad ones, but he has not even offered me four. Perhaps in his reply he will be able to deal with these four. The first 523 is this. It seems to me that we can have a better flow of traffic, public and private, or we can continue to allow loading and off-loading of vans in busy streets in Central London during working hours. We cannot have both. Which does the Minister choose?
The second point that I should like to make is this. We can continue to allow the filtering of traffic on and off busy streets in Central London; but if pedestrians are to be allowed to cross these particular sections, then their right of way must be enforced. Is the Minister prepared to recommend this safeguard? Thirdly, to ensure safer crossing of any roads for all, but particularly for the elderly, we need "Wait" and "Cross" signals at all traffic lights, with acceptance by pedestrians of the corollary that we cross only at such places. Is the Minister willing to pursue these recommendations? Fourthly, the yellow traffic boxes have been a great success where they have been tried. This is the opinion of drivers with whom I have discussed the matter, and I would ask: is it the immediate policy to have these extended to all road junctions in Central London?
Concerning the suggestions that were made on November 30, the House will remember that the Minister was asked by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, whether the Ministry of Transport disclaimed all responsibility for traffic conditions in Oxford Street. In his reply, the Minister said (col. 1132):… reserve powers mean that the Minister can step in only if he can prove that in fact the Greater London Council has fallen down on the job …I suggest to-day—and I think the noble Duke also suggested this—that someone has certainly fallen down on the job. That applies, in my opinion, to what I have said to-day, and to the four recommendations put to the Minister. Is he prepared to take the necessary action to make matters easier for everyone coming into Central London?
Finally, I have noted over the weekend, as we all have, the discussions in another place, and in the Press, on these particular matters. I only want to add these points very briefly to the end of my remarks. In common with most of your Lordships—or shall I say with several of your Lordships?—I have no 524 car. I use the bus or Underground system daily. Sometimes, as we all know, we wait ages for a bus, and then they come in convoys. I have never been able to solve this puzzle of these delays. There is nothing more irritating, but I do not believe that it is the fault of the bus crews. I can think of nothing worse than being a bus driver in Central London, with the traffic in the condition it is today, and I am making no complaint against the transport crews of London Transport—I should like to make that quite clear.
But this is the sort of thing that happens. At Victoria the other night I wanted to catch a No. 16 bus. There was not one there, and then five came along in convoy. The situation is quite impossible. It used to be the No. 1 Is that everybody attacked, for the same reasons. As I think we all know, it happens because the buses are held up at junctions, whether for vans or whatever it is and so it goes on. The Timeson December 11 said:The safety, density, frequency, and convenience in public transport will have to be improved out of all recognition.We all know that. We want a public service that really serves.
The next point I find very difficult to understand, and I do not know whether my noble friend can help us when he comes to reply. I find it impossible to understand the psychology that wishes to attract more people to use public transport yet puts up the fares and does nothing at the same time to alleviate the chaos which makes these buses run in convoys. I just do not understand it. Surely the buses must be given room to operate. In to-day's Times Mr. Durie, the Director-General of the Automobile Association, is reported as saying that:Heavy transport and delivery vehicle operators must be encouraged to conduct their business out of peak hours, even at night. But no one denied them the right to do their work.Of course not—no one has. But I hope that when my noble friend comes to reply he will realise that all I am asking for is an answer. I should hate to appear as an aggrieved or irritated woman, because I think that is even worse than an aggrieved or irritated man. But there is nothing more irritating, especially when one knows one is right—and I go back 525 to the vans—to have this matter dismissed rather lightly, as though it were not of much account. It is of account, and I hope that my noble friend will answer me when he comes to reply.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask whether she would not agree that one of the most irritating things about the bus service is the terrific fall-off of services during late evening? Every night when I attend your Lordships' House I take a bus from Kensington High Street to just beyond Earl's Court Road, where there are five services I could use. Very often at about half past nine to ten o'clock at Kensington High Street I have had to wait twenty minutes. That does not seem to me to encourage people to use public transport.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am glad to be associated with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, on the matter of delays.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I am very conscious of the fact that this is the first occasion upon which I have given myself the privilege of speaking in your Lordships' House. I am tempted to quote, or misquote, from the words of a popular song: "It has taken me some time to grow accustomed to this place." Your Lordships will, I hope, forgive my obvious shortcomings.
Whoever handles the responsibility of trying to solve London's transport problem, so far as road traffic is concerned, shoulders a burden which many have suggested is almost impossible to solve. I will readily admit that vigorous efforts have been made, but, unfortunately, the volume of traffic has increased so rapidly —and in many cases the ability of the driver is not of a very high standard—that my Ministry of Transport is always trying to catch up. It appears that some restrictions on movement "may be"—and I emphasise "may be"—inevitable in the future, but not, in my opinion, until we have exhausted all other possibilities.
Referring to the standard of driving in London, which I beg to suggest is a very important factor in traffic congestion, it was only a few days ago that I was stationary in a traffic block in South Audley Street, and I happened to notice 526 a young lady in a Triumph Herald endeavouring to park the car in a parking meter bay on the offside of the road. Having watched her for some five minutes, I noticed the traffic increasing in volume, and a taxi-man in front of me got out of his cab and walked across the road and tried to manœuvre the car. He also got stuck, but in time he managed to find reverse, and was able to park the car. That caused serious congestion. I am reminded of the fact that something of this sort must be happening every minute of the day in London, and this was someone who must, I suppose, have passed her Ministry of Transport standard driving test. That of course is the subject of another debate.
It has often been suggested to me that only private vehicles of a certain size should be permitted into Central London areas. This would be very difficult to legislate for, but there is, I feel, a point here. The smaller the vehicle, the more manœuvrable it is and the easier to park by reason of its narrow track. My father, whom I know many of your Lordships will remember, was keenly interested in this very problem. He used to drive me when I was a boy in a small Austin 7 h.p., and recently in a small Fiat car, to take his seat in another place. Day after day we used to go off together in this small car and I shall never forget—if you do not mind my blowing his trumpet—the skill and speed with which he weaved his way through the traffic. It was a lesson to me that if you want to keep moving you must use a small vehicle in traffic. Even to-day, with the dense traffic, there are opportunities to move along with a really small and cheap motor car.
I referred just now to the efforts made by successive Ministers of Transport to solve these very difficult and tedious problems. We have had more one-way streets—quite rightly so—and we have abolished the "U" turn in many places. We have introduced a parking meter system, though I personally feel that the French system of disc parking would be more effective; that is only a personal opinion. Yellow boxes were introduced. I am not so sure they are very effective, because there is never a policeman as an observer to catch the intrepid motorist who finds himself caught in the yellow box. I do not think much attention is 527 paid to them, and it adds to the confusion of motorists coming into the London area. All these are, in some respects, short-term palliatives. Quite often it happens that you find a parking meter with a hood over the top and, I think, the words "Out of action" written on it, and you cannot park there. Time and again this sort of thing happens and irritates, and I feel it is causing a waste of space.
At Christmas time, when traffic congestion is at its worst, is it necessary year after year to festoon the sky over our streets, particularly Oxford Street and Regent Street, with coloured bunting and Christmas decorations? This of course asks people to drive into London, to add to the congestion and to mingle with the shopping traffic at peak hours. I am no longer a child, but I think even younger people would feel that this is an unnecessary means of causing traffic congestion. Another point that occurred to me is why, year after year, do we have to have the Motor Show at Earls Court and the Dairy Show at Olympia within the same fortnight? Surely it should be possible, without inconveniencing too many people, to arrange for these two important exhibitions to take place at different times.
We must somehow find a long-term solution to this transport problem of the Greater London area, and only as a very last resort should we think of squeezing any private vehicle off the streets of London. Road users to-day pay over £1,000 million a year in taxation, they purchase a heavily taxed vehicle, they pay high insurance premiums, and they are already restricted and fined at every turn. It seems to me wrong and totally unfair to make them pay more for the privilege of using the Queen's highway. Let us make a start as soon as possible with some constructive ideas. I would rather see London as we know it altered, than prevent private vehicles from coming into the London area. The longer we are thinking about it, the worse the situation will become.
§ 4.55 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK
My Lords, I am sure I speak on behalf of all Members of the House if I say with what pleasure we have listened to 528 the speech of the noble Earl. He comes to us with considerable experience as an alderman of a county council and also as a member of the former London County Council. He is also well qualified—perhaps better qualified than most of us—to speak on this subject because of his intimate association with the motoring world. We also like to believe that, should the Minister heed him and accept his suggestions, and perhaps turn Parliament Square into a sanctuary that becomes a cricket pitch, the noble Earl will be the first to walk to the wicket; and I am sure the noble Earl will know I am speaking sincerely when I say that he will delight the House whenever he is able to address us in the future.
My Lords, the transport problems in Greater London are sufficiently serious and sufficiently damaging to social welfare to raise moral issues, and that is what I want to emphasise this afternoon. It is for this reason that I welcome the opportunity which the noble Duke's Motion provides to discuss this matter. My diocese includes most of the Greater London area South of the river, and in the course of my duties I travel about 13,000 miles a year along the roads of South London and Surrey. It is the part of my job that I most dislike, or, more accurately, have come to dread. Not only is one always worried by the prospect of arriving late for engagements—on the second Thursday in November, for instance, it took me over two hours to get from your Lordships' House to Kennington Oval—but there is also a severe strain on one's physical, mental, and I would add, spiritual resources. During the six and a half years I have been at Southwark I have watched a creeping paralysis overtake this city. The situation is now so serious that the time is past for amber warnings: the time has come for remedial action.
I know something of the problems that confront the Government, and I am not seeking to apportion blame. Perhaps we are all to blame for not being more imaginative when the position was less acute; and perhaps we should have realised more quickly that roads cost money, and that, of course, means the readiness to pay up. Even so, I think it is fair to ask (though a previous engagement makes it unlikely that I shall be able to be in the House for a reply, unless the 529 Minister can assure me that public transport will get me to my engagement on time at eight o'clock), why Britain lags behind other countries. After all, Britain has the biggest concentration of road traffic in the world, if this is measured in the number of vehicles per mile of road. I am not sure of the most recent figures, but not long ago it was 27.4 vehicles per mile of road in Britain, as compared with 20 in the United States of America, 17.3 in Germany and 12.2 in Belgium. And the position is a deal worse when we remember that in Britain 10 per cent. of the roads carry 60 per cent. of the traffic.
Perhaps there is a good reason for this lagging behind. Perhaps we have not paid sufficient taxes for motor cars; or may it be that the money collected through taxes has not been spent as it should have been spent? The problems are so complex and often so technical it is difficult to suggest solutions. What I think we can do this afternoon, and what I feel has already been done by the noble Duke, and by the noble Baroness and the noble Earl, is to suggest the right questions for answers. Here are nine brief questions.
First, should heavy commercial traffic in London be diverted to rail and water transport, thus shortening the road mileage in London used by heavy goods vehicles? This would include, as is already contemplated, I believe, throughways to and from the London Docks to railheads. One method of diversion would be heavier taxes on commercial road users in city areas, and subsidised rail and water transport.
Second, should private cars be discouraged from entering Central London? If so, this would require substantial parking areas away from the centre. It would also demand an increased and speeded-up and more comfortable transport in the inner London area. To prepare for this debate I left my diocese of Southwark and crossed over to the diocese of London last week, to make use of public transport in the centre of London and to find out what it was like from the recipient's point of view. All I can say is that the results were anything but encouraging. I felt like a squashed fly on a battle ground, and I thanked God that I did not have to suffer this fate every day of my life, as so many Londoners have to do.
530 Third, what should be our attitude towards the use of private transport and private parking places? I suspect that most of us are reluctant to allow the Government to interfere with our freedom, but has the time come for a measure of interference for the sake of the common good? We must face the fact that the private car is an uneconomic means of transport in inner London, besides being a potential social menace. My fourth question is: should we follow the example of Copenhagen, and some other cities, in having precincts closed to traffic except for deliveries of goods and, perhaps, for public transport?
Then (this is question number five), should we follow the example of Newcastle in refusing to allow lorries to stop and unload in the rush hours on the main roads? Sixth, should we reconsider the placing of the main London markets? Covent Garden is under examination, but what of markets like the Borough Market, outside my cathedral, which is one of the main causes of blockage at London Bridge?
The seventh question is what should our policy be towards the development of the South-East? It is all very well to say that the increasing population should use public transport. It seems to me that London Bridge station has already reached saturation point, if not strangulation point. Hence it is folly to encourage people to move into Kent if they cannot be transported by train into London. It would seem that the situation calls for a bolder policy on the part of business houses and industry to decentralise. It has been estimated that the population in the South-East may increase by more than 3 million in the next fifteen years. Unless we come to grips with this problem of decentralisation of industry, the consequences will be disastrous.
The eighth question is what can be done about new motorways in London? Like many of your Lordships I often visit America and have become accustomed to motorways on stilts. Can we do the same here. I understand that there are some plans, but are they adequate and will they be completed in time? My ninth, and last question, is this. Those of us who go to New York are aware of the traffic problems there, but we know they would be worse if it were not for 531 the motorway around Manhattan Island. It may be impossible to have a motorway around London, but would it be possible to have motorways going from East to West, on either side of the Thames? If the Americans can reclaim the sea for this purpose, why cannot we make use of our river? I urge the Government to consider this suggestion, for it might go a long way towards alleviating congestion.
I put these nine questions to the Government in the hope that they will contribute towards a constructive discussion. I realise that many of them involve technical considerations which are beyond my competence. I also realise that road improvements in themselves will not solve the problem. These road improvements must be related to the planning of towns, industries and communities. For instance, Los Angeles has the best technical road system in the world, but the planning of Los Angeles is such that the average speed of a car there is eight to nine miles an hour—the same as in the horse-and-buggy days; and we shall fare no better in London unless we relate roads to general planning and industrial development.
