HL Deb 12 March 1997 vol 579 cc304-27

3.2 p.m.

Lord Berkeley rose to call attention to the recent report of the United Kingdom Round Table on sustainable development Making Connections and to the need for an integrated policy for national and local transport; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity for the House to debate this very important part of the transport scene. First, I congratulate the authors of the report who, as the House may know, were appointed by the Government. The Secretary of State, Mr. Gummer, and Sir Richard Southwood were co-chairmen. The strength of criticism of the Government contained in the report is therefore quite surprising. It may reflect the fact that the Secretary of State is the only member of the present Cabinet who has even the hint of a green tinge. I declare an interest in relation to the Rail Freight Group, the Piggyback Consortium and Adtrans.

The Round Table report states that the group was conscious of the importance and difficulty of making multi-modal journeys seamless. That is a difficult concept to understand. The group gave as its remits: To identify key barriers to inter- and intra-modal transfers within passenger and freight journeys, and to recommend ways in which these could be overcome, with the aim of achieving a more sustainable transport sector". What is inter-modal transfer? For those who may not be embroiled in the subject, it simply means using more than one mode of transport for a particular journey. It may mean a complicated journey across the country; but the term is equally applicable to local journeys to do the shopping, to take the children to school or to the park, or to visit relatives—journeys made every day and often several times a day. For freight it means easy transfer between road and rail. Is there information? Are there suitable sites for terminals and services?

On the basis that it is apparently the stated view of the Government, at least in the abstract, to encourage people to use public transport, it is generally agreed that in order to persuade people to leave their cars at home and walk to school, take the bus or buses to the shops or use the bus and train to get to work, there has to be the carrot of better public transport as a reasonable alternative. But the report demonstrates just how far the Government have let slip that most important ingredient to a seamless journey—the change of mode.

We may go back over 18 years of Conservative non-policy—the massive road building programme, Roads for Prosperity, and the great transport debate during which the then Secretary of State, Dr. Mawhinney, generated tons of unread paper, which all sank without trace when he departed. There followed the sudden cutbacks in the road programme when the Treasury and the green lobby got together with the same objective but for different reasons.

The railways have seen similar disastrous restructuring. Just as Bob Reid was delivering real benefits from his reorganisation, rail was privatised. Railtrack was going to be kept in the public sector. However, there was a U-turn and it was privatised because the Government could not sell the franchises.

The Government privatised the buses. In London, presumably because the odd parliamentarian uses them, the routes structure was preserved and each one was let off individually. The service is poor, but at least some of the network benefits are there. Elsewhere, where few parliamentarians or persons of influence travel by bus, the free market reigns supreme. There are more buses on the road, but, except in London, there are fewer passengers. The report states that between 1985–86 and 1995–96 bus passenger journeys in London increased by 5 per cent., which is good, but elsewhere decreased by 29 per cent. That can only be a result of the inability of people outside London to find out how to get a bus, where it goes and when.

Do the Government care? They did the same with rail freight. It was sold off to private companies. There is a policy of encouraging rail freight. I do not know whether the Government are shortly to announce that there will be 44-tonne lorries across the whole country; I do not know whether they will encourage a planning regime for rail connected sites or announce any other measures. The property of Railtrack and BR is being sold off as if there were no tomorrow. Has that approach ever been thought through?

From the Government's point of view it may appear on the surface to be a success story. Underneath, as the report states, the quality of the transport experience could be very much better. The few have made a lot of money. But what about the many—those who have to use the new system that the Government have created and, I submit, forgotten about? The report is about making connections—changing trains, changing from bus to train, changing from one train operator's service to another. The sub-group chairman, Dr. Susan Owens, said of the report: It's really indicative of a terrible failure of our transport system in terms of its co-ordination and organisation. Competition in transport is not just producing the integrated network that is essential if we are going to tackle the problems of traffic growth". Unless we can achieve that, travel choices will continue to be weighted heavily in favour of seamless journeys by car or lorry.

Let us examine some of the main points of the report and what has happened more recently to support its conclusions. It gives a clear message that if we are to encourage people from the private car onto public transport, that transport has to be attractive, and passengers must have information about where they are going, when, where they can change, how much it will cost and, most important of all, what will happen when things go wrong. Noble Lords might think that all those questions are quite reasonable.

Starting with passengers, what are the barriers to journeys that involve interchange? First, people need information before a journey. It is possible to obtain train timetables. But is it possible to take a bicycle on the train? What happens if one leg of the journey is delayed? How do people find out? Well, there is a train timetable.

Now, after years of requesting, there is one national number; and it is good. I support it. But for buses, if you want to go to Ripon or Bridport, two towns which do not have rail services, how do you find out how to get there from the nearest station? Whom do you ask? Whom do you telephone? Bridport is on the territory of South West Trains. The new operator said that it would be starting a new bus link from Dorchester to connect with the trains. The problem is that the person who was dealing with the link was sacked as an economy measure—so there is no bus service and no person to ask. When you get to Dorchester, where do you find the bus stop? Is there a map?

It is the fragmentation of responsibilities for information which is so serious. In paragraph 45 the report states that the authors were told that a full information service, presumably for all forms of public transport, down to the very local level of postcodes—which is close—would cost 2 per cent. of total public transport expenditure. They thought that that was high. I am told that the airlines spend an average of 2 to 3 per cent. on advertising and promotion and expect to do it to attract traffic. So why should not the surface public transport operators spend the same? They are, after all, in competition with the private car. Why will not bus companies work with each other and with the train companies?

The Government should have foreseen all this in their policy of privatisation. I do not suggest that the Government should have paid for it all, but they could at least have required the rail and bus franchisees or operators, as a condition of their licences, to contribute to and participate in a national scheme. But they did not. They did not care and probably do not now. They have washed their hands of it at the level where it matters to the users and customers.

Moving on to information, passengers have to feel in control of their journey—where they are going, that they will get off at the right stop and that they are heading in the right direction. Some new trains have signs inside saying where they are going. Buses do not give much information. It would be nothing spectacular but they could display maps. There could be a system whereby people can ask where they go. But there are few, if any, announcements on buses and never an announcement about competing buses. Yet they are part of the transport system.

Physical inconvenience is another matter raised in the report. It points to the difficulties and the safety problems faced by people who are frail and disabled or by those carrying heavy baggage or with small children when crossing busy roads in transferring between interchange points. It is quite frightening, as I am sure many noble Lords will know, when lorries are rushing past, you cannot find the bus stop, and the children are screaming.

