I beg to move,
That this House has considered Transport for London funding.
I wish to express concerns about the impact of the cuts to Transport for London’s funding that were announced in the spending review. I am especially concerned that a future Mayor, or even the sitting Mayor, might want to raise fares, which will hit my constituents particularly hard. I also want to suggest possible solutions to help plug the holes in TfL’s books.
Let me give the context to the Chancellor’s decision. Transport for London runs the public transport services and manages the major road network in the most important city in Britain. London is the gateway to the rest of the United Kingdom. TfL’s work is critical to Londoners’ ability to work and play, and to get to school and hospital; to business’s ability to get its workforce to work and its goods and services to and from customs; and to London’s many visitors’ ability to arrive, leave and travel to other parts of the UK.
London’s population is growing and is projected to rise from some 8.6 million today to about 10 million by 2030 and 11 million by 2050. London is seeing the fastest urban growth of any city in the European Union. Only a relatively small proportion of my fellow Londoners enjoy the luxury of being able to walk or cycle to work. In short, the vast majority of new and existing Londoners will be reliant on public transport.
The pace of the growth in the number of journeys on the tube is rising fast as well, from a growth of 8.7 million in 2010-11 to an expected 11.7 million this year, which is an increase of 26% in only five years. The docklands light railway has seen an even faster rate of growth in usage, up from a growth of some 6.3 million journeys five years ago to an expected 9.6 million this year—an increase of 52%. In only four years, the number of passengers served by TfL has increased by almost 0.5 billion a year; eight out of 10 of the busiest days in tube history were in the past two months alone; and, indeed, the busiest day ever on the tube was 4 December, when almost 5 million passengers travelled on TfL trains.
The need for further investment in London’s tube, rail and bus networks and in its roads is widely recognised. There are already problems safely managing passenger flows. At some locations, peak-time travel is not only uncomfortable, but close to unsafe.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the increased use of all public transport. Does he therefore share my concern that TfL, without any genuine consultation—just its normal, old, rubbishy questionnaires that ask the questions it wants the answers to, rather than the questions that should be asked—is to demolish Vauxhall bus station, the second biggest interchange in London, to get development that will include tower blocks? Does he understand the importance of the bus station to local people and its users, none of whom have been asked anything?
I bow to my hon. Friend’s much better knowledge of Vauxhall station. If she is concerned, I am sure that her constituents are concerned. She mentions Vauxhall; I was about to say that it expects a 40% increase in the number of passengers in the coming years. I agree that it seems odd for such a crucial interchange station to lose its bus station.
May I add a tiny point? The importance of Vauxhall bus station is that people are able to transfer from train to tube to bus without getting wet, because of a cover that cost £10 million and was put in only about 11 years ago. It is a travesty for TfL to be thinking of demolition.
My hon. Friend has made her point, and I stand with her on her concerns about Vauxhall station.
Also in south London, Waterloo’s overall passenger numbers have rocketed from 62 million 10 years ago to 100 million now. At some locations, peak-time travel is already close to unsafe, as I have said, and, for example, closure of Oxford Circus tube station due to overcrowding is now routine.
It is not just the rail and tube networks that TfL manages that are under pressure; its own estimates suggest that London’s roads are coming under greater pressure from increasing car usage, at a time when there is pressure to allocate more space to achieve safer cycling and good walking routes. If nothing else changes, by 2031 an increase in congestion of at least 60% is expected in central London; for the rest of inner London, congestion is set to rise by some 25%; and even in outer London, we expect to see a 15% increase in congestion. Traffic speeds are coming down and car journeys are taking longer. Congestion is already bad for ordinary car users, who face the nuisance of longer journeys, and it is bad for business, too.