It is doubtful, at the present rate of progress, whether any of us will live to see those problems solved, but we can try to create a public opinion which insists that they shall be solved. They are not academic problems, nor merely technical problems: they are social and moral problems. Our concern is not just transport and roads, but people—their happiness, their health and wellbeing. If this assertion should be questioned, I ask your Lordships to go to the Old Kent Road on Friday night where life comes almost to a standstill. What happens in the Old Kent Road on Friday nights will soon happen in all parts of London on each day of the week. Our respect for human values and our regard for the dignity of human beings demand that this catastrophe be averted.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I will not pretend I feel happy at this moment. The things I want to say are clear enough in my mind, but you must please forgive me if they are less clear on my tongue. After all, for your Lordships this is simply the business of debate: for me it is a momentous occasion coloured with a 532 monumental stage fright. If I acquit myself as competently as the noble Earl, I shall be more than pleased. I, more than most, welcomed this Motion, chiefly because it gave me an opportunity to make my d6but in this House on a topic I feel strongly about; no, more than that, passionately. So I shall need your Lordships' indulgence on another count: because where there is passion, logic and reason are usually the first to suffer.
My Lords, my argument is simple. I find many points in it very close to the right reverend Prelate; in fact, what he said this afternoon is probably closest in feeling to what I want to say. I will outline it first. It is based on two premises: one, that it is good for people to have cars; two, that it is good for people to go on living in cities. Given that the community is responsible for the wellbeing of the people in it, I submit that it is the duty of the community to provide for both.
Let me go back to that first statement, that it is good for people to have cars. Does this premise even need to be argued? For my purpose I am not concerned with capital investments or export potentials or with the car in any economic sense; though informed people have told me that these factors all put the car high in the national scheme. In any case, I simply do not know enough about these things. But what I am concerned with is the car as an abstract. Surely it is good. At its best a car is to the people in it an opening out, a whole new order of freedom, and a process that cannot be turned back. Of course, it is a cliché to say we live in the motor age. But must we say it apologetically?
Let me go on to the second premise, that it is good for people to live in cities. This as a concept is less easy to defend. However, it is self-evident that people like living in cities. And to my mind this is a total justification of the need for cities to be peopled. And this I believe, that the city as we know it is the most exciting, the most dynamic single social phenomenon in the world. Naturally, all life consists of balances, and man will always need open, quiet places, the soft textures of earth and water and trees; but he will always be drawn to the dynamism that is the city. There they are, two simple quantities, the freedom that is the car, the social dynamism that 533 is the city. And I believe that in its planning policy the Greater London Council seem to have lost sight of both.
I do not propose to dwell on the short-term solutions to the traffic picture we have been hearing about in the last few weeks. In general, they strike me as being corks in a sea wall, and incidentally corks that discriminate heavily in favour of people rich enough to buy garages. Why should there be a declared war on cars in London. London is a city, people want to live in it. Why should those people sacrifice their right to own a car simply because the planners say there is only one valid answer—namely, preventive sanctions? It is as if we were being told that the only cure for a man with a limp was to cut off one of his legs. We had the blueprint for the other answer two years ago; I am referring, of course, to the Buchanan Report. But even thirty years ago and more far-sighted men were prophesying to-day's state of affairs.
One of the tragedies of the whole question is that it is so easy to see how it has happened, how the crisis has been the result of past neglect; to see how shelving it is so much simpler than accepting the fresh start and the huge sums of money needed; to see how accessibility as an end in itself could become the ambition of any planning. Indeed, I sometimes feel that the burden of London's day-to-day traffic, the feedback of frustration and economic interests, cannot help but colour the solutions we get. The problems individually are so many, but so tiny in the broad context that piecemeal answers to those problems show an inevitable lack of depth. This then is my first plea, that we should agree now on what we must do and that our actions should reflect the two simple concepts with which I opened my argument. Surely we must agree and then work out financing. But I want to return to this later.
Meanwhile, I want to voice a fear. In simple terms, I am frightened by the word "planning", frightened because of the examples we already have. To me, planning has come to mean something blindly brutal, something that has forgotten the human scale. Now this word "scale" is a key word in my argument, because the scale of an environment bears directly on whether it is a fit place for people to live in. I have 534 come to think of London as a collection of precincts. At one level the precinct is where people live; at another an area that has an accepted function; while the great precinct is London itself, all of it. Each of these needs a different scale and each of them must be able to hold the traffic that it makes for itself. A fact we must live with is that the scale which traffic imposes on its own structures is the hardest of all scales to manipulate. I do not know how many noble Lords saw the edition of the Observer for November 28. It contained an article by Professor Buchanan (with every word of which I agree) and illustrating that article was a photograph, Hendon Way as it now is. The caption described it asa classic example of every kind of planning mistake".The picture showed a massive highway slammed ruthlessly through a place where people live and shop. The result, a community effectively destroyed. Was that highway necessary? Yes, it was—or rather its function was—namely, to feed the metropolis with one of its most important Northern links. But whether that physical onslaught in this context was justified—I cannot believe it was.
What, then, is the fault in planning that makes the Hendon Ways of London, or even the Old Kent Roads, possible? I believe it is a fault of omission rather than commission. What I should like to see in London's planning framework is a man with a new job—a man responsible for just one thing, environment. I have a name for this person: the Place Man. As I see him, it would be the Place Man's work to be sensitive to the importance of communities, sensitive to the needs of people and to the needs of areas in human terms. A reasonable analogy for the Place Man's rôle would be that of an Ombudsman, but one righting environment rather than bureaucratic injustices. I would qualify this, too, by giving him active powers so that his voice was listened to at the initiation of planning.
Never before have we known so much about people, about those factors of environment that make a community a happy one, about the things people must be provided with if they are to enjoy life rather than just exist—privacy, mobility, contact with others, a sense of belonging and so on. These are all social abstracts, 535 but all as important in a society as any material welfare. In the turmoil of planning, its urgency, its immediate economic priorities, we are in danger of swamping these things that people need. The Place Man would champion them. I cannot tell you how strongly I feel that the Place Man's job would not, even in London's heart, be incompatible with the car.
At the risk of repeating myself, we were told how this could be achieved. We were shown how the twin maximums of environment and accessibility could be applied at all scales, and, just as important, how the result enriched the lives of the people it served. Of course it is to "Traffic in Towns" that I am again referring. At this point, I openly admit that I am evading all question of cost. It is a deliberate decision on my part, because I have found that only by cutting off this aspect can I go on seeing the principles I have outlined as clearly as I want to see them. But I believe that this is a universal experience. And one of the qualities of the Place Man, if he was to be effective, would be a similar clarity. His recommendations would have to be unqualified in this way, even though sheer necessity would force a compromise. Let me put it like this. When making London what it could be, surely we can first make the decisions and then find the money. I believe two things: only by reversing the priorities in this way shall we generate the enthusiasm in people's minds; only by giving the people of London the reshaping of their own City as a challenge shall we excite them, and only then shall we come near to handing down a city fit for the 21st century.
In a debate that I think of as being closely related to this one, the debate on Urban Planning and Development, last May, the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, mentioned examples we have in the American cities, and on the evidence we have those examples express, I believe, the decay that seems inevitable when traffic flow is the only criterion used. I believe that we are in danger of condemning London in the same way. And for the third time—or is it the fourth?— I must repeat myself. All the traffic that London need generate can be accommodated without preventing the Londoner from enjoying one of the most 536 pleasurable and versatile inventions of all time, the motor car. With the same emphasis I would repeat that any other approaches, for instance, those that simply seek to prevent all car ownership in London, are trying ineffectively to turn back the clock. May I sum up like this? I see the revitalising of London as one of the most important projects of this and the following decade. We have the knowldege to do it. I see this created post, the Place Man's, as a necessary voice in the planning hierarchy, guilding, advising, protecting the human scale. And I see London as it could be, a City for its future citizens to inherit with pride.
My Lords, I have been too ambitious. I have sketched in my thoughts, started hares, justified nothing; and I am afraid I have been illogical as I did so. Certainly I have contributed nothing to the practical solutions. But I hope that some of what I feel has stuck. Surely someone must go on putting forward the apparently inpractical ideals, because only then can there be ideals. I have an ideal for London, and I have a great despair, too: because unless we can tackle London with the courage and humanity we need, London will become one of two things—a ghetto, or a morgue.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD HURCOMB
My Lords, as one who has spent the greater part of his official life in shipping or transport of some kind or another, it gives me great pleasure to be able to congratulate two noble Lords on having chosen the subject of transport as one on which to make their maiden speeches. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, has surely an hereditary right to address your Lordships on this particular subject; and the noble Lord who has just sat down has shown an imagination and vision on this complicated and detailed theme which I think all your Lordships will have found as refreshing as I did. I would venture to endorse many of the points which were made by the right reverend Prelate, and I think that decisions on many of these points are urgently required. It is high, time the Minister and the Government came to a decision on some of the fundamental issues underlying this problem, among them how obviously-required improvements are to be equitably financed, what we are to do to improve 537 access to London on the surface, and what more can be done underground. Any recovery of the mud fiats that line the River Thames for road purposes would, I think, be one of the most valuable and practical contributions that could be made.
I do not want to seem critical of the Minister, whose difficulties I, at any rate, appreciate as much as any of your Lordships can possibly do, but I think some greater urgency of decision might be applied to some of these problems. I am thinking not only of the present Minister but of his immediate predecessors. It has been suggested, and it was suggested again quite recently in another place, that the British Transport Commission originally, and London Transport itself, have dragged their feet over what is now called the Victoria Line. That is far from being a justifiable criticism. It is not fair to imply that that is the case. In quite early days I wrote to the then Minister of Transport saying that the British Transport Commission, which had only just come into existence, were forming a committee and a special working party to investigate the proposals arising out of the various London plans for improvements in railways and other things. That working party reported towards the end of 1948, and on February 1, 1949, I wrote to Mr. Alfred Barnes, then Minister of Transport, when the Commission had been in existence for only a year, emphasising that the new routes now known as the Victoria Line should be carried out, while other priorities were under consideration, as works of the highest priority on traffic grounds. We never departed from that view, nor did London Transport. But it was not until 1953 that we were even authorised to seek the necessary Parliamentary powers. Since then much time has been lost, and although my own responsibility ceased then, I have no reason at all to think that any delay can be laid at the door of my successor, my noble friend Lord Robertson of Oakridge, or London Transport.
The report and letters to which I have referred were published by the Minister in 1949 in the usual way by the Stationery Office. There is now some criticism in the Select Committee's recent Report, and there was some criticism elsewhere, about 538 the Minister's failure to publish a report, made about a year ago jointly by the Railways Board and the London Transport Board, on a railway plan for London brought up to date. It has been said that that plan was "half-baked". That, no doubt, was merely a colloquial way of meeting pressure to authorise straight away a scheme which in some respects was inevitably tentative. The Minister no doubt balanced the advantages and disadvantages of publication in deciding not to publish the report. I myself should have been inclined to take the other view, and said that it was of great advantage that all concerned should know as soon as possible what those responsible for providing public transport services were thinking as a probable direction of development. The delays over the Victoria Line show how important it is to think well ahead and not to wait until every engineering and other problem that may arise has found a neat and final solution. Therefore I am not altogether convinced by the Minister's reasons for not publishing this more recent report. but I noted with great satisfaction that it had been sent to the planning authorities. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, will confirm that it was sent to those authorities without delay, and that it was sent to all of them, and that it was sent also to all other authorities or persons who are concerned with planning housing, road construction or traffic control in the area.
That brings me to another point. In the past, housing and planning authorities have not given enough attention to the traffic problems which their piecemeal decisions can create. A block of offices or flats has been allowed to go up here, and a new housing estate allowed to develop there, with little, if any, effective relationship to the way in which the occupants of those buildings are to be transported. I hope Lord Lindgren will be able to assure the House that much greater regard will be paid to this aspect of the problem in the future and that the voice of transport will make itself more insistently heard. There is, for example, a good deal of capacity on some of the London commuter services which is not being fully used. Should not residential expansion be influenced or directed to the areas where that unused capacity still exists?
539 Then there is the fundamental question of finance. If there was any delay over the Victoria Line, I suspect that it was due to the unwillingness of Government to face the financial consequences of hastening construction. I share fully all the objections to subsidy—open-ended or any other form of operating subsidy—which has a demoralising effect on both staff and managements. But whatever we may have thought twenty years ago about public transport being completely viable, it has now surely become clear that the capital costs of expensive improvements, like the Victoria Line, largely undertaken for the public benefit and, indeed, for the direct relief of surface transport, cannot be borne wholly by those who use the new services. Moreover, these works are undertaken in the interests of private motorists who do not or will not use the public services and, by refusing to do so, enhance the financial difficulties of the public undertakings.
I always felt it unfair that when trams and trolley vehicles were taken off the Embankment and other London streets the cost of making good the road had, under 19th century arrangements and bargains, to fall on London Transport and not upon the highway authorities. I do not think relief from such a burden could fairly have been regarded as a subsidy. The amount involved in that particular matter was not very substantial —it certainly was not a figure which nowadays would be regarded as very high—but the present burden of relieving surface traffic is of a very different order and new constructions like the Victoria Line, however efficiently and economically managed, cannot be self-supporting. If that were once freely admitted by the Treasury and the Government and the decisions to go ahead and face the financial consequences were taken, then we might make more progress.
At the same time, I agree that those who use the new services should pay a price properly related to present conditions. There is no reason why people who travel by public transport, any more than those of us who use the Post Office, should claim to be immune from the consequences of general inflation and the level which that process has now reached. A penny was enough to send a letter in 540 the days of Queen Victoria and Sir Rowland Hill, but we no longer can expect to get our letters sent to the Orkneys and Shetlands at that price. In the same way the public must realise that they cannot expect transport facilities in present-day conditions at 19th century prices.
