§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis rose to call attention to the state of transport in London; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this debate will enable the House to examine what purports to be the Government's transport policy and their strategy for London, and to consider some real alternatives. It would be nice to think of the Government embracing a suitable transport policy. In a sense it would be like crossing the Rubicon. The trouble is that they would not have the infrastructure or the transport to do it.
§ There has been no sign of any coherent strategy by the Government over the past 15 years to deal with the essential reasons for congestion and the geriatric infrastructure of our public transport networks in London and indeed elsewhere. There is a hopelessly misconceived and perverse order of priorities and, through our loyalty to petrified opinions, a refusal to acknowledge the clear need to transfer more financial provision from road programmes in order to improve London's public transport. So the Government go on with their hard-boiled and half-baked ideas about widening the M.25, and many roads like it. That is an extremely costly policy involving billions of pounds and it is a wrong order of priorities.
§ We constantly hear from Ministers the assertion that the Department of Transport spends 40 per cent. of its budget on public transport even though that accounts for only 10 per cent. of the travel in the United Kingdom. I am sure the Minister will say that again tonight. I sometimes have the uncharitable idea that what Ministers say exhausts all communication with the truth and reality. I suspect that, like other departments, the Department of Transport keeps three sets of statistics: one to deceive the public; one to deceive Parliament; and one to deceive itself.1129
§ Where do the Government derive their statistics from? They come from the annual report. They exclude expenditure by the Scottish and Welsh departments on roads; they include spending in a number of areas which would be difficult to define as public transport. I refer, for example, to the Royal train, payments to the National Freight Corporation pension fund and provision for the coastguard services. All those are included in the 40 per cent. If we strip out those items and take into account spending in Scotland and Wales, then the percentage of government expenditure on transport in the public sector is not 40 per cent. It is 26 per cent.
§ We can take another interesting comparison. There are 14,037 people employed by the Department of Transport. But of that number only 244—less than 2 per cent.—are actually employed in the public transport division. I obtained that information from the Department of Transport's annual report also. Does not that reflect the true order of priorities?
§ Rail transport in London is crucial to its economy, strength and viability. Over many years, not least the past 15—perhaps it has something to do with the former Prime Minister's hostility to public transport—we have seen chronic under-investment in London Underground, in Network SouthEast and in the bus system, coupled with a substantial increase in usage, particularly in the mid- 1980s. By any token the result is an unfavourable comparison between London's rail systems and those in other cities which compete with London, particularly on the continent. There is gross overcrowding, huge inconvenience and an unacceptable crime rate not unrelated to the de-staffing policies which have followed ineluctably from the uncertainty and changing government investment and other policies.
§ The importance of the rail systems is demonstrated by one simple fact: that 80 per cent. of peak hour travel to central London is provided, 34 per cent. by British Rail and 46 per cent. by London Underground. London Underground calculates that it will need investment of between £500 million and £600 million a year simply to maintain the existing system in its already unsatisfactory state. The average provision falls substantially short of that notwithstanding the fact that in a debate as recently as 21st April, Mr. Norris, the Minister for Transport in London, confirmed a statement he had made previously that it was perfectly obvious to a blind man that more money needs to be spent than is provided at the moment. He can say that again. The problem is that if we go on neglecting the infrastructure on the present scale, it will inevitably lead to a further spiral of deterioration which, in the long term, will cost infinitely more to put right.
§ The daily experience of passengers does not mirror what is revealed as a pretty complacent attitude on the part of the Government. Passengers are faced daily with disruption. In 1993 nearly 1,500 stations closed for more than 20 minutes and 100 stations for more than one month. On average in that year just under 10 per cent. of London Underground's escalators were out of action. Thirty per cent. of track is in an unacceptable state and speed reductions are constantly imposed in order to maintain reasonable safety standards. 1130 Embankment slips have doubled over the past five years; the incidence of broken rails has increased by 85 per cent.; and signalling is on average 30 years old arid registers a substantially higher failure rate than in virtually any other major city in Europe. Power failures, like the one on the Central Line in November 1993, which shut down the eastern section on that line for more than a week, are at least contributed to by the age of cabling. Those are serious matters. By failing to tackle them and the root problem of the need to change the whole pattern of transport investment policy, the Government are storing up a huge problem for the future.
§ In 1991 the Government conceded in the Autumn Statement that the requisite investment in the existing network was £700 million. They broke that promise pretty swiftly. There is nothing unusual about that. After all, this Government do not exactly observe a sterile attachment to consistency. In 1993, in their Annual Statement, the Government indicated that £541 million would be available for the "London Transport Core" in 1996–97. That was substantially less than the Government themselves thought was the basic minimum. Will even that amount be forthcoming ? Perhaps the Minister can tell us.
§ London Transport's complaint is that the figures fluctuate so widely from year to year that it is virtually impossible to engage in any rational planning of the system. It is widely recognised by transport experts that what London needs is a new metro, what is called "A Decently Modern Metro". I do not know who devised that term—it could have stood some improvement—abut nonetheless that is what it is called. 'To achieve that, consistent investment over a decade will be required. I believe that it would be cheaper to undertake that expenditure over the longer term. It would prove an asset to London and to its international competitiveness.
§ Perhaps it was because the chairman-to-be of London Transport, Dr. Alan Watkins, had the effrontery to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he was wrong in his attitude towards London Transport that the Government decided to take the rather disagreeable step of making sure that he would not become the chairman of London Transport. That was a discreditable episode in the Government's relations with London Transport, particularly as the man spoke out as he thought it was necessary to speak out and, of course, he had the support of the board members. It is a pity that the Government felt it necessary to dispense with a man of that quality and ability.
§ This year London Buses will purchase no new buses at all. Instead, in pursuit of the Government's fixation in preparing the bus operating companies for sale, which will not provide any new money to improve the operation of the buses, London Buses must depend on refurbishing old buses. That is not a sensible policy for the future. It is not good for passengers and it is not good for British manufacturers of buses. The only beneficiaries are likely to be the maintenance crews who will have increased work.
§ Crime and fear of crime remain at an unacceptably high level on London Underground and the railways. De-staffing has contributed to that, especially during the 1131 evenings and at weekends. Inadequate lighting and communications systems in areas awaiting modernisation undermine the confidence of travellers and potential travellers, especially women. I have never perceived that the Government have taken that criticism seriously. I should like to hear something more from the Minister about that. The Government posture a great deal about their anti-crime measures but it is usually posturing before a Conservative Party conference. When they actually come to deal with the practical measures, they are found to be wanting.
§ Fares are the highest in Europe and fare increases are substantially in excess of inflation. That, of course, is the essential prerequisite for privatisation. The travelcard, which has been a real London Transport success story, has not emerged unscathed, as Ministers had promised. It was Mr. Norris who on 3rd December 1993 asserted that the travelcard would continue in form and in substance in terms of price and in real terms. What happened was that a month later the cost of the travelcard was increased by more than 6 per cent., far more than the rate of inflation, and, indeed, on the lower bands, by more than 9 per cent. Northern Line passengers, through redesignation of the zones —a bit of sleight of hand—faced a rise of £168 a year. Those are stunning examples of breaches of faith by the Government which occurred virtually as soon as they had made their promises.
§ We take the view that there is something fundamentally wrong with the system operating in London for determining the strategy for London Transport. There is a view that the whole system needs to be changed. It is diffuse and inefficient at the present time. There are three railway systems, each with different operators and different Ministers. Twenty-four bodies are involved, together with all the London boroughs. New ways must be devised for raising resources for investment in London transport. It is time for the Treasury to contemplate abandoning its pretty inconsistent approach to the hypothecation of revenue. After all, the national non-domestic rate is a national tax hypothecated for local government. There is the Metropolitan Police precept, which is a form of hypothecation. I am sure that the Department of Transport, if it could admit it, would like that kind of thing to happen. The Treasury must reconsider its position, as indeed it did over the leasing of trains for British Rail. The idea of a bond system as is applied in the United States is worthy of consideration.
§ I turn to British Rail. What we have had here is doctrine applied, emanating from some of the craziest ideas of Right-wing think tanks, which has led the Government towards the fragmentation of the railways system at a time when the system required stability and coherence. Already rail privatisation has cost £664 million—£303 million on redundancies and early retirement; £146 million on the reorganisation of British Rail; £48 million on lawyers and consultants; and £52 million to set up the new track authority, Railtrack, and the Office of Passenger Franchising.
§ The costs of running the network have been rising as a result of the new charging system which has been 1132 brought in by Railtrack, much having to be picked up by the Government because they indicated that fares should not be allowed to rise too sharply in the wake of privatisation. InterCity, the most profitable of British Rail's old divisions, has indicated that the cost of running the east coast main line between London and Edinburgh had doubled to £170 million. The Government are perfectly happy to open up their cheque book for privatisation, which is hardly popular with the electorate, while the system is starved of essential investment. None of this expenditure has provided new rail tracks, new signals, new rolling stock or added security for passengers. What BR needs, as it said in evidence to the Select Committee on Transport of another place in May 1993, is £400 million a year, excluding CrossRail and the Channel Tunnel rail link, to maintain the present rail network in the South East in reasonable condition so as to meet the targets of the Passenger's Charter on a reasonable basis.
§ There is an alternative to the Government's ad hoc-ery, to their failure to observe the complete inconsistency of their policies, to their refusal to understand that the health and environment problems of the city are exacerbated by their wholly discredited policies, involving more and more road building which they believe will solve London's traffic and transport problems. They are wrong about that. They are also wrong in blindly refusing to examine what is likely to be Britain's and London's transport needs in the 21st century. Is the future simply to be an ever-increasing volume of cars on roads that can never deal with the ensuing congestion; or do we seek ways and means of discouraging unnecessary car use?
§ In answering that question public transport has to be the practical, efficient and safe alternative. That includes also better use of the River Thames; CrossRail, over which the Government haver and waver; and indeed undertaking the other changes to which I have alluded. London needs a programme of public and private investment in public transport. It needs a fares policy to encourage the use of public transport of high quality. It needs provision to enable London Underground to maintain the existing infrastructure and modernise the existing lines. Stations must have good access by lifts and escalators and adequate staff to provide passenger security and information. The East London line urgently requires improvement and early completion of the Docklands Light Railway extension to Lewisham should be assured.