As an aside, I hope the rumours that the Government are trying to ease air pollution controls are false, because in London the scale of air pollution, much of it diesel-related, is already extremely worrying. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that. The continuing need for TfL to invest in greener, less polluting vehicles is widely accepted, but such investment is a not insignificant future cost. However, from 2010-11 to 2014-15, TfL income from the Department for Transport fell by more than a third. In the coming year, Government grants will amount to only a little more than 20% of TfL’s annual budget. The transport systems of major competitor cities in Europe receive a considerably higher percentage of their funding from central Government sources. In Paris, for example, transport gets more than 40% of its funding from a Government transport tax.
Transport for London receives two types of grant from central Government: resource grants and infrastructure grants. The Department for Transport was hit particularly hard in the spending round, so it is perhaps no surprise that TfL has been significantly affected, with a 34% cut in funding overall in 2016-17. In the spending review, the Government said that they would phase out the resource grant to TfL, claiming that that
“will save £700 million…which could be achieved through further efficiency savings…or through generating additional income from…land TfL owns”.
It would be more accurate to say that TfL will, as a result of the Chancellor’s decisions, lose about £3 billion over the business plan period of 2015-16 to 2020-21. Inevitably, the loss of grant funding will have an adverse impact on the quality of service that my constituents can expect. The resource grant is to be axed—crucially, earlier than TfL had been led to believe.
The hon. Gentleman has outlined the massive increase in usage of the underground and other TfL transport. Congestion charge takings have also increased, because of more vehicles. Does he not therefore agree that any resource funding needs to be viewed in the context of fares, which are coming in in larger numbers?
I will talk about fares in a little while, and of course one has to look at TfL income in the round. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister accepts that the loss of £3 billion over the current five-year business plan period is a huge reduction in funding.
Before the spending review announcement a couple of weeks ago, TfL had still expected to receive almost £800 million in revenue funding until as late as 2019-20. Any surplus in resource spending—there has consistently been a substantial surplus in the operating budget—has been reinvested to help fund TfL’s capital programme. Any loss in that funding will therefore inevitably have an impact on capital investment.
The announcement of those huge cuts comes at a time when TfL has had to announce a five-year delay to the wonderfully named sub-surface upgrade programme: a plan to increase by 40% the number of people who could travel on the District, Circle, Hammersmith and City, and—crucially for my constituents—Metropolitan lines. New trains and better signalling were to be delivered by 2018, but following the failure of the contract with Bombardier Transportation, the expected completion date has been shifted back to 2023. Will the Minister confirm that the cut in funding to TfL will not further exacerbate the delay in modernising the Metropolitan line and those other lines that were initially part of the sub-surface upgrade programme? TfL has estimated that the knock-on impact of the delay on London’s economy is £900 million. That is income and jobs that Londoners, some of them in my constituency, are set to miss out on.
TfL now claims that the cost of completing the modernisation of the Metropolitan line and the other routes under the sub-surface upgrade programme has increased by £1.15 billion since previous forecasts. To put that into context, TfL’s planned capital expenditure for 2016-17 alone is about £3.3 billion. Inevitably, the extra costs from the failure of the Bombardier Transportation contract, plus the huge cut in grant funding, call into question other investment projects and the speed at which they will be completed.
My hon. Friend is giving us a really good review of what is happening. Does he not think that TfL should go back to doing what it should be doing, rather than putting £30 million into a project to build a garden bridge that the local community does not want? It is shocking that TfL is putting £30 million into that when it could be spent on other, important issues.
I share my hon. Friend’s scepticism about the garden bridge. Like her, I wonder whether that money might be better spent. A whole series of projects in my constituency could use that £30 million well, and I want to draw the Minister’s attention to a couple of those.
On the garden bridge, which no one has ever asked me for, TfL intends to build the Silvertown tunnel in south-east London to relieve congestion at the Blackwall tunnel, but it says that local residents will have to pay for it through tolls, though no other river crossing in London has charges. Perhaps the garden bridge should have an entrance fee, so that it can pay for itself instead of taking money away from vital transport links that are needed in the rest of London.
