I shall be bold and leave my phone off during this debate. I do not know whether everyone else will follow my example, but we live in stirring times that may distract a few people from this very important debate. I am glad to see in the Chamber hon. Friends and colleagues who are giving their minds over to the issue.
I am glad of this chance to put the case for the East London line to the Minister at a time when she and her colleagues at the Department for Transport are having talks with Transport for London and with the Treasury, which is preparing its comprehensive spending review for the autumn. She knows that phase 1 of the East London line is going ahead, and that phase 2 is dependent on further funding from the Treasury in that spending review. She may remember that I last raised the issue with the Secretary of State at Transport questions only last week, and he promised to pass my point on to the Treasury. I need hardly tell the Minister present that I shall make the same request of her. I should not want to leave Treasury Ministers in any doubt about the importance of the project to Clapham Junction, south London as a whole and the entire London region.
Few infrastructure projects can claim that their price tag has gone down since they were first discussed, but the East London line phase 2 can, because its cost was first put at £250 million. The most technically difficult and expensive part of phase 2 is known as the Dalston curve. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) will explain what it is.
My hon. Friend is an even greater expert on it.
The curve will be accomplished alongside phase 1, although it is technically a part of phase 2, so the additional cost of phase 2 is now only £100 million, which includes an allowance for contingencies and for rolling stock. The pure infrastructure cost is now only £70 million, and the scheme has become so cheap that it may fall below the Treasury’s radar. Treasury Ministers may not even have heard of it, which is why I feel that it is necessary to make absolutely sure in the Chamber today that the Minister and her colleagues at the Department for Transport are fully aware of the project, its importance to London and the importance of ensuring that the comprehensive spending review provides sufficient capital for TfL to proceed with the scheme’s second phase.
I am sure that the Minister will remind us that TfL now has responsibility for its own priorities, and I fully support the devolution of that power to TfL, which has done a million times better job of taking the project forward and looking after London’s railways than the late and unlamented Strategic Rail Authority. TfL has many competing priorities, from cooling overheated tube tunnels to the Thames Gateway bridge, but the Mayor of London has assured me that he is fully committed to the East London line extension project, and that he regards it as one project in which phase 1 should be followed seamlessly by phase 2.
TfL has also assured me that it is fully committed to phase 2, and that it has been able to advance the project completion date, which was due to run from the end of phase 1 in June 2010, taking three years to complete by June 2013. The last time we discussed the project, I pointed out that the date meant that the project would end 10 months after the completion of the London Olympics, which would have been a missed opportunity to say the least. However, now TfL is talking about a completion date—if the finances are available—of December 2011, which is nine months before the Olympics. That would make a lot of sense for the Olympics, for people from south London travelling to the Olympics, and perhaps for special trains running from the Olympics tennis tournament at Wimbledon to the main Olympics at Stratford. Who knows?
I pay tribute to TfL’s Ian Brown and Peter Field, and its commissioner, Peter Hendy, for their commitment to the scheme, and the energetic and imaginative way in which they have pressed ahead with it. They have been able to advance the project by nine months, which demonstrates their commitment to it. However, they can complete phase 2 only if they receive sufficient capital grant from the Treasury. Phase 2 has always been dependent on the comprehensive spending review, because it runs beyond the time frame of the original spending review. That is why we are making the case today.
I am sure my hon. Friend agrees that because Transport for London is a relatively new body with a very good double A credit rating, it is a very good and sure investment bet for the Treasury. TfL counts the paperclips, but seriously, as a public body, it is a model of how to manage finances. Does he not agree that the Treasury ought to consider funding TfL for the extension?
I fully agree with my hon. Friend, and I shall make a few comments about the scheme’s value for money later.
First, some people might build their case on the fact that we made a promise in our 2005 manifesto to
“support…the extension of the East London line.”
It is important that we carry out that promise, but I accept that we must make the case at every level—in value for money, transport, regeneration and social terms. There are strong arguments on each ground, and I shall allude to them briefly.
When the London underground was first built, it left out many poorer parts of London. It stretched far out into the suburbs of Hertfordshire, but it did not get as far as Hackney, and it hardly made it across the river into south London. On top of that, the middle classes have tended to migrate along underground lines, which reinforces that fact. Lord Rogers once said that if one wanted to know where the middle classes live in London, one should look at an underground map. That is not completely true, and we can think of exceptions, but it is true that many parts of London were left off the tube map when the underground was first built, and that they have suffered ever since. They include most of south London, such as Battersea, Clapham Junction, Southwark, Peckham and Lewisham, and parts of north London, such as Hackney and Finsbury Park.
The East London Line Group, a consortium of local authorities that support the scheme, is launching a campaign on Monday called “Connect South London”. The group points out that most of south London is poorly served by the underground, and that it suffers badly as a result. It suffers economically because all the railways go in a purely radial direction to London termini, which is okay for getting to and from work but useless for getting around town. People find it much more difficult to get to shops, restaurants and entertainment centres in south London than in north London.
The campaign launch will be held at Battersea arts centre, which is one of the best arts centres in London and a regular pick of the week in Time Out.
My hon. Friend from north London agrees with me.
The arts centre suffers because Battersea does not appear anywhere on the tube map. Tourists, and indeed many north Londoners, simply cannot work out where it is, even though it is near a railway station.
The network will be launched in November. In December, the current East London underground line will be closed while works for phase 1 of the extension are carried out. When that is complete, it will form part of the London overground network.
Phase 2 is our particular concern today. It is an extension described by the Mayor as the regeneration express, because it will link all the deprivation hot spots of south London—including Deptford, Peckham, Camberwell, Brixton, Clapham North and, of course, north Battersea—and put them all within easy reach of the docklands. Almost 168,000 people live within 15 minutes’ walk of those stations, one in six of whom live in the most deprived parts of London.
When both extensions are complete, the London overground will have 60 stations covering 20 boroughs and connecting 80 per cent. of the most deprived parts of London. The extension will bring rapid transport to both the docklands and the City, as 14 per cent. of City jobs are located within a mile of the planned Shoreditch High Street station.
That is the social and regeneration case. I turn to the transport case, which is particularly important when discussing phase 2. Only when phase 2 is completed and the whole line is built will London have an orbital route—an outer circle that transport engineers have been discussing for the past 30-odd years. The orbital network will make it possible for the first time to travel across and around London without going through the centre. It will help not only Londoners but commuters and through-London travellers who want to avoid the centre. For instance, they will be able to get off a Southampton train at Clapham Junction, go around the orbital and catch a Hastings train from Peckham, catch a Glasgow train at Watford or go to Finsbury Park to catch a train on the east coast main line, if my geography is right. They will be able to do all that without needing to go through the centre, alight in a congested terminus, get on the congested Circle line and fight their way through the crowds.