§ What are the Government proposing to do about undertaking studies of the potential of light rail, tram and park-and-ride schemes to help reduce congestion? What plans have they for the purchase of new buses to replace London's ageing fleet and thereby reduce—or help to reduce—exhaust emissions and noise on the streets of London? What are they doing about providing a cycle network for the city, and will they abandon their disgraceful plans to meddle with the control of heavy lorries in London? Will they provide London boroughs with regulatory powers over off-street parking, moving traffic offences on bus lanes and bus priority schemes, and also powers to control vehicle emissions?1133
Let us not hear from the Government how much better they are doing than the Liberal Government of 1909. Let Ministers recall what the Prime Minister himself had to say in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in the summer of 1993. He said:
We have been here for 14 years. There is no one else one can blame for anything that has gone wrong".
§ My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for giving us this opportunity to debate transport in London. I say at the outset that I have a lot of sympathy with some of the things that he said, particularly in regard to the needs of both the railways and the Underground, to get the funds to stand still. I am also grateful for his brief mention of the river, to which I believe we have paid far too little attention in the context of transport. In addition, I thank the noble Lord for raising a subject which I also mentioned 10 years ago in this House; namely, the concept of the tax exempt bond, which I feel is particularly important in terms of attracting funding for what one might call the "big ticket" items. Towards the end of his speech the noble Lord mentioned the East London project and CrossRail. I believe that perhaps the tax exempt bond should be looked at again as a means of attracting private finance—particularly from the widows and orphans, because there is a tax exempt dimension—into our transport infrastructure.
I must begin by declaring, as usual, two interests; one in the railways and one in tourism. But I have a third interest—that of never having had a driver's licence. That may make me almost unique among today's speakers. It makes me particularly dependent on a public transport system which is efficient, reliable and which offers value for money. While transport in London is not perfect, I believe that British Rail, London Transport, taxis and other service providers meet my needs and meet them relatively well. Nonetheless, we are right today to look at where they are, so to speak, and where we should like them to be.
I turn first to the buses, which is one of our underused resources in that the load factors are low and there is a great deal of unused capacity on offer. It is perishable capacity because once a bus seat has gone from Piccadilly to Hounslow, it is dead and it can never be retrieved. It has been empty. I wonder whether marketing and a fares policy can improve that usage? I believe that there are still opportunities, especially in terms of the strip card or carnet which are widely available on the Continent. It is a system whereby one prepays for a number of units of travel and these units are cancelled by oneself or by the bus crew as one uses them. I believe that London Buses is just beginning to pilot project the smart card. That is another option. I believe that such ticketing systems contribute to customer loyalty and user friendliness. That does not take place on the bus itself. It is the time-consuming cash transaction which is one of the great negatives of getting on a bus.
My second proposal for increasing bus usage is that of integration with other modes in terms of connecting 1134 points and of scheduling. I was most impressed on a recent visit to Stockholm to travel to the end of a suburban line run by Swedish Rail on behalf of Stockholm County PTA. Five minutes after the train arrived some 10 buses departed the interchange in various directions. Co-ordinated timetables, guaranteed connections and through ticketing by means of travel card, carnet, or a single journey ticket made for a seamless operation of great appeal to the customer. If we brought such systems to London, or developed them here, they would not impose a correspondingly large outlay of funds.
The third way to improve bus usage is, of course, by means of congestion-reducing measures, red routes and bus lanes. For obvious reasons I am not qualified to comment very much on roads (I have already made that clear) or on roads policy, but I believe that there is much to be done—and again it is low cost—in terms of extending these concepts and, just as importantly, in terms of enforcing them.
I am glad that London is not to have totally free-for-all bus deregulation. One has seen the problems which that has posed in provincial cities. But as we proceed to overhaul the system I hope that we will not overlook the importance of the big red bus in terms of a brand—a marketing symbol which, like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, St. Paul's and, indeed, the Palace of Westminster is the envy of every other city in the world in tourism terms. May I make a plea that it be a condition of being allowed to operate buses in Central London that they be red buses? It has been done in Stockholm and in Copenhagen. It is not impossible.
I turn now to rail-borne transport, starting with the Underground. Of course I would like to see more investment, in particular that investment which the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mentioned, in order to give us a decent, modern Metro. I believe that the phrase was coined by the chairman of London Transport. But as long as funds are limited (and I fear that they always will be) and the demands on them will be many and varied, I wonder whether "big ticket" items like Chelsea-Hackney, the Jubilee Line extension, total route refurbishment and new fleets of rolling stock, should be the priority over making the most of what we have got and giving London Transport the funds to make the most of what we have got.
My own feeling is that London Underground has improved immeasurably in recent years. I know that that is not a totally shared view, but it is my feeling and, as I say, being a public transport dependant. I probably see it more than most. There should be a greater balance between small scale improvement and the big-spend highlights. Escalators and lifts are still a problem. Power supply problems are such as to hit the headlines while signal failures and track failures are so commonplace as not to do so. The situation is similar for rolling stock failures although I am greatly impressed by both the look and the performance of the refurbished stock which is appearing on more and more routes.
However, I wonder whether we are being bedazzled by route expansion at the expense of that day-to-day maintenance, humdrum though it is, which customers and repeat business rely on and which also serves to 1135 reduce congestion on the roads. It is too early to comment on the consequences of the Railways Act, although I have. Noble Lords know my reservations as regards fragmentation, which is a word which the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, also used. But if one looks to the future one must consider investment. CrossRail —especially if it connects easily with Heathrow Express —is attractive, but I wonder how necessary it would be if we got the Underground right, especially the Central and Circle lines. It is additionally difficult to discuss CrossRail, especially today, because one is in a state of limbo not knowing whether the CrossRail Bill will be allowed to proceed by the Committee in another place. I gather that a decision may be announced this afternoon.
On balance I am in favour, but again I feel that by being in favour we must balance the "big ticket" items with the less expensive day-to-day minor activities on signalling, lighting, platforms and so on. To make the most of existing assets must not be overlooked. I particularly welcome—partly because it is of benefit to me—such new journey opportunities as the Clapham-Olympia-Willesden service starting later this month and the increased frequencies, such as those on the Northern Line and between the City and Gatwick. Those are the instances of maximising the use of resources which I so favour.
If we were to have an expensive item, I would take a long and sympathetic look at Thameslink, the existing north-south BR route through central London, linking Gatwick and Luton airports, interchanging with the Underground at seven points and relieving the Northern Line. It is a north-south CrossRail on the cheap. However, there are constraints on Thameslink, especially in the London Bridge area and especially in rush hours. One must remember that the London Bridge area handles more passengers per day than London Heathrow. I would welcome a capital programme building on the existing infrastructure by adding two extra lines in the London Bridge area, by making sure that the eventual union rail development at St. Pancras also includes the planned, enhanced and resited Thameslink station which was part of the late lamented King's Cross Railways Bill, and with a new link north of an eventual St. Pancras with the east coast main line to open up a whole range of journey opportunities, both in the middle distance (such as to Cambridge and Peterborough) and to the east coast main line.
I believe that that investment, dear though it would be, can be done in stages, each of which would individually produce substantial benefits. I also believe that it would be attractive to what one might call "corporate private capital" as opposed to the tax exempt bond. I have already given my attitude to that. I also believe that in seeking to attract private capital, we should ensure that that private capital does not directly bear commercial risk. After all, aircraft manufacturers and shipyards supply the tools, they do not run the services.
Tourists, of course, pull all this together. Of our 9 million overseas visitors per annum, 90 per cent. use the underground; 53 per cent. use the buses and some 20 per 1136 cent., I understand, use British Rail. More than half of all those foreign users believe that public transport in London offers good value for money. To a certain extent, that contradicts what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said about us having the highest fares in the world. I do not share that view on the basis of my recent experiences in Stockholm and Oslo, role models though they may be in other respects.
The other benefit that tourists bring is that few services are provided specifically for them. Being on holiday they tend not to put undue pressure on the rush hour and generate a considerable amount of income which one might say is unlooked for. Like Londoners, they look for reliability, user-friendliness and value for money. They also look for travelcards. It is essential that travelcards offer value for money because that is where we have a shortcoming compared with many continental operators. Tourists also look for information which is readily available, reliable and understandable.
Like Londoners, tourists would suffer if the systems available were fragmented. Hence, as we continue to change things I hope that my right honourable and honourable friends in the department, as well as others such as the franchise director, the regulator and the service providers, will continue to work towards the preservation of the travelcard and of a first-class information system. I should like to pay a tribute, en passant, to the anonymous people who serve us so well on the telephone line 222 1234. It is essential that we have a reliable information system, if necessary backed by statute, because it is essential that we avoid the problems that have been experienced by so many of the provincial passenger transport authorities. They have a statutory duty to provide inquiry services but cannot always get the information from the operators, which hop in and out of existence.
Tourists wonder why we do not make more use of one of our most under-utilised assets—the one which runs not very far behind me and which the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, mentioned. I refer to the river. I very much hope that when he replies to the debate, my noble friend will be able to up-date us on the progress of the river working party.
My approach to today's debate has been one of looking at ways to make the best of the assets that we already have. Of course, investment—massive investment—has a role to play, but we must be careful that the list of big ticket projects does not blind us to day-to-day necessity.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for initiating a debate on this very important issue. I hope that we shall not dwell too much on either the past or the present in this debate, other than drawing lessons from both, as I feel sure that I am not alone among your Lordships in feeling that sometimes we spend far too much time raking over the past in a spirit of criticism with the aim of making political capital out of the obvious, and acknowledged, sins of omission and commission. Transport in London is far too important an issue to be hijacked by, or dealt with by, one political party or 1137 another. I hope that, as so frequently happens in the House, we can arrive at sensible suggestions which could be considered by the Executive when formulating policies in the future.
That there is a problem is obvious. Not only that—there is not just one problem, but many. I realise that trying to come to grips with such a number and variety of problems will be difficult and necessitates an impartial analysis of the roots of these problems before any sensible suggestions can be made as to how to overcome them.