Rather than getting into the detail of what may happen with the garden bridge, let me say that I would prefer to see that money reallocated to a series of other existing and necessary capital investment projects. If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I think the priority is Harrow, but I am sure that he will be able to make the case for south London well.
I come back to the concern that the £3 billion cut in funding in the spending review and the extra costs from the sub-surface upgrade programme might put other investment projects at risk. The Piccadilly line refurbishment is particularly important for many of my constituents who live in Rayners Lane, South Harrow and Sudbury Hill. Will the refurbishment programme for that line go ahead as planned? There has been much speculation about when, or if, the night tube will go ahead. Perhaps the Minister can give us an indication of whether it is at risk of cancellation or substantial delay as a result of those cuts. In the Minister’s intervention, he raised a point about fares revenue. The upgrade of the four lines in the sub-surface upgrade programme would have generated extra fares revenue that will now be lost, as more passengers will not be able to be carried until much later. Some estimates suggest that that could be as much as £270 million lost.
In the eight years in which the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has been Mayor of London, fares have rocketed. Some of my constituents, such as those who travel from West Harrow on the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan line, have seen a 60% increase in the cost of travelling into central London. My constituents and others who live in outer London and use the tube regularly have been treated as a cash cow by the Mayor of London for too long. I am concerned that the loss of that £3 billion may increase the pressure on the Mayor, and/or future Mayors, to raise fares still further.
I am also concerned that further job cuts on Transport for London’s network, which are now inevitable, will further compromise the safety and security of passengers, including my constituents. TfL operational staff fulfil crucial operational functions as well as many safety-critical roles such as managing peak flows of passengers and handling emergencies. On the tube, DLR and Overground, adequate numbers of staff are needed to identify and respond to emerging crush situations.
Adequate numbers of staff are required to limit fare evasion, too, which is rocketing—it is up to £61 million a year following a reduction in staffing levels. I pay tribute to Greater London Authority Labour colleagues, led by the excellent Val Shawcross, Navin Shah and Len Duvall, for that information. Visible staff help to deter and detect crime, including people preparing for or engaging in acts of persistent serious crime and even—God forbid—terrorism. Staff also reassure passengers during tense periods such as now, but staffing is at its lowest level in recent history and Government cuts make it look likely that it will drop further.
Under plans for staff cuts at stations, Leytonstone station, which currently has four staff in peak periods, will be reduced to two members of staff—a 50% reduction at a station where there has already been a worrying terrorist incident. That is just a small indication of the worry that further job cuts, driven by the major cut in Government funding, might force on us.
I understand that London Underground Ltd now plans to cut a further 838 front-line staff positions from normal traffic hour operational levels. New staffing levels have apparently been derived from so-called business need schematics formulae, which do not incorporate the need for security checks or other operational needs. As a consequence, staff are required to meet the demands of security checks and will have to be removed from their allocated customer service positions for sizeable portions of their shifts to do so, leaving their areas unstaffed and effectively unmonitored on occasion. That is a concern. Will the Minister be willing to review with Transport for London’s managing director whether the loss of those front-line staff is a sensible way forward and whether alternatives might be found?
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, given Oyster and the introduction of other smart ticketing systems, the move to get staff out of ticket offices and on to stations to assist passengers and help with security is good and something that we wish to see more of?
I might have been more sympathetic to the Minister’s intervention if there were not plans to shut more of the control rooms on the underground, because London Underground Ltd proposes that all but a few control rooms in the largest stations will be de-staffed. Proposed staffing cuts and that emphasis on customer-facing duties will require staff who are normally allocated to control rooms to work in the ticket hall. The result will be that there will be no routine monitoring of CCTV at more than 90% of stations, including some that have high volumes of passenger traffic, when major events are taking place. Will the Minister be willing to meet, with me, a deputation of the workforce who are concerned about the impact of the various job cuts on passenger safety? I look forward to his answer, and hope that he will, in the spirit of his interventions, and the spirit in which I have taken them, be willing to do that.