Another important point is that the completion of phase 2 and the East London line will have a very good effect on the rest of the transport system. It is projected that 6 million people will shift from buses, cars, the tube and other rail services on to the line, and another 2 million new trips will be made that were not possible or feasible before. Because it will take pressure off Victoria and London Bridge by re-routing lines around them, if it is delivered before Thameslink works at London Bridge commence, it could significantly reduce the disruption to rail services during the construction, making it particularly attractive to TfL.
ELLX2—I have not referred to it that way before, but it is easier than saying “the East London line extension, phase 2” every time—will carry 8.7 million passengers, and the East London line as a whole will carry 48 million. It will lead to 400,000 fewer car journeys annually and 470 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, as well as cutting journey times for millions of Londoners.
I shall come to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch about value for money. We must remember that it is costing £500 million just to renovate one tube station, Victoria, to take more passengers. How much better value for money would it be to let people get off the train before Victoria and go much more directly to where they want to go, at a fraction of the cost? Much more could be achieved within relatively low cost margins in transport project terms. All that is required for ELLX2 is a small amount of new track between Surrey Quays and the proposed Surrey Canal Road station, some improvement to existing railway lines and an increase in train frequency. ELLX2 is a quick win with huge dividends for London transport. For those who want the technical argument, the benefit to cost ratio is 1.7:1.
As though that were not enough, an important population argument can be made. London’s population is predicted to increase by 800,000 by 2016. That will be the highest growth rate that London has experienced since the Victorian era, and I need hardly say that the Victorians knew what to do about increasing population. They built the underground system, the trains and railway termini and our sewer system; they built infrastructure at a fantastic rate. If we are now to experience the same level of population growth, it stands to reason that we should be carrying out major infrastructure projects, and ELLX2 is the cheapest, the quickest and the best.
The East London Line Group calculates that the population in the four south London boroughs through which ELLX2 will pass can be expected to grow by some 116,000 between now and 2016. That is more than the entire population of Cambridge, or indeed of Lincoln, I say to my hon. Friend the Minister, in just four boroughs. It is important to accommodate that growth—20,000 more people in Wandsworth, 25,000 in Lewisham, 30,000 in Lambeth and 40,000 in Southwark.
I look forward to hearing from my hon. Friends representing north London constituencies. I am sorry that my immediate neighbours cannot be here. Hon. Members will understand. The south London branch of ELLX2 will run through the constituencies of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), both of whom are unable to speak as members of the Cabinet—
They are at the moment. They are probably sitting behind their telephones. They are precluded from joining debates such as this, but I know that they have strong views on the issue. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) is here as well, so we have another south Londoner to join the debate, but I am sure that colleagues will understand why they are not all here. It does not understate the scheme’s importance.
I shall start with Clapham Junction. It is the busiest railway station in the country—indeed, probably in Europe—and it is an anomaly bordering on injustice that it has never been put on the tube line. We have waited 100 years for Clapham Junction to be put on the tube line; people have been campaigning to connect it for at least that long.
Does my hon. Friend agree that another good reason to put Clapham Junction on the tube line is that, thanks to Transport for London and the Mayor, children can travel free on the tube but must pay at least £1 to travel just one station from Clapham Junction?
My hon. Friend hits the point exactly. Since the London Underground has been part of TfL, it has been part of a London system that not only includes cheap and free fares for young people but has been reclaimed for Londoners. The railway system is still struggling to come to terms with its role as a means of transport for Londoners around London. I applaud the Department for Transport for devolving more power to TfL, and I regard the launch of the London overground as a big step forward in making London’s railways work for Londoners.
There are 1,300 people in the Clapham Junction area who work at Canary Wharf. It is one of the biggest local employers, even though it is on the other side of London. A huge regeneration area in north Battersea will benefit from a Clapham Junction-Docklands link.
As a railway station, Clapham Junction is already bursting at the seams, and passenger growth at the station is expected to be 30 per cent. higher in the next 10 years. The new route will offer an opportunity to serve the huge population of 12,000 in north Battersea who are remote from stations because of the 1.8 mile gap between Clapham Junction and the next station. I shall certainly work—with Wandsworth council, I hope—to make a business case for a station between those two. The Mayor has already promised to prepare a business case for a station at Brixton, where there is a gap of 1.9 miles between stations. The populations of Battersea and Brixton live in precisely the kind of areas that would benefit from a regeneration express; given the role of the extension in promoting regeneration, it is difficult to see how they could be left out and not get stations.
I shall say a word about Denmark Hill and Queen’s Road Peckham stations, which are in the constituencies of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham, who are unable to take part in this debate. They have an equally strong case for a link between their very deprived communities, docklands and the City. Their constituencies have high proportions of ethnic minorities and are among the most deprived communities in south London.
The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) has said that the East London line has the greatest potential for regeneration at the least possible cost, and he is right. Some 125,000 additional jobs would be within 16 minutes’ travelling time of Peckham, for instance. The same applies to Surrey Canal Road, a new station in Deptford—right next to Millwall football ground, and that will no doubt have advantages. The station will be in a regeneration area, for which tens of thousands of new homes and jobs are planned.
In conclusion, the Clapham Junction link—or, as we refer to it in my part of the world, ELLX2—is vital for the whole of south London. It is a quick-win transport project that delivers economic growth, accommodates population growth and adds much-needed access to Canary Wharf and the huge number of jobs being developed in east London. The East London Line Group, a consortium of London boroughs led by Archie Galloway of the City of London, has been campaigning for the East London line and continues to campaign for ELLX2. It has made what I consider a reasonable request: that the Government should end the inevitable uncertainty of the past few years and give the second phase of the East London line project the approval that it needs as a part of the comprehensive spending review.
It gives me great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Gale. I have to take issue with one point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton); he undermines his case by suggesting that anyone might want to travel on the East London line to see Millwall play—people might think that that is an argument for not having it. My constituents are happy to see Arsenal and West Ham.
That is a fair point. Those people are welcome at Arsenal or West Ham—or, indeed, in Hackney. I shall canter through some of the reasons why people may wish to travel to my constituency of Hackney, South and Shoreditch, on the East London line. However, it is worth remembering that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea has said, Hackney has long suffered as the inner London borough north of the river without tube connections. I should say that although one of our postcodes is N1, in Hackney we consider ourselves to be emphatically in the east end of London.
We have not had a tube station. If we look at a map of London and mark the tube stations, there will be a blank spot in the shape of the borough of Hackney. I think that we can claim the one staircase at Old Street station, in Shoreditch in the south of my constituency; the rest belongs to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn).
