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Dial-A-Ride (London)

Volume 82: debated on Monday 1 July 1985

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will hold further discussions with London Regional Transport and the organisers of dial-a-ride in Greater London to ensure its continuance in operation if the Greater London council funding is terminated at the end of 1985–86.

My officials are discussing the future of the dial-a-ride system with officers of the London boroughs and London Regional Transport. I intend to find satisfactory arrangements for the continuation of the scheme.

I thank my hon. Friend for the assurances that she gave yet again in an important speech at the beginning of last week. Will she elaborate a little, as reassurance that this vital and developing service will continue is needed? Will she spell out, even if only in a preliminary way, how funding will continue after 1985–86?

I am willing to have discussions with my hon. Friend, but it would not be fair to the London Boroughs Association or to London Regional Transport to go into too much detail, as they have not come to any overall agreement. I have told them that the scheme is important and much valued, that I intend to ensure that it continues and that it is made as efficient as possible so that we get good occupancy and reduce the cost per trip. I cannot tell my hon. Friend more than that at the moment.

Will the hon. Lady take this opportunity to assure the House that users of dial-a-ride schemes throughout London will be able to continue to use those schemes and that there will be no cost to existing borough councils in London greater than those which they already pay towards dial-a-ride schemes? Will she ensure that the disabled of London are not forced to pay for her proposals for taking control of London Transport from the people of London?

This has nothing to do with the transfer of London Transport to London Regional Transport. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the costs of dial-a-ride schemes are borne wholly by ratepayers. I see no reason for that to change, but we have to find the best way in which to do it. I assure the disabled people who use dial-a-ride schemes that the reason for working so hard to find the best, most efficient and cost-effective scheme is that they should be able to go on using them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Greater London council's recent press release on the future of the dial-a-ride service has brought a great deal of unnecessary worry and distress to disabled and elderly people?

I regret to say that, once again, by spreading scare stories, the GLC has again worried many disabled people. [Interruption.] I am happy to say, however, that, despite the mutterings of the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), the scheme will continue. We want to find the best and most cost-effective way in which to run it.

Is the Minister aware that, sure as we are that her intentions are good, we need more assurances than the suggestions that, somehow or other, the scheme will continue? Where is the money to come from? Is she aware that for this Government cost-effective is another way of saying fewer journeys, more people left in their own homes, and greater problems for the disabled?

For the umpteenth time, the hon. Lady has got it wrong. The Birmingham dial-a-ride schemes have come down to an average cost of £2 per trip, but certain London schemes vary between £10 and £16 per trip. It is surely my duty, if we are to extend such services to a greater range of disabled people, to reduce the costs.