I want to raise some concerns about the impact of the cut in TfL funding on the accessibility of the London underground network. My constituency has six tube stations—exclusively tube stations—that are inaccessible to people using a wheelchair, and usually inaccessible to people with a pram. I understand that there are no plans for North Harrow, South Harrow, Sudbury Hill, Rayners Lane or West Harrow to be made accessible. There has long been talk of a plan for Harrow on the Hill to be made accessible, but it is not currently included for access to the small amount of funding that is available to make stations more accessible. I worry that the loss of £3 billion will reduce its chances even further. Perhaps the Minister would use his influence with Mike Brown, the head of Transport for London, who I am pleased to say came to North Harrow station to celebrate its centenary earlier this year, and encourage him to take an interest in the accessibility of Harrow on the Hill station.
My last point about the impact of the cuts concerns property income and the pressure on Transport for London to maximise its income from property sales or assets—essentially from the land that it owns. I should think that the whole House would think it a good thing to encourage Transport for London to make its land available for housing. The concern is that it is being put under heavy pressure to extract as much value as possible from selling its land or the housing on the land, with no consideration of Londoners’ broader needs for affordable housing. There are also concerns, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) knows well, about the methods being used to encourage Transport for London down the property development route. It has established a commercial development advisory group, which is chaired by Francis Salway, with Richard Cotton, Mike Jones and Richard Jones as the other members, but I worry that none of them has a background in social or affordable housing. I hope that the Minister may be willing to use his good influence to encourage Transport for London to see the bigger picture about housing in London, while at the same time seeking to maximise its income from its land.
My hon. Friend is right to be suspicious of Transport for London’s motives. It is on record as saying that two thirds of its sites will be in zones 1 and 2 and it is not looking for affordable housing in that area; but it is looking for some if it develops in zones 3 to 5. However, that is affordable rather than social rented housing.
My hon. Friend makes a good point and I look forward to his speech, if he catches your eye later, Mr Hollobone.
There was nothing in the spending review about funding for Crossrail 2. To be fair to the Government, I understand that they have set up a £300 million pot for advanced work on big infrastructure schemes. Will the Minister confirm that Transport for London can bid for money for Crossrail 2 within that pot, and explain whether the Government still support and recognise the need for Crossrail 2?
Of the £687 million in resource funding that Transport for London is getting this year, but which will be axed in future, £63 million is going to the capital programme; £137 million is going for borough improvements; £289 million is going on new greener buses; and £198 million is going for tube renewals and other investments. One has to wonder about the future of the investment in green buses, given the loss of resource funding going forward. It is striking that London Councils took the time to provide a brief for this debate, noting the impact of the funding received under TfL’s resource funding programme. It has been used to invest in road safety and maintenance, cycle parking and cycle training, car clubs, the installation of electric vehicle charging points, school and workplace travel plans, 20 mph zones and some further effort for accessible transport and pedestrian crossings. London Councils points out that much of that work—particularly that on road safety—has led to a significant reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads. The implication is that there is concern about how such work is to continue to be funded.
I want lastly to consider how the gap in Transport for London’s books might be filled. I have always been a strong supporter of fiscal devolution to the capital, and having criticised the Mayor of London for big fare hikes I should at least acknowledge the important work that he got Tony Travers to undertake on fiscal devolution. I welcome the Chancellor’s decision to devolve business rates to London, but I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge that business rate income is often lumpy, if that is the word, and not always easy to predict. It would be helpful if, as the Tony Travers commission suggested, other property taxes were to be devolved to London. The devolution of stamp duty land tax to the London Mayor might help to unlock new investment in transport development, particularly in relation to the building of new homes that would be enabled by improved transport links. I understand that the vehicle excise duty incurred by Londoners who own cars amounts to about £500 million at the moment, and it might be suitable to invest that in London’s transport rather than taking it out of London and investing it in roads in the rest of England. I ask gently of the Minister, whom I saw shaking his head a little earlier, whether it is time for him and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to agree to redirect that £500 million to City Hall, to ensure that London’s road network gets the investment it needs.