I should like to give just a brief analysis of the problems as seen from two perspectives—that of the commuter and that of the employer. The commuter above all wants a safe, reliable, clean, efficient service which he or she perceives as good value for money. The employers require exactly the same as the commuter, but with the added assurance that a solution will be found to the current unacceptable level of difficulty which employers find in encouraging staff to take up jobs in central London. A recent survey of over 500 businesses showed that transport infrastructure is the third most important factor (after access to markets and the quality of telecommunications) in making location decisions. If the current situation over transport in London deteriorates further, I fear that long-term location decisions by large-scale enterprises will militate against London. I am aware that that would not be perceived as a problem by many of your Lordships, who feel that there is far too much in London anyway, but let us not forget that London is the most important financial centre in the world and from an international perspective is also regarded as one of the most important business and commercial centres of the world.
In the course of this speech I intend dealing only with public transport in London—for two reasons: first, over 90 per cent. of commuters use public transport, and, secondly, as a result of the large number of people involved, all interest in transport and practically all discussion about transport concentrate on transport by rail (mainline and underground) and bus. We all recognise that transport by car presents its own problems, from the point of view of the commuter, because of the continual decline in traffic speed and from the point of view of the congestion that is caused by transporting very few people in very many cars, taking up a great deal of road space at all times of the day. There are at least two ways of tackling that problem: either make public transport so efficient and attractive that the car user decides to leave his or her car at home or price the motorist out of London. Naturally, I would opt for the former, but I suggest that that is a topic for another debate.
Safety, reliability, cleanliness, efficiency of the service and value for money are all, as I said before, demanded by the commuter. The safety record in terms of accidents resulting in fatal or serious injury is, I am told, exceptionally good both for buses and trains. However, there is genuine concern among female passengers that there is a serious safety problem; the risk of harassment, and worse, is ever-present. Not every female has the presence of mind or coolness in a crisis to deal with these situations and something 1138 definitely needs to be done. I hope that future policy decisions will take serious account of this issue. We must protect all our people—at every hour of the day and/or night.
Despite what one reads in large headlines in the newspapers, the reliability of the Underground is definitely seen to be improving. There will probably not be too many compliments hurled in the direction of London Transport today, but many people have told me that it is definitely trying very hard to treat passengers as customers and as intelligent human beings. A Friend said only this morning, "They have improved so much; whenever there is a delay you are told the reason why and if they don't know the reason why, you are told that the information will be given to you as soon as possible". Please let us not knock London Transport too much. Constant complaining has a brutal demoralising effect on staff and management and is most dispiriting when they are trying to do their utmost.
Cleanliness is another matter. But who dirties the trains? It is not the staff. I fear that we have become a nation of litter louts. I am often appalled at the state of the inside of people's cars, particularly company cars —"The fault, dear Brutus'', and so on.
Sadly, public transport in London is not perceived as value for money. I use the word "perceived" as I know that the true cost of motoring—the cost of the alternative (with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, who is not in his place, who believes that cycling is the alternative)—is not admitted, or even calculated roughly. I have done some back-of-the-envelope calculations as to the true cost per mile of driving my car in London, taking into account items such as depreciation, petrol, maintenance, insurance, tax, parking fees and, indeed, parking fines, and the result is horrific. A train or bus ticket is probably one-tenth the price.
So the result of my analysis: we want and need a safe, reliable, clean and efficient public transport system in London. We are well on the way to having a good system, but it could and should be much better.
London is a world class city and needs a world class transportation system to match. The Victorians had the right idea: plan for a long time ahead, and thank Heavens that they did; otherwise where would we be now? Sadly, it appears to me that current thinking concerning the transportation system is very short-term and greatly influenced by the Treasury. Short-term troughs in the economy should not, and must not, be used as a "snapshot" upon which to base decisions on the need for investment in transport infrastructure, particularly in projects which by their very nature require a long gestation period.
All that has been brought home to me during the ongoing discussions on CrossRail. Let me here declare a tenuous interest. The Corporation of London, my employer, has been among the strongest supporters of CrossRail since the inception of the scheme. There are regional implications for the scheme. It is not only a London area scheme. The frustration of travellers through London, arriving at one mainline station and 1139 travelling through London to another mainline station, is well-known. It seems ludicrous that in the last decade of the 20th century that situation persists.
But that is only one problem that would be solved by CrossRail. Employment studies for London carried out by Coopers and Lybrand, KPMG Peat Marwick and Cambridge Econometrics show that employment in central London is linked directly to the concentration of skilled professional services in the area, and 90 per cent. of those jobs are carried out by commuters. Major recovery following the recession (one study suggests that employment in those sectors will increase from its current level of 3.4 million to 3.7 million by 2010 and to 4.6 million by 2025) will put enormous strains on an already strained system. That makes it imperative that additional public transport facilities are provided.
Those professional and skilled employees demand high standards of comfort. But, sadly, it appears that the current planning for CrossRail actually embraces lower comfort standards; the new 21st century carriages for CrossRail are planned on the basis of 80 standing passengers for every 100 seated! That compares with the current British Rail standard of 35 standing for every 100 seated. That will never be acceptable. Even more importantly, it is patent nonsense to be planning for a significant reduction in standards. What other business would ever do that?
I appeal to the powers that be to be as imaginative and far-sighted in their future planning for rail transport in London as were the Victorians. We truly cannot afford short-termism here. Much better to postpone the introduction of CrossRail than to do it on the cheap. Our recent experience, where the Channel Tunnel will not be as effective as it could be because of botched planning of the feeder route demands, must surely have taught us something.
An extension of Thameslink shows the best cost-benefit analysis of all rail schemes currently under examination as it would cost a relatively small amount of £400 million (compared with the estimate of £2 billion for CrossRail and the large investment of £1.7 billion to £2.1 billion in the Jubilee Line, which shows the worst cost-benefit). But all of the schemes, I am reliably informed, indicate that it is cheaper to encourage rail access to the centre rather than road-based schemes, without even taking into account the environmental superiority of such transport: fewer homes affected, fewer pollutants, less noise and better use of finite fossil fuels.
But hand in hand with further developments in rail transport, it is imperative that we improve, and make much better use of, the bus network potential. It is heartening to know that the London Bus Priority Network is being progressed actively by the London boroughs in conjunction with London Transport and is being funded by the Department of Transport. The network of 600 kilometres will complement the existing Red Routes network, which amounts to 12 kilometres only, and should be substantially in place within 6 to 10 years. I have to say that, having read quite a bit about deregulation of buses in Sheffield and Nottingham, which does not seem to have worked, I am delighted that 1140 the Government are not going to deregulate buses in London but are going to encourage greater efficiency by contracting out.
It is also a personal delight to know that the buses will still have the red livery (British Telecom, please bring back all the red telephone boxes and Post Office please do not remove our red post boxes !)
To summarise, transport in London is not up to the standard one expects of an international world class capital, but it is improving and is nothing like as bad as it has been. There are many aspects of rail transport that should be praised, not least the efforts being made to treat passengers as customers. Our safety record is enviable. But there is a serious danger that unless long-term visionary investment is made soon, London will lose its edge as a leading world capital. We cannot afford to be cheeseparing when looking at levels of standards for the 21st century. Great support should be given to the London Bus Priority Network. Finally, although I say it against myself, car travel in London should be restricted. Again, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for giving us an opportunity to air our hopes, fears and views on this most important subject.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Lord Jay
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for raising this still pressing issue. Londoners were relieved to hear a month ago that the Government had stopped blocking the purchase by London Underground of new trains for the Northern Line. I am glad to congratulate the Government on that rare burst of common sense. One would like to know whether there has been any further progress in the matter of the Northern Line. I understand that the manufacturing companies are to be asked to submit their proposals. After that a contract will presumably be signed. But what the public and the manufacturers will want to know is when the work of manufacturing those trains will begin and when they will go into service. It would be a further source of gratitude to the Government if they would answer that question.
Despite that welcome concession by the Government, investment in London Underground Limited is still desperately short. The company has long estimated that annual capital expenditure of £900 million is required to produce what the chairman has rightly called a "decent modern metro". Compared with that £900 million, the Government's allotment to London Transport this year will be only £475 million. Meanwhile, while the Government are making those still crippling cuts in railway infrastructure, one is astonished to find that they are apparently spending huge sums of public money on the mere mechanism of privatising the railways and not on improving the services.
According to detailed reports in the financial press —if these figures are wrong I hope that the Minister will be able to give me the correct ones—in 1992, some £303 million of public money was spent on staff redundancies and early retirement; a further £146 million was spent on "restructuring", whatever that means; £100 million on "integrating the new system", which is privatisation; £20 million on establishing the new quango, Opraf; £20 1141 million on another quango called Ofrail; and, most astonishing of all, £48 million on fees to legal, financial, public relations and other advisers. Will the Minister tell the House whether those figures are correct—they are all an expenditure of public money—and just what they mean? If they are correct, hundreds of millions of pounds are being spent on paying people to stop working—that is, on forcible redundancies and early retirement—and to do nothing instead; on setting up absurd quangos which were never before necessary; and on handouts to public relations and other City friends of the Government rather than on improving services for the commuters.
Altogether, the privatisation of British Rail—that is, the bureaucratic juggling rather than the creation of real assets—is costing the taxpayer £649 million. If that figure is wrong, will the Minister give us the correct sum? But when it comes to the sums involved in privatisation, the Government's extravagance throws a different light on their refusal to assign to London Underground the funds that it needs for new trains, better signalling and so forth. These are what the London public want and they will not forgive a government who refuse the finance on the ground of a lack of resources but who meanwhile are handing over tens of millions of pounds for advice from organisations outside the railways.
Perhaps I may deal with the sum of £300-odd million for staff redundancies and early retirement. Everyone knows that London Underground and London suburban railways are acutely undermanned. Indeed, the undermanning and under-investment are mainly responsible for the deplorable conditions which followed the government takeover of London Underground in 1985 and 1986. I agree that as a result of great public protest there has been in the past year or two some improvement, but there has not been a return to the former conditions.