There may be two staircases at Manor House, which is in the constituency of Tottenham.
We in Hackney have not had a tube. We have battled a long time for the East London line; we have taken on the great and the good, including the Prince of Wales, who was keen for Bishopsgate goods yard to be listed. I am a veteran; I have the scars of those campaigns on my back. One of my constituents told me, “Ever since I have been in Hackney, the East London line has been about four years away.” Well, for that constituent and the rest of us, it is now less than four years away—in June 2010, we will have the East London line in Hackney. It is almost unbelievable, and a fantastic achievement.
Of course, the line will be part of the new London overground system, thanks partly to our colleagues at the Department for Transport, who gave the powers to the Mayor; it will be run by Transport for London so that it is genuinely part of London’s transport network. In London, we have long suffered from the difficulties of having disjointed rail services that are not part of the system. We still have battles over the use of the Oyster card; that affects many of my constituents, who travel on overland railway lines, including the North London line. It is important that that comprehensive overview and comprehensive running by one organisation should continue.
I have said for a long time and still believe that the biggest single triumph since the formation of the London government—the Greater London authority, of which I was a member from 2000 to 2004—is the existence of Transport for London. We have seen the results of giving power, through the Mayor and Transport for London, to Londoners so that we can determine our own transport future. I shall mention those results; I am sure that the Minister is well aware of them.
Phase 1 of the East London line brings us a new station at Dalston Junction, close to the North London line station of Dalston Kingsland, and links that to Haggerston, Hoxton and Shoreditch, slicing through the western part of my constituency. That is an important link to south of the river. However, it only goes so far; we also look forward to seeing the second phase of the extension so that my constituents can travel backwards and forwards and avail themselves of the facilities and jobs in other parts of London—just as, hopefully, people will travel to Hackney as well. We also need to recognise the Treasury’s role. We are always asking it for things, but it is worth thanking it for its confidence in Transport for London.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea said, that bit of phase 1 is not the only one that we are going to see. By February 2011, there will be a link from Dalston in my constituency to Highbury and Islington, which is on the cusp of the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North and for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry). For my constituents, that will be a vital link to the Victoria line, which they currently access mainly by the North London line, which runs west to east across my constituency.
Tribute has been paid to a number of the people who have so far delivered successfully on phase 1 of the East London line extensions. In the past, I chaired a transport working group to improve the facilities at Finsbury Park interchange. I have seen and battled first hand with the many difficulties of delivering decent transport projects. I say to my hon. Friend the Minister that that was a model of some of the difficulties that we face, although in the end there was a good result, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North, who represents the area, knows.
We have seen great discipline in the East London line and the East London Line Group, which is led by Archie Galloway of the City of London. All of us involved never asked for more than we felt was the minimum needed to get the line on track. Although many of us would like all-singing, all-dancing stations and other extensions around the tracks and the immediate stations, we have been cautious and united in asking only for what we actually need.
We can sort out the other things in other ways; the Department for Transport has put in money for a concrete platform that is being built at Dalston station, and that will help fund other things. However, we have not asked for many extra things such as extensions to platforms, although in some places we need them. We have been very disciplined.
I pay particular tribute to Ian Brown, who has taken up that baton from the East London Line Group. He is an officer of Transport for London and has shown that transport projects in London can be delivered on time and on budget. My hon. Friends, others and I have battled for many years, as did people before us, to get the extensions. It is thanks to Ian—his determination and “can do” approach—that the project was delivered. The political framework was there, through the Mayor and the Government, but he should be applauded in this place for his work.
The East London line—the extension that we know is coming and the one that we hope is coming—will do a great deal for my constituency. The Olympics will take place partly in Hackney, South and Shoreditch and that gives us an opportunity to boost tourism and visitors. My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea mentioned Battersea arts centre, that small venue south of the river—
I am sure that my hon. Friend will forgive me when I say that I believe Hackney to be the centre of the universe. It is, of course, the home of the Hackney Empire, one of the great Frank Matcham theatres, which was recently renovated and which provides one of the best and most diverse programmes among London theatres. It attracts diverse audiences that include many people from the local area who—often for cost reasons—cannot access a west end theatre.
It is home also to Ocean, which is currently darkened, but which we hope will reopen as a major London music venue. I remember talking to Hackney’s cabinet member for regeneration, a certain councillor Guy Nicholson, who was in Tottenham Court road one day and who heard a young couple who were keen to go and experience the facilities at Ocean, which were then open. They asked the man at the tube station how to get to Hackney, and he said, “Well, you hop on here, you get to Bethnal Green, and then I think you get a bus, but I can’t tell you which one.” At that point, the couple looked at each other and decided that it was too much hassle and that they would not bother.
My hon. Friend is clearly determined that he and I launch a joint tourism battle for visitors to the London Olympics. My point, however—I think that he would say the same of his constituency—is that whether we like it or not the tube map is the way in which many people find their way around London, because of its simple approach. I happen to be chair of the newly formed all-party parliamentary group on urban walking, so I am aware that there are 40 pairs of stations in London between which it is quicker to walk than to travel by public transport. Nevertheless, first-time visitors to London and Londoners outside their own area do not always necessarily know how to get to places. I look forward to the time when people know that they will not wait longer to hop on a train than would be the case with a tube. The trains will be timetabled, but the waiting times will be akin to tube waiting times.
As well as the venues that I have mentioned, people can visit Sutton house, which just last weekend celebrated its 500th anniversary. It is a National Trust property and a real jewel in Hackney’s crown.
I shall not make a bid to put the Charles Cryer theatre in Carshalton on the map. Does the hon. Lady agree that one of the big challenges for Transport for London in relation to the East London line is to make people aware of it? People are focused very much on the underground map, so TFL will have to work hard to raise people’s awareness that the service is available.
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Along with the mayor of Hackney and others, I launched a campaign to get Hackney on the map, and we have tried to ensure that the East London line will be on the maps that are on the tube and in other places. Currently, the North London line is marked in faint background on the larger maps, but we have pressed for it to be a link that is shown on every tube map, so that when people buy or pick up a map at a tube station every single version shows the line.
It is important to recognise the importance of including those lines. I ran a small competition, and young Frankie from my constituency drew me a picture of how he thought the East London line should look. That was very gratifying, but we need to make sure that it is not just a child’s picture but something real and meaningful to people, so that they can tap into it. The London overground branding is a step in that direction.
When I first stood for election to the position of MP, and also when I was in previous roles, I campaigned on the platform of creating London’s outer circle line, of which the East London line is a part. The branding will help to deliver that.