Order. I have before me three of London’s finest Members and we have half an hour before I call the Front-Bench spokesmen, which I want to do no later than 10.30 am. If all three hon. Gentlemen want to speak, and to be fair to each other, I ask them please to take no more than 10 minutes each.
It is a pleasure to see you presiding over our business, Mr Hollobone. I am not sure where the three finest are, but my hon. Friends the Members for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), for Eltham (Clive Efford) and for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) are here, as am I, and I hope that we can make a contribution to the debate.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) on an excellent opening speech. He comprehensively covered issues such as funding, resourcing and staff cuts, which saves us having to raise them, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
It is good to see that the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), is here to represent Her Majesty’s Opposition. It is also good to see the Minister in the Chamber. I congratulate him on his recent promotion, which will hopefully make him more benevolent towards London. I intend to speak briefly—certainly for no more than 10 minutes—and to raise parochial issues, given that the opening speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West covered all the major funding issues.
I start by thanking Transport for London for its briefing, and its staff for all they do to keep this great city moving, ensuring that my constituents and I can get about. Their work is highly regarded and they do a fantastic job.
I was not going to mention the Silvertown crossing, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham raised it, it will be interesting to hear the Minister’s comments about what support the DFT will give TfL for east London river crossings. Half of London’s population now lives east of Tower bridge, yet we only have two crossings there, while there are 23 crossings west of Tower bridge. As tolling will be an issue, I would expect at least the same arrangements to apply to local residents in east London as those for residents around the Queen Elizabeth II bridge. Any tolling should be discounted, but I would be quite happy to put up with tolling to ensure that we get the crossing.
East London’s air quality is poor, and it is made poorer because of standing traffic and congestion from the Blackwall tunnel. We need to get that traffic moving. When the Blackwall tunnel has difficulties, as it regularly does because of collisions or oversized vehicles, there is gridlock in east London. It will be interesting to hear the Minister’s comments about the Silvertown crossing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West talked about VED and support from licensing revenue in London. My understanding—this may be entirely wrong, so the Minister might correct me—is that the vast majority of local authorities across the country get road support grants to deal with potholes, repairs and the like, but London does not receive such grant. That gives the impression that dealing with potholes in London is paid for by tube and bus passengers, who are subsidising the missing grant.
If one thinks about financial pressures, one can draw conclusions that may be entirely erroneous. We have a new franchisee running the docklands light railway: KeolisAmey. When I started in the Commons, the DLR was carrying some 20 million passengers a year. It now carries 100 million passengers a year, including many colleagues from the Scottish National party when they travel to London City airport to fly back to Scotland on a Thursday night or Friday morning. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West set out the massive increase in journeys on the DLR. That fantastic railway is, of course, a driverless operation, which makes it separate from most of TfL’s other rail operations.
The new DLR franchise is only six months old, but its staff have already gone on strike for the first time in 23 years. One has to ask whether the resourcing of the DLR and pressure on the contract led the new franchisee to put pressure on staff’s conditions and wages. That is total speculation on my part, but the fact that we have had the first DLR strike in 23 years is not a good sign. It is certainly a concern for my constituents and a very worrying development indeed.
The final point I want to cover is another parochial one. I see that the Minister is wearing his red ensign badge proudly as shipping Minister—there is nothing wrong with that at all, and I applaud him for it. Yesterday, I attended a Port of London authority presentation at Tower pier at which it outlined its vision for the River Thames for the next 20 to 50 years. The most striking thing about the presentation was that whereas most people think that the Thames’s heyday is behind it—we have the visuals of riggers in the past 200 years and merchant vessels in the 20th century being unloaded in the docks—and that it is now much quieter, with Thames Gateway and the port of Tilbury, as the Minister will know, London is now dealing with more tonnage than ever in its history.