Whose job is it to sort it out? I have no doubt at all that it is the duty of the Government to set the scene and the structure and the duty of local authorities and the operators to participate. Each is now passing the buck, complaining that they have no money. The 2 per cent. figure, however, is still there.

As regards tickets, the railways pay lip service to giving impartial information, but there are endless stories about people doing the same journey every week and being charged different prices. The operators have abolished super savers on some routes and you cannot get reductions for network card holders on other routes. Sometimes you cannot get a return ticket; it is all different. Sometimes you can pay on a train and sometimes you cannot. It is better in London, again, I suspect, because many parliamentarians have had a hand in the legislation. But all-operator season tickets and single and return journeys of several elements with different operators are not common outside London.

There are problems with timings and connections between operators. Does one train wait for another? Sometimes it does; sometimes it does not. Does a train wait for a bus connection? I suggest that there are not many examples of that. The bus probably goes nowhere near the station. And anyway how does one know in advance? Does the bus or train run at all? We have talked quite often in this Chamber about South West Trains. Not only were many trains cancelled, but the timescale for the reinstatement of the original service gets longer and longer as the weeks go by. The company, I believe aided and abetted by the franchising director, makes the point that cancellations are only in off-peak services. That is fine if you are a commuter. If you are an off-peak traveller, because it is cheaper, it is tough.

I was interested to note the comment by Sir George Young who recently visited Bournemouth at the time of the cuts. He said: I know that South West Trains is doing all it can to restore services quickly". There was not a hint of criticism of how this first and flagship franchisee got into the mess in the first place.

Of course, the situation was exacerbated by signalling problems near Woking a week or two ago when Railtrack managed to put up a signal gantry back to front, so the signals pointed in the wrong direction. The company wondered why it did not work. It spent a lot of time putting new paths beside the railways for the safety of its staff, although they appear to have done quite happily without them for 100 years. The best thing is that at the end of each path there is a single post which says "End of path". I am waiting for a sign four feet further on, saying "Beginning of next path". Is that really all Railtrack can find to spend the £1.6 billion on when it should be improving the infrastructure, keeping the tracks on line, replacing rotten sleepers and even repainting the Forth Bridge? The House will recall that the railway inspectorate has had to slap several enforcement notices on Railtrack to make it improve the track at Euston and at the Forth Bridge as well as making it invest, we hope, in sensible activities rather than footpaths or notices.

We have heard all about jobs and job losses. South West Trains has only lost 70 jobs but there are more to come elsewhere. Can the company keep the trains going with all those jobs being lost? I very much doubt it.

Then there is the question of shortening the length of trains. It may surprise passengers on South West Trains and Connex that all passengers on a journey of over 20 minutes should have a seat. Who checks that? The operators check whether their trains are long enough, but they also save money by shortening them. Who checks the operators? The franchising director is supposed to, but he has quietly dumped this pledge. He has only done one census; he should have done two. And guess what? His report will not be out until after the election, I think. Surprise, surprise! So we will not know what the congestion is, although those who travel on the trains will be well aware of it.

In summary, the report gives many government failings. It is, one might say, sponsored by the Government. The failures result in ageing buses, falling numbers of passengers, poorly co-ordinated timetables and, as people move to the car, even more crowded roads.

It is interesting to comment on what Will Hutton said in the Observer early in February: They could have added [in the report] that the old public monopolies that so displeased our Conservative masters are rapidly being replaced by private monopolies, with 50 per cent. of the routes dominated by Stagecoach, Cowie and First Bus". What is the difference between the two? Can we assume that since Mr. Gummer was co-chairman of the group, in the unlikely event of his government being re-elected he would implement the recommendations in full? Only a year ago, Sir George Young issued a Conservative Party press release which stated that, we have a clear consistent policy [which is designed] to produce better services for passengers at less cost to the taxpayer. It is that simple". Many passengers would say that he has not delivered to them and the savings to the taxpayers, however good they may look on paper, have yet to deliver the goods. If they do not, then it will be after the election and someone else's problem.

I conclude with a quote from the noble Lord, Lord Deedes, that well known Conservative supporter, who says: Under our new masters, Connex South Eastern, certain trains have got shorter and more crowded". As the cattle trucks clattered into London Bridge, the noble Lord, Lord Deedes, complained to the driver. The driver said: "I wish more of you would complain". That sums it up.

It is a disaster. It has been 18 years of disaster, but the connection problem is heightened and emphasised in the report and it is what we need to debate today. I beg to move for papers.

3.17 p.m.

Lord Teviot

My Lords, I am honoured to be the first to have the privilege of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for introducing this important debate. As usual I must declare an interest. As many of your Lordships know, I have been connected with the bus industry for many years. Therefore I welcome the opportunity to comment on Making Connections. I am afraid that my views and observations are quite different from those of the noble Lord because I feel the situation is quite sunny compared with the way in which he painted it.

Contrary to press reports at the time of publication, the report has some very positive statements about the benefits of privatisation and commercialisation. It identifies a clear road ahead through quality partnerships and I shall come to them later. It also identifies the importance of local authorities being provided with sufficient resources for public transport. It is worth noting that in the mid-1980s revenue support accounted for 30 per cent. of local bus revenue. Now it has been reduced to 11 per cent. and the customer has a greater choice of services. That surely is a great achievement.

In the media there was much ill-informed and unhelpful comment about the commercialised bus industry outside London. Everyone recognises that we must "all" increase the use of public transport to ease congestion; but what people mean is "everyone else but me". Some people want the bus to provide the same door-to-door convenience as the car, when clearly that is not possible. Therefore, they look for any excuse not to use the bus. We are all impatient by nature. There are still some difficulties to overcome. Information and ticketing have been sources of irritation since time immemorial. However, the industry, the Government and the local authorities have recognised that weakness—not before time. No doubt my noble friend the Minister will inform us of the progress of the government working party which is studying this aspect of bus services.

Much is made in the report about the use of real time information. Of course, we all thoroughly approve of such systems, but we must also be realistic. In many rural areas a good, well designed and easy to read timetable is all that people need. The report, intentionally or otherwise, gives the impression that only in London does the customer have the benefit of good information. Personally, I do not believe that it is perfect in London. Let me assure the House that there is much innovation outside the capital city.

Where long distance travel is concerned there is, for the first time, an industry-funded national timetable and a national telephone hotline. That will give information on any inter-urban coach or rural bus service. Tickets for coach and train services can be bought over the telephone. That service is known as the Train, Bus and Coach Hotline and is available nationally. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred to the number, I shall tell your Lordships that it is 0891 910 910. Referring again to ticketing, it is simply not true that the London-type travelcard is unique. Many similar systems exist outside the capital.

