HL Deb 29 February 1988 vol 494 cc3-6

2.46 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements they are making to improve the movement of London traffic.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, we are giving priority to improving London's trunk roads and traffic control arrangements. We are supporting an increasing number of borough road and traffic schemes. We are conducting studies into ways of tackling transport problems in four areas with the most acute difficulties. We are encouraging better control of parking. We are also encouraging efficient and attractive rail and Underground services, which are helping to relieve road congestion.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that comprehensive Answer and offer my congratulations on what has been done. With regard to parking offences is my noble friend aware that we now find the kerbside of London streets full of illegally parked cars which forces double parking by local delivery vans? Is he aware that that is one of the worst offences because it may completely stop the traffic? Will the Minister extend the beginnings of a system of wheel-clamping and car removal which is the most effective means of deterring the illegal parker?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, wheel-clamping is being extended to further parts of central London. Since wheel-clamping was introduced it has reduced illegal parking on yellow lines by 40 per cent. and in residents' bays by one third. It has reduced journey times by between 8 and 14 per cent. providing an estimated saving of between £11 million and £18 million a year. Therefore, I believe that in that direction wheel-clamping has been a success.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether any decision has been made about the future of the Victoria Coach Station? Is he aware that during the peak periods 1,000 coaches a day pass through narrow residential streets in a conservation area? Does he think it makes any sense for coaches going to the north of the capital to pass through London's heavy traffic?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am well aware of the noble Lord's interest in the future of the Victoria Coach Station. The situation has been going on for some time now. I am not entirely sure what stage we have reached at the moment but perhaps I can write to the noble Lord with the latest information.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, does my noble friend think that clamping vehicles in itself may be hindering London traffic and, therefore, might it not be better to tow them away if possible? Secondly, is it not slightly upsetting that most of our yellow-capped friends who try to prevent the obstruction of traffic tend to check on areas where there are already cars parked on meters and not on single or double yellow lines?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, obviously clamping must be done very carefully and vehicles which are an obstruction to traffic should not be clamped. Those would obviously be candidates to be towed away. Normally clamping should be done only where a vehicle is parked for too long in an area where it is not actually causing an obstruction. Therefore, I believe that clamping should be done very carefully.

Lord Jay

My Lords, is the Minister aware that London Transport Underground services still show all the signs of being acutely under-staffed and, as the Government are enforcing financial targets on the authority, do they still refuse to accept any responsibility for the inconvenience forced on the public?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, not at all. Investment by London Regional Transport will be a record £300 million this year and we propose to authorise an increased expenditure of £1 million a day for the next year. Therefore, we have not neglected investment by London Regional Transport which is carrying record numbers of people at the moment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, has consideration been given, following the example of certain European cities, to banning the entry into the central area of very large vehicles?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, very large vehicles are banned at certain times of the day from certain parts of central London. I believe this is a question for the local highway authorities which are responsible for that.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, does not the Minister agree that the problems of London traffic congestion have been aggravated by the abolition of the Greater London Council and the break-up of its transportation unit? Members may smile, but is it not a matter of concern that there has been failure to agree among the London boroughs and hence there is now a five-year agency agreement for a traffic control unit controlled by the smallest local authority in Greater London; namely, the Corporation of London? Is that not a matter for concern?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I should hate to disagree with the noble Lord but since the GLC disappeared expenditure has risen quite sharply as regards both central government and major borough schemes. The department has approved 38 major borough schemes worth about £400 million in supplementary grant for the coming year.

As regards traffic control, I do not see that it matters very much that the City of London Corporation has agreed to take this over. It is a very valuable tool in traffic control. At present 120 traffic signals are controlled in the system and a further 60 signals are being added to the system every four months. That is certainly going ahead much faster than in the unlamented days of the GLC.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend to reply to the second half of my question on whether parking enforcement officers are concentrating too much on meters and not on parking on single or double yellow lines?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, traffic wardens operate under the auspices of the police and it is, of course, a question for the police to decide how best the resources should be used. I have not noticed any discrimination being made between metered spaces and yellow lines.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, has consideration also been given to the practice in certain continental cities where, if the pavements are empty and the roads are full, parking is allowed on one side of the road on the pavements thereby enabling traffic to flow more readily?

Noble Lords


Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I think that on the whole pavements should be reserved for pedestrians and other users such as people in wheelchairs, with prams, and so on.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am sure that in certain areas where there is a large area of pavement it might be possible to use some of the space. I have seen one such area near where I live. However, in general terms pavements must be reserved for pedestrians.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, does not the Minister agree that enforcement is essential in all traffic control? Will my noble friend review the bus lanes in London which were sprinkled everywhere by the late Greater London Council? They often operate during hours when there are no buses using them, to the detriment of other traffic.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point but with the exception of trunk roads within central London that is a question for the local highway authorities and not for the Government.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Lord unaware of the fact that, like many of the Government's so-called improvements, what he has been talking about seems to have made the situation worse rather than better? The noble Lord referred to towing away. Is the noble Lord unaware of the fact that towing away was much more effective than clamping? Will he not consider reintroducing it?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is not a question of reintroducing it. Towing away occurs to a considerable extent. Clamping and towing away are complementary measures.

Noble Lords

Next Question!

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, I think perhaps the House feels that we should pass on to the next Question. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.