I shall give an example of undermanning. At Westminster Underground Station yesterday afternoon only one booking office was open and 30 or 40 people were queueing wearily to buy tickets. That kind of muddle causes extreme inconvenience and loses the enterprise revenue rather than helping its finances. In many London and suburban stations one cannot buy a ticket however much one wants to because there is no one there to sell tickets. Yet the Government are still spending millions of pounds not on paying people to do useful jobs but, in effect, on paying them to do nothing.
I turn now to the £48 million spent on fees to legal, financial and other advisers. I suppose that it may be wise to pay Messrs Rothschild, Saatchi & Saatchi or Ernst & Young, about whom we heard earlier today, £40,000 to tell the Government how to run a railway. But how can it be right to hand out a sum of £48 million for such advice? One would like to know whether that figure is correct and who received all that money. Will the Minister tell the House and say what kind of advice the Government have received in return?
Virtually no one outside the Government believes that rail privatisation will improve anything, least of all in London. But if the mere changeover is to cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds in extravagant 1142 handouts to private interests, most people will regard it as an outrage. It certainly makes a mockery of the Government's excuse that they cannot afford to provide decent conditions on London Underground for the millions of commuters who need them most.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, when I saw that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, had tabled this Motion I expected and hoped for a dynamic reappraisal of the Labour Party's policies for dealing with the difficulties of transport in London. Sadly, the noble Lord spent most of his time today cataloguing in some detail the entire downside of the Government's transport policies, whether in London or elsewhere in the country.
In his concluding remarks he said that there are alternatives. He said that we must have a better public transport system, a better fares policy, a better policy and more support for the Underground, and an improvement of park-and-ride systems. The noble Lord did not say how those aims were to be achieved, by whom and at what cost. The only part of his speech with which I found myself in total and absolute agreement was his belief that there must be a longer-term thinking and commitment to transport infrastructure.
That remark cannot be addressed only to the present Government—I have heard it said in your Lordships' House and elsewhere for the past 30 years. And still we do not regard transport infrastructure as part of the country's investment in the future. Successive governments have produced various and different plans, but financial restrictions have meant a cancellation or postponement. That is an indictment on governments of all persuasions.
My noble friend Lord Mountevans discussed some of the ways what we already have can be improved. I thought that was a useful approach because we do not have billions of pounds to spend. Claims on public expenditure are enormous and competitive, whether in health, education or anything else. Transport infrastructure must take its share and, sadly, I do not believe that is a big enough share. The ratio in road transport of road taxation revenue is 2.7:1 of spend on road infrastructure. When we talk about hypothecation, as did the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, we know that in truth that will never happen. Governments of all persuasions like to put the revenues in one pot and to dispose of them as they see fit from time to time. Therefore, such a situation is wishful thinking.
Perhaps I may look for a few moments at some of the successes in recent years. We know that rail provides the core of London's transport needs. Three-quarters of peak period arrivals in central London are by rail. There are over 3 million passenger trips daily made by train or Underground. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said, London commuting has declined by 20 per cent. since 1989.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that clear. My understanding is that there is a decline. And yet to the 1143 year ending in March of this year the railway system has not paid any compensation money in terms of failing to meet its charter. There may be difficulties and uncomfortable journeys, but that is a significant piece of progress. I have no doubt that will improve as we go along.
My noble friend Lord Mountevans and others have mentioned CrossRail and, in particular, Thameslink. In my view, and certainly in the view of the railway undertakings, those projects have a real chance of success and we should compliment them on that.
Some noble Lords have discussed signalling and track failures. And yet Railtrack's brief, which noble Lords will have seen, describes its current developments: £100 million has been invested in resignalling for London, Tilbury and Southend; the South East resignalling scheme and so on. One cannot look at London transport in isolation from other parts of the country: the Great Eastern line is going ahead. Significant progress is being made in those areas. I think it would be unfair to deny that is taking place.
As your Lordships may have expected, I turn to roads. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, said that she had some reservations about the use of cars coming into London because they bring few people and cause congestion and pollution. She suggested that there were two ways to deal with that: first, to provide better public transport—and one can agree with that—or to price motor cars out of London. That will never happen. Any significant increase in motor vehicle taxation has not produced any lessening of motor vehicle use over the long term. The car pricing schemes in Oslo, Bergen, the Netherlands and Hong Kong have all been abandoned as being ineffective. There is only one scheme which is half working; and that is the supplementary licensing system in Singapore.
It is no good pushing away the inevitable. As my noble friend Lord Mountevans said, we must make the best use of the motor vehicle for those who need it, or think they do, and accommodate that. The Minister in another place, Mr. Norris, has said time and time again that we need to provide better parking facilities in those areas where they are needed—not on the streets, for sure. One might then be able to use the short-term park and ride, or, indeed, Shanks' pony, from those parking areas. For example, it is no good having a fairly miserable car park under Hyde Park for people who wish to come to Westminster. We really should encourage boroughs to use the revenue that is received from car parking to provide such facilities which direct the motorist.
On the wider front, on 30th March my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced the outcome of the review programme. Sadly, but inevitably, the whole of the programme which was contained in the consultative document Roads for Prosperity has had to be abandoned. A kind of priority system has now been re-enacted and re-evolved. My right honourable friend has re-prioritised the road building programme into four categories. There are only two which really matter: first, the active category which comprises some 80 schemes—22 per cent. of the 1144 programme or 25 per cent. by value—and the active/firm programme, to be completed within the 10-year planning period, which comprises some 173 schemes. Therefore some 120 schemes have now been set aside.
The road programme must continue with both upgrading and extension if our manufacturing industries, trade and commerce are to succeed. Whether one puts 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. more traffic on to rail, it will not make a great deal of difference to the use of commercial vehicles. We should understand that and make use of what we have. That includes improving road infrastructure outside London, so to direct heavy traffic out of London. I agree with those who stand in Parliament Square and wonder why some of the cross-Channel TIR traffic trundles over Westminster Bridge, through Parliament Square and down through the park. That is probably the shortest and easiest distance, which has to be discouraged.
Lastly, I must declare an interest in that I am, as some of your Lordships will recall, a member of the Public Policy Committee of the RAC. I understand that the Standing Joint Committee of the RAC, the AA and the Royal Scottish Automobile Club wrote recently to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking what the general policy was to be on excise duty on fuel. It has been declared that is to increase by 5 per cent. per annum, but we do not know for how many years it will be increased per annum. I have a copy of that letter. HM Treasury's Ministerial Correspondence Unit replied:Thank you for your letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer … about Excise Duty on Petrol.After consideration, it appears that the matters raised are the responsibility of the Department of Transport, so I have sent your letter to John MacGregor's Office with a request that a reply be sent to you direct".I do not know how my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport can undertake his tasks if there is no policy in the Treasury as to excise duty on transport—whether it is a matter of road fund licences, road pricing or raising money from transportation.
I should like to urge my noble friend the Minister on the Front Bench today to respond to the letter. However, he cannot do so. Nevertheless, I urge him to draw the attention of his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the fact that as regards transport infrastructure—that is, rail, road and in manufacturing industry—users need to know what is the long-term policy of the Treasury towards the transport problem in the United Kingdom, and especially in London. Without that knowledge we shall not be able to solve any of the problems.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Haskel
My Lords, the title of today's debate is not "Buses in London", "The Underground in London", or "Air Transport in London": quite rightly, my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis chose to refer to "transport in London" which rightly reflects what Londoners want; namely, an integrated system. I, too, live and work in London and use public transport daily, so I can speak with the authority of personal experience.
It is obvious why Londoners want an integrated system. It is so they can get to and from work 1145 conveniently and so that they can make shopping and social journeys easily. That will make their city a more pleasant place in which to live and work by virtue of getting rid of congestion and pollution.
We have been here before. London Transport came about in 1933 when a Conservative Government reluctantly took over Herbert Morrison's Bill to provide a unified public service from the chaos of the competing trams, tubes and buses. As Herbert Morrison said, the purpose of the Bill was,to eliminate the present wasteful competition and bring about a co-ordinated system of public transport".To get an integrated system, we need a strategy and regulation. For many years London had both. Then the Government abandoned them, but last year they changed their mind and decided that London Transport should keep responsibility for fares, routes, timetables and for looking after passengers on the buses. That was announced in November 1993 and greeted with much surprise because in March 1993 the Department of Transport issued a consultation paper about bus services outside London and reported that deregulation of buses had been a success.
The paper spoke of the reduced costs of operation and reduced subsidy. It mentioned an increase in innovation, particularly the use of small vehicles, and an increase in bus mileage. However, what the paper did not mention was the decline in the number of passengers, which is surely the acid test of the success of any bus service. It also failed to report the low levels of profitability and the lack of investment either in buses or in passenger facilities.
I am indebted to Bill Bradshaw, Senior Research Fellow at Wolfson College Oxford, for that analysis. The main reasons that he gives for the decline in patronage is frequent changes of registration and the resulting unreliability. The consultation paper makes much of the needs of the operators, but hardly refers to the passengers' needs. It sounds like the bad old days of eastern Europe when priority was given to the producers rather than the customers.
It is difficult to detect any vision or strategy for transport in London, but what is clear is that the Government believe that there will be savings from competition. Competition between bus companies and competition between different forms of transport, both overground and underground. That is a misapprehension about where the competition lies. The competition is not between one operator and another or one form of transport or another. The real competitor is the private car and to compete with that public transport has to offer the same advantages of convenience, comfort and reliability. Integration, not competition, will provide the convenience and efficiency. Investment and management will provide the comfort and reliability. For years that has been apparent to all Londoners who use public transport but it is perhaps not so apparent to those who travel in cars, as the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, indicated.
If the objective is to get people out of their cars and on to public transport then public transport has to be made reliable, comfortable and efficient. There is also crime. It is becoming safer to travel on the trains, but the 1146 risk of assault when you get off at stations is increasing. That is largely because fewer staff are being employed at the stations, ticket offices and car parks.