With new commuter routes being opened up all the time, there is more commuter traffic than ever. Construction projects such as the Thames Tideway tunnel and, to a certain extent, Crossrail, which require the Thames to be used and that get HGVs off London’s roads and traffic on to the Thames, are welcome. The PLA’s vision is that the Thames’s best days are ahead of it, so it is really disappointing that the proposed cruise terminal at Enderby Wharf, which has been approved by the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Mayor of London, does not have a ship-to-shore energy supply. That means that when cruise ships start arriving in London, they will have to run their diesel engines 24/7 to power them while they are berthed in the middle of the Thames, which is the equivalent of putting hundreds of lorries’ emissions back into London’s air. If we provided a ship-to-shore energy supply, which I believe would cost only up to a few million pounds, we could deal a big blow to London’s emissions.
Given that background, what funding does the Department for Transport provide for TfL to study air quality? Transport emissions play a big part in air quality, as they account for between 25% and 30% of all emissions. The shipping industry is growing, and we want to ensure as much as possible that its growth is environmentally sustainable and clean. Does the Minister have anything to add to the debate about the cruise terminal at Enderby Wharf? Can he say whether, even at this late stage, ship-to-shore energy supply could be introduced into the plan, given that the situation is a negative dark spot on what ought to be a positive clean bill of health for the Thames?
I again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West on securing this important debate. I have raised much more parochial points than him, and we will be interested to hear the speeches from the three Front-Bench spokesmen.
May I, too congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) on securing this timely and important debate? This issue is raised frequently in both Houses. Yesterday, during questions in the other place, two of the points that my hon. Friend mentioned were raised. Lord Tope noted that the £639 million operational grant for this year will decline to nothing within three years, while Lord Dubs raised an important question that I will deal with: if Transport for London is going to become a property developer over the next decade, where and how will it build, and what will it will build? It is particularly important to note that there will be little social housing among the alleged 10,000 homes to be built.
The other place is also shortly to discuss the Transport for London Bill, a private Bill that has been limping through both Houses for five years. It would have been killed off in the main Chamber a couple of weeks ago, had not the Government whipped 140 of their Members to vote for the revival of that rather sad and sagging Bill. If London MPs had their way, the Bill would be put to rest quite quickly. If I have time, I will deal with that issue but, in any event, I have no doubt that we will consider the final stages of that Bill in the new year and discuss at length the problems with it.
Should TfL become a property developer to make up the £2.8 billion that the Government are taking away from it between now and 2021, it will of course need to manage its estate properly. It has not always done that well in the past, and I doubt the capability and competence of transport organisations—even though many very good people work for them—to deal with some of the most rapacious and greedy property developers in London. Somehow the public sector also seems to come off worse when it enters into such deals.
Even what TfL is planning at the moment does not fill me with enthusiasm. It is looking for 75 sites spanning 300 acres, with the aim of raising £1 billion. As I said in my intervention, two thirds of those sites will be in zones 1 and 2, presumably because although there is less land in those zones, it is more profitable. Only when TfL subsequently begins to look at zones 3 to 5 does it expect to include affordable housing in its considerations. It is going to work in joint ventures with private companies, and the model for that is the tragic site at Earls Court, which is one of the largest development sites in London, with two thirds of it owned by TfL. The joint venture with Capital and Counties Properties plc covers 77 acres and includes the Earls Court exhibition centres and the Lillie Bridge depot. The third part of the site—22 acres —consists of two local authority housing estates with 760 affordable and social homes.
The development of that site, which I believe is a template for what TfL will do in the future, will provide 8,000 homes with no additional social homes, even though according to planning targets, and even the targets of the Mayor of London, there should be 2,000 such homes. The 760 existing homes will be demolished, which will affect the entire community. The Earls Court exhibition centres are beautiful and their loss is tragic. Earls Court One, an art deco building that is currently being demolished, provided 30% of London’s exhibition space.