A welcome comment was the key recognition of the role of quality partnerships. A quality partnership is a formalised partnership between local authorities and bus operators, aimed at increasing the quality of both vehicles and infrastructure. The report recommends that the Government should encourage voluntary action between operators and local authorities. Such co-operation is already taking place. Quality partnership agreements have already been signed between operators and local authorities in the West Midlands and Glasgow. Several other such partnerships are in the pipeline.

In the report, a review of the regulation of certain aspects of the bus industry is suggested. At this stage I am not entirely convinced of the need for change. There are already examples of partnerships by mutual agreement, and whether the weight of further regulations would be beneficial is somewhat doubtful.

Following a massive upheaval of the bus industry after the 1985 Transport Act, heavy investment is now on stream and ridership is stabilising. We must be careful not, once again, to change the regulatory regime, thereby placing in jeopardy either the newly-forged partnerships or investment in new buses. Passengers' needs must always come before political doctrine.

Finally, there is the recommendation that interchange sites should be safeguarded through the Government's Planning Policy Guidance. It is important that we do not spend money on developing interchange facilities at one end of a town and then authorise business and commercial expansion miles away. Therefore, such matters must be for local, not national, determination.

The dismissive attitude of planners towards coach travel leaves much to be desired. For example, if you happen to be one of the 2,500 tourists who come from Paris or Brussels on Eurostar every day to Waterloo, you are given a very poor deal indeed if you want an onward journey by coach. You must cross a busy road and carry your own luggage to a disused car park before carrying on with your journey. So, let us not forget that the coach is also an important mode of travel.

In the brief time that I have available, I should like to reminisce a little and confess that, when the Transport Act 1985 was a mere Bill, I was totally opposed to it and, indeed, cynical as to its aims. I could not see the purpose of altering a regulatory structure which had been in place since 1930 and which I thought worked perfectly well. Like many people in the industry, I could not see bus operation as anything but a necessary mode of transport—but one which was severely declining and with few opportunities for commercialisation.

History has changed all that. The industry is now more buoyant and purposeful. More importantly, the public are getting a better choice of service.

3.25 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Sheffield

My Lords, I should like to take the opportunity to draw attention to a silence in the Making Connections report and to a weakness.

The silence is on the subject of canals and water transport. We make less use of our navigable rivers and waters today than at any time in our history. I do not long to see Viking longships again sailing up the Humber; but I should like to see the Trent as it once was, full of traffic going up and down at high tide. I should also like to see our canals used. The Don navigation has been magnificently restored in the past 20 years with European money. It is a state of the art, first-class canal, where locks open as a boat approaches. It is absolutely superb. There is only one thing wrong with it: it is almost entirely disused. A fine array of herons walks along the banks and, if I dare say so in your Lordships' presence, cormorants swim up and down the water. But of ships, boats and barges there is none.

One of the reasons is covered in the Making Connections report. A canal cannot be taken into one's backyard or the factory gates. There need to be more thought-through ways of getting containers from the barges to where they need to be. But when we look at the pollution rate and so on, it is difficult to think of any better or more economic way of moving heavy goods about than by water. It has always been so in the past; I cannot understand why it is not so in the present. I find puzzling and regrettable the silence of Making Connections, which uses the word "canals" once, and the previous report from the same source which said that it did not have space to talk about waterways.

I also believe that we are failing to grasp the problem of the motor car. Lip service is paid to less of it but that is all. When we look back over the past 100 years, there is something rather extraordinary in the way the motor car has crept along by the legislators' blind side. Stagecoaches were regulated at every stage by the Turnpike Acts. On canals and railways not a movement could be made without an Act of Parliament. But once the red flag was given up, the motor car was allowed to get on with it, with dire consequences for us all that still continue.

In the 1930s we decided not to build roads, for the perhaps not unreasonable reason that Hitler and Mussolini were building roads and so it must be wrong. In fact, we did not do anything until we suddenly realised that the roads that we had would be lined from John o' Groats to Land's End with bungalows. So we began to control the car by planning where we put houses. That was a step in the right direction.

When we look back at our Victorian cities, we see that they were limited by the tramlines and walking distance to the tram terminus. There was no point in building further away than that. My moderately wealthy grandfather travelled by tram from his big house in Devon Road to Newcastle every day. He could not have built his house further away unless he had been very wealthy and into horses and carriages, which he was not. Those restrictions vanished when the motor car was invented.

We are still making some attempts through planning to control the spread of our towns and villages. But when I drive around South Yorkshire—now the East Riding of Yorkshire—which I do a good deal, I see in almost every village splendid groups of new houses. They are rather expensive new houses and new houses in which nobody could possibly live without having a car or possibly two cars. I do not understand what the planners are doing. They are building-in a situation in which there will never be public transport and people will be dependent on the motor car. We can multiply illustrations like that.

By increases in petrol taxes and by making the improvements in the quality of public transport about which other noble Lords have spoken, we can curb the desire to use the motor car. But I suspect it is wishful thinking to believe that that is enough. I drive a car; it is extraordinarily convenient. The thought of standing at a bus stop in the rain is not attractive when I can take the car. However, the car is an extremely destructive implement in relation to the quality of the life of our nation and indeed the world and we should leave it at home.

I am disappointed that the Making Connections report only advocates less use of the car and does not go on to say that we need radical legislation, certainly in the planning area and possibly in other areas as well. In that way we can again become a society in which the most sensible means of travel are used, both by passengers and freight. I like to think that freight could be transported by water, and passengers by public transport which is both trustworthy and convenient, as well as being accessible. Perhaps then, like my grandfather—who was no saint or hero—new generations will choose to go by tram instead of, as I do, by car. We need to be more radical than the report suggests if we are to bring the car under control.

3.31 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for bringing this report to our attention and I say straightaway that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield hit the nail squarely on the head when he referred to the historical basis from where our transport system came. Initially, our transport system was built around the waterways—arguably that is one of the reasons we industrialised so fast and so early. We had a system of waterways which allowed the transport of goods far more easily than any of the other major nations in Europe. We then backed that up with a train system.

Because we were one of the first to introduce a train system, we found ourselves building vast numbers of trains, many of which never made any money under the old privatised system. Arguments took place and ultimately we were left with a train system running on narrow gauge tracks. The first problem we encountered with our freight system, as the report pointed out, was that we had smaller carriages travelling on smaller tracks than virtually any other country in Europe.

