HL Deb 14 December 1993 vol 550 cc1264-6

2.47 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to prevent similar failures by London Underground to that which occurred on 25th November, and whether compensation will be paid to passengers who suffered hardship as a result of that failure.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, my honourable friend the Minister for Transport in London has asked London Transport for a full report on the power failure on the Central Line on 24th November. Until we have seen this it would not be appropriate for me to comment further. Customers affected by the problems on the Central Line can make claims under the terms of London Underground's Customer Charter; claims outside the terms of the charter are being considered by London Underground on their individual merits.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is not part of the problem that London Underground has recently been spending a larger proportion of its resources on extending the system and a rather smaller amount on maintaining the existing set-up in an efficient condition?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, London Underground is targeting existing services. Core investment over the next three years should be in the region of £1.75 billion. This includes the £750 million modernisation of the Central Line which is providing 85 brand new trains, new signalling and up-rated power supplies.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, should have asked this Question, which is very similar to the one that I asked last week. Does this not demonstrate that on all sides of the House we are extremely concerned about these developments? Can we be assured that the inquiry which the Government have asked London Underground to undertake will be completed as soon as possible, and that we shall be advised of urgent action taken to avoid a repetition of this unfortunate event?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that London Transport will deliver the full report on the power failure as soon as possible, and that we shall take action on it.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, do I understand the report will be published?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, London Transport will be reporting to the Government and to the Minister for Transport. In the light of what the report says, we shall decide what action should be taken. It is not appropriate to pre-empt the report before we have received it.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is it not absolutely necessary that the London Underground should both be extended and proper maintenance undertaken? Is it not a fact that there is in existence 80 year-old cabling; underground signals which are 40 years old; breakdowns; runaway trains; and that commuters are desperately inconvenienced? Does the Minister agree that compensation cannot begin to answer those problems? Does the Minister agree with his colleague, Mr. Steven Norris, who said that the system obviously needed more money than is being spent at present? In those circumstances, is it not absolutely wrong that the support from the Government for London Underground has been substantially cut?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the projected investment figure on the existing core services of £1.75 billion is more in real terms than for any three-year period during the 1970s and 1980s. The London Transport core business has been protected at a time of severe pressure on public spending.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, does the Minister agree with his colleague, Mr. Steven Norris, who said that what is being spent at the present time—we have listened to what the Minister has said—is inadequate having regard to the current emergency situation affecting London Underground?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the money being spent in investment on London Transport core business is not inadequate. There is always a case for more money to be spent. The point is that the core business investment has been protected in the light of the very severe public spending round.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is it not the fact that, despite all the criticism which we have heard this afternoon about London Transport, the general public in London are very grateful for the service, which is usually run most efficiently? Does my noble friend agree that during the emergency, which was totally unforeseen, London Underground coped very well at the time? Will he confirm that new money is going into the extension of the Jubilee Line, whereas an earlier question led the House to believe that that was money at the expense of the ordinary services?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I quite agree with my noble friend. The fact that the incident occurred was obviously very unfortunate. But the evacuation of 20,000 people from the Underground system was accomplished without serious incident. Public perceptions of the service provided are also improving, which is an important measure of its success.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, does the Minister agree that to have to evacuate 20,000 people is a serious incident or does he regard it as trivial? Has he or his noble friend ever travelled on the London Underground? If so, then their satisfaction must be unique.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, we regard the evacuation as extremely serious; but we also see that completing this exercise without serious incident was a great feat and very well undertaken.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

My Lords, can my noble friend tell us when the CrossRail link will be completed, which will take pressure off the Central London line?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I believe that that point is beyond the scope of this Question.