People might not be aware that Hackney has a plethora of art galleries and that we are the home of creative industries and of artists. We believe that we have more artists than any other local authority area in Europe. That is difficult for anyone else to challenge, so we continue to say it. We certainly have very many, and I believe that when the mayor of Hackney was asked whether he would consider a council tax or rates rebate for artists, such as they have in Ireland, he was not very happy at the idea of losing quite so many council tax payers, so a rebate will not be a runner in Hackney.
We have wonderful parks. My constituency is very similar in size to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North, which is geographically the smallest in the country but which feels bigger because of its parks. There is a new lido in London Fields, which is a full-length outdoor swimming pool that has recently opened thanks to the mayor of Hackney’s input. It is a real destination—estate agents are now including it in their particulars. London Fields station is on a different line, but it has increased its passenger numbers since the opening of the lido. I hope that, when the East London line opens, people will make the short hop to the lido from the stations on that line as well.
There are Broadway market and Ridley road market, which are very different in nature but which are both places that people want to visit. We have our destination shops too. There is a Burberry outlet store, which means that Hackney councillors are remarkably renowned for having very smart coats at civic events, and there is Primark. I kid you not, Mr. Gale, but when I am on a bus in Hackney with people who look lost, they are usually looking for one of those two places, if not the Hackney Empire. We hope that all those many and varied attractions are facilities that people will be able to travel to on the East London line.
Neither should the interrelated benefits of the Olympics and the East London line be underestimated. Hackney will gain a new media centre from the Olympics, which we hope will be a major venue for creative businesses and media after the Olympics. Although I am sure that most hon. Members would love to have every national journalist live in their constituency and hop to the neighbouring offices, I would be happy if many of them were content to live in Battersea and travel the short distance to Hackney on the East London line.
My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea referred to the Dalston curve, the exact ownership of which my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and I have disputed—as an argument among friends, that is. The curve is important because we needed to get a link to Highbury and Islington. There is also an important issue on the two Dalston stations that will be created, and some creative thinking is happening in the excellent TfL team. That is directed to linking up Dalston Kingsland, which is slightly to the north and west of Dalston Junction, to the new Dalston station, which is on the south-eastern corner of the junction.
So far, the £1.4 million that has been invested in London overground is remarkably good value for money. The benefits that I have listed are merely those that apply to my constituency, and it is important to highlight the overall benefits that will flow from the scheme. We need the southern link, to complete that London outer circle line for which we have been pushing for a long time. At the moment, we can go so far and then we sort of stop and have to hop on a bus or an indifferent train station. Putting everything together will give a coherence that London has long needed and that makes sense. It will make London a place that really is for everyone to visit, rather than a place where people on the outer lines stay in their own borough.
As has been demonstrated today, MPs might be territorial. Constituents, however, are not; they need access to jobs and facilities, and the scheme will assist in that. If the second phase comes about, there will be 16 trains an hour between Dalston and Surrey Quays, which will be significant for waiting times. It is clear that, if people conceive of the service as a tube, they will be more likely to use it.
That brings me to the important issue of what in jargon is known as modal shift, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea referred. I shall not repeat his arguments, but London is growing, and we need to ensure that people move from a tube system that otherwise will be very overcrowded—a number of us experience that every day—to other modes of transport. The line will provide a vital outlet for some of that overcrowding. We should also ensure that more people start cycling. That already happens in Hackney—we have twice the number of cyclists of other London boroughs, so that Hackney really is the home of London cycling. We should make sure that people walk more as well. However, the extension would mainly shift people out of cars; about 400,000 fewer car journeys will take place.
There was a hot debate about the introduction of the congestion charge. It might have achieved a certain amount for inner London congestion, but some of the worst London congestion is in outer London, which is why phase 2 of the East London line extension is particularly important. To be parochial again, it will reduce the journey times from Hackney to Peckham for my constituents by 10 to 15 minutes, which is significant.
If the second phase were to receive £100 million, that would be money well spent. If the decision is made soon, money will be saved, which is why the issue is critical to the current spending round. Some of the preparatory works could be done in tandem with the works currently being carried out in phase 1.
In summary, the project is a real win for the Department for Transport. As I mentioned, transport projects can be notoriously difficult to deliver on time and on budget, as the many negotiations between the different public bodies, transport bodies—some public, some private—and political interests carry on. In this case, however, there is absolutely solid political determination across the parties, across the relevant geographical area in London and between the local authorities and the Mayor. The project is cost-effective and will be even more so if it is carried out quickly, and we have the benefit of a tightly financially disciplined Transport for London and the disciplined team led by Ian Brown. I have been in public life for more than a decade and seen several projects that have not been well run or very successful. However, if the Minister wants a good, winning project to hand on to her successor, if not for herself, I can assure her that the East London line will be genuinely well run and successful and that it will deliver for thousands of Londoners, including in my constituency.
It is a pleasure to join in this debate, and I genuinely compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton) on his incredibly hard work on the issue and on the effective campaign that he has waged to ensure that the line links through to Clapham. I totally support his campaign and I hope that the Minister will understand the importance of extending transport in that way and the opportunities that it will offer.
I also say a big thank you to my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) for the time she spent as a member of the Greater London authority. She worked incredibly hard at the difficult job of co-ordinating lots of competing interests around Finsbury Park station, none of which wanted to co-operate with one another most of the time, although they eventually all did. The station now has a refurbished exterior, and Transport for London is at last investing £40 million or £50 million in completely rebuilding the station to make it compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and to improve its interior and security. That did not happen for nothing, but because a lot of people worked very hard over a long time. Now that we have an effective London authority, which can make such investments, things can happen, which must be some kind of success.
I have been in the House long enough to remember the dark days when the Greater London council was abolished and London Transport was grossly underfunded. We could not get decisions about anything out of anybody and we spent most of our time campaigning against closures—the idea of campaigning to open things was like something from fairyland. I therefore pay warm tribute to my two hon. Friends for their incredibly hard work on this issue and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch will be present when we reopen Finsbury Park station in a few years’ time, once the rebuilding work has been done.
It is also worth placing on the record the fact that the extension of the East London line—as part of an outer London overground circle railway, which is a good idea—has been a dream for a long time. Shortly after I was elected in 1983, the then Member for Stepney, the late Peter Shore, asked me to join him in signing a blocking motion against a private Bill so that we could protect the route of the East London line. He said, “There’s no chance the Government will give us the money for it at the moment, but if we can at least protect the route, there’s a chance of getting the money at some point in the future.” One should therefore pay tribute to those who have taken such a farsighted view of the subject.