But the corollary of that is that the Government should not interfere with fares. How often have I listened in the past to sound doctrine—with which I completely agree—from previous Ministers, from my noble friend Lord Swinton (who is not here this afternoon) and others on that subject! As recently as 1947, when the Transport Act was before the House, it was said that Mr. Alfred Barnes might perhaps be trusted—but what about some wicked successor? But what did they do when they came into office? They asked the House of Commons to pass Resolutions forbidding the Transport Commission and London Transport to charge certain fares which had been authorised by the Transport Rates Tribunal after a full inquiry and which in some cases had been in operation for some months. That was political interference with a vengeance! But all that kind of action does is to throw inescapable burdens on the future, and gravely to embarrass the undertakings concerned. I am glad that the Minister has now raised his embargo on necessary increases, and I hope that he will not again follow the bad precedent which a predecessor Government set him.
There is one other detailed point raised by the noble Duke to which I should like to refer. He said, quite rightly, that if London Transport are to be successful in providing garages at their terminal stations, they should have a right to supply petrol and other services. My recollection goes back to the formation of the London Transport Board, as it was then called, and I can remember the opposition that was expressed then, and again in 1947, to the idea of allowing transport undertakings, especially nationalised transport undertakings, to extend their activities into these spheres which were competitive with the private trade. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who I believe is to speak in this debate, expressed very strong views on that subject, and he was pretty familiar 541 with the outlook of the trade at that time.
There was, of course, in those days a good argument against extension of trading beyond the necessary functions of transport, but experience has shown that people are just not going to take a garage at Wimbledon station, or wherever it may be, and find that they have to motor into the town if they are short of petrol or want some small service. I was delighted to see the breadth of mind displayed by the noble Duke in agreeing, in spite of the old political objections, to this slight extension of public, or even nationalised, activities if it is in the public interest that that should now be conceded.
I do not want to go into all the numerous detailed points, or further into some of the underlying principles which have been discussed, very cursorily, this afternoon. But I am tempted to travel a little further, without embarking on a general discussion of the need for co-ordination—a term to which everyone pays lip service, and of which most of us concerned became sick and tired twenty years or more ago, because it led to practically no action. That was perhaps one of the reasons why we resorted to the word "integration". I am not going to discuss what that means. But I am unrepentant in holding that you cannot successfully manage any transport system if you try to deal with it piecemeal. It is no good trying to cut up roads, rails, docks and shipping into compartments, as though they had nothing to do with one another, or to rely upon the ability of a Minister, because he is called the Minister of Transport, effectively to bring them all together.
I will conclude, if I may, with one or two personal recollections, I hope without burdening your Lordships too much. In 1947 and early 1948, when the British Transport Commission, of which I was at that time Chairman, had to organise the toad haulage side of our business from the ground upward, we needed some able staff trained in rather wider spheres than had been open to the majority of the road hauliers whom we took over. We called upon the London Transport side of our undertaking to cede to us a first-rate man for this purpose, no matter that he knew nothing about road haulage then. With the full co-operation of my noble friend Lord Latham, we chose and transferred to road haulage Mr. Raymond. 542 My successor who sits beside me transferred him to the railways side, and he is now the successor to Dr. Beeching and Chairman of the Railways Board.
Another early step taken by the British Transport Commission was to acquire the remaining 50 per cent. of the ownership of the Tilling Group. In many ways, a closer control of that efficient series of bus companies owned by the Tilling Group seemed to me to dovetail in well with our other interests, and also give us a wide range for finding experienced staff. The managers of one of the companies in that Group, Mr. Maurice Holmes, is now Chairman of London Transport. I mention those facts to show that there is something to be said for casting your net wide if you are trying to run the transport of the country successfully. I have mentioned those two gentlemen. I know their work well. I know only too well the special difficulties of those who have to handle the passengers of the Greater London Area. I wish them both every success, and while no undertaking, as I am sure they appreciate, can be immune from Parliamentary criticism, I feel certain that they will have the good will and sympathetic understanding of your Lordships in the way in which they approach their formidable task.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD ST. HELENS
My Lords, as a newcomer of not long standing to your Lordships' House, I hope that I may, without presumption, add my congratulations to my two noble friends who have made their maiden speeches to-day. I do so with great sincerity, having myself only recently gone through that terrifying ordeal. If I may say so to them, I think that they acquitted themselves with very great credit, and I am sure that the whole House will be very anxious to hear them speak again in the near future.
I feel that the whole of your Lordships' House is grateful to the noble Duke for giving us the opportunity to debate this very interesting and vital subject of London's transport. The subject itself is immensely wide, as indeed any of your Lordships who have read the recent debate in another place on the Select Committee's Report will have gathered. I propose to confine my observations to one or two aspects of this very wide problem.
543 As a starting point, I re-read over the week-end parts of the Buchanan Report. I must admit that I confined my attention mainly to the prologue by the Steering Group, which comments on the management of traffic in the motor age. I was interested, not only in reading the Buchanan Report but also in listening to the noble Duke who opened this debate, to be reminded of the figures which tell us something of the scope of the problem. The Buchanan Report forecast an increase of road traffic of something like 6 per cent. per annum up to 1980. But in the debate on the Report of the Select Committee in another place on Thursday last, I was interested to learn that it was said that there was an even greater congestion in the inner suburbs, where traffic has increased by 25 per cent. over the past three years. What I think is rather frightening is the reason that was given for this 25 per cent. increase in traffic in London over the past few years: that improved measures had been introduced to control traffic in Central London. The success of these measures has led to even greater congestion in the inner suburbs. That, in itself, is a pretty alarming statement.
The Steering Group went on to comment, in the Buchanan Report, as follows:The economic and social consequences will ramify into every corner of the national life.Then they went on to say:… a clogging of the arteries … may lead to a general thrombosis".Incidentally, the other day I left your Lordships' House about five o'clock, during the rush hour, and I think it took me about three-quarters of an hour to go half a mile. So much so, that I gave up, came back, parked my car outside my club and waited until the vast traffic had dispersed. Then I got home quite easily.
After making comparisons with various other countries, the Steering Committee of Buchanan made the comment that "construction on a truly gigantic scale" is the only long-term solution to the traffic problem. Those of your Lordships who were in the House on Thursday afternoon, and heard the Government haggling over the compensation to be paid to certain owners of slum property, may well 544 have wondered whether they were capable of envisaging this "construction on a gigantic scale" which is called for by Buchanan. I have mentioned these long-term forecasts of the Buchanan Steering Committee so that (if I may humbly put it in this way) our own debate may be seen, in terms of perspective, against the long-term problem.
To-day, of course, we are concentrating on the short-term and stop-gap measures, because the long-term measures must inevitably await the production by the Government of a national plan, on the lines envisaged by Buchanan and his Committee. Nevertheless, there is a great deal that we can do in the short term to improve current conditions, and I should like to confine my remarks to three aspects, all connected with road transport. The first is the influx of what I call non-resident transport; the second is the parking priority which I believe should be accorded to resident transport, and the third is the maintenance or creation of an uninterrupted flow of traffic.
With regard to this influx of nonresident transport, we have read many speeches and many articles in various newspapers suggesting how it should be dealt with, and I should like to say straightaway that I do not favour any form of dictatorial exclusion of motor vehicles from the centre of London. There may be many occasions when people will wish to drive their motor cars into London: they may want to take one of their family to a doctor; they may want to take an elderly relative to one of the great termini, or they may simply want to come in and do their Christmas shopping. But I believe that those people who wish to come into London in their motor cars should be made to pay, and pay heavily, when they wish to park their car. Indeed, I personally believe—and I am myself a commuter; I declare an interest—that it should be made totally uneconomic to commute daily to London by motor car.
I believe this should be done by progressively expensive parking: that it should be cheap on the outskirts (in the area of Wimbledon, say, it should cost 5s. a day to park) but should become increasingly more expensive as you come to the centre of the city, so that coming 545 to the centre of the city is simply "not on" for the ordinary man. This is what is done already in most of the great cities abroad that have solved their parking problems. Certainly this is done, with great success, in the large cities of America. I believe that we should get a very large dividend by such a policy at the outset, because, as a commuter on the M.4 coming in every morning, I am astonished to see the number of cars that have only one occupant—the driver.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I just interrupt my noble friend for a second? This is an age-old argument. I should like to ask my noble friend how, if he were driving from outside London to his destination in London, and if he were in his car by himself, he would see to it that he had more people than himself in his car before he got there.
§ LORD ST. HELENS
My Lords, I am delighted to tell my noble friend the answer to that one. If parking were made prohibitive in the centre of London, either I should park my car on the outskirts and complete the journey by public transport or, if I wished to come in my car, I would approach several of my friends in my own locality who do precisely what I do—drive their cars in by themselves—and I would say "We have got to pay 30s. a day to park the car. How about five of us coming along together and taking it in turns to use our car?" This would immediately remove four cars from the road.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD LINDGREN)
My Lords, the noble Lord would be breaking the law then.
§ LORD ST. HELENS
I am duly horrified, and I hope the noble Lord will change the law. I should have remembered this—I remember hearing it in another place. But, with great respect, is it not a stupid law? I hope that the noble Lord will consider doing something about changing it. I do not withdraw that recommendation, but I ask the Government to think again and not to cut off their nose to spite their face.
I also think that we should separate the commercial from the commuter traffic, as has been suggested by many noble Lords during the course of the debate, 546 by putting a ban on loading and unloading at peak traffic hours. If, for instance, a lorry coming from outside London were forbidden to load between (shall we say) half past eight and eleven o'clock, then of course it would delay its entry into London—in other words, would avoid the peak rush hour traffic—until it was able so to load. Obviously, if any of my suggestions, or the suggestions made by other noble Lords, were accepted by the Government, it would entail the Government's providing much more adequate parking facilities on the perimeter of Greater London. There exist commons and many large spaces which could be used for perimeter parking, and I would very much recommend the Government to think about this. It would also, of course, greatly increase the use made of public transport.
My Lords, I am not one of those who believe that we should increase public transport very largely. I think it can be streamlined and made very much more efficient; but I do not believe it should be vastly increased, for this reason. In the past, in both Houses of Parliament, we have paid great lip service to the staggering of working hours. Nothing comes of this because, quite frankly, one cannot legislate to stagger working hours. But if the great mass of the working population coming into London cannot be accommodated during the rush hour in the morning and during the rush hour in the afternoon, employers will have to do something about it. They can do one of two things. Either they can move out of the city into the suburbs, as was suggested, I think, by the noble Duke, or, alternatively (and they are businessmen; they do not want to lose money paying their employees for the time they are not working), many of them can, of their own accord, adopt a staggering of working hours so that they make the best use of their employees' time. In other words, for purely commercial reasons the business community will come to terms with the motor age—and that, indeed, is an adaptation of a phrase which occurs many times in the Buchanan Report.
Briefly, my Lords, on the second question—the question of parking priority—I believe that London residents should have priority to park in residential areas, but they should pay for it. I think that the residential areas—this, of course, is 547 after the main traffic flow—should be yellow-banded. I think that any resident of a residential area should be able to buy a sticker for his motor car, on which is printed his name and his address, and that he should have parking priority outside his own house, for which he would pay, say, £5 a year or whatever sum it might be. That money could be used by the local authorities; certainly it would he a source of revenue for them.
Lastly, my Lords, I turn to the question of the maintenance of the flow of traffic. This I believe to be the crux of the short-term problem, because the fact is that a blockage of cars builds up considerably faster than it can be dispersed. Any noble Lord who has watched a traffic jam—for instance in Cromwell Road—will realise that it builds up very quickly, hut takes a long time to disperse. This I believe to be the key of the whole problem. I remember listening to a long, two-day debate on the Buchanan Report in another place when Mr. Ernest Marples was Minister of Transport. Speaker after speaker made the point that it is not the moving vehicle that causes the blockage but the stationary vehicle that causes disruption and disorder. Therefore, the key to the problem lies in the control of parking or stopping, the parking of vehicles or the stopping of commercial vehicles to be loaded or unloaded. This control should be no respecter of persons, for it should apply just as much to a butcher's boy in a stationary van as to one of the Ministers of Government in a large limousine.
§ LORD ST. HELENS
I am glad to have the noble Lord's support. But, really, if one thinks about it, it seems to me an absolutely farcical and absurd situation that we in this country—and there is nothing of a Party nature about this point —should spend hundreds of millions of pounds in creating fast, three-lane, dual carriageways and then allow them to be progressively blocked by stationary vehicles as they converge on the centre of our cities. It is as though a private individual had spent a vast amount of money in clearing a stream in his garden and in straightening out the bank and. after it had been cleared, had then invited somebody to come along and throw 548 huge boulders into it. It does not make sense. Yet we can see it on every single artery coming into London.
I believe most forcefully that all the main arteries must remain clearways at least during the peak traffic hours, and this I believe should include every form of commercial vehicle. No form of commercial vehicle should be allowed to be stationary on a main artery during the peak hours. I would say, with great hesitancy, that this also concerns diplomatic vehicles. This morning I happened to see two diplomatic vehicles double-parked and creating a considerable blockage in the flow of traffic. But if such a policy were adopted, we should need to have a very large increase in our one-way-flow streets. These are extremely effective. But only if they are maintained as clearways.
