§ Mr. David Mitchell
These matters are the responsibility of London Regional Transport. I suggest that the hon. Member approaches the chairman direct.
§ Mr. Maples
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will now make a further statement about the response from London Regional Transport to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report, published on 1 February 1984, on the arrangements made by the then London Transport Executive for the maintenance of buses and coaches.
§ Mr. Ridley
London Regional Transport has made good progress in following up the commission's recommendations since I last reported to the House on 25 October 1984, at columns 684–5. It has now prepared a further response, copies of which I am placing in the Library of the House.
The MMC made some important recommendations for the improvement of the cost accounting and management control systems employed by the then London Transport Executive. On 1 April 1985, LRT established a separate subsidiary company, London Buses Ltd., for the provision of bus services. A further subsidiary, LRT Bus Engineering Limited, was also established to provide vehicle maintenance and engineering facilities for London Buses Ltd. The "arms length" relationship made possible by this restructuring will ensure that BEL is fully accountable for the work it carries out for LBL.
Within LBL, bus garages are now established as separate cost centres and are charged for the repair or replacement of each unit and for their use of materials. There is now regular monitoring of performance against budget. Further steps remain to be taken towards the development of a comprehensive cost information system, and I look forward to the implementation of the necessary measures as soon as possible.
Proposals for a revised management structure for garage engineering maintenance have been prepared, but 560W LRT states that their implementation is dependent on the introduction of a negotiating machinery which reflects more closely the revised corporate structure of LRT and the negotiation through this machinery of a new grading and salary structure. The introduction of revised shift patterns was planned to take effect from April 1985; some changes have now been made, but the bulk of the savings envisaged are also said to be dependent on changes in the negotiating machinery. In my previous statement, I said that I expected to see substantial progress by LRT in the modification of the complex industrial relations structure inherited from the former London Transport Executive. Progress in this area has been limited so far, and I remain anxious to see firm evidence of further progress.
Since LRT's initial response to the commission's report, I have had cause for serious concern about the standards of its bus maintenance as shown by the results of my Department's spot inspections. LRT's response contains some encouraging evidence of a significant improvement in recent months and gives details of the steps which are being taken to ensure that this improvement is sustained. This does not, however. mean that the standard of performance being achieved is yet satisfactory, and I expect to see further improvement at an early stage.
At the BEL workshops, improved production control systems are being installed. Job booking is now operative in both Aldenham and Chiswick works, the valuation of work in progress has been introduced, issues and receipts from the works stores are more closely controlled. Cost reduction targets have been set in all areas and the necessary monitoring procedures are being established, together with the new quality control organisation. A proportion of the work required by LBL is being placed with other contractors in order to provide a continuing check on the prices being charged by BEL.
I now expect to see the steps which LRT and its subsidiaries have taken feed through into real savings in the costs, and improvements in the effectiveness of their bus maintenance activities. The initiatives which they have taken in response to the commission's report, and which I welcome, need to be pursued vigorously and I shall take a continuing interest in their progress.