We now have Transport for London and the development of London overground. London overground’s leader, Ian Brown, is very good, and the idea of branding something as London overground to promote real transport integration in London is an important one. As my hon. Friends said, strangers to London do not generally go somewhere if they cannot easily find it on the tube map. If somewhere is not on the tube, they do not go there, because although they can understand the tube map, they have difficulty with anything beyond that. Transport for London has introduced the idea of London overground, which will make using the various routes more acceptable and ensure that there is much better information about buses, routes and so on. In that regard, I hope that we will have a more comprehensive London travel map. I am pleased that the North London line is on the tube map in a semi-tone, but why the North London line and nothing else? [Interruption.] I see an excellent map appearing before me in glorious Technicolor, so there we go—I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea for that. I hope, therefore, that the rebranding will be accompanied by improved information systems.
I want to say three or four quick things about the East London line extension. First, it is happening, and that is welcome. The work is being done at the moment, and one can see it going on day to day, and that is welcome. As has been said, I represent Islington, North, and people in my constituency use Highbury and Islington station—the station entrance is actually in the constituency of Islington, South and Finsbury, although Canonbury station, on the North London line, is in my constituency. I was worried when I saw that the work from Dalston to Highbury and Islington had been put down as part of phase 2. I am always alarmed when something is labelled “phase 2”, because it sounds as though it is in never-never land—“Phase 2? Yes, that’s some time in the future.” I am pleased to say, however, that we now have clear undertakings from Transport for London that the phase 2 link to Highbury and Islington will follow on immediately from the completion of the expensive works necessary to reopen the Dalston curve, and that has been endorsed by the Mayor.
I endorse again what has been said about the need for a lot of imaginative thought to be given to the stations. If that does not happen, we will end up with two stations very near each other on broadly the same routes. We need slightly better thought to be given to that, and I am sure that that can be achieved.
I have raised on many occasions, and I do so again now, the question of possible links to Finsbury Park, although I realise that that is not part of the immediate scheme. Although Highbury and Islington provides a good link to the Victoria line and the line through to Moorgate, it would be very useful to use existing tracks to run services to Finsbury Park. That would give us the possibility of a link to the Victoria and Piccadilly lines, as well as to a large number of overground services, including all the east coast lines. If we are after reducing pressure on the inner London termini, any link to Finsbury Park would be a great advantage. That will not happen immediately, and I recognise that there are complications, but such a link is not impossible, and I hope that the Minister can at least give me some comfort and some idea of whether the Department is looking at the issue.
Does my hon. Friend not regard it as inevitable that many people will not take a train to a London terminus in future, but get off at a hub station three or four miles short of the terminus and use the outer circle to get to another hub, thus avoiding the need to travel through central London, which will become even more congested? In addition to all the local benefits, putting Finsbury Park on the London overground system will therefore have a great benefit for through-London travellers.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The problem with London’s transport system has always been that it is radial—all routes run in and out of central London. It was presumed 120 years ago that most people wanted to travel from outer London to work in central London, and that might have made some sense at the time, but it simply does not make any sense now. As a result, there are real problems with car congestion the further one gets from central London, because the orbital routes are so ineffective and inefficient. Creating an orbital railway is part of that issue, but we need to go a lot further. We also need to go a bit further out. Enfield to Barnet should be an easy journey, but it is not, and there are plenty of other examples from all around London.
I listened carefully to the intervention by the hon. Member for Battersea (Martin Linton), who was surely making the point that one of the great disappointments of phase 2 is that Wimbledon has been left out, even though the original plan was to include it. It would have been an obvious place to include. As a hub station, it could have relieved Clapham Junction and allowed people to move around the London overground more easily.
That is a fair point. I am reluctant to discuss south London in too much detail, because there is a bit of territorial trouble, and I am doing my best to be fraternal to my colleagues in south London. Yes; it is an obvious point that we must see what is happening as part of a stage in the process of developing a much better transport system around London. If we are to reduce car congestion and pollution, it can only happen by means of a much better public transport system—partly through information and partly through usage, but above all through improved developments such as the one that we are discussing. I remain a strong supporter of the East London line extension and I pay tribute to those who have brought it thus far. I look forward to its opening.
I hope that the Minister will be able to give us good news on the Clapham link and all the other benefits that that will bring to south London. If there is to be good news about it, it will make an awful lot of sense to have the work done before the Olympics. There are all kinds of obvious reasons for that, but no doubt we shall hear whether it will be possible.
There are two final matters that I want to ask the Minister about. First, Transport for London owns the route—although Network Rail owns the tracks, in some cases—and has made the capital expenditure for the trains to run on the East London line. I have raised this question with the Mayor and with TfL and I raise it again now: why is it, then, necessary to bring in a private operator to run the trains, when London Underground and Transport for London have proved themselves very capable of running the underground system and the network in general? I am concerned that we seem to be moving along a route of creeping private finance running the service.
Like my hon. Friend, I have looked into the matter, but although in Hackney we think about what is happening as the East London line bringing the tube to Hackney, it is not, of course, the underground. It is not akin to adding on a bit of the underground line and extending the service of its trains. The extension will use a different gauge and different types of trains, and there is not really the expertise in Transport for London to run that. Surely it is better just to get on with it and provide it. I am concerned that my constituents should have a service, and that it should be properly managed, contractually, by the public sector, rather than about exactly who will run it.
I agree that we want the service; that is why we are all here. London overground is a new development. I welcome it. I just question why it is necessary to bring in a private operator to do the work. I believe that a lot of expertise is available to make sure that the service is properly run. I make this point because I strongly believe that if the public own something and pay for it, they are also quite capable of running the service. We run the underground very efficiently.
My final point is that what is happening is a new departure for Transport for London—the taking of some overground facilities, as my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea pointed out, into its orbit. That is very welcome. Ian Brown has proved a very good leader of the whole operation. I hope that the attitude and mood in the Department for Transport is one of preparedness to concede that it makes a lot of sense to bring as much of London’s rail network as is reasonable and feasible under one roof, so that it can be run with linked timetables and services. I see the current project as the first of what I hope will be many good developments in London, when London overground takes over other routes in other parts of London. There should also, where appropriate, be transfer of stations. Finsbury Park is an obvious example of one that it would be helpful to transfer to Transport for London, because the majority of the services there are related to Transport for London in some way.
We are in a good period. It is exciting, but I hope that the Minister will give us some good news.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning the issue of Transport for London taking over more London railway routes. Although he would not claim any expertise on this, I think that the point is particularly relevant to south London, where, because there are so few tube lines, many local stations have developed on a radial basis, and are of little use. However, there are some lines that could easily be taken into an overground system, such as the one from London Bridge to Victoria via Crystal Palace. Also, no doubt, some of the lines in the Mitcham and Hackbridge area could serve Londoners better if they were controlled by TfL in the interest of Londoners, rather than being thought of as appendages to commuter routes into London.
