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London Regional Transport

Volume 163: debated on Monday 4 December 1989

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8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport by how much spending on London Regional Transport will be increased over the next three years.

Investment by London Regional Transport is at a record level. It will rise to £2·2 billion over the next three years—up no less than 93 per cent. on the three years to April 1990.

I welcome that statement by the Secretary of State, but is he aware that it is generally felt in London that massive capital expenditure on the London Underground is required if London is not to come to a stop? Is he aware that people of all political opinions are weary of delays, breakdowns, inaudible announcements, the greatest concentration of broken-down escalators in discovered space, beggars, tramps and children selling lavender, all of which are a disgrace in a national capital?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have noted that until four years ago London Transport was controlled by the Labour-run GLC. During that time, subsidies rose to a record level, investment plummeted and the net result was a declining system in which there was inadequate investment. We have been putting that right and in the next three years massive investment will take place. The Central line will be renewed, with new trains and modernised stations. There are also plans afoot to start work on the Northern line and that work should be completed towards the middle of the next decade.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the considerable concern among London pensioners that the extent of their concessionary travel arrangements may be reduced as a result of the current negotiations with London boroughs? In view of the obvious benefits of the present scheme, not only to pensioners but to London Regional Transport, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the scheme will be continued after next April, and without damaging cuts?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point because there has been quite a lot of scaremongering about it. Negotiations are indeed taking place, but there is no question of that scheme being threatened.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people who travel on the Underground find it overcrowded, unpleasant and at times unbearable? We welcome wholeheartedly his commitment to improve the Central line and the announcement about the Jubilee line, but those who come from my part of the world hope that, in time, improvements will also be made to the District line.

I think that the whole House agrees that the London Underground system is in need of massive investment. The difference between London Underground in the past and London Underground now is that it is now receiving that investment, and the travelling public can look forward to a better service in the years ahead.

Is the Secretary of State aware that even if spending on the London Underground is at record levels, dissatisfaction with the London Underground is also at record levels? When will the Government put aside their doctrinaire aversion to investment in the public sector and spend the money that is required to give the people of London the public transport system that a capital city deserves? In particular, when will he introduce schemes for investment to make possible the Chelsea-Hackney line and the building of a tube station in my constituency—the only London constituency that lacks its own tube station?

I am sure that it will be a matter of pleasure to the hon. Lady that, in the eight years that end next April, £8 billion will have been invested in the transport infrastructure as a whole—that is to say, in rail, underground and roads. In the next three years, more than £6 billion will be invested in the public sector alone. The investment for which the hon. Lady calls will thus be made under this Government.

A Chelsea-Hackney line is one of two lines being considered with a view to relieving congestion in central London. As I have already said, all being well, London Underground will be introducing a Bill this time next year to make possible one of the lines.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a previous chairman of London Transport described the Northern line as "an abomination" on which trains are dirty, infrequent and regularly graffiti-ridden? Will my right hon. Friend speed up investment in the Northern line so that improvements can be made before the mid-1990s?

London Transport is working hard on those plans. I have just inaugurated the modernisation of Angel station at a cost of £55 million and that work is now in hand. Plans will be introduced for the full modernisation of that entire line and I recognise that the House wants to hear about them as soon as possible.