The Government may pay lip service to reducing congestion by getting people to use public transport, but their actions indicate otherwise. Fares have risen far faster than inflation on all forms of public transport. Certainly, to justify that, there are some new buses, some new tube trains and some new rolling stock on the railways. Moreover, some stations have been re-modelled and redecorated. But that contrasts with the increasing unreliability of the system, and that unreliability will only get worse as the equipment becomes older. That is particularly relevant to the Underground. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis reminded us of the escalators that do not work, of the lifts that break down and of the large number of station closures, together with other incidents which cause waits of over 20 minutes. As major breakdowns become more and more frequent due to the unreliability of the equipment, so fewer and fewer people will rely on the system.
How do we get people off the roads and on to public transport? I do not suggest that we use consultants because most of us in industry would probably do a little benchmarking to find out what the best practice is elsewhere to see whether we can learn something from it. That is cheaper than consultants and has shown to be far more effective! To be helpful to the Minister, I have done a little benchmarking for him by having a look at what has been done in two major capital cities faced with the same problems; namely, Zurich arid Washington DC.
The first thing to note is that in each of those cities there has been political accountability, so that the interests and wishes of the citizens have been paramount. The industrial and commercial structures of Zurich and London are not too different. Zurich is an affluent city, and during the time that we have seen a decrease in users of public transport, Zurich has seen a 30 per cent. increase, and that from a higher base. Those concerned carried out a strategic plan and their success or failure is not so much judged by profit signals but from the achievement of those strategic objectives. Public transport has been given a good image so that it is used by all income groups. The integration of a public transport system, and the preservation of a civilised environment, has become an agreed political objective. The city's trams, trollies and buses are integrated with the railway system, which are in turn integrated with the federal railway system.
All transport runs to a strict timetable and interconnects to the maximum possible degree. That is achieved by giving public transport priority through congested areas and privileged access to certain streets using a priority system. There is complete integration of tickets and a determined effort to keep cars out of the city centre by giving priority to public transport, removing parking spaces and introducing traffic calming systems. Much of that is justified by an air pollution map of the city. As a result, the local economy and land values have improved. Incidentally, road pricing is not taken at all seriously. Fares revenues cover 1147 some two-thirds of the city's costs and the city gains benefits from the increased land values by a taxation system.
Many of the same principles apply in Washington DC. Here an underground metro system has been built specifically to reduce road congestion. It is still being developed and, to encourage use, it is integrated with a free bus service at the end of the lines. The system is reliable and simple to use with fare cards similar to our phone cards. The stations and trains are kept spotlessly clean for the simple reason that a clean environment makes many passengers feel a lot safer. There is an awareness programme so that the system can be seen as belonging to the community and something of which residents can feel proud. Interestingly, whereas Washington in general is considered one of the most dangerous cities in North America, the underground system remains relatively crime free. The irony is that much of this has been done with the advice of consultants from London Transport. They have simply told the mayor what they would like to do, but are unable to do in London. Now there is a useful bit of benchmarking !
It is obvious to the people of London, as it is to the citizens of Washington, that one way to get people off the roads is to get them onto the Underground. This should be a first priority and two years ago many people thought that London had an agreed plan called "A Decently Modern Metro", to which my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis referred. This would give London a modern Underground system which would be financially self-supporting after 10 years, and of which we could all be proud. However, already in this first year funding has been cut by nearly half, as other noble Lords have said. Instead of a strategy we get a piecemeal approach, such as deciding to extend the Jubilee Line to bail out Canary Wharf because a small contribution is being made to the cost. The main benefit to Londoners was to have been the station at North Greenwich, but even that seems to have disappeared. Then there is the Heathrow Link which links Heathrow to Paddington, probably London's least accessible main line station. And there is CrossRail, a good idea but we do not know whether it will be connected to the Channel Tunnel Link or the Heathrow Link. So much for integration !
Another way of getting cars off the road is to get drivers on to their bicycles. Endless surveys have shown that most journeys are under five miles and many drivers would prefer to cycle because of the exercise and the convenience, but are afraid to do so because of the traffic. Painting a white line on the road to provide cycle tracks is just not enough because many drivers ignore them and park their cars in the cycle track, and buses block them at bus stops. What does work is a dedicated cycle path separated from motor traffic by a kerb and often shared with pedestrians. As pollution decreases, more cyclists will ride instead of using their cars, but at present it is just too unpleasant and dangerous to tempt cyclists on to the roads. I know—I used to cycle to work in London.
London is suffering from the inability of the Government to plan and deliver an integrated transport 1148 system, to recognise that the real competition is the car and not other public transport companies, and their failure to carry out a 10 year investment plan. The Government also seem to be unable to learn from experiences in other cities. Therefore, let them hand the responsibility to an elected London authority with public accountability, dedicated to making London a better place in which to live and work and dedicated to providing a public transport system, which would be a significant contribution to London's economy and not a drawback as it is today.
§ 4.33 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. I am a little surprised, however, that there are so few speakers. Perhaps I should start by declaring my interest. Like many noble Lords I regularly commute to your Lordships' House and I currently use the park-and-ride system. That is, I park my car in north London and come in on the London Underground Northern Line. It is not too bad. However, I have several observations to make.
London Underground's old 1970s dull silver rolling stock is nearly always covered in graffiti. However, the Northern Line runs at least one set of carriages still painted in the old, tasteful cream and maroon livery. It is interesting that the old rolling stock is never vandalised. There is hope for the vandals yet. Even more interesting is the fact that some enterprising person from London Underground has ground away the date of manufacture on the tread plate of each door. When I was a little boy they were marked, I think, "Metro Cammell 1938". However, the old stock seems to go just as well as the 1970s stock. I have not known one to break down yet.
The reliability of the equipment on the Underground is not acceptable. Why is it that about once a fortnight the driver tells the passengers, "This train is defective —all change"? We all dismount with long faces, the doors are closed and the train moves away perfectly. What makes a train defective so that it can move away? How often does it happen, and what is being done about it?
There are physical and safety limits on how close trains can run together—the headway. It seems to be about three minutes. This, coupled with the maximum length of the platforms, limits the rush hour capacity of the line to carry passengers. I say "rush hour" although it lasts a lot longer than one hour. Why, at about 7.30 in the evening, is the headway increased to about eight minutes so that when the train comes in it is usually already packed and there is no chance of a seat? I am a reasonably fit young man. But how uncomfortable it must be for older passengers. It seems to me that London Underground plans the headway to ensure that no one is left standing on the platform rather than that no one is left without a seat.
The noble Lords, Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Mountevans, referred to power failure on London Underground. The national grid criss-crosses London. I was amazed to read that London Underground has its own power station. Is it economic? Or is it just an interesting piece of industrial archaeology that is too 1149 expensive to replace with sub-stations drawing off the grid ? The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, suggested refurbishment and overhaul, and I support him. What I cannot understand is why it is not possible to maintain and overhaul the rolling stock so that it is reliable. I can understand that it might not be economic compared to buying new equipment. I appreciate that these are somewhat technical -points and I do not expect the Minister to answer them today. I look forward to his reply later.
I have spent a little time complaining; I shall now concentrate on the positive. The Underground is an ideal way of getting into town. Subject to the comments I have already made, the service is frequent and safe. I draw your Lordships' attention to safety. We all, sadly, know someone who has come to grief in a motor car accident. But how many of us know someone who has come to grief using public transport, especially the Underground?
The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, referred to the cleanliness of Underground trains. The improvement after smoking was banned is noticeable and the Government are to be applauded for not reversing that policy. The managers of a commuter railway always bemoan the fact that they have a morning and an evening peak and that they must have the capacity to match it. But how many other businesses are able to predict their demand years ahead with reasonable certainty? The market is also price elastic. For instance, in the case of Network SouthEast it would not be difficult, in sales terms, to raise the cost of travel so that the business makes a profit. There would, of course, be howls of protest from commuters who feel that they already pay too much for a poor service. They are right. But if the business was profitable it could far more easily finance the new rolling stock and infrastructure improvements that are required. Subsidised commuter transport allows more money to be spent on housing in the commuter belt.
While dealing with the revenue side, I draw your Lordships' attention to the fare dodgers incentive scheme. I refer to the £10 fixed penalty system on London Underground. A travelcard can cost £3.70, so if a fare dodger avoids detection for two days he will save £1.10 if caught on the third day and £3.70 per day thereafter. Regular fare dodgers clearly have a modus operandi which reduces the chances of being detected to an acceptable level. That presumably means being detected less than about once a week. As a fare paying passenger, it is extremely galling to see fare dodgers being apprehended by a ticket inspector but without any embarrassment or imposition of effective penalty. Are the Government satisfied that there is a realistic deterrent to fare dodging?
We all know that the Treasury will starve a public enterprise of capital expenditure even if it means increased maintenance costs and reduced liability over subsequent years. I part company with the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, as I am sure that he will not approve of London Underground moving to the private sector. But the private sector can raise capital for long-term transport projects. One need look no further than the Channel Tunnel, a project that may not show 1150 substantial profit for a decade or even more. it is a project involving many uncertainties, riot the least being the demand for its use. There were also significant cost overruns. Despite all that, the finance was still forthcoming eventually.
We should accept that the Treasury of any government will never provide sufficient long-term finance for public transport. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to that. That is why I would support the privatisation of London Underground on the basis of vertical integration.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, towards the end of last year, the Government published through the agency of the Department of the Environment a glossy marketing brochure. It was of the kind which is all too often a substitute for policy or achievement. It was described as a prospectus for the future of London and was called London: Making the Best Better. We often complain about the Treasury for containing public expenditure. However, on this occasion I should like to complain about the Treasury allowing that publication. It was a total waste of money; I shall be surprised if any of your Lordships dissents from that statement. Whether the brochure has persuaded Londoners of the case that it makes we shall see.
In the preface to the document, the Secretary of State for the Environment stated:London is the world's choice of a city in which to live arid do business".However much we may love London and be loyal to it, the evidence is lacking when most of the world lives and works elsewhere. In the preface, Mr. Gummer states:This document celebrates London".But it does nothing of the sort. In fact it is a public relations exercise by a Government who have neglected London so that there is less to celebrate than was once the case.