I do not think we should underrate the difficulties that would raise in bringing in this policy. It would mean a considerable upheaval in commercial life; it would certainly mean great trouble with the trade unions over working hours; it would mean trouble with the employers, who would be forced to pay extra wages and overtime; it would mean trouble with the public, too, because the public would be asked to carry their share of the extra cost which would be involved. Large firms—and, of course, the transport undertakings themselves—would have to maintain extra personnel, especially during the night or in the very early hours of the morning, to complete the work, which at the moment they are doing at the public expense in the middle of the streets during the rush hours.
I do not know whether the Government—any Government—will have the courage to carry out what I believe to be these vitally necessary measures, because they will be far-reaching and unpopular. But if they do not carry them out of their own volition, I think that in the near future they will be forced by events to do so.
§ 5.56 p.m.
LORD ST. JUST
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for very long, because most of the points on which I wished to speak have already been raised. But I should like to take up one matter, that of frustration, which was referred to by the right reverend Prelate. I think that up to a short while ago London was 549 one of the politest cities in which to drive, and that this applied to the country as a whole. Now, I think, as has already been stated in this debate, driving is becoming a much more nerve-racking problem. One finds people's tempers are very short; and this, I think, does not help the general atmosphere of driving—and especially so round this City of London. There has been a certain amount said about the question of motorways out of London itself. This, I am certain, is a good idea if and when it is practicable to build them, though one knows the great expense involved. I have very often raised the question of tolls on the motorways, and I will not go into it in detail again. But, as I have said, the fantastic cost per mile involved in building any of these new roads must always he one of the great problems. I am certain that the solution is not—as one has seen stated in the Press recently—to try to build new roads in the central area of London itself.
Clearways and ring roads are excellent, but I believe that this City of ours has one advantage. It is that the flow in the centre of the City is dictated by the width of the roads. It sounds a slightly extraordinary statement, but I believe it is true. One can make a comparison with Paris. where one is deeply impressed on seeing the great boulevards; but one has only to travel, as I am certain many noble Lords will have done, in Paris in the morning and the evening to find that it is just as had as anything we have in this country, or, for that matter, in London itself.
There is another point I should like to bring up with the noble Lord who is going to reply to the debate. I do not ask him for an answer to-day because I have given him no official notice, but it is a point which interests me deeply. We have heard much discussion about some form of understanding with the British Medical Association on the labelling of doctors' cars. As I say, it is a small point, but I think it is important. It is all right for those doctors who are working in the hospitals; they nearly always have parking areas at a reasonable distance from their work. But from the point of view of private practitioners the situation becomes very frustrating. When they are visiting private patients, they have to search for meters; and I think that, if possible, some system should be worked out with the British Medical 550 Association. I know that this is not easy, for doctors are very individualistic people. This matter has been brought up before with the British Medical Association, but I think that it is worth looking into again.
There is another small point which I should like to mention. I am wondering about the question of installing traffic lanes at Hyde Park Corner and whether anything may be arranged about this. Hyde Park Corner strikes me as one of the great traffic hazards in London. From almost any point at that big circle one is faced with cars passing at an angle, often with their trafficators flashing. One sees drivers, probably from the country, bewildered almost to a state of frenzy, looking over their shoulders and wondering whether they will ever be able to get across the traffic and to go in the direction in which they wish to proceed.
Probably the parking meter system will have to be extended, but I must say—I know this has already been referred to in this debate—that I do not think the French system of having discs on cars would be of very much use here. I do not think that it works very well in Paris. I know that the installation of parking meters is an expensive business, but I believe that to be the best system.
My Lords, I should like to end by referring to what has already been referred to in the opening speech of the noble Duke, and saying that London, from the point of view of traffic, should be for those people who own houses or flats in the Greater London Area. They often have to pay high insurance rates for their cars. If any restriction has to be imposed, I think it must be imposed on the people who pour into London from the provinces, and not on people who reside in Central London.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the House will be grateful to my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire for raising this matter at this time of the year. We are now within 12 days of Christmas, and it is always at this time that our transport services are stretched to their fullest extent. I should like to add my tribute to those paid to the excellent maiden speeches made by my two noble friends. They have proved worthy successors to very worthy Members of this House, and 551 I echo the hope of us all that we shall hear very much more from them in the future.
I propose to devote most of my remarks to the question of trains, because for the past 18 years I have commuted, if one may use that rather colloquial expression, between London and the middle of Surrey five days a week for at least 49 weeks of the year. My only consolation is that from Waterloo to the Bank, where I travel each day, there is now an escalator in place of the "Black Hole of Calcutta". I well remember the time when, during the rush hour, it took as long to get through the "Drain", as it was called, as to get from Epsom to Waterloo.
I have given the noble Lord notice of a few of the questions which I wish to ask regarding trains. First, there is the question of guards, both on British Rail and on the London Passenger Transport services. The Motion takes note of Greater London, so I think one may trespass on the railways to some extent, at least from Wimbledon onwards. All too often, we hear of trains being cancelled because of a guard or a signalman being ill. These people cannot help being ill. Often they have to get up very early in the morning, in all weathers, and come off duty at equally awkward hours of the night or early morning. Therefore they suffer a risk to their health. But I would ask what steps are being taken to recruit more of these men. They give a very good service, often for pay which is not commensurate with the degree of danger and discomfort of their job. But a good deal of inconvenience is caused, particularly to early morning travellers, some of whom may be working on piece-work, when they arrive late, through no fault of their own, and find that they will suffer financially as a result. I should like also to ask a question about the de-icing of railway lines. This is another frequent cause of delay. In these days, when we are thinking of increasing productivity on the part of both management and employees, this factor becomes vital. I should like to know what progress has been made not only on British Rail but on the London Passenger Transport lines in this connection.
552 My Lords, the question of public relations is vital. We frequently see letters in the newspapers from public relations officials of the London Passenger Transport Board and the various regions. These gentlemen have just as much right to express their views as have the public relations officers in private industry, but I am bound to say that sometimes their comments are rather naive, and I wish there could be some kind of liaison with the railway officials. When passengers are bundled out of the train at Wimbledon on a foggy night, as I have had personal experience, and one asks for information, one receives an unruly and gruff reply. I am quite prepared to believe that the railway official whom one asks has himself had a very uncomfortable time, has probably been on duty for a very long time and is cold and tired. But, my Lords, so are the passengers, and I wish to know whether there can be some inquiry into the system of public relations, so that the public can be given information about the cause of delays. To be fair, there has been an improvement in this respect. Waterloo provides a typical example of a place where the Southern Region has often done its best to explain the delays, although sometimes the microphone system needs attention.
The nub of the problem is, of course, the congestion caused by private cars and the increasing number of those who travel from the country to London. The present Minister of Transport has not exactly endeared himself by announcing increases in the price of travel within London and for all season tickets, and at the same time threatening to increase the price of the parking of private cars in London. I do not seek to make a political point—I think that probably any Transport Minister might come to this decision—but it hits a great many middle-class people who have young families and fixed incomes and who have to come into London to work. I am aware that many firms have moved their offices to the suburbs. Lloyd's is typical of those who have moved out of the City itself. But the time is quickly coming when the season ticket holder will be almost priced out of existence.
I talk from experience here. To some extent I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who said, out of his experience of transport, that traveling 553 by public services is relatively cheap. Compared with the price of other commodities there is some force in this argument, but there have been considerable cuts in public transport services. I hope that London Transport and British Rail will do all in their power to concede reductions in fares, especially if the intention is to put sanctions on private cars coming into Central London. I am one of those who think that sanctions in some cases are not unreasonable. Although private cars are taxed highly, I feel that if we can improve our public transport, there will be good reason for putting some kind of sanction on car travel. I say this because we must move with the times and obviously cannot carry out all our road improvements at the same time.
So far as the main line termini are concerned, after last Tuesday's very late debate I got to Waterloo at one o'clock in the morning. It was a sight which made Dante's Inferno look like Paradise, it was so gloomy and depressing. I would ask whether the Minister would prevail on the catering departments to open later for travellers who must un-avoidably travel up to midnight. It would help to put the railways in a more favourable light.
I turn now to the buses. One of the greatest bottlenecks I have experienced is in Putney High Street. The bus garage is in the middle of the High Street, and buses travelling both ways have to compete with cars, taxis and lorries. I wonder whether the Government have any long-term plans in mind for improving the centre of Putney, because I know from experience the frustrating traffic jams which arise there. So far as accommodation in buses is concerned, I wonder whether thought could be given to standing-only buses. I can see that for safety reasons, braking suddenly on these buses might cause trouble; but in these days of modernised braking, I think that that could be overcome.
As to cars, the real problem is lack of manners, particularly of those motorists who try to shoot the lights. This is especially prevalent at the lights on the Kingston By-pass at Tolworth. I experienced it the other night. I was travelling to London and two cars shot the lights, causing absolute chaos, which need not have taken place if the drivers 554 had been more thoughtful. The Minister who is to reply obviously cannot answer all the points made to-day, but this has been a vital debate, which I hope will have a bearing on the future of travel in the Metropolis, so that the "snarl up" on both road and rail will get better instead of worse in future.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the Buchanan Report states that motor vehicles should be able to move freely in towns and to destinations beyond towns, and should be able to penetrate without delay to their destinations. The noble Duke, whom I would like to congratulate on moving this Motion, gave us figures of the probable growth of motor traffic in this country. He said that we have about 13 million motor vehicles at the present time; by 1980, we shall probably have 27 million to 30 million, and that by the end of the century, it could be 40 million. These increases would appear to make the Buchanan Report statement which I have just read not practical.
I am a motorist, and I used to be very fond of motoring; but the enjoyment has rather palled now. Motoring organisations keep calling for more and more roads and parking space, but there does come a limit, especially where London is concerned. As I have said before in previous transport debates, we cannot pull down two-thirds of London; we cannot have two-thirds of the city in tarmac. If we had that, who would pay the rates and taxes? I feel that the motoring organisations in some respects are quite unrealistic.
Various Governments have tried their best to cope by providing under-passes, fly-overs and one-way streets; but traffic in London is increasing so fast (and it is, of course, increasing in the country also) that we cannot cope with it by these methods. We now have this expression "traffic architecture". This is all very well if you are building a New Town with, say, a population of 100,000, but this traffic architecture takes a very long time to be effective. The expression means applying traffic architecture to new development sites. In the past we have always thought of the traffic problem on the lines of improving the streets to take the flow of traffic, but in the future we must 555 take into consideration the surrounding buildings. We must so arrange things that any traffic requiring to approach a particular building can do so without disturbing the main flow of traffic in the street. This means altering the architecture of our buildings, which will be a very long and appallingly costly process. To make London suitable for the existing traffic would cost, I imagine, thousands of millions of pounds, and would probably take twenty years.
As I said in the last debate on transport, we have tried to develop sites and to plan new development areas, but we have not fully realised the transport implications. For instance, if your Lordships consider the suburb of Cowley, near Oxford, a suburb was planned there, but no shopping centre was provided. This means, or course, that all the people in Cowley have to travel to Oxford to do their shopping, and home again; and this means completely unnecessary congestion.
It is probably an unpopular thing to say, but I feel that the time has come when we must consider restricting the flow of traffic into the centre of London. We have now arrived at the law of diminishing returns. It is all right having extra cars on uncrowded roads, but every extra car on a crowded road, by comparison, accentuates the problem a hundredfold. The question is, how we are to arrange the most efficient way of bringing commuters into the centre of London in the morning, and taking them home again in the evening. Everything must be subordinate to this problem. In the Sunday Telegraph yesterday it was pointed out that in the peak morning traffic buses comprise 8 per cent. of the traffic, and carry 76 per cent. of the road passengers; while private cars comprise 68 per cent. of the traffic and carry 24 per cent. of the passengers. The other 24 per cent. of traffic is, of course, made up by commercial vehicles. It is quite absurd that 68 per cent. of the traffic should carry only that small number of passengers. The fact that four-fifths of ale traffic coming into London in the morning, carries only one-third of the total of passengers, is really absurd.
The noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, complained about buses all going to the same place arriving in con- 556 voys. The reason why one often sees as many as eight buses all following each other in a line is that the heavy private car traffic disrupts their schedules. No economist, so far as I know, has yet worked out what the cost of this heavy traffic is to London in damage to health, frustration, slowing down of traffic, but it must run into millions.
There has been a suggestion for a congestion tax. I do not like that suggestion, because experience shows that taxation is not effective as a deterrent. For instance, if you take the taxation of whisky or tobacco, you have a very high tax on whisky but, so far as I am aware, it has not stopped people from drinking whisky—in fact consumption is very much greater. The tobacco tax has not stopped people smoking. I am afraid that, if we put on a congestion tax, people will pay the tax and perhaps deprive their families of something more necessary than driving into London in their private cars for their daily work. I should have thought—and I think this has been mentioned in this debate; perhaps it would be only a temporary measure—that if you were going to restrict the flow of commuter private cars into London (apart, of course, from doctors and people who, for obvious reasons. have to have a car in the centre of London), you ought to restrict at peak hours the ownership of a car in Central London to somebody who has a residential address. That seems fair enough. After all, they pay the rates. But I am against a congestion tax, for the reasons I have stated.
It is obvious that, if we are to keep the private commuter car owners out of the centre of London at peak hours, we have to have efficient public transport and, of course, we cannot raise the fares, as has just happened. We must also arrange for ample parking space where the person driving in from the country can pick up public transport. Steps have been taken in this direction, but they will have to be far greater. If we are to rely on public transport more in London, I think we shall have to have a considerable number of fast, single-decker buses. We must also —and here is a very ticklish problem I have often spoken on—come to some arrangement with public transport workers so that they do not strike for some obscure reason, because we cannot put the public at the mercy of public 557 transport and then suddenly have them strike. As I am always pointing out, public utilities must have an arrangement with their workers so that they do not strike irresponsibly. I think that is essential in order to have the confidence of the public, if we are going to stop private cars driving into London.