That is a very good point. I study old railway maps and think about those matters quite a lot. It would make sense to encourage many of the routes in south London into orbital use. There are real opportunities for development of that kind. We greatly under-use our overground railways in London, and with more imagination we could achieve what my hon. Friend describes.
I welcome everything that has happened so far. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us good news on the extensions, and I hope that she will bear in mind the point that I made, which I consider a serious one, about the longer-term option of a link to Finsbury Park. That would improve the ability of that station to act as an effective regional hub for transport interchange.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Members for Battersea (Martin Linton), for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) and for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), who have made an articulate case on behalf of their constituents for the East London line and extension. I thank the hon. Member for Battersea for initiating the debate and drawing the matter to the attention of the House. Clearly, he regrets that Battersea is not on the map, but I think that today’s debate has, if nothing else, put the Battersea arts centre on the map.
The hon. Gentleman has done a good job of drawing the attention of the House to the fact that the cost of the phase 2 extension is relatively small. When I say that, I note that it is clearly the prerogative of Labour Back Benchers to request from the Government additional funding that is not currently supported by the Government, in a way that the Opposition may not be able to do. We must be much more serious in our approach and cost our budgets accordingly. However, I hope that the Minister will respond positively and identify how the funding will be secured.
We have heard a lot today about the Dalston curve. I was wondering whether it had anything to do with the bagel shop at the end of Reighton road where I used to live in the late 1980s. I am pleased to hear that it is actually about extending the East London line to Highbury and Islington station. I know Dalston very well, having represented the area as a councillor in the late 1980s when there was a campaign to extend the tube line, rather than the train line, to Dalston. That was 21 years ago, and I am pleased that 21 years on we are nearly there—albeit that the destination is slightly less than four years away; it has taken some time.
We campaigned for it then mainly because of the regeneration benefits and improved transport links that would result. Those arguments are still extremely valid today, and the hon. Member for Battersea has made a very good case both for the transport benefit, including reduction in the pressure on key stations such as London Victoria and London Bridge—something that my constituents, who use both stations, would appreciate—and for the orbital rail routes. I only regret that in my part of south London, where there is no tube—there is no tube station in my constituency or in the borough of Sutton where I live—we do not, either, have the orbital rail links that would be needed, ideally to places such as Kingston and Richmond or Beckenham and Bexley. There is a need for those routes and I hope that if the East London line extension proves successful and London overground can get it on the map and make people use it, so that it becomes a central feature of the transport network in London, that will strengthen the case for extending orbital routes in south London through to west London.
The hon. Member for Battersea highlighted the regeneration impact of the developments; 80 per cent. of the most deprived parts of London would be served. That would be a fantastic opportunity for creating ease of travel for people who wanted to find jobs in other parts of London, and would be extremely welcome.
It is worth briefly considering the wider London transport context. The East London line would contribute significantly, but we are awaiting a big decision on Crossrail. I agree that the cost of Crossrail is of a different order of magnitude, but it would create 40 per cent. of the additional rail capacity that London will need by 2015 to accommodate the extra 800,000 people who are soon going to be living in London. That would be a huge contribution. The relatively small-scale improvements that will come from the East London line extension could be swamped if those 800,000 people were trying to get on to that line and we did not have the capacity that could be provided by extra routes such as Crossrail. We will need Crossrail as well to support the project.
Hon. Members have set out clearly the time scales for the project, both phase 1, which, as the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch said, will be complete by 2010, and the proposed phase 2, which would provide an additional link from Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays. That would be welcome and mean that a lot of the commuters going principally to London Victoria would be able to avoid the centre of London. As someone who travels almost exclusively by public transport, I would welcome being able to go through to London Victoria or London Bridge.
At the beginning of his comments the hon. Gentleman said that in his position he cannot plead for extra money as firmly as Labour Members have. He said that he has to be more careful. He is about halfway through his comments. I stressed to the Minister that there was good cross-party support, so will he make his party’s position on the funding of the scheme a little clearer?
The hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that I am certainly going to do that in a way that I hope will satisfy her. It will relate to ways and means of funding other projects such as Crossrail.
Phase 2 of the project would make a huge contribution and provide an additional link. To pick up on the hon. Lady’s point, an opportunity has been missed in London in such projects as the Jubilee line extension, from which huge benefits have been derived by businesses and commercial premises along the route. They have benefited from the increase in the value of properties, which have become that much more attractive because of the improved transport connections. Whether in relation to Crossrail or projects such as the East London line, it is surely not beyond the wit of man or woman to identify a way of capturing the increased values of properties. That might be by asking businesses to contribute over a period of time—
Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.
We were discussing finance and I was touching on the point that many freeholders and businesses clearly benefit very substantially from infrastructure improvements in the vicinity of where they operate. It is high time that the Treasury showed some flexibility to allow some of those profits to be captured. Whether it is through businesses in a voluntary way, as with Crossrail, supporting the concept of a supplementary business rate or through land value taxation, we need to capture those profits. At the moment, the taxpayer pays but sees no return; others make the profit. I hope that that addresses the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch about how the project would be funded.
The Minister may have had an opportunity to consider the report that the RMT—the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers—commissioned from Peter Raynor on the East London line and its concerns about the privatisation, as the RMT put it, of the line. I do not necessarily share those concerns and that is clearly not the subject of the debate, but I hope that the Minister, if she cannot deal with the point now, will consider writing to hon. Members present to inform us of the Government’s view on that report.
Clearly, the East London line extension and phase 2 would contribute very significantly to the transport infrastructure in London. We have seen the potential for increasing the number of passengers on that line from 10 million to 50 million. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to the requests that have been made and perhaps confirm that if the Treasury is not willing to fund the proposal itself, it might show some flexibility to allow other means to be used to raise the funding needed for this important transport project.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Gale, and to participate in this important debate. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Battersea (Martin Linton) for introducing it and for making the case so clearly for his constituents and for the line. I enjoyed immensely the contributions by the hon. Members for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). I enjoyed the hon. Lady’s insights into a number of things, but particularly into the shopping habits of her constituents, which I am sure were interesting to us all.
I have to declare an interest up front. I am the Member of Parliament for Wimbledon, and the East London line extension was originally designed to come to Wimbledon in phase 2. It would have made more sense for it to come to Wimbledon. Wimbledon should be the secondary transport hub in south-west London to Clapham Junction. It was unfortunate that the Mayor, with a lack of wisdom, vetoed that on the basis of cost—that point is highly significant and I want to return to it.
