§ Mr. Wheeler
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve transport in London.
§ Mr. Channon
I am today publishing a booklet entitled "Transport in London" setting out the Government's policy aims for transport in London and the steps being taken to achieve them. This is supported by a fuller, more technical statement on transport in London which I am sending to the London local authorities and other interested bodies.
Much is already being done and planned to improve the quality of London's transport systems and to increase their capacity. Earlier this week I announced the east London rail study which is examining the best options for improving rail access from central London to docklands 741W and east Thames-side. Today I am publishing the report of the central London rail study jointly with the chairman of London Regional Transport and British Rail.
I welcome the central London rail study report as a major contribution to the debate on how best to improve services and provide for forecast demand on the rail networks serving central London.
The number of passengers using the rail networks serving central London is currently at record levels. The study concludes that peak demand may grow by up to a further 20 per cent. by the end of the century. To meet this demand and improve the quality of services a twofold strategy is proposed:
- (i) A major upgrading programme costing some £1.5 billion to make the best use of the existing infrastructure. This programme would allow more and higher capacity trains to be run; increase the capacity of Underground stations; and include service restructuring and other measures to ease bottlenecks and secure better operating performance. It would provide an early response to some of the mst pressing problems but would not by itself be enough to cater for the forecast increases in demand and provide acceptable standards of, service. Provision has already been made for some of this programme in present plans.
- (ii) A package of new line construction. The study proposes alternative packages each consisting of two new lines in tunnels under London.
Some work is required before decisions can be taken. This will be carried out in parallel with the east London rail study and will include work on how such investments might be financed. The Government believe that if there is to be new investment of benefit to passengers, it is they who should pay for it, rather than taxpayers from other parts of the country. Contributions should be forthcoming from property owners and developers where they also stand to benefit. Where these two sources of finance are not enough to make a project commercially viable, grants can be available provided that economic benefits, for example in the relief of road congestion, justify them.
I am now inviting interested parties to give their views on the proposals. In the light of these and the further work that remains to be done, I hope to be in a position to take decisions on the way ahead later this year.
I am placing copies of "Transport in London", the technical document supporting it, and the report of the central London rail study in the Library.