I should like to say something about a point raised by the noble Duke (I think it was), that we should have a higher tax on large cars which take up a greater space. The motor trade would surely object to that, because it is necessary to export large cars to Africa and the Dominions.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, it was I who raised the point. I have always understood that one of the basic points of our export trade was our sports cars, which were the largest part of our export drive. Furthermore, I should not like Government policy, of whichever Party it be, to be conducted in the interests of the motor trade.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I quite agree with the noble Duke, but of course the export trade is a very important trade, and I feel we ought not to do anything to harm it. In order to have a healthy export trade we must have a large home market, and I think that might hit the motor trade.
The noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, brought up the question of vans unloading at peak hours. I quite agree with the noble Baroness. I occasionally send vans to London. It is all very well saying that you cannot unload in the day-time, but if you are to unload at night you have to get staff who are prepared to unload at that time, and you also have to have staff at the other end, at the shop or whatever it is, who are prepared to remain after peak hours. It is a great problem.
Although I should deplore restriction being placed on the private motorist, I am sure it will have to come about, at any rate temporarily, otherwise traffic in London will grind to a halt. We are told that 40 per cent. of the traffic coming into London is going through London, so presumably if we had enough roads around London—which is all going to take time—it would to a great extent 558 relieve the congestion. But of course the trouble is time and money. We have to live with the motor car, but we really cannot let it destroy our whole existence, as I fear it is in danger of doing. Somebody has said that to cure the traffic problem in the town of Leicester you would have to have a sixteen-lane motorway right round the town, and the cost, I think, was £400 million. Leicester is a small town compared to London.
As I said earlier in my speech, I think we can plan new towns which w ill be completely traffic-proof. I was extremely impressed by the town of Cumbernauld, outside Glasgow, to which I have been once or twice as I often drive through it. This town, I understand, is to be planned for about 70,000 people. Cumbernauld is on three or four tiers, and all the traffic stays on the bottom tier and the motorists are not allowed to take their cars on to the other tiers but have to do all their shopping on foot. Of course, that is excellent, but I rather doubt whether one could have it in a big city. One could also have a monorail through the centre of the city, but our trouble in London is that it is a very old and vast city and one cannot pull it all down. Therefore, I come back to my original point. I really think one has, as fairly as possible, somehow to stop the non-essential private motorist from driving into the centre of London. I am sure many of my friends on these Benches do not agree with me, but at the risk of being unpopular I must say that that is my considered opinion.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
My Lords, I feel that one risks considerable unpopularity by rising to speak after the published list of speakers has been completed, but I may be doing your Lordships a kindness, because there is still a traffic block outside here; and if you stay a little longer you will get home earlier.
There are two reasons which have prompted me to make these few remarks. The first is that I have attended many debates on transport, both here and in another place, and I think this is the first in which there has been no trace of that kind of political talk which in fact has little to do with the efficiency of transport and is merely a babble of words based on Party doctrines. This has been 559 an extraordinarily objective debate. For example, it was to me most refreshing to hear the noble Duke who opened the debate even recommending that the London Transport authorities or the railway authorities should be allowed to have petrol refilling facilities at their car parks, something for which both the British Transport Commission and London Transport have battled for many years. It was also refreshing to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard admit that some disciplinary action on private car traffic is inevitable.
As my contribution to the debate I should like to draw attention to two facts which are well known yet frequently overlooked. The first is that a city is a place intended for the meeting of Government organisations and business organisations. In this country the two are very much interwoven. Of course one can do a certain amount by moving offices outside the city. There are some parts of any business and some parts of the Government machine which certainly can be sent elsewhere. You can do something in the way of staggering hours, within rather strict limits; and you can do something by building a great many broad new roads. But it must be remembered that these business organisations come to the city because it suits them to do so; and they all open their doors at the same hour because it suits them to do so, and does not suit them to open at a great variety of hours. One can certainly ease this traffic problem, but one cannot solve it by such measures as driving offices out of London, or by a drastic staggering of hours, or even by turning London into a sort of asphalt area.
The other fact I should like to remind you of, because of course you all know it, is that a good public transport service cannot be provided at a profit in a city like London. I was eight years with the British Transport Commission and I saw the truth of this growing all the time I was there. You can give a bad service at a profit; you can give a good service, but not at a profit. Just as a small example, I would mention that the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, referred to the travelator that has now taken the place of what used to be known as "the Drain". I could not remember, when he mentioned it, exactly what it cost, but it was a very large sum of money.
§ LORD ROBERTSON of OAKRIDGE
I think the noble Lord the Minister is wrong; but certainly it was a large sum of money, and the profit that Southern Region will get out of it I am quite sure is not a fair interest on the capital invested. There are many more examples which could be given. It is imperative, for example, to improve the access into London by the Southern Region from Kent and Sussex. That will cost a great deal of money but it will have to be done one day.
Therefore I would say two things: first of all, that I very much disagreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, when she said it is monstrous to put up the fares when you are trying to encourage people to use public transport and you are not improving the service. I was sorry to hear her make that remark. It is made in my family, but then they do not know what they are talking about.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? He is quite correct in what I said, but I think he will find on reference to Hansard to-morrow that I said I could not understand the psychology of putting up the fares at the same time without trying to remove the chaos that caused the buses to come in convoys.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
My Lords, I should not wish to pursue this little quarrel between us, but I think it is reasonable to say that to put on London Transport a responsibility for their finances and then for Ministers to interfere by preventing them from moving their fares up or down is quite wrong. It is something which has been done by whatever political Party was in power, and done on a number of occasions, and I think it is extremely unreasonable.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb has said about the future viability of London Transport, as I have already indicated. When I began my speech I said there were two reasons why I was getting up to speak and that I would give the second reason at the end. It is that I felt I must get up to support the speech made by the noble 561 Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who was my predecessor in the Transport Commission. I hope that the Government will read that speech very carefully. He has, after all, a most exceptional experience in transport, and his speech was evidently prepared with great care and contained a lot of good sense. In one respect it pleased me particularly, and that was in his references to the men who are trying to grapple with these difficult problems, particularly in London Transport. We had two very big men in London Transport years ago, Lord Ashfield and Frank Pick. They chose the young men they brought into that organisation carefully from the best available material; and the men at the head of London Transport are, in most cases, from, if I may call it so, the Ashfield/Pick school. They are often treated very roughly, and I think it is fair to remind the House that they were chosen by very able men of the past; they have a great deal of experience, and they are not nearly so foolish as they are frequently made out to be.
§ 6.50 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, when I mentioned to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, at lunch to-day that I was going to make a non-controversial speech, he pronounced himself disappointed. However, he may now he satisfied with the ration of shot and shell that he has received from a completely different compass point. He has now been reinforced by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, on the Bench beside him; and I think the House would wish me to welcome her, this being the first time that we have seen a noble Baroness sitting on that particular Bench, although we recollect the superb interventions from this Bench of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, during the days when the present Government Party was in Opposition. It is a fact, with which I think the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, will agree, that the second half of this debate has proved quieter than the first, as one might expect finding three Saints in a sequence of six speakers, whereas in the first half there were the right reverend Prelate and two maidens.
This debate has illumined some of the intricate details of an urgent problem, and undoubtedly one of the most penetrating beams was thrown by my noble friend Lord Howe in his maiden speech. 562 Many of us, having known his father, must have thought that his choice of topic for a maiden speech was very appropriate, but undoubtedly the content of his speech was also appropriate. We wish he had not delayed for so long his first speech, and we hope his next will not be long delayed. Nor was there any need for my noble friend, Lord Birdwood, to have any of the fears he described as to how he acquitted himself. There was more philosophy than passion in his speech, but most of it down to earth philosophy which cheered my heart, as it must have cheered the hearts of all noble Lords who were so fond of his father.
My Lords, both the urgency and the obstinacy of this main problem have been recognised in speech after speech this afternoon, and no speaker has suggested that a cheap or simple remedy exists for the untangling, for the release from bondage, of London's traffic. The background against which we are debating to-day is made up of crawling or motionless queues of vehicles, fuming drivers, apprehensive pedestrians, overworked and often misunderstood policemen, an angry chaos, at the cost of a damaging and continual drain in money, time, temper and health. I join with your Lordships in the certainty that no single simple answer is to be found.
I also feel free, as did my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire in opening, to argue that the idea of a congestion tax as an early resort rather than an ultimate resort is entirely deplorable, an admission of defeat, an admission that human intelligence and ingenuity have yielded in this respect to the machine. With other noble Lords, I do not accept by any means that all the available methods of relieving this congestion have been applied or even tested for London's benefit. I am fortified in this conviction by the fact that additional methods have been tried in other cities in other countries, with tangible success, though I am impressed together with the right reverend Prelate that some others are in fact still ahead of us. Knowing that a number of noble Lords with great experience and learning in this subject would be taking part in this debate, and that their expert knowledge of London traffic would easily eclipse mine, I went last week to look at traffic expedients and solutions in two European cities, Brussels 563 and Munich, in order to provide some kind of original and constructive contribution of my own.
Before that, in ploughing into the vast bibliography concerned with London transport, I had come separately but similarly to my noble friend who opened the debate, to an early, though not a snap, conclusion that the answer had to be sought in two separate stages. Early, and indeed some immediate, easement of London surface traffic can be effected by more up-to-date comprehensive forms of traffic direction and traffic discipline. The longer-term cure must be sought in traffic engineering, and here money will have to be spent in fairly massive sums if massive savings are to be achieved. Other cities which have done this have shown themselves prepared to face such expenditure, convinced of the benefits. Anachronistically, I should like first to make reference to the long-term cure, which I studied briefly, but as intensively as I could, in Brussels and Munich a few days ago, and then come to the more immediate measures available but as yet unused.
For the purpose of adapting itself to modern traffic Brussels had one paradoxical advantage over London. When the mediæval city walls had been demolished, the space they had occupied was converted into a system of wide boulevards which now form a ring around the heart-shaped centre, one-and-a-half miles across, of the present city. Also the architects and traffic engineers had the powerful impulse and the access to Government money provided ten years ago by the prospect of the Brussels World Exhibition, which many of your Lordships may have visited in the course of 1958. They had the further prospect of Brussels becoming the capital of the European Community. These possibilities were seized upon by an energetic and determined Minister of Public Works, M. Vanaudenhove, who held his post for six and a half years, assisted throughout by M. Saccasyn, the present Director General of Bridges and Highways, who I know came to this country ten months ago to address the Institution of Highway Engineers.
The product of these circumstances and personalities was, and is, a traffic engineering plan which will one day, and through 564 a continuing building process, include 52 underpasses beneath the main streets. The boon which the existing underpasses already bring to Brussels traffic can be witnessed, and experienced, by anyone who drives through that city to-day. Last Tuesday, I drove through the whole system, as it is at present, with M. Saccasyn, and he assured me that the only traffic jams experienced now occur in sections where there are no underpasses. At the same time he made the logical point that this must be a continuous process of building.
One puzzling feature, which I understand also puzzled the Institution in London, is the relative cheapness of these underpasses—relative, that is, to our own. The present five tunnels under the main boulevards of Brussels, totalling a mile in length, cost the equivalent of £3 million to build, whereas the underpass at Hyde Park Corner, with a length of two-thirds of a mile (including entry ramps), also cost £3 million. The fly-over, or viaduct as it is called, one mile long, entering Brussels from the Ostend main road, cost the equivalent of £1 million in 1958 and has been used by 80 million vehicles since it was opened. It has saved many times its cost in time, petrol, accidents and frustration. The Hammersmith fly-over, about 900 yards long, cost £1½million; that is, by my mathematics, a rate of nearly £3 million to the mile, compared with a rate in Belgium of £1 million.
I hope your Lordships do not think I am entirely wasting your time in describing Brussels transport in a debate on London transport. The circumstances, the setting and the scale are totally different. On the other hand, this country does not lack men of ideas or men of dynamism, the sort of men who are needed to overcome lethargy, prejudice and defeatism; and we have certain advantages which others may envy. In Brussels, for instance, nineteen completely autonomous borough councils divide the municipal government of the city between them, each with a proud and pugnacious concept of its own responsibilities and looking askance at most forms of change.
The viaduct, for example, would have had three lanes in either direction but for the stubborn position of one of the councils through whose territory it had to pass. During its building, black flags 565 were hung from overlooking houses, a somewhat grimmer campaign than we had to undergo in the "Marples must go!" era. The traffic fact which I am trying to establish is that boldly planned and executed traffic engineering can achieve much for the flow of road vehicles, with- out restricting the use of those vehicles, either by prohibition or by taxing them off the roads.
Underpasses and flyovers are not every- thing, and last Thursday the Minister referred to the need for a new policy towards parking in Central London. He made one observation, reproduced in col. 688 of Hansard in another place, which I have studied long without completely understanding it. He said:Parking restrictions must be used as a deliberate deterrent to the peak hour car com- muter and not merely, as in the past, as a means of keeping clear the road space needed for moving traffic.If the main purpose is not any longer to keep the traffic moving, what new purpose has appeared? Motorists feel themselves victimised in many ways, and without further clarification of those words they are likely to feel that these new restrictions, now being discussed with the Greater London Council, which will undoubtedly impose a new hardship on many business people and private drivers, are being imposed without any declared or reasoned or coherent purpose. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, will be able to elucidate, or to make it clear that the Minister's utterance did not de- note more animosity towards the motorist, because it is possible to read it in that way.
To draw again on my recent observations abroad, the Belgians have set about the provision of off-street parking in multi-storey garages, both below the ground and above. Under the Mont des Arts, a group of galleries, concert halls and conference buildings in the centre of the town, the Government have constructed a garage at three levels below ground, for 1,000 motor cars, which is used to capacity. New Ministries now being built have four lower floors given up to parking space, two below and two above ground. Some of this space is reserved for the civil servants working in those buildings during the day, and the remainder for the public. But at night the whole space is open to the public during the hours when they are going 566 to theatres and cinemas. This is something we have never tried.
