HC Deb 10 March 1999 vol 327 cc237-8W
Mr. Fearn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what plans he has to ensure that the introduction of new commuter services on the River Thames does not undermine established tourist operations; [75265]

(2) what representations his Department has received concerning the honouring by London River Services after 1 April 1999 of agreements and licences which the Port of London Authority entered into with boat operators; [75261]

(3) what steps his Department is taking to ensure that agreements and licences which the Port of London Authority entered into with boat operators are honoured by London River Services after 1 April. [75262]

Ms Glenda Jackson

My Department has received a number of representations from and on behalf of Catamaran Cruisers Ltd. and the Thames Passenger Services Federation about this matter. London River Services Ltd. (LRSL) has been set up to manage river services operating from the piers currently owned by the Port of London Authority and certain other new piers.

The Government support LRSL's objectives, which are to: Provide a comprehensive network of high quality river boat services (commuter and leisure) to meet London's river travel needs, having regard to efficiency, economy and safety of operation; Maximise passenger benefits and usage within the funds available; Support multi-modal travel facilities; Develop and improve the infrastructure and information services which support the river network.

In pursuing these objectives within the context of the Government's Thames 2000 initiative, we believe that opportunities will be created for improving and expanding services on the River to the potential benefit of all operators. Neither the Government nor LRS has any wish to undermine existing operators, especially those which deliver a good quality of service and which have invested in new vessels and facilities.

At the operational level, it is for LRS to determine how best to meet these objectives, having regard both to developing the market for river services and the potential impact on the sustainability of existing operators' services. I understand that LRS's proposals have generally been well received by boat operators; and that they are currently in active discussion with Catamaran Cruisers Ltd. about the latter's applications for new licences and are hopeful that an agreed solution can be reached.

Mr. Fearn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will ensure that London River Services does not sell the Thames piers in its ownership. [75263]

Ms Glenda Jackson

Whilst LT retains the right to dispose of assets that are not required for the purposes of its business, the Government believe that its subsidiary, London River Services Ltd., would not be able to fulfil the objectives it was set up to achieve—and which we fully support—without retaining ownership of the key central London piers. Other assets may be disposed of only with the Secretary of State's consent.

In due course it is intended that ownership of the piers should pass to Transport for London. One of Transport for London's main transport duties will be to implement the Mayor's integrated transport strategy. In drawing up that strategy the Mayor will be under a duty to have regard to the desirability of encouraging the use of the River Thames, in particular for the provision of passenger transport services and for the transport of freight.

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