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London Underground

Volume 163: debated on Monday 4 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on his plans to relieve current levels of congestion on London Underground.

As I have recently announced, I have already put a great deal of action in hand on the recommendations of the central and east London rail studies. With my approval London Regional Transport has just deposited a Bill for the extension of the Jubilee line; subject to the outcome of further work I expect to authorise a Bill for another major new line next year; and a good start has been made on a major upgrading programme of the existing underground network.

Has the Secretary of State forgotten that his central London rail study suggested that the extension of the Jubilee line was the least likely option to relieve congestion in central London? Surely his main tool for relieving overcrowding is the increase in fares? Will he acknowledge that his Department is predicting a 46 per cent. increase in fares on the Underground in the next 11 years? Does he agree that that will simply put people on the roads, add to road congestion and lead to further traffic accidents in our capital city?

I am not sure that the hon. Lady really meant what she said about 46 per cent. over 11 years. If that were so that percentage would represent the lowest increase ever and probably lower than that in any one year under the Labour party. During the past 10 years London Transport fares have not increased in real terms. Investment in the London Underground system is massive and we have already announced the extension of the Jubilee line. I hope that the hon. Lady, whose constituents stand to benefit from that line, will not complain about the fact that south London will get a decent Underground service in the years ahead from the Jubilee line, as will east London. We are coming forward with a proposal for another line. I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady, but we are tackling problems which she and her friends just moan about.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there would be no extra congestion on London Underground if travel passes for the elderly, the disabled and blind were confirmed at their present level—that is, at no cost to their holders? Can he tell me when pensioners and others can expect an announcement to be made?

I cannot give the date, but I can repeat the assurance that I gave earlier—that the travel concession is not threatened. The negotiations are simply in hand between the parties. It is not the elderly or the disabled who are the cause of London's congestion—no one would suggest that. The plain fact is that, in the past five years, the number of people using the Underground has increased by 35 per cent. in the rush hour. and by 85 per cent. at off-peak times. There is a massive demand for the service that Opposition Members say that we should subsidise.