There is also a great deal of private enterprise off-street parking provided. One large departmental store, the Bon Marché has parking for 1,000 cars, free to its customers and chargeable to anyone else. These are the sort of measures which have made it possible to accommodate the traffic in Brussels without recourse to restrictions or prohibitions. They are equally available to us, if we prefer facilities to restrictions, as I hope we do.
In the City of Munich also the traffic engineers have been determined, ambitious and effective. Munich, apart from being the State Capital of Bavaria, stands at the nodal point of three great motorways, one leading to Austria, one to Nurnberg and the North of Germany, and the other to the West, to France and Switzerland. As an additional challenge, they have an historic city, founded in 1158, lying at the centre of the present modern capital, which the inhabitants are determined to preserve. They also have to cope with a prosperous population preferring, in general, private motoring to public transport. There is a railway which splits the town from East to West, and a river which splits it from North to South.
These are the sort of challenges we face in London, and again I hope that some reference to the means adopted in Germany will not seem irrelevant. They have worked out a programme of three concentric rings, the two inner rings requiring considerable demolition in order to widen some existing roads and create new ones. Here again, there will be under passes and viaducts for road traffic and the buying up of the present buildings, factories, offices and dwellings to make the new roads is already well ahead. Construction costs, as in Belgium, appear to be lower than in this country. One explanation given to me was that continuity of contracts, the assurance of that continuity, given to the ten main contracting firms, enables prices to be kept down. There is also an obligation, laid upon large local authorities by the Federal Government, to plan in the long term, in return for which Government grants of up to 40 per cent. are made available.
There is a circumstantial link between Munich and Brussels, in that whereas the Brussels planners were looking forward 567 to a World Exhibition those in Munich are hoping to accommodate the 1972 Olympic Games; and this prospect provides drive and finance, and it places a strict deadline on the country. We in this country at the moment have no such positive and dramatic pretext. We have the more negative, though pressing, need to prevent a traffic paralysis in our own capital. This has been enough to provide the spur to big thinking. But there is also a body of small thinking to obstruct the onset of this idea.
The brilliant, far-sighted ideas of Professor Buchanan and his Committee, as Lord Birdwood said, have been laid before the country. The economic aspects of those ideas are staggering, and the element of cost is enough to make any Chancellor of the Exchequer blink. I do not know whether the cost of transforming existing cities in this way can be reflected in economic terms. I am not equipped to calculate the return on such capital outlay. But in the building of New Towns and enlarged towns, new districts and centres of community life, large new development sites, I should have thought that the Buchanan concept was incontestable. It seems to me that anyone building now for the future who ignores Buchanan will have a lot to answer for, not simply to the first residents but even more to posterity. This is the concept of separating the pedestrian from the wheeled, motor traffic within a community. It goes, at least in my reckoning, far beyond normal traffic engineering. It has been referred to as "traffic architecture". The ring systems in Brussels and Munich to which I have briefly referred do not attempt to go as far as this. They set out with the more modest, but still massive, task of separating through-traffic from the essential circulating traffic within the town. If we can do this in London, the relief would be immense. There is, of course, a positive plan to do so, worked out in some detail by those who know London, and available for anyone's study. It is as bold and imaginative as anything of its kind in Europe, and on a grander scale. It is the urban motorway box, sub-titled "Corridors of Opportunity", and mentioned by my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire. As some have said, it would comprehend routes totalling be- 568 tween 50 and 60 miles of motorway, in a rectangle well within the periphery of built-up London, but protecting the busy centre, hounded by Shepherds Bush, Kilburn, Hampstead, Highbury, Hackney, Poplar, Kidbrooke, Peckham, Bow, Brixton and Battersea, from the entry of any vehicles but those of the inhabitants and their visitors—social, commercial or industrial. Protection would not be by bans or punitive taxes; it would be by improved facilities.
The project was approved on April 1, 1965, by the Greater London Council, on the day it took over from the London County Council. The authors of this plan, staunch to the realities of London life and economics, have drawn these main cross-routes, wherever possible, along the existing railway barriers, envisaging viaducts over the top of the railways throughout some of the mileage. But underpasses and tunnels will clearly be necessary in other sections. This scheme would have to be harmonised with a system of radial and tangential routes as well, to carry those entering and those leaving London; but if an easier way around London than through London could be created, on modern motorway principles, it would draw off from the centre not only those from outside the Box wishing to travel from, say, Woolwich to Greenford, or from Tottenham to Streatham, but also those from just inside the Box journeying, say, from Notting Hill to Hoxton.
The Greater London Council, as I have said, celebrated their first meeting by giving approval to this concept. Lately, however, the attitude has been more depressing and negative. It appears that this whole concept has been set on one side under the slogan of "Don't let's tear our city apart", or some such appeal to the emotions. The introduction of underpasses and flyovers so far constructed is not "earing our city apart" in my language or to my eye. To my sense, they mean keeping the inhabitants of this city mobile, so long as the idea of the Marples "rolling programme" is kept in mind—the principle which has been applied in Brussels. What is now envisaged for London, by the far-sighted, need not be an eyesore, and would assist, not hinder, communication between one neighbourhood and another.
569 That is the long-term opportunity, matching and outstripping the Continental patterns in all but the enterprise, the readiness to execute. But however soon and inspiring may be the surge of such enterprise on London's behalf, London traffic will not wait for it. This is a radical solution which may take twenty years and cost £500 million. Something will have to be embarked upon in the next two weeks and completed in the next two years. My belief is that immediate, short-term measures may perfectly well take the form of help to the motorist rather than persecution or banishment.
I will start, more chronologically this time, with the sort of measures which could be taken overnight, or over a weekend. A recent article by Mr. David Moller in the Illustrated London News closed with the words:Traffic engineers who might have difficulty in agreeing on the siting of a roundabout or flyover are all unanimous on one point: many of London's traffic ills could be cured in the space of 12 hours.He was referring, I take it, to traffic management techniques, and there must be many more possibilities than my mind can grasp, still less create. But it seems to me that there could be more one-way schemes to give a saving in travel time, despite an addition here and there to the distance travelled. These, I believe, could be coupled, to a far greater extent than they are at present, with linked traffic signals. Such systems are used with great effect on the Continent. There may be more than one such sequence in London, but I am conscious only of the one in Park Lane.
Then there could be more direction of traffic down the lesser-known streets. We have all witnessed, and drawn advantage from, the cunning, hidden routes known to experienced taxi-drivers. I may not earn much friendship from the taxi-drivers by suggesting that the general public could be drawn or directed through these byways at busy times, but there is benefit to be had by the motoring public.
In some countries, jay-walkers are fined for their perilous activities, and on this matter I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry. I have never yet spoken to a policeman who opposed this idea, and it seems to me that a great proportion of the policemen's 570 anxiety must be caused by idiotic pedestrians against whose stupidity he can do very little. If we can fine a motorist for leaving his car ten minutes too long at a meter, whether or not anyone needs his space, then I cannot see why we should not fine a pedestrian for endangering his or her own life and giving the motorist a needless heart attack. More pedestrians' subways and bridges would also make an immense contribution in this context. There could, I think, be more "No right turn" prohibitions, so long as these were applied in a reasonable way. In America, I am told, "No left turn" is the general rule whenever there is following or approaching traffic which would be delayed by the manœuvre, but when the road is clear it is not prevented; that is to say, public opinion makes itself felt, backed by the law, if a driver is obviously taking a right turn (as it would be in our country) to the detriment or delay of following or approaching traffic.
I hesitate to propose any more street signs—indeed I think there is a call for their simplification—but there is art argument for double white lines in main urban streets. Continuous "laning" might even by itself create a more orderly flow of traffic. I wish there were some way, as there is in America, of penalising not simply the dangerous or speeding motorist but the grossly selfish motorist who wanders from lane to lane, without proper signals, occupying the space not merely of two vehicles but four, since the ones behind have to hang back unduly, not knowing where he will be from one moment to the next and so wasting precious road space. Throughout Germany there is a system whereby such motorists, when caught, are obliged to attend a "traffic class" and if they refuse, or after class repeat the offence, their licences are endorsed.
There could well be restrictions as to the time that heavy lorries could load and unload—and other noble Lords have spoken about this matter. This should not be too stiff to the extent of interfering with proper commerce, but would certainly free the streets of stationary lorries at the peak hours. I believe that the police should be given better facilities for picking up and towing away abandoned or broken down vehicles. In Munich the police have a contract with one large 571 break-down firm which undertakes to have a duty truck available in radio contact, and with authority to tow away an offending or stricken vehicle. The question of more police and more traffic control cars is wider than this debate, and the police are more acutely aware of this problem than any of us.
These are some of the possibilities of the moment as they occur to me. There are others which have been tested and successfully applied in other countries from which we could learn without delay and apply within the year, expanding upon success. Last Wednesday in Munich I sat in the police headquarters at a switchboard confronting eighteen television screens showing the traffic at eighteen points in the town. The eighteen closed-circuit television cameras, strategically placed, covered in all 20 kilometres of streets. The cameras could be traversed, from where I sat, by remote control through an are of 90 degrees. if a knot of traffic were to build up at any particular intersection, it would be noted at once and a button in front of the observer would alter the timing of the traffic lights at that intersection, giving the line of traffic a freer advance where it was building up, and once it was freed the incidence of the traffic lights could he returned to normal. Four hundred sets of traffic lights could be operated from this switchboard. The cameras could even be zoomed down by remote control on to an individual vehicle or incident. If the screen revealed something requiring more than a simple change in the traffic lights, a telephone close to the operator's hand would put him in touch with the patrol car nearest to the spot.
Even this system will be rendered partly out of date within some months when a new computer, supplied from Great Britain by Elliott Automation, will go into action, using sensors of different types to "feel" the traffic flow and convert this into immediate response through the traffic signals in a matter of seconds, whereas the response of the man at his switchboard may take a minute or more in its effect. It was interesting to see in Munich, also, that all traffic lights in the busy part of the town were linked as a matter of course. Not only that, but as the motorist enters the stretch of linked signals he is told on a lighted sign at what 572 speed he should be travelling to take advantage of the particular timing in operation. According to the time of day or the tempo of traffic, the sign may read "30", "40" or "50"kilometres an hour, and the motorist is informed of which.
I have referred to the computer to be introduced in Munich and, as we know, London is to have its own supplied by Plessey. Local pride holds that this is the most advanced system in the world, and indeed I hope that this may be so, though I have no particular interest in backing Plessey against Elliott Automation and other British firms. The fact on which we should keep our minds is that London's system, however advanced, will not be unique, it will not be the first to be installed, and it will benefit only a small part of traffic-ridden London. There is a similar system produced by Siemens already working in Berlin. It is said that the value of the London system will not be known until the autumn of 1967. If the whole process of decision is then to start again, we shall certainly be overhauled by events. I must plead with those responsible to travel and seek experience from systems which are working elsewhere, and be ready, in the light of what they learn, to begin spreading the benefits of these technologies more widely and without delay.
None of the suggestions put forward by me or anyone else in this debate has been especially revolutionary, but, taken together, they could transform the whole tempo of London life. But there is a totally new invention which might make more difference than any other single proposal, if it became the urban car of the future. It is an invention developed somewhat improbably in Gloucestershire, but its creator is a Londoner and has had London as well as other cities in mind. It is more than a motor car and, in fact, Mr. Russell Winn, the inventor, regards it himself as a "traffic system", as in fact I believe it could be if it really took hold.
It is a two-seater vehicle taking up only 20 square feet of ground (whereas a Mini needs 46 square feet) and is electrically driven. It can turn round in one operation between cars 10 ft. apart and turn in 6 ft. by taking two "bites". It has room for two adults, 573 or one adult and two children plus some baggage. If "systematised" this city carriage could be owned mainly by car hire firms or even societies. Parked at the end of a single trip it could be left for collection, or else to be used by another member or client equipped with the same key. It is recharged through an ordinary 13 amp. three-pin socket, and later in the evolution of this system it could perhaps be plugged into sockets on parking meters. Four of these vehicles can fit into one present parking space. In performance it is far more than what it may sound—a "souped-up" milk float. It is lively in performance with a top speed of 35 m.p.h. and a range of 40 to 50 miles at a cost of one farthing a mile.
I do not need to declare a financial interest. I have no shares in Mr. Winn's company even though he is my namesake, but his vehicle and his imagination seem to answer so many of the requirements and so many of the problems we have been discussing to-day that I thought it right to draw it to your Lordships' attention. I wish Mr. Winn and his project well. I might mention that I believe I was the first Member of either House of Parliament to mention the Hovercraft and I only hope that this continues that tradition.
Nobody has sought to minimise this problem in the course of the debate. It can be expressed in statistics, including cost statistics, the expense in time, fuel, accidents. The element of human depression and exhaustion is harder to measure but it has been attempted. It may be that even noble Lords on the opposite Front Bench do not know of this, but studies were made in 1962 and 1963 of the stress on the gastro-intestinal system of London bus drivers. They were made by persuading 30 selected drivers to swallow tiny wireless transmitting sets, technically described as radio telemetering capsules. The signals transmitted during the journey were recorded and marked on to a graph. Although most of the work was done by Dr. Wolfe of the M.R.C. Laboratories and Dr. Alistair Connell, now at Queen's University, Belfast, the instigator and director of these studies—and I think the noble Lord does know this—was Dr. Dickson Mabon, a close friend of mine for many years and now a Minister at the Scottish Office and a colleague of the 574 noble Lord opposite. Although he told me modestly last week that the value of the tests cannot yet be known since the results are still being analysed, I feel confident myself that this will provide another concrete proof of the need for action, proof already visible to the eye and on the balance-sheet.