The withdrawal of the proposal to take the East London line to Wimbledon led to Merton council withdrawing from the East London Line Group. I note that the Mayor has said that, with the East London line extension, it will be easier for people to get quickly and safely to Olympic venues. I was just thinking, “Isn’t it a shame that my constituency doesn’t have some sort of summer sporting event that 100 countries around the world televise, that 1 billion people watch and that 400,000 attend? Isn’t it a shame that my constituency won’t be one of the major Olympic venues, hosting—I don’t know, perhaps the Olympic tennis tournament or something?” Perhaps then the Mayor would consider that bringing the East London line extension to Wimbledon had some merit.
Wimbledonians are, understandably, pretty angry about the situation. I have already made the point that we consider that Wimbledon should be the secondary transport hub in south-west London to Clapham Junction. That would have the great advantage of relieving pressure on Clapham Junction. The example has already been cited: people could get off at Wimbledon and go round the orbital side, particularly if they were coming from the south. It would also increase capacity. In addition, thousands of my constituents travel every day to jobs in east London, principally at Canary Wharf and in the City.
I cannot pretend to sympathise with the hon. Gentleman’s view that the line would be better routed to Wimbledon through Dulwich, but I suggest to him that the interests of his constituents might equally be served by pressing for the extension to Clapham Junction to be extended through Southfields to Wimbledon. Under plans for Crossrail 2, that route has already been investigated, taking trains up through Southfields, East Putney and Wandsworth Town to Clapham Junction. Surely that could be started at the time of the Olympics, to create a quick link between the events in Wimbledon and the main arenas.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. Certainly that is one of the things that we considered. Equally, I believe that TfL is considering again the Hackney-Chelsea line; a minor consultation document has already been issued. However, none of that takes away from the point that the East London line extension could as easily have come to Wimbledon in phase 2. I am not asking the hon. Gentleman to support me in that case at this stage—I am sure that he is very happy with where it is going at the moment.
To return to my point, a number of my constituents travel to work in the east. The Mayor, in his initial plans for housing for London, designated the borough of Merton as an area of housing development. We have talked about populations that would benefit. The populations that would benefit include those of Longthornton and Colliers Wood, which are not technically in my constituency, although part of Colliers Wood is, and of South Wimbledon, which is.
We have heard the arts tributes. Wimbledon theatre has the seventh largest stage in London. The Polka theatre is the only south-west London theatre dedicated to children. The area also has the Cannizaro festival, the Wimbledon literary festival, which I am pleased to be attending the opening of this evening, and Wimbledon college of art. All those and other places in south-west London indicate a thriving arts community.
Does the hon. Gentleman advocate that the extension to Wimbledon should be pursued? If so, is he adopting that position in his capacity as the Member of Parliament for Wimbledon or in an official capacity? If it is in his official capacity, is it an officially funded bid?
I declared an interest at the beginning of my speech. I am speaking as a constituency MP before I move on to my comments as a Front-Bench spokesman. I accept, with great disappointment, that Wimbledon will not be part of the phase 2 extension, so there is no funding implication to my remarks. I am deeply upset about this matter, but am not embittered and certainly am not blind to the benefits of the scheme.
The phase 1 extension of the East London line north to Dalston Junction and south to New Cross should be open by June 2010. The further extension to Highbury and Islington will open in February 2011. It is proposed that phase 2 will extend services further west to Clapham Junction via Surrey Canal Road, where a new station is to be built. We have heard from hon. Members that there will be an extra four trains an hour, thus increasing dramatically the frequency of the core section.
We have talked about funding for all that, but we have not yet had the timetable, part of which is inextricably linked to funding. The June 2007 briefing note from the East London Line Group says that phase 2 could be operational by the end of 2011, but according to the TfL investment programme, it is planned to follow the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. One answer that I seek from the Minister is which of those is correct. I expect that the answer will depend entirely on whether she can give us any comfort regarding funding.
I accept that the scheme will bring great benefits: 168,000 people will potentially benefit from living within 15 minutes of a station, as will the 80,000 people who work within 15 minutes of those stations. The ridership is expected to grow to an estimated 8.7 million within five years. It is estimated that the environmental benefits will be a reduction in total traffic congestion of 400,000 vehicles and in carbon dioxide emissions of about 470 tonnes per annum. Those are significant benefits.
If our capital is to continue to be the world’s greatest city, we must continue to expand and invest in our public transport network, but we must also ensure that those schemes offer value for money. The East London line extension is one such scheme—London needs it in order to continue to be the economic powerhouse of the UK, and it offers value for money—but it is not the only scheme.
I accept that it is difficult to group priorities, but the scheme is predicated to have a cost-benefit ratio of 1.7:1, which is lower than that of several other schemes. It is impressive, but not as impressive as others. Will the Minister tell us about the scrutiny of those sorts of cost-benefit ratio, and what part such scrutiny will play in the consideration of various London schemes? Notwithstanding that, the important point is that which was made by the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch—40 per cent. of those who live within 1 km of several stations involved in the scheme live in some of the most deprived areas of London, so the scheme will have a huge overall benefit for social inclusion.
By the time it is finished, the London overground service, which is a combination of the North London line and the East London line, will have involved a total investment of £1.4 billion. Obviously, that is going on infrastructure such as new trains, new staff and new stations.
I shall dwell on stations for a moment, because it would be interesting to get a commitment from TfL about stations. The Mayor has said that every station should be manned during its hours of operation and should have improved CCTV, but that is proving to be something of a hollow promise and a joke in many parts of the underground system. No one was manning my local underground station, which I use on most days if I come via the underground, rather than the overground, during the later hours of operation on Monday night. One supposed benefit of the scheme is that all the stations will continue to be manned; along with the funding promise should come a promise from TfL that it intends to do that.
Yes, but the hon. Gentleman will accept my premise that London Underground says that it has that at the moment, and that simply is not true. Indeed, it is shutting 40 more ticket offices, which will inevitably mean that there is a threat to passengers and staff. I accept that that promise is in the London overground document, but it is not being met at the moment, and we need to be absolutely certain that it will be kept.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a difference with underground stations? I have been in the control room of underground stations and have seen how effective CCTV can be. One can see everything that is going on at the station from the control room, so people are not needed in every part of the station. There might be concerns about access to tickets, but more people are using Oyster and the number of people who need to purchase tickets is reducing. It is right that TfL should look into that matter, although we might not agree regarding the outcome.
