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London Transport

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport when he plans to meet the chairman of London Transport.

While noting that my right hon. Friend has no direct responsibility for London Transport, may I ask him, when he next meets the chairman, to remind him that following a 40 per cent. increase in bus fares, it is time for an aggressive acceleration of the policy of the introduction of one-man buses?

As my hon. Friend says, I have no direct responsibility. I am sure that both the chairman of London Transport and the chairman of the GLC will be concerned to achieve maximum efficiency in London Transport.

Has London Transport made an application to my right hon. Friend for the closure of the Epping-Ongar branch of the Central line? If so, will he consider holding a meeting, before proceeding with consideration of the closure, of all the interested parties to see whether some common agreement can be found to fund the admitted losses on this section of the line?

The answer to my hon. Friend's first point is "No". My consent has not been sought in this case. Unlike British Rail services, this is a local service for which there is no direct Government support. That was the position of the previous Government. I shall bear in mind the point made by my hon. Friend on the general position.

In view of recent reports of attacks on London Transport workers, will the Minister discuss this matter when he next meets the chairman? Has he had discussions with the Home Secretary to see whether some protection is needed in particular areas so that public service workers will not have to consider refusing to man certain services in certain places?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that the whole House will deplore the violence seen last weekend, and, particularly, the injuries inflicted on London Transport staff and on members of the public. This is becoming an increasingly serious problem. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I will be holding a working conference, I hope, next month, involving the trade unions and the organisers of the transport industries, on violence on public transport. At the same time, the Government's general policy of strengthening the police and their emphasis on law and order must also make a contribution to tackling the question.

Order. I am not sure whether Neasden is in the constituency of either hon. Member. Mr. Nigel Forman.

Will my right hon. Friend, when he next meets the chairman of London Transport, ask him to explain to Londoners why so many London buses seem to travel in convoy? Is it to do with safety in numbers? Is it operating practice? Or are the crews not fulfilling the instructions of management?

I do not think I shall attempt a quick, flip answer. It will be one of the aspects of my discussions with the GLC and with the chairman of London Transport about the efficiency of the service. I understand my hon. Friend's concern.