HL Deb 27 February 1989 vol 504 cc849-51

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their plans for the improvement of the rail network in central London.

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

My Lords, the Central London Rail Study, published by the Secretary of State for Transport, identifies a major upgrading programme on London Underground and British Rail which will increase capacity and ease congestion on the present network. To provide a longer-term solution, the study also identifies alternative packages of new lines. A detailed examination of costs and possible routes is now under way and will be completed later this year.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he have any information about the progress made following the lengthy inquiry into the King's Cross disaster?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, progress is being made on implementing the many safety measures recommended in the report. London Underground has set aside £266 million to be spent over the next three years in doing so.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, with regard to the Underground, can the Minister give the House any information about the Circle Line? Is he aware that each of us knows the line we use and that I have used that line for many years? The Circle Line is a disgrace. Some time ago I asked, I believe, the present Minister whether I could have more information. If I did not do so, I apologise. May I have the information?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I cannot be specific about improvements to the Circle Line. However, if the noble Baroness cares to look at the Central London Rail Study, she will see that the proposed new lines will alleviate congestion on certain parts of that line. A large programme of investment is now being carried out on the whole Underground system. If the proposals contained in the study are carried out there will be further investment of £1.5 billion on both Network SouthEast and the Underground.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, is it not a fact that the project outlined in the Central London Rail Study, which many noble Lords consider necessary, will be extremely expensive? Has not the Secretary of State said that any such costs must be met by an increase in passenger fares? Will not the Government reconsider that position? Surely, it would drive more people on to the roads and add to congestion?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the new lines are needed because of steeply rising traffic levels which we expect will rise further. Therefore, the first source of finance is from those who will benefit from the schemes. In the main, those are passengers; but there are also the developers who stand to gain from increased land values. However, a government grant is available if needed to make projects viable and if justified by benefits such as relief of road congestion.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, before there is any question of increasing capacity, will London Underground ensure that at least 50 per cent. of escalators are working at any one time?

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

Is that up or down?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we are aware that escalators are a current problem. However, that is partly due to carrying out the safety recommendation contained in the King's Cross report that all wooden parts must be renewed—

Lord Bruce of Donington

That is rubbish.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

It is no good the noble Lord saying, "Rubbish". It is true; it is now being carried out.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, can the Minister indicate whether the first part of the recommendations contained in the Central London Rail Study will be carried out without delay while consultations take place on the second part?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I hope that both parts will be carried out as quickly as possible. The first part is the major upgrading programme costing £1.5 billion. I hope that it will be carried out speedily.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, can the Government bring pressure to bear on London Underground? In all the years I have travelled on it I have never known it to be as bad as it is today. A few weeks ago I drew attention to the escalators. If anything, the situation is now worse.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, a large programme of investment is now being carried out, part of it the renewal of escalators. These are not easy to repair or renew quickly because the system must remain open. I believe that the authorities are doing their best, although I agree that the situation is not entirely satisfactory.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, are there any plans to increase the number of staff on the platforms, particularly at night and during the tourist season?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is an interesting question. There are plans to increase the number of staff available to help passengers on the stations.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, is the Minister aware that still we must walk down 85 steps at Pimlico station, as we did some months ago when I raised the issue with him?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am not aware of the situation at individual stations. However, since the noble Lord raised the matter a few weeks ago I understand that a representative of London Underground has been in touch with him. I hope that the situation will be corrected as soon as possible.

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