We can never escape history, but we can go on from it. We are in danger of accepting the fait accompli; that we cannot transport goods by rail or waterways because of the expense of transferring them from their present mode of transport. That is what the report discusses. It takes time, effort and—dare I say it?—money to change the mode of transport of heavy loads to either rail or waterway, though once the transfer has been made, the unit cost of moving them around is incredibly cheap.

The report appeared to be primarily aimed at passenger transport, or found itself drawn towards it. Passengers have accepted the idea that travelling around in a metal cocoon—a car; one's personal mode of transport—is the normal and indeed desirable way of transporting oneself. Cars of all types are sold from every angle in our consumer-led society. We want to travel in our own box with our own space around us.

It is too late to try to convince people that cars are not the way forward. All we can do is try to restrict the numbers of cars on the road by offering alternatives which are comparatively easy to use. The report talks about making connections between the various modes of transport and there are many examples of how that can work. The first example that springs to mind is Victoria Station. Perhaps appropriately, it is the largest, if not the closest, mainline station to the Houses of Parliament. There one can find mainline trains, underground trains, bus services and taxis integrated inside the same building. If one wants to change between any of those modes of transport, one will not have to walk more than 100 yards, but even then it is not perfect.

The taxi rank at Victoria Station was left over from the days of the horse and cart—the taxi service originated with horsepower. The tube system grew up around it and through that area, but suffered greatly from a lack of private finance. It still desperately needs investment. Though improvements have been made, many parts need at the very least a wash and brush-up. However, it is there and it works.

The regulatory powers of London mean that we know where the buses are going and where to catch a train or a tube. A series of co-ordinating bodies are working together to give us that information. If we can do that on a 100 year-old site, surely we can do it in miniature at dozens of other points throughout the country, especially when possibly only two or three modes of transport are involved. Realistically, if we are not going to invest in trams or in some other form of light rail system—I believe we should, but that is neither here nor there in this debate—we must strive to co-ordinate the remaining transport systems, as the report suggests.

We must introduce tickets which are acceptable to all modes of transport so that the inconvenience of the journey does not outweigh the benefits. If noble Lords want to see why it is so important to get rid of such minor inconveniences, they should walk to Clapham Junction and watch young women performing the Herculean task of trying to carry four bags of shopping and two young children. It should perhaps become an Olympic event. With the best will in the world it is impossible to carry two children and a volume of shopping up and down those steps without assistance, even if a member of the public is generally willing to grab the pushchair, but that cannot be guaranteed. Negotiating the steps in itself is extremely difficult, but when one has to buy a ticket with junior running off in one direction and tins of baked beans rolling out of the carrier bag in another, it becomes impossible.

We must integrate the systems and give people information about where trains are running and where tickets can be bought. Without the one-stop convenience that that would bring, we are ultimately heading for disaster. We have sold the idea of the car being the best mode of transport and the most socially acceptable; unless we can address all the other points, we are doomed to failure in making people change their minds.

3.38 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, normally I would expect to see my noble friend Lord Listowel sitting by my side. But, sadly, our most distinguished colleague with his remarkable record passed away this afternoon. We send our deep sympathy to Lady Listowel and the family.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his thoughtful speech and I welcome the debate. It enables us to look with some care at the railway system of this country and its condition following the Government's decision to privatise, with all that that means. There was a time when our railway was regarded as the best in the world.

We want to be sure that the changes which are currently taking place are justified. The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, has done his best at Question Time and in debate to defend government policy, and I respect his efforts. But I fear I still look to the future with some doubt and without great confidence.

The noble Viscount knows that my primary concern is the North Wales coast rail line which is the main route to Holyhead and then by sea to Dun Laoghaire and Dublin. It also serves the North Wales coastal communities, and, as noble Lords know, it is of major importance in encouraging tourism in North Wales. It has also been designated a trans-Europe network. Against that background, may I remind noble Lords that North Wales generally and the port of Holyhead particularly have suffered from very high unemployment. It is important that we take the right steps to help them. The port is important and the condition and usage of the railway is crucial. But what is the situation?

The truth is that the quality of the track is often poor and in Anglesey it results in numerous speed restrictions. The signalling is so old that there are times when only one train can operate in each direction. Furthermore, there is now no rail freight to Holyhead, something which has reduced the importance of the port. Until fairly recently, young Holyhead and Anglesey men, on leaving school, could obtain apprenticeships in the port as engineers, electricians, French polishers and so on, but sadly all this has gone. I remember a time when we could travel by train from Holyhead to Aberystwyth and onwards—but not today. Of course we want to see change, but it must be change in the right direction and one which recognises the historic importance of the two great bridges over the Menai Straits.

The Government, instead of consulting leaders in Wales, the North of England and Scotland, launched into enterprises which can only end in disaster. I was shocked to read what the Evening Standard had to say recently about the privatisation of the London tube system: The longest suicide note in political history … a disaster for London … and a disastrous leap in the dark". Ministers may wish to study the sums of money gained by the top 10 men involved in privatisation ventures. I was shocked when I read of them. It amounts to £103 million, money which could buy 34 new regional trains, or staff all the 1,000 unstaffed railway stations for four years. These are the realities and they should make our hair stand on end. Today over 1,000 of Britain's 2,500 railway stations are without staff; that means that in two out of every five of our stations no help is available to passengers. I know there are problems in Network SouthEast, where over 80 per cent. of stations are unmanned after 6 p.m., and 50 per cent. are unmanned on Sundays. But the £103 million I mentioned would staff them all for four years.

I am truly astounded by the way in which entrepreneurs have made substantial fortunes whilst the railways themselves have been neglected in many areas. I have mentioned the personal fortunes amounting to £103 million gained by 10 of these men while only one order for new British trains has been placed since privatisation. That has not been brought up in our debates and it has not been mentioned by Ministers at Question Time. The general public are not made aware of these facts, but it is high time they were so that they can decide in the coming weeks how they will make political decisions.

Recently Ministers have given the impression that we are moving into a happy new year. One of them said: Privatisation means better services to passengers at less cost to taxpayers". That, to me, seems incredible. Those who travel to London daily in the South East take a very different view, especially when they see directors walking off with millions overnight. I think there is a strong case for a major public inquiry into the operation of at least three train leasing companies: Porterbrook, Eversholt and Angel. It is a regrettable scene and there is one thing we must bear in mind; namely, that if, as we hope, we form a new government in a few weeks' time, we shall find some major problems in the cupboards of Whitehall. It will not be easy to resolve them, and although I look forward to that, I do so with some worry. We must be ready to tackle these problems honestly and effectively. The railway and tube systems will be among them. I want to see an integrated policy. I want to see efficient and comfortable trains whistling along the North Wales coast and on to Anglesey. I shall not be satisfied until I experience that when I go home!

