HL Deb 15 March 1977 vol 380 cc1443-6

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how the average number of buses operating midday in Central London compares with the number—

  1. (a) one year ago, and
  2. (b) five years ago.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, separate figures are not available for Central London. I understand that the number of London Transport buses scheduled to operate in the whole of London at midday is 3,719. This compares with 3,565 one year ago, and 3,430 five years ago.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for that reply, may I ask whether she can explain how it is that nowadays those of us who have to depend on public transport and do not have the use of Government motor cars have to wait for ever-longer periods at bus stops for ever more crowded buses?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I accept that "bunching" of buses occurs, but it is mainly as a result of traffic congestion, and the situation is being improved by the introduction of the bus priority and other traffic restraint measures. In addition, London Transport are also carrying out experiments to tighten up route control supervision, particularly on the busy Central London routes. Those include the fitting of radios and of traffic light sensor devices to their buses.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness confirm that there is now no difficulty in recruiting operating staffs, since she claims that the number of buses has gone up? Can she also confirm that there is no difficulty in achieving adequate maintenance in the main depots so that there is no hold-up in services through an unreasonable number of buses being off the road?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, there is a considerable improvement in the overall availability of buses and also in the number of staff. The percentage shortfall on the establishment of bus-operating staff in post was at its worst in 1974 and 1975, when it stood at 15 per cent. It is now down to 12 per cent. The average number of unserviceable buses on any day is now 300, compared with 500 in January 1976; so the situation is improving.


My Lords, while being sorry to differ from my noble friend, may I ask her whether she is aware that the position on "bunching" is not improving? If she will allow me to take one example, is she aware that this "bunching" is not due to traffic? Is she further aware that I am very dependent on the No. 16 buses, which start from Victoria? I catch the bus in Terminal Gardens, which is the first stop after Victoria. Does my noble friend realise that the No. 16 buses, in common with many others, leave Victoria three at a time? Is she aware that the first one is then full and the other two sail past on the outside, leaving passengers stranded at bus stops, and it really is not good enough?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I was not aware of the position of the No. 16 bus, and I will certainly draw it to the attention of my right honourable friend. I also hope that London Transport will take note of my noble friend's comments.


My Lords, could my noble friend make representations to London Transportin respect of the infrequency of the 77A bus service, which serves two main line stations to the North; namely, St. Pancras and King's Cross?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, London Transport make their own decisions and their own arrangements. We can only hope that they read the Questions and Answers given in your Lordships' House and that they will take note of the comments which have been made.


My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that I live in Chelsea and that this morning six—I emphasise, six—No. 11 buses went by, five of which were empty?


My Lords, are the Government aware that the latest type of bus, which has a door to exclude passengers except at the stop, is highly inconvenient as compared with the old type which can be boarded at any moment when the bus is stationary?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, that is rather outside the scope of this Question; but if the noble Lord would care to put down a Question to be answered in the future, I will do my best.


My Lords, can my noble friend say what proportion of the total number of buses are withdrawn during the non-rush hours?

Baroness STEDMAN

Not without notice, my Lords; but, from my original Answer, there are obviously more buses now operating in Central London at midday than there were a year ago, so presumably not too many of them have been withdrawn. London Transport certainly aim to have the maximum of buses on the road at peak times, but, if they are paying drivers to do eight-hour shifts, presumably they are also operating at other than peak times.


My Lords, while I realise this is not so much a matter for the noble Baroness as for London Trans-port, may I ask whether it would not be a good idea, if, for a trial period of, perhaps, six to eight weeks, senior executives of London Transport were to travel to and from their work by public transport?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I am not aware that they do not travel that way at the moment.


My Lords, the noble Baroness aware that, as a former busman, I can say that "bunching" can be caused by the human element?—because some crews are fast and some are slow, and there are places where dreadful traffic jams occur. If your Lordships were to go to the Elephant and Castle, to give one example, you would quite understand how "bunching" is caused.

Baroness STEDMAN

Yes, my Lords; we are aware that there are problems on certain routes. There are also problems because private cars tend to us; the bus lanes at times when they should not be using them.


My Lords, could the noble Baroness tell us whether the bus schedules are arranged from the point of view of convenience to the staff or convenience to the public?

Baroness STEDMAN

The aim of the scheduling, my Lords, is to match the availability of the staff to the buses which are available. London Transport do that by having a primary schedule which is very closely related to the number of vehicles and staff likely to be available. Then they have a supplementary schedule to take account of any additional staff or vehicles that may come in.

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