The clue to the document—it is worth devoting a little attention to it—comes in the next half-complaining sentence, which states:London's successes far outweigh its problems arid it is time to redress the balance".That is what the Secretary of State for the Environment said in his preface. So we have this uneasy mixture of hyperbole and defensiveness. Quite soon after the preface and the few opening words, we read the confession that of course there are problems. There is too much crime. Education standards are too low. Housing is poor. The streets are dirty.
Then there is reference to the transport system itself, which is inadequate for the needs of London. Therefore the admission comes early, even in a document which is meant to redress the balance against those who always complain of London's shortcomings.
I do not wish to earn the disapproval of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. She stated that transport was too important to be hijacked by one political party. But that is the way in which we govern ourselves. No one in this Chamber or in another place who has not been a member or supporter of the present Government for the 1151 past 15 years can claim any responsibility for the decisions which have been made—or, more often, not made.
I am ready to predict that there are problems in dealing with transport in London. It is certainly difficult to predict the ebb and flow of public travelling habits; we have seen that. There was a time when we thought that there would be less demand for London transport. The demand then increased and has declined since. The public are unpredictable. Changes in working habits and technology make it difficult to see what travelling pattern there may be 15 or 20 years ahead. That is a fair point to concede.
I also concede that no great, exciting city in the world is entirely free of transport and traffic problems. Cities have grown naturally, and muddle and congestion is part of them. If we were to design and implement a new transport system for London we might find ourselves demolishing a great deal of the London that we love and care for. We do not want to see the comprehensive development of the whole of London even to improve the transport system. Too much deserves to be conserved.
The House has been critical, as I wish to be this afternoon, of the Government for their failures. One has to acknowledge that London requires and deserves a great deal of care and attention. However much we think about the transport problems in other parts of the United Kingdom, London is special; it is the capital of the United Kingdom; and being a great and ancient city, it deserves attention from successive governments.
Why has the problem arisen? I do not wish to make a narrow party political point. It is easy for any Government to despair of London. This Government may have found it difficult to work with local authorities. They believe that somehow the market will solve all the problems in the end. After all, if congestion becomes too acute, then people will cease to travel; a new equilibrium will be found. There has been a good deal of such thinking in the absence of planning. There has been the assumption that traffic, like water, would seep through the streets and find its own level. But that is not the way in which transport can be organised in a great city. It is not the way in which traffic in fact finds its way about.
I agree with noble Lords who have said that one cannot run a great city without adequate public transport. In that respect I endorse also what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, to whom we owe a debt for arranging this debate about what he calls the geriatric infrastructure of London. The tragedy is that we are not considering only the problem of neglect today. We all know that the time span for planning and execution is immensely long. So, even if this or any successive Government made a decision to remedy the problems of infrastructure, it would be 10, 15 or even 20 years before we achieved the full benefits.
That having been said, the failure of the present Government over 15 years to support major capital projects, and their extraordinary changes of mind, have been most destructive. I think of the sudden switch from King's Cross to St. Pancras as the terminal of the 1152 Channel Tunnel rail link, after vast expenditure, a great deal of it in the private sector, on planning for the terminal at King's Cross. Then we have the delay in proceeding with the high speed link. Again I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, about quality and high standards. But it is not as though it would have been impossible to build the high-speed link to a high standard by this time or soon after. There was hesitation, dithering, uncertainty—something I believe we should be thoroughly ashamed of when we consider the way the French dealt with the matter once the decision had been made to go ahead with the tunnel. Then there were delays in proceeding with the Jubilee Line and finally delays in proceeding with CrossRail.
The other day I came across a discussion document published by the British Railways board on a cross-London rail link. That was in 1980, 14 years ago. Yet we are nowhere near beginning and there is still a great deal of uncertainty about whether we will proceed with the CrossRail link, to which everyone attaches importance. It is an unhappy story of procrastination and delay.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to upgrading and extending our roads in London. There has been no policy about roads in London since the abandonment of the London motorway box 20 years ago. I remember the important part played in that by the noble Lord, Lord Jay. I took the view at the time that it was the right way to proceed. Having abandoned the London motorway box, there has been no policy at all about those improvements which are essential if we are to have a balanced transport policy for London. However much emphasis we put on public transport and the Underground and other rail systems, we must have an adequate road system, which means that there must be improvements, carefully chosen, which can improve the environment for living and working.
Even if we make some well-chosen improvements to the roads, even if we all make more journeys by public transport, it is still necessary to look at how the traffic should move in London, traffic management and especially our system of parking. I have to say that our system of parking in London is one of which many visitors and residents must surely despair. There is no coherent policy that I can detect for the use either of traffic wardens or of police, who often play a cat-and-mouse game with motorists which is not the way to deal with them, however much we may wish to exclude many of them from London.
Parking policy in London should be simple—by which I mean easy to understand; consistent over the whole of London and not different from one borough to another; and transparent —meaning that it is easy for the traveller to discover what the policy actually is. It is quite wrong to play a cat-and-mouse game with motorists and the policy should be enforced firmly and fairly. The aims should be explicit: to keep traffic moving, to allow space for pedestrians and cyclists and to put safety first. But the present policy results in confusion and resentment and in many unanswered questions.
May I just ask one question of the Minister for him to deal with when he comes to reply? Are parking 1153 meters in London part of the system of traffic management or are they a means of local taxation? Increasingly, it seems to me that they are becoming the second, while there is a proper role, which I have always strongly supported, if they are part of a traffic management scheme.
We all have our own anecdotes on these matters and perhaps I may tell one of my own. A few weeks ago I was in Bedford Square in the centre of London at 8 p.m. There were two young policemen helping someone who was employed to clamp vehicles. At that time they were clamping a car which was in a parking bay and which had been parked there half an hour longer than was allowed in an area where parking meters were in operation until 8.30. The clamping vehicle itself was parked half on the pavement and over double yellow lines. When I pointed it out to the two policemen concerned, they hurriedly moved it elsewhere. In that part of Bedford Square, there were empty parking spaces. So there were two constables concerned with parking one vehicle, so far as I could judge, belonging to someone who was a visitor to London, while a few yards away on Gower Street there was traffic travelling southwards at well over the speed limit and in some cases passing through red lights. One hundred yards away, cars could be freely parked behind the British Museum and were parked in every available space, sometimes dangerously on a corner.
When I said that to the two policemen who, I felt, were slightly self-conscious about their duties, they said: "We are working under the instructions of Camden Borough Council". It may well be that noble Lords are familiar with those procedures and that the Metropolitan Police are working under the instructions of London boroughs, but the policemen could offer me no explanation or defence of their priorities. I put it to the House that this is not the only example of a quite wrong use of police manpower, and that it is a waste of resources for police to be employed in traffic management where there are no considerations of the kind I suggested, either involving the free movement of traffic or of safety. That is not a way in which we should use manpower: it only causes resentment without contributing in any way to a solution to the problems which we have been discussing today.
We now have a Minister for Transport in London. I am afraid, rather like the document to which I referred earlier, it is a cosmetic appointment. Decisions about transport in London are made by the Secretary of State, by the Cabinet or by the Treasury or a combination of all of those. I hope that the Government will now concern themselves with the real issues which have been touched on today and not look for a cosmetic escape from problems in London which are not getting easier and will be most acute within another five years.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Ewing of Kirkford
My Lords, I have noticed throughout the debate the tendency for contributors to place before your Lordships their credentials for speaking. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, has never held a driving licence. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, uses public transport regularly. Therefore, I 1154 thought that I would begin my comments by placing before your Lordships my credentials for contributing to the debate.
I have to confess, as a Scot, that when I was asked to wind up the debate my natural reaction was: "Why me?" My own credentials go back to when I first came to London, to the other place, in 1971. I have been here now for 23 years, and have used public transport in London for many of those years. The only four years when I did not use public transport was when I had the luxury—and luxury it was—of a ministerial car, after which I had to go back to using public transport. Fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind; I see the Minister nodding in agreement. Back I went to using public transport. Like all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, I have a fairly wide experience of using public transport in and around London.
My first comment is one of gratitude to the staff of all forms of London transport who, in my view, work tirelessly, sometimes without thanks, to keep transport in London moving, often under difficult circumstances. It is as true today as when the saying was coined that serving the public is possibly the most difficult task that anyone can undertake. Serving the public in terms of transportation is, in my view, important because of the contacts that take place between those who drive the buses and trains and sell tickets and their customers. In my view, serving that public is an even more difficult task and therefore I express my gratitude to the staff of London transport in all its forms for the job they do on behalf of the people of London.
The only noble Lord to mention tomorrow's elections was the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. I am quite pleased that he did so. It gives me the opportunity to say— and I suspect that I may be taking a risk in doing so— that I hope that those who throughout the election campaigns have pedalled their prejudices against ethnic communities throughout London understand fully that the London transport system, and indeed many of our other public services in London, simply could not function without the part played by those of our people who have the privilege to be coloured. I hope that those who pedal such prejudices will pay a heavy price tomorrow at the ballot box.
I return to the question that is under discussion. My noble friend Lord Haskel, in an excellent speech, mentioned the city of Zurich and the way in which public transport is conducted there. One of the advantages that Zurich has, and London does not, is that at the railway station at Zurich airport one can get train connections to almost any other part of that area of Europe to which one wants to travel. That is not true here in London and it causes great congestion. Passengers arriving at Heathrow who want to continue their journeys by rail to any other part of the United Kingdom have to come into central London. There is a proposal to build a link between Heathrow and Paddington, but in my view when forward planning to deal with the problems of traffic in London most serious consideration must be given to providing a railhead at Heathrow airport (there is already one at Gatwick) at which passengers who wish to continue their journey by train can join a train to make their way to the various 1155 parts of Great Britain. That would make a contribution, however minimal, towards solving some of the problems.
I have to say that in the 23 years that I have been in London there were times when I thought that the city would come to a standstill and the Underground would come to a full stop. The skies above were congested before Terminal 4 was built at Heathrow and they are still congested. At times on the roadway between the Underground and the sky there has been almost nothing moving because of traffic problems. I am quite prepared, and quite happy, to concede that there has been a marked improvement. That is why I paid my tribute to the staff. They have played a major part in bringing about that marked improvement in London's transport.