I take the hon. Lady’s point, but there is, none the less, a commitment for stations to be manned. One can look at CCTV pictures all one likes, but if there is an incident and one is in the control room and there is no one on the station, and the transport police are some way away, then one cannot get to the incident.
Going back to funding, TfL—or, more properly, the Mayor—spent sums of money last year that did nothing to improve the lot of the travelling public. It is particularly important to consider a few things that he spent money on and whether that money might have gone some way towards alleviating the request for Government funding. For example, the Mayor gave the previous chief executive of TfL a golden goodbye of £1.165 million and a consultancy contract worth £737,000, but no one at TfL knows how often he turns up or even whether he is turning up.
That is only £2 million, but let us consider other elements of the Mayor’s profligacy. Last year, he spent £210 million on consultants. That is twice the cost of the East London line phase 2 extension. For that £210 million there has been not one extra passenger, metre of track or new train. That £210 million profligacy could easily have funded the extension to Wimbledon or built the scheme that we are discussing twice.
However, let us concentrate, because phase 2 is unfunded and currently has no time scale. It is expected to cost about £100 million, of which, we have heard, about £70 million is for the infrastructure. I have three or four questions for the Government, and therefore the Minister, which I hope will bring some clarity at the end of the debate. Will the funding for the phase 2 extension be included in the HLOS—high level output specification—which involves Network Rail, and inside the comprehensive spending review? Will she confirm that the HLOS is due on 18 July?
Will the Minister also confirm that the East London line extension is one of several other south-east schemes, including those involving Thameslink, Reading station, Crossrail and Waterloo station? Will she give some indication of the criteria that she is using to assess those schemes, particularly in relation to the total funding requirement and value for money?
Will the Minister confirm that any announcement on the East London line extension will not be one similar to that on Thameslink, which simply contained the Transport and Works Act 1992, but will be accompanied by funding announcements? Finally, will the Minister look at the total cost of the scheme, which is a mere £100 million? It is an extremely manageable sum in terms of the overall budget for the railways. Will she therefore assure us that the Department for Transport will press the Treasury to find the money?
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton) on securing this debate, which provides a further opportunity for us to talk about rail services in London, and particularly the proposals for the funding of phase 2 of the East London line. I am aware of the numerous representations that my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) and for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) have made to my ministerial colleagues in the past regarding the importance with which their constituents regard the project. They stand to accrue interests and benefits from it.
Having listened carefully to my hon. Friends, I can say that I regard them as a powerful triumvirate—I was going to describe them as a three-headed campaign machine, but I think that “triumvirate” is more diplomatic and better reflects their contribution to the debate. Led by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, my hon. Friends have made a persuasive case in terms of value for money and regeneration, and the social, economic and leisure benefits of the scheme. I heard the debate about whether the Hackney Empire or Battersea arts centre should come out on top, but clearly there is a question about whether people should be fighting about that. The point is that Londoners and visitors should be able to move easily around the city, and to enjoy the many benefits of living in or visiting my hon. Friends’ constituencies.
I am grateful for the generous words spoken by my hon. Friends about Transport for London, the Department for Transport and the Government. The Government showed foresight by giving TfL the powers and funding to do the work that Londoners and visitors have long sought.
Mr. Ian Brown was mentioned several times. I was wondering whether he would be declared as the newest member of the Cabinet—he has plenty of support in the Chamber. However, I suspect that he is committed to the job that he is doing, as are the whole team at TfL, and the officials at the Department for Transport and other Departments. I am grateful to my hon. Friends for their comments. I recognise that phase 2 of the East London line extension is particularly important in the light of developments on the London overground network.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea pointed out, the extension would complete the last piece of an orbital rail network for London. Indeed, it would significantly improve the accessibility of deprived areas of the city. I like the term “regeneration express”, which was borrowed, I believe, from the Mayor of London. That is what we are about.
As I said, the funding and autonomy provided to TfL by the Government have produced dramatic improvements throughout London’s transport network. Although my hon. Friend’s constituents may not yet have access to a London Underground station in Battersea, they have much improved bus services and a steadily improving heavy rail network. As he and others predicted, I am bound to say that deciding when and whether any particular transport scheme goes ahead is a matter for the Mayor and TfL. I understand that, at present, there are no guarantees on phase 2. The Mayor and TfL need to reassess their budgets and transport priorities for the spending review this year. I assure my hon. Friends that the East London line extension phase 2 is being discussed in the spending review, but I should say that it is one of a number of London transport projects that TfL would like to take forward. I wish to put on record an assurance that I shall draw the Mayor’s, TfL’s and the Treasury’s attention to the constructive and persuasive points that have been made in the debate.
I listened carefully to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch about the importance of information to people who travel overground as well as underground in London. From the quality of her contribution, I now know that it is not only a matter of extending the line, but about working with the extension. I am grateful to her for making that point.
I am sympathetic to the points that have been made, and I was interested to hear about the “Connect South London” campaign run by the East London Line Group. On orbital travel, it is important to encourage passengers to choose routes other than those that go through central London, but volumes of passengers travelling in to main hubs are probably far larger than the number of people who will travel orbitally. My hon. Friends made the point that as hubs develop and properly integrate—that is the key—to the TfL network, they will have a significant impact.
The Minister will have heard my remarks about the possibility of joining the East London line to Finsbury Park station to develop the sub-regional hub. I should be grateful if the Minister would give some indication of her views on that, and on the related matter of transferring stations to TfL.
That is not in the current plans, as my hon. Friend is aware. However, the Government are committed to the devolution of London transport services. That is evidenced by the creation of TfL and the powers that have been further devolved to it following the White Paper on “The Future of Rail”. It is possible that there may be further devolution in future.
On the timetable, TfL will take responsibility for the North London railway in November, and we will see a gradual improvement of services. The East London line extension opens in 2010, and the Dalston curve, which will connect east to north London, will open in 2011.
Concerns were raised about the use of the private sector once the East London line extension is complete, and I can tell the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) that I shall be happy to write to hon. Members about the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers report. It is for TfL to decide how it specifies and operates services on the East London line and the forthcoming extension.
It is incorrect to suggest that TfL’s current plans mean that the East London line is being privatised—that is not the case. The infrastructure assets that make up the line will remain under the ownership of TfL and Network Rail. TfL will also own the rolling stock on the route. A concessionaire will be appointed to run the services on the line and, unlike the national rail network, the revenue risk attached to services on the East London line, including income from fares, will remain with TfL, which will also set fares. I hope that that is reassuring.
I shall be happy to write to hon. Members on the issues that I am unable to address today because we are short of time. In conclusion, the Department will continue to work with TfL, Network Rail and other stakeholders to examine opportunities to enhance London’s rail network for Londoners and visitors alike.