3.45 p.m.

Lord Cadman

My Lords, we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for introducing this subject. Transport, for some reason, seems to be regarded by many people as something to be endured rather than a necessity and as a result the priorities afforded to it by governments, in my view, have over the years been sadly neglected.

For this reason, I welcome this Government's approach to transport which, as your Lordships know, has involved, among other things, much deregulation of the bus industry and, more importantly, the privatisation of the railways. In view of my interest in railway affairs, this is what I want to concentrate on.

The report that forms the subject of this debate deserves better publicity. It seems to address much of what was wrong with what went on before. We have had an adequate railway system in this country bequeathed to us by the Victorian civil engineers, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. The fact that so much criticism can be levelled at it stems much from the way things happened in the past. Nationalisation all those years ago served us ill and unfortunately resulted in stagnation, with a system ultimately concerned more with its own problems than those of its customers. There was no sustainability.

To put such a system into the private sector in the way this Government have succeeded in doing is a bold step and not without some risk. However, the present level of service is guaranteed under the franchising system and government interference is limited to the controls exercised by the franchising director and rail regulator, whose functions are enshrined in legislation.

The train operating companies have announced much needed improvement to their rolling stock, and indeed in many cases to their services. The track authority has announced a rolling programme of improvements and enhancements, much of which would be impossible under the previous regime. It is all very exciting and I would encourage everyone to look positively at what is likely to happen.

These companies, as encouraged by this report, will have to co-operate with each other for their businesses to grow. Life for the travelling public has to be made easy. Making connections is an apt subject that has been rather neglected in the past. We now have a central telephone inquiry service which is able to provide advice and information. There has also been produced an extremely comprehensive computer programme by means of which one can work out any journey that one wishes to make. In some cases this can produce some rather bizarre routes but on the whole it seems to be very useful.

Car parking is another very important aspect of rail travel. To this end it is most important that any railway land suitable for this purpose is safeguarded and so used. It can form a useful addition to a train operating company's income even at relatively nominal rates.

On the freight side, privatisation has produced enormous opportunities. It seems to have suddenly dawned on everyone that the competition here is not within the railway system but outside it. I refer to road transport and the arrival of but one main player in the rail freight area as a consequence of this fact. It has to be said that in order to maximise the potential for rail freight a lot of work will have to be done.

The Piggyback Consortium has done much work to concentrate people's minds on the need to provide a suitable infrastructure to enable rail to play its part in helping to protect the environment by taking some traffic off the roads. Once we have piggyback in this country and within Europe, it will mean that one transport operator can in fact deliver any number of road trailers to a given destination with one tractor unit. He takes one himself, consigns the rest by rail, delivers them with his unit and repeats the process with his back loads. Thus many lorry journeys are saved and with the frightening prospect of the arrival of 44-tonne vehicles to our roads, it should make it much easier to confine them to local rail-borne work.

The report mentions the need to keep track of rail freight consignments, containers and the like. Perhaps that can be achieved by some sort of satellite tracking system. This may be difficult because of the sheer numbers of units involved, but I believe that some sort of system like this is in use in the USA to keep track of freight cars so perhaps it can be done in Europe.

I welcome the recently announced improvements to the line that connects the port of Felixstowe with the rest of the system. Railway-port connections are a vital part of the container business and will enable rail to play a better part in the distribution process. Avonmouth has also recently had its link improved in order to facilitate the distribution of imported coal and I understand that land there has been earmarked for an intermodal terminal.

One of the most important connecting pieces of railway is the West London line. Only six years ago this line was electrified and re-signalled, which brought it out of what was almost a state of suspended animation. This was done mainly to facilitate the operation and maintenance of Eurostar trains. Since then and post-privatisation, many people have suddenly woken up to its potential. London is badly served by connecting railways and already a study is under way to further improve its capacity to around 21 journeys per hour from the present 12.

We are going to see a great revolution in the way rail services are provided in the future. Privatisation has transformed the ways in which such services can be both funded and operated. There are bound to be problems, but in the end they will be overcome. Let us not forget that the private car and the lorry are powerful competition that provide almost total convenience. Rail's task is to make its service equally convenient and to this end journeys must be made as seamless as possible. I think that we are now in a much better position to achieve this.

3.52 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate, so ably opened by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. I do not normally participate in debates about transport as it is not a subject on which I would claim any expert knowledge. The last time I did so was on the Bill concerned with railway privatisation, when, together with a number of other noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, whom I am sorry not to see in his place this afternoon, we managed to achieve some protection for railway pensioners. However, I speak today as a user of transport facilities and what I think I may describe as a reluctant motorist.

Why am I a reluctant motorist? It is because I recognise that the car is not an environmentally friendly instrument. I have no doubt at all that if we had a really good public transport system I would abandon my car, which is costly to maintain in any event and in the area where I live very difficult indeed to park. The value of car ownership is increasingly being undermined by the number of people anxious to join the throng who feel they cannot do without them.

The report Making Connections, which I read with enormous interest, highlights very effectively some of these concerns. Why do I use a car? It is because it is by far the easiest way to get to the places I want to visit or need to visit. I am glad that the report pays particular attention to the difficulty of making connections on journeys which are not straightforward. I can certainly attest to that.

In this country it is relatively easy to go up and down, from north to south, or vice versa, but try crossing from east to west, particularly at the mid-point of the country. That is a very different story.

You get the information required at the start of the train journey telling you where you have to change. It is fortunate if there is only one change. At the station where you have to change, the information you want may not be readily forthcoming. Moreover, and what is even worse, since privatisation and the emphasis on cost-cutting, which seems an inevitable side-effect, there is no one to ask. An unintelligible voice will blare something over a loudspeaker. Believing that you are on the wrong platform, you hastily run down the stairs, along a gloomy underground corridor and up another flight of stairs, only to realise that you should have stayed where you were. Then there will be an announcement that the train you are waiting for has broken down and for the safety of passengers checking has to take place, and there are apologies for the delay etc. That is not fiction, it has happened to me on more than one occasion, and I am sure that it has happened to others.

As a lone woman traveller the disappearance of staff very much concerns me. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn has already dealt with that at some length. Once you would never arrive at a small station to find absolutely no staff there at all, yet that is now a frequent occurrence. I am glad that Making Connections highlights concerns about personal safety if journeys involve waiting at ill-lighted and threatening interchanges. That is another reason why I prefer to travel in my car. It may not be as safe as I think it is, even equipped with a personal phone and a direct line to the AA, but I feel that it is.