We shall not solve these problems on the basis of the short-term view that is taken by the Government. I greatly look forward to the Minister's speech. With £48 million worth of advice available to him, I am absolutely certain that his brief must be the best that noble Lords will ever have heard read in this House. It is certainly the most expensive. I am looking forward to hearing answers to the problems that have been posed throughout our debate.
I am worried from two standpoints about London Transport not buying any new buses during this coming year. I am worried from the same standpoint as my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, in terms of the bus manufacturers and the effect that it will have on those companies, one of which is in my former constituency of Falkirk, which manufacture buses and which in the past have received substantial contracts from London Transport. I am also worried about the opting out of the development of buses which disabled people can board with greater ease. Throughout the rest of the country a development is taking place on certain routes whereby there are buses which disabled people can board with relative ease. It would be sad indeed for London if the result of not buying any new buses is to opt out of that development.
I was interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I realise that the noble Lord has an interest in the motor trade and therefore in roads and all the associated items that relate to the motor car. But like the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, I believe that we have to get a balance between road development and the need to get traffic out of the city and stop it coming in. I accept that we need sensible road development in London. But I also accept that there is a need to look at policies and programmes that will stop traffic coming into the city. Sooner rather than later government will have to face up to the whole question of the amount of traffic that comes into London on a daily basis.
The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, said that she was not in favour of pricing the motorist out of London. I strongly suspect that at the end of the day—unpopular though it may be—that may well be the conclusion that will have to be reached by the government in power at the time. I am a motorist myself and I know that motorists are by nature lazy. We look for parking spaces and drive our cars to the nearest possible convenient point to suit our needs. Unless we discipline ourselves 1156 and other motorists and stop them coming into London the problem that we have in this city will get worse instead of better.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made another point, about the contact between the RAC, the AA and the Royal Scottish Automobile Club with the Treasury on the question of taxation policy on motor fuels. I admired the noble Lord's naivety. If the noble Lord honestly believes that taxation on fuel has anything to do with transport policy, he really ought to have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Taxation on fuel is a Budget question. It has to do with balancing the books and nothing to do with transport policy. I am not surprised that the Department of Transport, the Treasury, or any other government department, would not give the noble Lord the kind of definitive answer for which the associations to which he referred were looking.
Hypothecation was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis and also by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. There is no question of hypothecation. As the noble Lord said, funds go in to the central Exchequer to be disbursed. That has always been the case. There is a famous story about Winston Churchill. He was asked about hypothecation when vehicle excise duty was being increased in the days when that duty was paid on the size of the engine of the car. Winston Churchill is on record as saying, "I'm away to have a drink now from the road fund licence fund"—although, of course, there is no such thing as the road fund licence fund. There is no question of hypothecation. We have to deal with these matters on a much more universal basis.
London needs a special programme for a special problem. It needs a long-term programme. We cannot devise a system that will last only until the end of the present century. We need a system that will take us well into the next century. Part of that system must be to move people freely about London and get them to and from work in comfort, and that is very important on long journeys. One of my noble friends told me that earlier today it took him an hour to get from Chelsea to this House. That is a disgrace in 1994.
These problems have to be addressed. I hope that I have been constructive and given the Minister an opportunity to respond to the debate in a constructive way that will hold out hope to the travelling public in the city of London.
My final words are in the form of a question. There has been much talk of CrossRail. In his reply, can the Minister tell the House exactly what is the position regarding CrossRail? Will it go ahead? There are many doubts as to whether CrossRail will ever be built. I hope that the Minister will give more detail on that issue. I conclude by saying that I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish)
My Lords, this is the first occasion that I have had since I joined the Department of Transport to set out in a general way to the House the Government's policies and programmes for transport in London. It is 1157 not the first time that I have stood at the Dispatch Box. I have stood here at Question Time and answered questions about transport in London, a subject which seems to come up fairly regularly. It gives me the chance to have a little regular spot with the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, on the subject of London transport and other transport.
It may seem ironic to some of your Lordships that the debate should be concluded by two people whose accents clearly show that they do not live in London. However, London is full of expatriate Scots with accents just like those of the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, and myself. If it were not thus, it would not be nearly such a successful city.
There is no denying that transport is central to the quality of Londoners' lives. In considering the state of transport in London, I suggest that at the beginning of my remarks I can do no better than report what Londoners, visitors to London, and businessmen say when asked what is their view on transport in London.
First, let me tell the House what Londoners and visitors said in response to the Secretary of State for the Environment's consultation document, Making the Best Better. That document did not seem to meet with the unqualified approval of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. But, needless to say, most respondents had something to say about transport. London's Underground, buses and international air connections featured among the 20 most appreciated features—yes, the word was "appreciated"—of the capital. At the same time, just to be fair and to show balance in these matters, 60 per cent. of people commented that there should be an investment in public transport to make it reliable. Of course, there is that investment, as I shall show your Lordships. Much of London's transport is excellent. We should be proud of it and thankful to those who have gone before us for the foresight and investment they put into it. That investment and that work has to continue. One cannot stand still on these matters.
Let me turn to the dreary picture of transport in London painted by most speakers from the Opposition Benches. It was a kind of message to the rest of the world, "Visitor or businessman, avoid this city". That is not the kind of message that I should want to put out if I were batting for Britain or London and encouraging jobs and prosperity to come to the city and to the country. But, I am afraid, it is the kind of message that all too often we hear from the parties opposite. It must have been somewhat worrying for them when they looked at the report mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, about the survey by KPMG Peat Marwick of foreign owned companies operating in the UK. It found that the United Kingdom's infrastructure and transport were highly rated, with closeness to key markets and road, rail and air access all exceeding expectations. A Harris research survey of European senior executives conducted for Healey and Baker designated London the top location for existing and future investment. The main factor which counted with those businessmen was the quality of transport infrastructure. It was a survey of the people who really count when it comes to bringing business, commerce and employment to the capital. The businessmen did not 1158 score London first in that regard, although I should love to be able to tell the House that they had. They scored London second out of 27 cities. That rather contradicts the gloomy view of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, about transport in the city.
Those consultation exercises reaffirm the fact that transport affects most people nearly all the time. London's transport system, as the surveys show, is a positive asset. Great use and provision of transport are the signs of an economy and a capital working and providing great opportunities to further the quality of life, business and also—let us not forget, when we hear people knocking the motor car—personal freedom.
Conversely, heavy traffic and pollution in London are seen as major disadvantages to urban life. New transport schemes for rail and road which have clear economic benefits also bring with them noise and blight for local people. We cannot afford to ignore either side of that equation. The debate is all about balance. We take these issues seriously. We are playing a full part in developing London's transport system for the future.
Our strategy covers three main issues. First, we need to invest in order to improve the efficiency of all transport networks, and the attractiveness of public transport in particular, shifting the balance away from the private car. Secondly, we want those who are delivering public transport to adopt a more commercial approach so that services are delivered according to what customers—not the bureaucrats —want. Thirdly, we want the planning system at the local and strategic levels to provide the right framework so that decisions on land use and transport are more closely integrated.
I start with investment and the relative levels of public investment over different transport modes. We clearly favour public transport over transport by road, investing, as we do, roughly two and a half times as much money in London's public transport system as in its roads. Investment in public transport is at a substantial level. Over the next three years London Transport will be able to invest something like £3 billion.
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, invited me not to go back to the 1909 Liberal Government. I do not need to do so. I need go back only to the 1974 Labour Government where I see figures that I mentioned the last time I answered questions on this matter a couple of weeks ago in this House. Over the next three years the planned investment by London Transport in total will be between £900 million and £1 billion at 1993–94 prices.
I brought out my calculator. I barely needed it because the addition sums were quite small. I decided to add up the total investment by London Transport in the years of the 1974 to 1979 Labour Government—again, at the same 1993–94 prices—so that it would be directly comparable with the figure of just under £1 billion a year that I have just mentioned. I found that I got £807 million. Before noble Lords say that that seems reasonably close to the £900 million to £1 billion a year that I mentioned for our in vestment over the next three years, I must say that I needed the calculator because that £807 million was for all the five years of the last 1159 Labour Government. So I do not feel that we can take any lectures from the party opposite when it comes to the investment we have made in London.
There are, however, limits to what the taxpayer can reasonably be expected to contribute, in view of the other pressing needs that we hear about in this Chamber and the other place day after day. That is one of the reasons why we want to harness the resources of the private sector, spelt out by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, through the Government's private finance initiative.
§ Lord Merlyn-Rees
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. I sit here today, having something of an interest in London but with more of an interest in the northern parts of the country. I was interested to hear the vast figures of investment over the years. The other day the Prime Minister said—and we were very pleased about it in Leeds, where we make engines—that the Jubilee Line is to kick-start the economy. Does the Department of Transport have any say in letting contracts to make sure that the money is spent in this country, as the Prime Minister said, to kick-start the economy. We are faced with 300 redundancies in the Hunslet Engine Company, which has supplied 15,000 engines to all parts of the world. I have seen them. Will that money be applied to British firms?
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I shall come to the Jubilee Line in a few minutes. I appreciate, as do the Government and the Prime Minister, by the remarks he made in Leeds, the importance of this kind of investment. But on the question of public investment the noble Lord known that one cannot completely control the whereabouts of the investment in relation to the European Union. However, I and my colleagues are confident that United Kingdom companies—perhaps the one mentioned by the noble Lord—will win that contract and will build the engines and trains. I shall come to the Jubilee Line in a few moments when I reach the appropriate place in my remarks.
Several major public transport infrastructure projects are now being taken forward as joint ventures, with substantial financial contributions from the private sector. Last year we gave the go-ahead for the Jubilee Line extension. There is a private sector contribution of £400 million to its construction. We have also the £300 million Heathrow Express rail link being constructed under joint venture arrangements between BAA and British Rail. That will connect people who land at Heathrow with the rail network, although I suspect that many of them will have to come into central London in order to radiate out. It would be unrealistic to pretend that in the south east of England we could possibly re-design all the rail network so that it started its radiation at Heathrow or perhaps at both Heathrow and central London. We know how difficult it is to find a second link to the Channel Tunnel that does not offend almost everybody without trying to re-route all rail lines into Heathrow. The £300 million investment in the Heathrow Express will help those people who wish to transfer from air to rail.