My heart is with the Government in their efforts to meet and resolve the crisis of London traffic, but I must urge them not to use panic or punitive methods when others, more positive and acceptable, are still available.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, first of all I must express appreciation of the manner in which this debate has taken place to-day. As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, has said, it has been very good-humoured and free from political bias. In fact, the political affiliations have been a little strange, the noble Duke and my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry being in close agreement. while I find myself very close to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. When we get that sort of mixture in a debate such as this, it is extraordinary.
Normally, one tries to anticipate which line a debate is going to take, and to prepare some sort of statement which will cover the main points of it. But to-day, having regard to the debate which we had last Monday on commuter services, I thought that that would be rather difficult. Therefore, if your Lordships agree, I propose to go through each of the speeches, so far as I can, and to answer the various points made by noble Lords. That will mean that my speech is disjointed, but I think it will make for some sort of continuity, inasmuch as many noble Lords raised the same sort of points. In case I forget as I go through, may I join in the congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, who made their maiden speeches to-day? They were totally different speeches intended for totally different purposes, but certainly they were excellent speeches and I hope, with other noble Lords, that they will often take part in our debates in the future.
I ought now to express appreciation of what I think has been the general theme of noble Lords; that—without tying 575 themselves to detail—they accept the general overall proposition of the four points which my right honourable friend made in another place in the debate last Thursday. That is very gratifying; and arising from them the Government's policy will, I hope, develop. The noble Duke quoted a number of figures, and I shall not quarrel with them. He was a little conservative in one of them, as he said that the expansion in population over the last ten years or so in the Greater London Area was 350,000. The figure of 550,000 that was given to me, and which I quoted in the debate last Monday, is of course even greater. So that I can get my figures quickly out of the way, I should like to say that the figures generally show that there are 900,000 people per day coming to London as commuters by rail and by Tube; 350,000 by bus, and 115,000 by car and motorcycle. As many noble Lords have said, many of those who come in by car travel alone.
Reference was made by the noble Duke and other noble Lords to the question of increased fares. Let us first face the fact that both on the railways and on London Transport wages are the biggest factor in costs, accounting for 76 per cent. Perhaps I ought to declare an interest, here. The noble Duke declared an interest, and perhaps I ought to have done so again to-day. As I have said in this House before, I spent most of my life as a working railwayman and to-day, now that I have retired, I am drawing a railway superannuation allowance. But for far too long, in the years before the war, the railwayman's general standard of living was lowered because of the question of fares and the ability of the old railway companies to earn revenue. We even suffered cuts in our standard wages in order to maintain the revenue of the companies. The only value of railway employment then was that it was regular.
I always remember, in the years before the war, in a period of unemployment, meeting the wife of one of my friends whose husband had been unemployed. I said to her, "Hello Esther! Is Fred working?" She said, "Yes; he has just got a job on the North London". I said I was very pleased. She said, "Yes. It's starvation, but its regular."
576 I think no one accepts the proposition that, because transport workers perform a public service, whether on the London Transport Tubes or on the buses, they should suffer a lower standard of life merely because they are performing that public service. As a trade unionist, I sometimes find it difficult to understand why my own trade union colleagues, while seeking and securing an improvement in their own conditions of employment and in their own wages and salaries, should "crib" when there is an increase in fares because the railwaymen, the bus drivers and the rest get a wage increase —a wage increase which is demanded because they have in fact got to have more wages to meet the costs of the goods and services which other people, who already have their increases in wages, are providing. Bearing in mind that the biggest factor in transport operating costs is the wages factor, it is difficult to cover all the increased costs by increased productivity. There is, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, said in his excellent speech—and I shall come to it later—a social value in transport; and, particularly in regard to new capital investment, I think the social value will have to be met from some Government source. But I do not think we should ever accept the position in which the normal operating costs of transport are met by subsidy. Transport operators should meet their own operating costs, and those who enjoy the service should pay for these costs.
The noble Duke also dealt with the short-term and the long-term policy so far as the Government are concerned, and he referred to the Greater London Council and its functions. My Lords, anticipating that there might be raised the problem of the Greater London Council and the report to which I referred when answering a Question the other day, and anticipating that that report might be asked for, I have arranged for a few copies of it to be available. It is the report of the working party set up by the Greater London Council, including representatives of the Metropolitan Police and London Transport, to consider traffic management and London transport services generally. It was considered by the Greater London Council at its November meeting and received considerable publicity in the Press. A few copies of that report are available in the 577 Library for those noble Lords who would like to study it. It is, I think, an excellent document; and I hope my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry will read it, because I think it will show her that, rather than having fallen down on the job, the G.L.C. have undertaken, at the request of my right honourable friend, this survey, and are now adopting the policy arising from it. They are taking their job very seriously and are executing it efficiently.
The noble Duke also referred to the question of office accommodation. I agree that, in fact, the more that one can get out of London office accommodation which it is not necessary to have in London, the better it will be for Londoners and for those who work in London. Close proximity to home and office in good surroundings—in country areas, New Towns, expanded towns and the rest—certainly makes for much more efficient work and the better health of the individual. Of course, this Government have done something towards that, at least in a negative way if not in a positive way, by stopping office building within the London area.
The staggering of hours was also mentioned by the noble Duke. The problem of staggered hours has become even worse with the shortening of the working week, particularly that of the manual worker. The peak hours of transport have been made shorter. At one time the manual worker used to start work at 6 o'clock in the morning, break off for breakfast and then start again about half-past eight or 9 o'clock. Now, of course, with the 40-hour week, there is a tendency for all workers to start round about 7.30 or 8 o'clock, with those in the offices starting at 9, 9.30 and so on; and therefore the peak hours are being intensified. It is strange that Londoners, suffering as they do, particularly on Tubes, and struggling for buses, are not prepared to stagger their hours more than they do. A great deal has been done, particularly by the Board of Trade and the Ministry, in trying to deal with this problem, but so far there has not been a tremendous amount of success.
Now I, too, must join with the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, in congratulating the noble Duke in his accept- 578 ing the increased parking spaces of London Transport. London Transport have already got parking spaces for well over 5,000 cars, and they are trying to increase this number at every opportunity that comes; but I would ask noble Lords to remember that where there is vacant land used for car parking, it is in fact valuable land and the capital cost of the land—indeed, there has to be supervision as well—means that it is a charge, not a profit. The acceptance of the provision of services in association with car parks will certainly help London Transport to make them more nearly viable, and will also help the problem so far as London Transport is concerned. There will be a Bill coming before the House later which will give the opportunity to London Transport to have back sonic of those powers which were taken away by the 1953 and 1962 Acts, and I am glad to have early, before the Bill is even here, the support of the noble Duke in that direction.
I must say that I thought the noble Duke went a little far in saying that there had not been any development in design or comfort of the modern London bus, as compared with the old horse-bus. I know that I am a little older than he is, and I remember the old horse-bus. I even remember that, with the old horse-bus, there were still traffic jams; and even in the days of the old horse-bus you were taking your life in your hands if you tried to cross the road at the Bank. I think London Transport are to be congratulated on their development of the London bus. The whole fleet has been replaced since the war, from 1947 onwards. They were a little handicapped by the previous Government, which took away their powers to manufacture their own bodies, but now, in conjunction with the manufacturers of buses, they are developing a new light alloy and plastic bus which will be lighter, easier of operation and more comfortable.
My Lords, both the noble Duke and my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry spoke on the question of loading and unloading. May I make it quite clear that, of course, where there is loading and unloading on the public highway while other traffic is using that highway, it is just impossible to avoid some interruption and interference with that other 579 traffic. But, there are only two satisfactory ways of dealing with this problem. One is by having rear access to all premises; and we shall not have that in Central London until redevelopment has taken place. The other is by imposing a ban on the loading and unloading of vehicles except during the hours when other persons are not using the roads. If, for example, we are going to allow vehicles to load and unload in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street under those conditions, then it must be done between midnight and 6 a.m.
But, my Lords, let us face the difficulties—and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, referred to them. It is all very well to say: "Do this work between midnight and 6 a.m." But somebody has to do it. That somebody must be the lorry driver and his mate. It also probably means that the warehouseman, the storeman and, to some extent, a supervisor within the business or undertaking must be there. There are few employees nowadays who will work between midnight and 6 a.m. unless they are paid a higher rate of pay. Uncongenial turns of duty demand a higher rate of pay; which represents an added cost both to the trader and to the manufacturer of the articles.
Let us be frank: in any business one of the problems of the transport manager, where the needs are for uncongenial hours of duty, early turns, late turns and night-work, is the difficulty of securing the labour. That is not only because men do not like it; it is because their wives do not like it. The employer may say to the driver of a delivery van: "Next week, Charlie, you are on from midnight to 6 a.m." The driver will go home and tell his wife; and her reply will be: "Then you must find another job." The employer must take into account the question of whether or not his employees will perform uncongenial turns of duty. The matter is being looked at, as the noble Baroness will discover if she reads the Report to the Greater London Council and, to the extent that it is necessary, if it really becomes impossible to deal with it in any other way, then more restrictions on loading and unloading will have to be imposed.
My Lords, the noble Duke then referred to the question of the taxation of cars 580 by size. Here, I believe that his noble friend has already answered the point. As was said, the motor industry would have something to say about this. I agree with him that, if it is essential, then of course we ought not to take any notice of the motor industry as such. The noble Duke also referred, as did a number of other noble Lords, to the possible question of banning cars from Central London. I gathered from what the noble Duke said that he was afraid that that might mean that the Londoner who wanted to own a car would be prevented from doing so. That will not be so. For those living within the London area who have their own cars the restrictions will not apply and special arrangements will be made for them. The restrictions will apply to those who live outside the London area and who use their cars purely for commuting purposes.
I will now turn to a matter raised by my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry. I am sorry that she thought that in the Questions I dealt with I was not treating either her or the subject with the respect, thoughtfulness and sincerity that I ought to have done. That was far from my intention. I should be the last to deal with any matter in a light-hearted fashion. Any noble Lord who asks a Question in this House is entitled to have it dealt with fairly and sincerely. Of course, one sometimes tries to lighten a tense moment with a little joke; but that does not detract from the seriousness of the question or the reply. In her reference to pedestrians, the noble Lady said that I suggested that pedestrians were second-class citizens. I apologise now if I gave that impression. But, with respect, if the noble Baroness re-reads the answer I gave I do not think that can be held against me. What I said—and this is still true—is that traffic lights are part of traffic management, and they were put there to increase and facilitate the flow of traffic. Incidentally, and at the same time, they facilitate the crossing of the road by the pedestrian.
It is true that at some complicated crossings the pedestrian is at a considerable disadvantage, because the lights are put there not for the pedestrian but for the motorist, for the lorry driver and the bus driver. In some instances—for example where you have four or five crossings and there is a filter also—the pedestrian is at a disadvantage. But at 581 all times it is advisable for the pedestrian to walk parallel with the traffic on the move. My noble friend asks: What about intersections where there is a filter? But that point is covered by the advice in theHighway Code: at a filter light the motorist is required to give way to the pedestrian on the crossing.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord. I only wish to ask this question. Does he really believe that in Central London that is enforced, and that drivers do give way?
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, again I hope that it will not be taken that I am being flippant; but the answer is that it depends on the driver. As the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said, there are some drivers with very bad manners. But, generally speaking, if one is crossing a road at a filter light motorists, including the much-abused taxi driver, are fairly reasonable in regard to the pedestrian. At a filter, the motorist generally starts from a stop. There is usually a halt while the traffic is going one way; then the filter light allows traffic through.
The noble Baroness put four definite questions to me. The first was: which are we to have; a better flow of traffic or loading or unloading? I will admit, frankly and honestly, that at the moment, because of the difficulties to trade and industry, we are trying to combine, so far as we can, loading and unloading with supervision and the maintenance of present traffic levels. I am the first to admit, as I have already said, that difficulties arise from time to time. But the Greater London Council assure me that in conjunction with the police and traffic wardens loading and unloading are supervised closely. A lorry or van is not on the spot for more than five minutes without being under observation. But if the problem becomes too bad, then a clearway will have to be made and restrictions on loading and unloading, with all the consequences, will have to be imposed.
On the question of the filter, to which I have just referred, the noble Baroness asked whether pedestrians have the right of way. They have not the right of way at the moment, but, as I said, the Highway Code says that motorists should give way.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend again, but we have waited a long time for this debate and I wish to make this point. What I asked was whether it was right that pedestrians should have the right of way and that this should be enforced, as it is in New York.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My noble friend quotes the example of New York, but there they have the "scramble". I do not know whether my noble friend has experienced that.
§ LORD LINDGREN
So have I, and that is why I say that there is a mad rush from all directions by pedestrians to get across the road while the traffic lights are completely dead. I do not understand how any invalid or aged person can survive that mad rush, and I prefer the London method of using a traffic filter. I will look at this matter, in conjunction with my right honourable friend the Minister, but, as Parliamentary Secretary, I cannot give an undertaking that pedestrians will have the right of way. At the present time there is the request to the motorist to give way.