Reliability is a key factor as well, and that also has been stressed in the report. It is right to focus on transfer needs—which the report believes are not being met—as a major reason why people will often go by car rather than by rail or bus.

As far as buses are concerned, I do not think that privatisation has resulted in an improved service to the customer. On the contrary, it seems to me that in London, where the situation is probably better than in many other parts of the country, nevertheless there are large numbers of buses on some routes—undoubtedly those regarded as the most profitable—while on others where the need may be greater the service is not so good.

Again, I speak from my experience, which may not be typical, but I believe that it is shared by a number of people. The local bus route which covers north-west London, where I live, and which provides a link with Brent Cross shopping centre for a series of thickly populated neighbourhoods, has an appalling service. I try to use it instead of going by car, but I usually find myself standing in a queue with a number of other elderly ladies who are out shopping. One said to me recently, "Really, you know, I do think that transport ought to be publicly owned and operated". So much for the popularity of privatisation.

As a motorist, I find the large number of long-distance freight lorries on the roads a bit daunting. Again, that is dealt with, I believe very fairly, by the authors of the report. More should be done to see that heavy freight goes by rail instead of cluttering up the road networks. I have often wondered why it is not possible to stipulate that heavy lorry deliveries should be made at night. I know that that is done in some EU countries. In the beginning there was opposition from the drivers, but generous overtime allowances soon made it acceptable. We should accept that if greater road safety resulted, it might be worth the extra cost on some goods.

The report makes the important point that while deregulation of public transport has brought benefits, it has made it more difficult to provide a high standard of intermodal services—that is to say, easy transfer arrangements—because the operators see more financial advantage in competition than in co-ordination. That is the downside in any market-oriented system. Only government intervention on the basis of a planned strategy to co-ordinate transport services throughout the UK can produce a system which is truly of benefit to the public generally and is environmentally friendly as well.

3.59 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley, for introducing this debate today. The report that we are discussing is admirably cogent and succinct in drawing our attention to the shortcomings of our public transport system arising from bus deregulation and rail privatisation. Paragraph 14 of the report states, Over recent years, deregulation of the bus industry and rail privatisation, together with reductions in local authority powers, have produced a more fragmented service and a lack of clear responsibility for ensuring that network benefits occur". I wish to concentrate my remarks on the way in which this fragmented service, this lack of clear responsibility for making the system work better, resulting at times in an alarming dearth of information about passenger journeys and lengthy delays in securing transport connections, affects women passengers in particular, women travelling alone, elderly women and women travelling with small children.

The report acknowledges that the deregulation of public transport has brought some benefits, but the report is unequivocal in its view that deregulation has meant that because operators see greater financial advantage in competition than in co-operation, passenger information systems, synchronised services and through-ticketing have all suffered. If you accept one judgment, I believe that you must accept the other also. Those shortcomings are difficult enough for all passengers, but women's travel needs and patterns arguably differ from those of men. Women are especially vulnerable to assault. Part-time workers—the overwhelming majority of whom are women—have to get to and from work outside peak public transport hours. Women travelling with young children face considerable physical burdens and difficulties. Elderly women are particularly badly hit because they are less likely to drive private cars than their male counterparts, and increasingly fragmented and unreliable transport systems leave them more and more isolated socially.

I suspect that for most women the most serious problems in using public transport are associated with the risk to personal safety, particularly when travelling after dark. In a nation-wide Harris poll, 59 per cent. of women said that they tried to avoid travelling by public transport in the evening hours because they feared for their personal safety. How much more are such fears exacerbated when there is little or no reliable information about transport connections, when women travelling alone are forced to make constant inquiries, sometimes from complete strangers, about where and when the next bus will arrive or depart, and when literally hours have to be spent hanging around ill-lit and unstaffed bus, coach and even railway stations?

Before any noble Lord suggests that it is all a question of perception rather than reality and that a little decent counselling could sort out the paranoia that is here and there, I should like to point out that many, many women, myself included, have direct experience of physical or sexual attack when using public transport after dark. It is a horrible and bitter experience.

Since bus deregulation, women are the fastest growing group of car drivers in this country. According to Professor Kerry Hamilton, Professor of Transport at East London University, there has been a 50 per cent. increase in women's use of cars in 10 years. Her research has shown that that is not because women have suddenly got the surplus income with which to buy cars—indeed, many run into debt in securing their cars—it is because the public transport system is failing women at every turn in relation to their domestic and work needs.

In West Yorkshire, research shows that older women are hit hard by deregulation because they can no longer rely on local buses to go to bingo or to go out dancing or with their friends. As a result, they stay in under a kind of self-imposed, but completely understandable, curfew, and they become increasingly isolated. Elderly women drive much less than do their male counterparts. In London, for example, only 17 per cent. of women over the age of 65 drive, as compared with 57 per cent. of men of the same age. For most of them, the current uncertainty of the public transport system causes not merely inconvenience or difficulty over shopping, but real loneliness and a deterioration in the quality of their lives.

For women with young children, all those problems prevail—and many more besides. Complaints abound about the uncertainty associated with the timing of public transport, about the lack of facilities, and about the lack of storage for shopping and pushchairs on buses. In short, there has been a complete failure on the part of the deregulated industry to address the normal everyday life of thousands upon thousands of women and their transport needs.

I hope and believe that if there is an incoming Labour Government, as I believe that there will be, they will take the report as seriously as it deserves to be taken and that we shall not hear the constant refrain, "It really isn't as bad as that" or "It's not me, guv", when it comes down to the question of who should actually do something to put all this right. The abdication of responsibility in this area evinced by Ministers has certainly not been unexpected, but it has indeed been depressing. It will be another reason why many women will reflect on their voting options in the forthcoming general election.

4.5 p.m.

Viscount Chelmsford

My Lords, I regret to say that until the other day I had never heard of the Round Table on Sustainable Development. That is unfortunate because if I had known about its report, I would certainly have ensured that the potential solutions that are offered by ITS (intelligent transport systems) were made available to it. Clearly, we should have had better co-ordination and, as President of ITS Focus, I must take my share of any blame for that. Perhaps ITS Focus is too closely identified with the road network and perhaps the Round Table is too closely identified with the rail network although that is an inference on my part and I shall happily accept correction if I am in error.