1160 In addition, we recently announced the invitation by London Underground to various firms for proposals for the new, privately financed train for the Northern Line. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, asked what progress we were making. It is the intention of London Underground Limited to progress the competition for the scheme as quickly as possible with a view to making an award, assuming a suitable deal can be struck before the end of the year. Timing for delivery of new trains would depend on the supplier and of course on the deal struck. But we believe it could be within two or three years. We must wait to see what kind of interest comes forward for that project.
CrossRail is also a prime candidate as a joint venture. We believe it will have significant potential benefit to passengers and is likely to be attractive to the private sector. I was asked by one or two noble Lords where we are with CrossRail. Everybody knows that it is in Committee in the other place. As a government-we have given the project our full support. If I understand correctly what noble Lords opposite said, they too give it their full support. We can only hope that it overcomes the legislative hurdles in the other place and this place and starts on its way into the proper design and construction phase. The Croydon Tramlink is another private sector development which we believe is a potential runner—it will greatly help the traffic management in Croydon—as are a number of other projects, looking perhaps more into the future, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Mountevans.
In general, our investment in London Underground is considerable. A number of projects are actually under construction—new carriages, new engineering on lines, replacement of old equipment and refurbishing of trains. All those are under way; on some lines the improvements are already in existence. The plans in hand will keep London Underground right at the forefront as one of the key factors in transporting people around the city.
The same is true of rail. My noble friend Lord Lucas mentioned the importance of rail and the number of people it brings into central London every single day of the week. It is by far the greatest carrier. There is considerable investment taking place in the South East in order to improve rail connections. Over the two years 1991–92 and 1992–93, British Rail invested around £895 million in the South East rail network. New vehicles have been delivered and are under order; electrification has taken place; and projects of route modernisation have continued. There are many projects which I could easily list. However, I would quickly run out of time if I gave your Lordships a geography lesson around the rail networks of the south where improvements are taking place.
My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth made his case for roads. We all recognise that the scope for major road building on the M.25 is constrained. Central London is well served by public transport; only 14 per cent. of commuters travel in by car in the morning period. The position in other parts of London is different. Two-thirds of London's jobs are outside the central area. It is less easy to serve the outer areas with public transport. So we need to improve orbital routes, 1161 including the M.25. We need also to cater for the creation of employment and housing in East London, where regeneration is a priority. As far as possible that should be done through public transport with schemes such as the extension of the Docklands Light Railway arid the Jubilee Line. But there will still be increased traffic and the planned improvements in our roads programme for London concentrate on tackling that growth.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, appeared to agree with me that roads, motor cars and so forth have a part to play, although he asked an interesting question. He asked whether parking meters were a system of traffic management or a system of local taxation. I shall not be tempted into that debate. It is the potential subject of a splendid university essay, depending from which side one comes. That is what matters. If one has just been fined for parking one probably looks upon it as a system of taxation. However, if one discovers that one can park readily for the half-hour or so that one needs, then it becomes a system of traffic management.
Our roads policies and programmes focus on how to make better use of existing networks through traffic management measures such as red routes, parking controls and traffic control systems. As your Lordships know, red routes are an idea that is just beginning. Some work has already been done. There have been some excellent benefits from the red routes already in existence. For example, traffic journeys along the red route are 20 per cent. faster and their reliability 40 per cent. better; bus journeys are 20 per cent. faster and their reliability is 33 per cent. better. Since the start of the pilot project in 1991 on the 43 and X43 routes, the passengers using buses have increased by 11,000 a week. That is a 10 per cent. increase in comparison with an overall decline in bus patronage in London over the same period. Clearly the red routes offer a way for improved traffic management and give the surrounding housing areas the benefit of concentrating that through traffic on the red route and taking it out of the suburban streets. That must be an important aspect.
My noble friend Lord Mountevans asked about red buses. I can assure him that red buses will remain in the centre of London. That will be one of the conditions of purchase of any of the LBL companies. My noble friend asked also about the River Thames. The working group received evidence from over 100 organisations in response to a questionnaire about the transport potential of the Thames and the constraints that inhibit that realisation. Important environmental planning and leisure issues were raised. The group commissioned a detailed analysis of the responses and plans to complete the report and publish its conclusion later this summer.
Noble Lords asked a number of other questions to which I probably cannot detail an answer in the time available. In regard to fare dodging I can say to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that London Underground is optimistic that it will be able to reduce the amount of fare dodging going on, which is to the detriment of all the paying passengers. London Underground estimates that it loses around £30 million. It hopes to be able to recover at least some of that and reduce the amount of 1162 fare dodging. It would be a foolish and totally unrealistic person who suggested to your Lordships that we could stop fare dodging entirely.
Some people seem to think that the Government's privatisation programme implies a weakening of our commitment to the future of public transport. But as our record on investment shows, the opposite is true. Our aim is to establish a framework which allows maximum freedom to those involved in providing and using transport, consistent with protection for those affected adversely by transport, for the environment, and for safety. We are putting the customer centre stage. We are seeking to revitalise public transport as a means of travel. It is central to our approach that government cannot dictate how people travel. Customers should have a say in transport provision, through the operation of the market.
§ Lord Jay
My Lords, I asked the noble Lord some questions about the cost of privatisation. I asked whether a number of figures concerning what the Government have been spending on privatisation are correct. Is it possible for the noble Lord either to say that those figures are correct or to let us know when the Government will give us the true figures?
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I do riot recognise the figures that the noble Lord mentioned. I would not deny that there are costs of privatisation but I do not recognise the figures mentioned. The costs of privatisation that we have identified are very small compared with the total amount of turnover which the railway system has in any given year. We would expect the benefits to be considerably greater over the shorter term—over the years ahead—than any costs of privatisation. However, I shall look into the points that the noble Lord made, source the article he quoted and write to him about it.
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, raised a nice debating point when he mentioned the fact that the Department of Transport employs 14,000 people and only 244 of them are employed in the public transport division. Earlier in his speech he accused the Government—why he should have thought so I cannot say—of deceiving the public, of deceiving Parliament and of deceiving themselves. The statistic he used has made possible all three deceptions. The reason is simple. Out in the public services involved are where the people who run the railway, who run the Underground and who run the aviation system work. That is where they are, not sitting in the Department of Transport in Marsham Street. The noble Lord's nice little debating point looks good, but when one peels off the outer skin of it one sees that a lot more people are employed in managing, running and predicting the patterns of public transport than just those employed by the Government in Marsham Street.
Perhaps I may say a few words about the reliability of our public services in London. The Citizen's Charter initiative has the objective of encouraging London Transport and the railways in the south-east to meet demanding standards of service for their passengers. The Underground met or bettered all 'the service performance targets set by the Government for 1992–93. 1163 Tougher targets were set for 1993–94. According to current figures, London Underground is meeting nine of the 12 quality of service targets, which is a little different from the dismal picture of London Underground painted by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. Over the two years since the introduction of the Passenger's Charter for rail services, performance on lines in the south-east has improved. On average, over the past year 13 out of the 15 commuter lines in the south-east achieved their charter targets for punctuality and 11 achieved their target for reliability. That is a great tribute to the people who work on the service and are reacting to customer demand.
In conclusion, the Government's strategy for London's transport is to fulfil the goal of an efficient transport system for the capital. We have been spending a considerable amount of public money in investing in London transport. We heard today, if we heard anything, calls for additional public expenditure on London transport. I wonder whether the noble Lords, Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Ewing, cleared with their colleague, Mr. Brown, who rejoices in the title of Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, these extra commitments. Mr. Brown said on the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme on 28th January this year:These commitments, or so-called commitments, about public spending simply do not exist … We will spend what we can afford to spend and only as growth allows. We've made that absolutely clear. I have said there are no manifesto commitments at this stage to public spending".He went on to say:unless you can quote me chapter and verse about commitments made in the House of Commons then those were not made".I notice that he did not mention the House of Lords, so perhaps commitments made in the House of Lords have a different status about them. I suggest that they do not.
We, as the Government, have put considerable money and planning into having a properly maintained and properly managed system of public transport in London. London's transport has had a great history and it will have a great future. With all the investment plans in hand and programmes for the future we believe that the capital will have a public transport system which will enhance its status as a capital city, encourage more people to bring their employment to this city and improve the quality of life of all those who have to live and work in the city.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, at the outset of my very brief remarks in conclusion I wish to thank all noble Lords who have participated in this short but interesting debate, not least the Minister for making his maiden speech in a debate on transport. He was characteristically extremely engaging, missing most of the points. There was a remarkable lack of harmony between what the Minister had to say about the needs of London transport and the views that are expressed to me and other noble Lords by London Transport and by British Rail. There is a clear need for them to get together.
Many of the speeches produced some extremely interesting points. Those should not be thrown out of the 1164 window. As my noble friend Lord Haskel said, it is necessary to learn from the experiences of others. Perhaps in some respects they can also learn from us, but there are many benefits which those who travel abroad, particularly on the Continent of Europe, will have perceived in terms of public transport which would be to our advantage overall.
On the question of public expenditure, the Minister kept on insisting that I had not cleared my remarks with my right honourable friend Mr. Gordon Brown. The fact of the matter is that I said in my speech and have said in other speeches I have made that it is a question of reorganising priorities. The Government are spending far too much on the road programme and we believe that that point needs to be tackled urgently.
The Minister spoke to what my noble friend described as the most expensive brief in history—a £48 million golden brief. But like so much of what we hear from the Government, although the noble Lord spoke very engagingly and eloquently, I have heard it all before. As with so many of the expenses incurred by the Government on consultants, I fear that this £48 million has been thrown away as well. Nevertheless, it has been an interesting and good-humoured debate. I thank noble Lords for participating. Many of the ideas that have been brought forward are certainly worth pondering on. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.