HL Deb 31 March 1993 vol 544 cc885-7

Baroness Jay of Paddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

What response they have given to the representations made to them by London Underground Ltd. about the inadequacy of investment permitted for the Underground system in 1993–94.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the Government have discussed at length with London Underground its investment plans for 1993–94. There are no plans to review the settlement.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that reply. Is he aware that the managers of London Underground estimate that their plans to update and modernise the underground system have been set back some 20 years by the cut backs in their investment programme? Is he aware that that is of particular concern to passengers like myself who have to continue to suffer the so-called miseries of the Northern Line and other lines, and that there is concern that the cut in investment may lead to a cut in safety standards, ranging from terrorism protection to safety for women passengers?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, it is understandable that London Underground should be disappointed by the settlement. This was a particularly difficult year. London Underground is not alone in having to scale down its aspirations. Violent crime on the Underground has fallen in each of the past five years. I know that London Underground is fully committed to building on that record.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that London Underground has a breakdown at least once a day and that those of us who travel habitually on the Underground suffer continually from delays caused by the defective state of the system?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, we acknowledge that much of London Underground's asset base is in need of renewal. That is an enormous task and the settlement should allow further progress to be made in carrying it out.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that despite the need for renewal, which no doubt is genuine, there is also a great need to run the machinery better and to make the best use of the existing capital of London Underground, which at present is very badly managed?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, in times of constrained resources it is more important than ever that those resources are used effectively. We need an underground system which is not only adequately funded but which is also well managed and responsive to customers. Our aim is a modern metro, but that will take time and considerable expense. That is why we have asked London Underground to prepare a strategic plan.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Central Line and the Circle Line were bad before the war, were bad during the war and have been bad since the war?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I can tell my noble friend that London Underground has a £750 million Central Line modernisation scheme well under way and on course for completion by 1995.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, further to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is the noble Viscount aware that the escalator at Pimlico station is once more out of order? I have raised the matter time and time again in this House. Is it not a disgrace that one has to walk down 89 steps every day to get to the train? If that is a matter of investment, ought it not to be put right immediately?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the number of escalators and lifts in peak time passenger service has constantly remained above the target set by the Government in May 1992. Even with many being overhauled or replaced, London Underground is committed in its customer charter to keeping passengers informed as to why particular escalators and lifts are out of service and what work is taking place.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, in view of the fact that the new line from Paddington to Heathrow will be very little quicker than the present Piccadilly Line route to Heathrow, would it not be better if some of the funds being invested in that white elephant line from Paddington were diverted to the Underground?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, further expansion plans are being made for the Underground system. There has been a great deal of investment in the London Underground. Substantial sums have been committed to that core business. It is important to note that they compare favourably with levels of investment in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, is the Minister aware that some Members of your Lordships' House have greatness thrust upon them at short notice? In that capacity, perhaps I may therefore ask him whether he is aware that London Underground is making no progress in its modernisation plans and is fighting hard to stand still. Is the noble Viscount aware that the settlement to which my noble friend Lady Jay referred is inadequate to ensure that in the next 10, 15 and 20 years London Underground will be capable of moving the millions of people who travel around London on the Underground each day of the year? Will the Minister and his government colleagues take a second look at the settlement and ensure that the modernisation of London Underground is properly and adequately funded?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the modernisation scheme is well under way. In the past three years investment in London Underground has averaged £450 million in the core business. This year it is at an all-time record. Next year we expect to invest about £500 million and a further £600 million in 1995–96.

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