In ITS Focus, we see environmentally friendly modes of travel as just one of the benefits of encouraging a greater use of public transport through a more attractive public transport system. We also think that the tools to achieve that either already exist or are at least imminent. Certainly, the infrastructure exists; the cable networks, the Internet and the Radio Data Services are all available for intermodal transport information. Trip planner kiosks have already been built for demonstration purposes. I refer, for example, to Southampton's ROMANSE project, which has been showing its multimodal trip planner kiosk for some months now. Indeed, I saw it demonstrated in London last autumn. Two weeks ago, in another debate, I outlined some of the ways in which buses are being made more attractive through intelligent transport systems, so I shall not repeat those points now.

I turn instead to Europe where a booklet, Public Private Collaboration in Traffic and Travel Information, was produced by DG XIII in early 1996, following a transport telematics forum held in conjunction with ERTICO, which is the group involved in ITS for Europe. The booklet urged nation states to integrate traffic management and traffic information services, calling for co-ordination of information at the data processing level so that it can lead to the collection, processing and dissemination of traffic management data.

It seems to me that the Commission is right in identifying the need for a multimodal travel information service provider. Airlines appear to have no difficulty in providing computerised through ticketing. I am sure that multimodal travel can do the same, given the right stimulus. No doubt opinions will differ as to what such a stimulus should be, but I do not think that it is necessarily money; it might be some form of regulation. Judging by airline competition for passenger reservation systems, it should not cause a determined government too much hard work to achieve the same in land and water-based transport. Even if all that comes to pass, it will still be necessary for those offering freight services by rail and/or water and for those offering passenger services by rail, water, bus and coach—in other words, services which have the potential to take vehicles off the road—to compete with the car and lorry for such traffic. Only then will congestion reduce and the environment become less polluted.

I turn to the USA. The 1991 Intermodal Surface Act set out to develop an intermodal transport system that will, be economically efficient and environmentally sound: provide the foundation for the nation to compete in the global economy and will move people and goods in an energy-efficient manner". The US Department of Transport asked ITS America to prepare a strategic plan, taking account of all relevant interests. The plan was published in 1992 and covered 20 years. ITS America proposed to develop a national systems architecture with open interfaces. That was approved in 1993 and was completed in 1996 at a cost of 30 million US dollars which was federally funded. Today, 75 metropolitan areas in the US have shown interest in nine core ITS technologies. Currently, the US Department of Transport is supporting a model deployment programme in four cities out of 23 shortlisted. In parallel, there is a 16 million dollar five-year programme aimed at securing a comprehensive set of ITS public domain standards. It is not just that the US can afford to throw money around and we cannot. The fact is that while we today talk vaguely about the future possibility of intermodal transport the USA began its homework as long ago as 1991. It is now well on the way to developing new ideas to stimulate radical changes in the movement of people and freight. Doubtless, it will soon have new world-beating products to sell.

I turn to Japan. In 1995 ITS Focus led a DTI-supported mission to that country. This reported that four core ITS technologies had products in or close to market. One of the four was, Public transport information provision and vehicle management systems in vehicles, at roadside (via variable message signs at bus stops) and at bus, metro and surface rail stations". In Japan the associations appear to be much more authoritarian than UK trade associations. The report was impressed by the way in which the Japanese Government used them to shape key ITS products, including travel information services.

That report on Japan is now 15 months old. It seems to me that in both the USA and Japan government has grasped early the advantages which new technologies can bring and has offered focus and direction to get new products started. In Europe the Commission has also grasped the potential but it has been unable to persuade most nation states to give ITS the priority that it needs. It is easy for me to be wise in hindsight, but I suggest that as far as concerns intermodal transport and trip planning we in the UK have failed to get our act together.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I open by thanking my noble friend Lord Berkeley for giving the House the opportunity to debate this report. I believe that this is the first time I have spoken on transport issues in this House. I speak as a user and claim no great expertise in the matter. Nevertheless, I found Making Connections one of the simplest and most practical reports of its type that I had read.

The report sets out nine recommendations and identifies key barriers to intermodal and intramodal transfers within passenger and freight journeys. I recommend that the Minister sleeps with that report under his pillow every night until each recommendation is acted upon in full. When the Minister comes to speak it will not be good enough for him simply to trumpet the improvements in individual privatised routes, because the report makes clear time and again that it is the development of the network that is key to improving public transport facilities as a whole. That is one responsibility that the Minister cannot privatise. The report makes clear that these action points, as it were, are laid firmly at the Government's door.

I want to go further than the report. I believe that there is considerable public support for greater Draconian measures to reduce traffic particularly in our cities. Each of us can tell heart-rending stories about traffic jams, frayed tempers, time wasted and pollution; indeed, we have heard a few this afternoon. I give just one example. When I was of primary school age I lived in Notting Hill in central London. Almost every day I walked unaccompanied about one and a half miles to school. One wonders how many children of primary school age do that today. I suggest that very few do it. The figures reveal that in 1981 80 per cent. of all seven to nine year-olds walked to school unaccompanied. Today, it is less than 10 per cent. The corollary of that is that car usage has increased. The figures reveal that at peak hours in London 15 per cent. of all car journeys are delivering children to school.

We all agree that at the very minimum this is a lessening in our quality of life. The question is: what should we do about it? Poll after poll shows that the public is increasingly supportive of removing traffic from the roads, particularly in cities. Even the roads protesters gain a certain amount of sympathy. Swampy is seen by some (although not by me) as a national hero.

While the Minister is sleeping with the report under his pillow can he claim to be a hero of any kind? I believe that the answer is, "No". Heroism requires boldness. Even if the report's recommendations were acted upon in full it could not be described as a bold act. It would not reduce the traffic in the way that most people would like.

As to what those Draconian measures should be, I believe that where possible decisions should be taken at local authority level. I am aware that the Government have been talking to local authorities who have expressed an interest in introducing road pricing in their areas. I am also aware that local authorities are concerned that revenue generated from road pricing should be classified as a charge rather than a tax so that potentially they can benefit from that revenue and borrow against it to improve public transport. That is just one option that I know the Government are considering. But if the Minister is not willing to be bold he should allow others to be bold in a variety of ways to combat excessive traffic. He could then share in their boldness and maybe—just maybe—Swampy would return to his hole never to be heard of again and the Minister would be seen by some as a hero.

4.17 p.m.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, this afternoon we are debating a very interesting and useful report. We all owe my noble friend Lord Berkeley a debt of gratitude for introducing the debate in such a helpful way.