Reference has been made to the "Wait and cross on the lights" system. In the majority of cases sets of traffic lights are simple. There may be two sets, or four, at cross-roads but the pedestrian can see all the lights the whole of the time. Why should he have a "Wait" and "Stop" system when he can see the lights in exactly the same way as the motorist can see the green, amber and red lights? May I say to my noble friend that there are just as many "amber gamblers" among pedestrians as there are among motorists.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, referred to the courtesy of motorists, although at times some motorists try to "jump the lights"; but, let us be honest about this, there are pedestrians who are not saints in this respect and they try to cross the road when the traffic lights are against them. I cannot see—I hope that this will be taken in the right way—that it would be worth the expense of installing special "Wait" and "Cross" signs at ordinary cross-roads in the same way as they are used on complicated 583 crossings where traffic may come from several directions. I was glad that my noble friend approves—
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend again, and I hope that the House will not become weary of me, but if I do not make these points now I shall not have another opportunity. May I ask my noble friend whether he will deal with the problem which is created when a pedestrian is unsighted and cannot see the traffic lights? Is it not then essential that there should be "Cross" and "Wait" signs?
§ LORD LINDGREN
If there are cases where a pedestrian is unable to see any of the traffic lights, we will certainly look at them; and if any noble Lords can give information about where there are such traffic lights, I will go into the matter with the Greater London Council. But in most cases pedestrians are able to see the lights.
I was glad that my noble friend approved of the yellow traffic boxes. I agree that they have proved a success, and where the traffic requirements necessitate it, the experiment will be extended. This system was set up when the Ministry was the responsible traffic authority for London. The Greater London Council appreciates that the system has been a success and will develop it. My noble friend referred to buses running in convoy. This is something which cannot be avoided. One noble Lord referred to the main reason for its occurring. There is a hold-up in the traffic and then buses on busy routes, which may be only a few minutes away from each other, according to their schedule, tend to bunch together. Traffic inspectors do their best by pulling out some buses from their normal schedules at convenient points and causing them to turn round and travel in the opposite direction so that the whole of a journey is not made by several buses in convoy. But this also causes problems, because if a bus, coming from the outskirts of London from the West and travelling to the North-East, is taken off that route at, say, Euston, or the Aldwych, it means that the latter part of the journey is not completed.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, whose maiden speech was referred to earlier, 584 made a very useful contribution. We agree that the standard of driving could be improved, not only in London but elsewhere. The noble Earl put his finger on the point in respect of some of the difficulties in London. A number of people who may normally drive reasonably well in rural areas are inclined to come to town with their cars at this time of the year. However, it is not only people from the Provinces who get in a mess at Hyde Park Corner: some of the more experienced London drivers also get into trouble there. The problem of the congestion which arises is something which we have to bear with until, or unless, there is an exclusion of traffic from the London area. I agree that it is a pity that two or three large shows should be held in London at the same time. The noble Earl referred to the Motor Show and the Dairy Show. By their very nature, these exhibitions attract people from all parts of the country, and from abroad as well. We ought to see whether we can spread out the dates of some of these shows.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark sent me a note—he also mentioned it in his speech—that he would be unable to be present at the end of debate owing to a previous engagement which he was obliged to keep. For the convenience of the House, I will write to him about the points which he raised. There will be a check made on the debate to-morrow and if there are any points which I have missed in my speech, I will reply to them also.
The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, whose excellent speech was referred to by the noble Lord who followed him as showing imagination and vision, revealed a great understanding of what one might call the philosophy of transport. If the noble Lord will permit me to say so, I thought that some of the later speeches contained the answers to the points he raised. Much as we should like to turn London into an environmental centre where people could live and work, the size of London, and the capital invested in it would make that impossible. We cannot implement the Buchanan Report altogether because, as noble Lords have said, that would be a far too costly thing to do, both in respect of national and private capital. We have to try to provide a happy medium and get as near 585 as we can to an environmental basis, and at the same time allow regular trade and industry to continue.
We are always delighted when the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, makes a contribution to a debate. I find I can understand the noble Lord more easily when he is talking about transport than when he is discussing bird watching. The speech of the noble Lord was so full of "meat" that I hardly know where to start in attempting to reply to him. He referred to the Victoria Line. He was modest in stating that the report had been presented in 1948, because within the railway unions we were discussing the proposal by London Transport before the 1939 war. Even so, it was 1962 before London Transport could begin to implement the report. The increase in costs between the time the scheme was envisaged and the actual start, in 1962, has been terrific.
I agree with the noble Lord that there is a social value in transport. Whilst I said just now that fares must meet the operating costs, the capital cost of new Tube construction is so fantastic that it is impossible for London Transport to provide for capital development and charge fares which ordinary people can afford. This is a social value and the Government will have to accept the responsibility of meeting the cost of that value. The cost of, for example, the Fleet Line, in the London Plan, which will run from Baker Street to Fenchurch Street, and ultimately to New Cross and Lewisham, will be £60 million. Two of the new lines planned, that between Aldwych and Waterloo, and the extension of the Victoria Line to Brixton, are likely to be the first to be started. Both schemes are with the Minister now awaiting his approval.
The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, will agree with me that Tube construction requires not only first-class engineers and designers, but also expert teams of tunnellers; and they are difficult to find. When we have brought these teams together, it is economic to keep them together, and when the tunnelling on the Victoria Line is completed, or nearly completed, then other work could be given the "go ahead", in order that these valuable teams can be kept working together on the new lines.
586 In regard to commuter traffic, the heaviest traffic is on the Southern Region and next come the lines from Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street into Essex. However, it is true that commuter services from King's Cross, St. Pancras, Marylebone and Euston are not used to the maximum. This problem can be dealt with only by discouraging development in one area and encouraging it in another; but when it cones to interfering with private property, that is difficult. Nevertheless, it is one of the problems that will have to be tackled in implementing the South East Plan.
The noble Lord, Lord St. Helens, referred to the management of traffic schemes envisaged in the Buchanan Report. I agree with him that the reconstruction required is on a fantastic scale, and the compensation arrangements alone would he enormous. As I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood we have to arrive at a compromise and do what is possible, when it is possible. The noble Lord also argued that we should try to make it uneconomic for commuters to come into London by car; and he referred to the problem of "one man, one car". He also referred to the problem of loading and unloading.
The noble Lord, Lord St. Just, raised the question of the doctor's car. The problem of the doctor parking his car when he is on his errand of mercy as a doctor is an important one. The Minister has negotiated this matter with the British Medical Association, and a special badge has been agreed, recognised by the Metropolitan Police, which will allow a doctor to park his car, in a car park or meter zone, without paying contributions. I should add that apparently there are demarcation disputes even in the doctors' unions. Some doctors belong to the B.M.A. and some belong to another association. The Minister had to find some responsible body with whom to negotiate and come to an agreement, a body which would accept responsibility for the conditions made. We selected the B.M.A. They agreed without hesitation that doctors who applied to them for this badge would be granted its use, so that it would be possible for doctors to be able to park when on duty. Of course, this does not apply when they go for a night-out in Soho, or anything like that. 587 I have already dealt with most of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, who was good enough to give me notice of the points he proposed to raise. He referred to the fact that early morning services sometimes have to be cancelled because, through illness, a driver or signalman fails to turn up for duty. It is true that any service which requires shift work has difficulty in recruiting. In a period of full employment, when people can get as good a rate of pay for a middle-turn job five days a week, without uncongenial turns of duty and week-end work as well, there will always be difficulty in recruiting.
One always has the problem with the railways and London Transport that the place of work cannot always be near where the person's home is. If you are on an early turn and have to get up at four o'clock in the morning and there is no transport for you to get to work, it means a very early start on a push-bike, or possibly a motor-bike, if you have one: not many railway guards can afford motor cars, although some may have scooters. Everything possible is being done by London Transport and by the British Railways Board to improve recruitment.
Another problem in relation to guards and signalmen is that they were not what we call within the railways a starting grade; they had been grades to which a person gets promoted. But because one cannot even get sufficient men to take promotion, British Railways and London Transport have now taken the step of direct recruitment into the grade of guard. You cannot take the step of direct recruitment into the grade of signalman, other than in some light traffic boxes, where it is being done. They have now set up training schools for this grade of signalmen, for direct recruitment, in order to enable people to take the job without previous experience. But here one of the problems is that, with transport operation, if you try to place a man without an operating background behind him as a guard or a signalman, when it comes to an emergency which is not covered in the rule book he has not the know-how to deal with it. That, again, adds to the complication of operations. So far as London Transport are concerned, they, too, are having discussions with the Greater London Council 588 to see whether there is any possibility of their providing houses for bus drivers and conductors, so that, in order to meet the early and late turn conditions, they can live near their points of signing on for duty.
The other point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, was the question of electrification and the problem arising from de-icing. This, again, is entirely a question of management for the British Railways Board and the London Transport Board, but a considerable amount has been done by them both in regard to this. The British Railways Board have set up 4,700 installations comparatively recently. Most of these are gas operated, and at £100 apiece your Lordships will see that there is quite an appreciable capital cost involved. Many of the other point heaters are electric. Where it is uneconomic to have either electric or gas heated de-icing plant at the points, there is a paste which British Railways scientists have developed and which will keep the points free from ice for about 30 hours.
When we come to London Transport, more particularly, we find they have heated points, and have 750 sets in operation. They have erected in the outside areas snow fences to stop drifting on the line; and they have also de-icing baths—a fluid in a bath—so that when the train comes over the line it picks up the fluid and keeps the line free from ice. Then they have another emergency or temporary arrangement that can be put in during the hours when the line is not operating; I refer to short-circuiting, which creates heat and de-ices the line. Taking it all in all, both the Railways Board and the London Transport Board are doing as well as can be expected, having regard to the fact that every English winter is not the same, to operate in the wintry conditions which we are likely to have.
The noble Lord asked about British Railways and their public relations. I am sorry he found the railway staff at Wimbledon (I think it was) a little huffy when he got out of a train in a fog. The noble Lord admitted that, taking it by and large, and considering all they had to put up with, the railway staff are courteous and try to do their best. It is annoying, I agree, if one is delayed 589 and does not know the reason for the delay. But, so far as is humanly possible, the British Railways Board try to let the customers know. There is the Tannoy system. I agree that even with the Tannoy system, because of the area it has to cover and the fact that it has to be directed to particular platforms, there is distortion in other parts of the station. It is not always easy. It is equally true that sometimes the person using the Tannoy does not seem to know how to use a microphone. Here, again, British Railways are doing what they can by training announcers who have to use the microphones.
When one comes to the smaller stations, when there is delay everything is done to give information. It has to go through the general system of communication of the railway, from a box well down the line to boxes at stations ahead. The signalman has to depend on the porter to come down, and then to tell people on the station platform what is wrong, and sometimes there is a little confusion. But, by and large, they try to meet the convenience of the general public by letting them know what is happening. Sometimes it is impossible on a train; but even when a train that is travelling is delayed, so far as they can they get a responsible person, a guard or a ticket examiner, to go through the train and give the necessary information to those who are travelling. We will, however, call the attention of the Railways Board to the noble Lord's remarks, and I hope there may be some improvement.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, made a number of points. I think, in the main, I have dealt with them already, except on the question of new towns. Here there is a problem which arises with major developments in big cities. I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, that in new towns, expanding towns and the rest, we ought to make arrangements—and I believe we are making arrangements —to deal with the motor car age. In many of our cities it will be impossible, without tremendous capital cost and a drain on the national economy, to do more than a little towards making it possible to live with the motor car.
590 I think I have dealt with most of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, but we were delighted to have him take part in the debate. I would emphasise the point that he made: that good public transport cannot be provided at a profit. There is a requirement under the Transport Acts for all forms of transport to be as near viable as possible. I said in debates in this House and in another place, when we were discussing modernisation and redevelopment of the railways, that if we are to have a service which the nation deserves then it will not be able to be provided at a profit. But if we try too hard to make it profitable, then the services will deteriorate. But we will do as much as we can to get it as good as possible.
The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, spoke at such a speed that I could hardly follow what he was saying, except one point. He recommended that I should go and see a number of these schemes which are in operation abroad. I will put that in red ink on the desk of my right honourable friend to-morrow morning, and see whether he will agree to this suggestion. He made only one point with which I would violently disagree. He quoted someone who wrote in the Illustrated London News and said that the traffic ills of London could be cured in twelve hours.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, to be precise, I said that some of them could be cured in a matter of twelve hours. I never suggested, and neither did the writer, that all of them, or anything like all of them, could be cured in twelve hours.
§ LORD LINDGREN
Everybody knows what to do and how to do it, except the poor chap who has to do it. If we took all the advice we get from journalists, we should be in a bigger mess than we are at the moment. I can tell the noble Lord that we will look through his speech tomorrow. I agree with him that we should examine every foreign experiment. Ministry staff have been to the Continent and seen many of them, and some of us in this House have seen them as well. We will take them all into account. Again I thank noble Lords for the general tone of the debate, and for the points that were nut forward. I hope that as far as reasonable I have met those points, but 591 I will read the debate to-morrow and if there are any others I will reply to them by letter.
§ 8.22 p.m.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I, too, am extremely grateful to all those noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has, I think, been useful, and I hope that this knotty, thorny problem will be eased as the result of our deliberations. The debate has been given great lustre by two notable maiden speeches, and I, like other noble Lords, should like to congratulate my two noble friends Lord Howe and Lord Birdwood on two outstanding initial contributions. The debate has also been given lustre by the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Hurcomb and Lord Robertson of Oakridge.
I think the only person who is likely to suffer from this debate is myself, because quite clearly I have committed a heresy, according to some of my Party's 592 views, and if your Lordships see me tomorrow with my head bloody I trust it will still be unbowed. On second thoughts, perhaps it would have been wiser to suggest that there should be a joint manœuvre for these suburban car parks at underground stations, by which private enterprise should be allowed to function. I do not see why, if W. H. Smith can flourish at King's Cross, and Mr. Forte at London Airport, private enterprise garages should not also flourish on London Transport Board car parks. I say that so that, should I have to speak in opposition to future legislation, my face will not be too red, nor shall I have to plead diplomatic 'flu. I am very grateful and thank noble Lords for their contributions, and beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-four minutes past eight o'clock.