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London (Bus Services)

Volume 114: debated on Monday 6 April 1987

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with the chairman of London Regional Transport about the quality of bus services.

My right hon. Friend and I meet the chairman from time to time to discuss a range of issues, including quality of service. I last met Sir Keith Bright on 24 March in Camden for the launch of another innovative high frequency midibus service.

Is the Minister aware that our constituents are thoroughly fed up with the ever-worsening bus services in London? Does he agree that the threatened closure of Wandsworth, Hendon and Clapton bus garages and the threat of others to follow will make matters a great deal worse? Will he make representations to London Regional Transport and London Buses Ltd. to halt the closure of those garages?

There has been no overall worsening of London Buses' performance, although engineers' industrial action at the end of 1986 caused temporary problems. Waiting times and the percentage of schedules operating this year are considerably better than they were in the early 1980s when the GLC was responsible for them. As for garage closures, it is for the management of London Buses Ltd. to decide how many garages are needed to service its fleet.

If quality of service is to be measured by increased use and frequency of services, does my hon. Friend agree that since the demise of the GLC there has been an improvement in the quality of public transport throughout London? If quality is to be measured by comfort, does my hon. Friend agree that the best way to achieve that is to increase capital investment, which was increased last year and is to be further increased this year?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about capital investment, which is running at £260 million for LRT this year and is expected to increase to £280 million next year. London Buses Ltd. expects the highest passenger mileage this year since 1978 and has introduced a number of frequent midibus services, of which the Camden Hoppa is the most recent, and these are well and truly welcomed by the travelling public.

Does the Minister appreciate that large buses are appropriate for many routes, especially the No. 15 route, from which London Transport may remove the Routemasters? Is he aware that when I wrote to the chairman pressing him to retain these very popular platform buses and asking why he was trying to sell them to China he replied that conditions in China were less rigorous than those in London. As the chairman also said that customer service remained the chief objective, does the Minister agree that his answer in relation to the Routemasters was ridiculous, stupid and illogical?

No, Sir, because platform buses have a greater accident problem with passengers getting on and off, and that must also be taken into account.