This afternoon I should like to highlight a number of the key recommendations arising from the report and then talk about those areas in which we may gain an advantage in future. The first and probably the most important recommendation of the report is that land currently owned by Railtrack should be safeguarded from inappropriate development. I am sure that all noble Lords appreciate that if land adjacent to a main railway station, which is probably fairly close to the centre of an urban conurbation, is sold off for a supermarket or office development, effectively it is a lost resource for the building of sensible interchange facilities for the transport network. This is a matter of such importance that government action should be taken "this day", to quote the words of Sir Winston Churchill. I hope that that recommendation in the report has been read by the Government, accepted by them and will be implemented by them.

To build on that, I believe that we need to recognise the planning requirement. The report identifies that the use of interchange facilities, particularly at main railway sites, is not integrated within the planning framework. I believe that as a national parliament we should say that it is essential that planning for major interchange developments must be integrated within the planning policies both at local and regional level.

The next recommendation that I highlight is the one that calls upon local authorities to audit interchanges that exist currently in their local areas, and to develop and report upon proposals for improvement. I would add to that the rider that it is not for the local authority to do it on its own; the local authority and all the various private interests need to get together. Local authorities nowadays are experienced in undertaking joint developments with the private sector. I hope that that recommendation will be acted upon by local authorities.

The fourth recommendation I highlight is the need for what I would describe as IT investment, the need to provide the public, industry and commerce with the essential information they require with regard to transport—how to get from A to B in a cost-effective, timely manner. Safety may be an important consideration in some respects. The guarantee of arrival on time may also be important. The public, industry, and commerce need the information that should be there, but, unfortunately, in many cases is not.

All the technology available in the IT sphere whether it is telephone systems, computer systems or display systems are used in other industries and different branches of human activity. It should not be too difficult to ensure that our transport industry uses that IT to provide the information needed. It has already been pointed out that the report has some limitations: the fact that it mentions canals only once has been raised. Air transport is not significantly identified. We may recognise why that has happened. The use of inland waterways is a minority activity in the transport sphere. One recognises that air transport is not a mass transit or heavy freight transit situation.

There is a need to highlight all methods of transport when we talk about interchanges. The report is all about interchanges among different modes of transport. We must appreciate that all modes of transport need to be identified. Public authorities have a responsibility to provide the infrastructure (the framework) in which other organisations, private individuals and private operators can operate. We should recognise that there is a European, international, national and a local dimension.

Finally, rather than look at the problems that have emerged as a result of privatisation, as some people have suggested—the difficulties that bus and train users face—bearing in mind that it has taken place, let us think of the future and of these privatisations providing an opportunity for services to be integrated. For example, some bus and rail services are currently run by Stagecoach. There may be integration there. Rail and air are under one roof in the sense of Virgin. Time has run out. I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for introducing the debate. I hope that the Government listen to what is being said.

4.25 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for bringing to our attention the report Making Connections. I found the report to be an excellent summary of where we are and where we ought to be going if we are to reap the environmental benefit of making public transport more accessible and more attractive. In doing so, we should not overlook the fact that we could make it more profitable, and thus, it is to be hoped, less dependent upon subsidy.

I have just one major criticism of the report itself, and that is the omission of any reference to the development and—I underline the point—the enforcement of bus priority measures, which I feel are relevant. They have a major role to play in making the bus more reliable and thus more attractive. Without them, the vicious spiral of perceived bus unreliability, the preference for the car, and thus yet further increased bus unreliability will be with us for ever.

That said, let me turn to many of the report's positive recommendations. First, I accept fully that we must get away from the fact that the motorist sees the car as the natural option. In paragraphs 26 and 77 the motorist's concept of the marginal cost of the car being far cheaper than the one-off full fare cost of public transport is highlighted. Paragraph 26 might have gone further and addressed other misconceptions; for example, the true social and environmental cost of using the private car and the relatively greater safety of public transport. Nor was reference made to those—it is difficult to obtain a figure as to how many there are—for whom, like myself, the car is not an option.

I support the recommendation that timetable and fare information should be readily available both at national and local level. On rail, I believe we are getting there, thanks to the national timetable available in both book and database form; the national enquiry centre, with its local call rate accessibility, which enjoys a considerable degree of marketing to increase public awareness; and the fares manual and the ABC Rail Guide. Together those meet most of the rail traveller's requirements.

As regards buses, information is rather harder to come by. There is the Great Britain Bus Guide, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Teviot. There is the National Express Timetable, and there is the hotline, alas at premium rates, and therefore not as appealing as it should be, also mentioned by my noble friend Lord Teviot. They meet many timetable requirements but they are rather weaker on fares. In addition, how many people know that those sources of information exist?

Although Making Connections puts the onus on government and local government to ensure that information is fully, reliably, nationally and locally available, I feel that we should be better served if we were to leave the private sector, which, incidentally, provides all the services I have just mentioned, to bed down, with the Government encouraging them towards a co-operative national facility, based on the recommendation of the one fact, which I am not sure any other Lord has mentioned, that competition is less between the different modes of public transport than it is between them together and the private car.

The report's recommendations on timetabling and ticketing co-operation among all public transport operators is one I believe we can all readily accept, but we need monopolies, fair trading and competition considerations reviewed, or sorted out, because they seem to me to work against those three laudable objectives.

Lastly, perhaps I may refer to recommendation 5 which calls for a review, in consultation with all interested parties, to consider legislative changes with a view to increasing co-operation on timetabling and ticketing; in other words, with a view to increasing integration. Perhaps I can nominate three foreign best practice candidates whose political, legal and operational backgrounds might merit consideration for the review body. In Norway, all transport schedules, all fares, are available in just two books. Transport is so totally integrated that I have been on an express train from Bergen to Oslo which was delayed 10 minutes because the boat from the North Cape and beyond was running late and the connection had to be held.

In Sweden, the county of Stockholm, which is far larger than any English county or any form of Scottish region, save possibly the Highlands and Islands, guarantees that one can travel from any point served by public transport—bus, train, tram, light rail or, indeed, ship because there is a big archipelago in the county of Stockholm—to any other such point at least every four hours with a single ticket, a return or travelcard, as the authority to travel.

In Holland, rail and bus schedules are summarised in just two volumes, the rail volume giving not only details of all train services and fares, national and international, but also information on the many points where a train taxi service is available with through ticketing from the point of boarding. It gives details of buses on which rail tickets are accepted. It gives details of buses to points not covered by the rail network. It also gives comprehensive information on local transport within the conurbations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

It seems to me that in Norway, Sweden and Holland they have integrated transport. It seems to me that we all want it. Perhaps we should get away from the not-invented-here concept and have a look at how other people tackle the problem.