I laughed at what TfL told the Financial Times when it announced its plans about six weeks ago. It said it was
“working with its operations team to ensure that it learns from mistakes made by the national rail network in the past and only ‘develops sites where no transport capacity growth is expected so as not to constrain operations.’”
The other part of the Earls Court site that is going is the Lillie Bridge depot, which is one of the main manufacturing and servicing depots. It is an ideal place for servicing and provides 500 skilled jobs, which is why the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has considerable concerns about the development.
If Earls Court is a blueprint, God help us when TfL begins to develop other sites around London. It has already identified three. One, which is in Hammersmith and Fulham but not in my constituency, is the Parsons Green depot site. The very good Labour council there is negotiating hard with TfL to include affordable housing on the site. There will be 120 new homes, but no homes for social rent are planned, although I hope that that will change following negotiation with the local authority.
As I know that area extremely well, I can give an example of what can happen. Almost opposite the proposed site is an almost identical depot site that was owned by the Co-operative Group. That has been developed with 100% affordable housing—50% intermediate and 50% for social renting. If such a target can be reached, TfL’s ambitions in an area with a crying need for affordable housing, especially in zones 1 and 2, should be at least a lot greater. I note from the property pages of today’s Metro that the average price of a property in Hammersmith, let alone Fulham, is more than £1 million, and that is exactly the type of luxury property that TfL is endeavouring to build on its land.
A measure in the Transport for London Bill—during its early stages some four years ago, my constituents petitioned against it—would have given TfL the power to sell land without reference to the Secretary of State or any outside body. I am pleased to say that, following scrutiny, the relevant clause was withdrawn, because otherwise TfL could have done exactly what it liked. Given the Government’s housing policy, which we will discuss in the House later today, I have no confidence that the Secretary of State’s intervention will represent a proper remedy. In any event, the Bill is deeply flawed because it encourages TfL to enter into limited partnership agreements and allows it to go further even than it went at Earls Court by having unsuitable, voracious partners in the property development market. That may or may not provide a profit for TfL, but it will do nothing for the neighbourhood and interests of ordinary Londoners.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West talked about the upgrading of the sub-surface network, which includes the Hammersmith and City, Circle and District lines. It would be a tragedy if that were postponed for another five years. Those incredibly busy lines have some of the worst signalling on the underground network. I believe the signalling at Earls Court dates from the 1960s, so perhaps the Minister will comment on that today. My constituents would not welcome him saying blithely that the upgrading will be delayed by another five years.
A specific problem is the removal of Olympia station from the timetabled network. I was pleased to have the first newly built station in a century on an existing tube line at Wood Lane as part of the Westfield development. TfL made a big song and dance about that, but less of a song and dance when it took a station off the timetabled network, despite Olympia serving one of the most densely populated communities in London and linking to the very good overground service at that station. We were told at the time that the reason was congestion at Earls Court—that has been the case for about 40 years—and that TfL wanted to prioritise the Wimbledon branch of the line. That was not popular with my constituents.
When the signalling is upgraded—whether that is in 2019 or 2023—it will relieve the problem. There will be more capacity, longer and more effective trains and better signalling. With that full expectation, I wrote to the new managing director of London Underground to ask for at least a commitment that Olympia would be put on the timetabled network again, but I was told, “No. There is no intention of doing that.” What is the point of investment and of TfL becoming a property developer if the net result is that the investment in its own network does not do what its passengers and fare payers want?
In May 2016, we will have a new Mayor—hopefully a Labour Mayor. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) has promised to freeze fares, to provide one-hour hopper tickets and to run TfL in the interests of all Londoners, not in the interests of property developers, its own highly paid managers or bailing out the Chancellor. However, we currently face a double whammy of losing central Government investment, which no other civilised country would do to its capital city, while at the same time we do not see any other improvement in Londoners’ quality of life because TfL is simply rushing madly into property development.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) on securing this important debate. I start by associating myself with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) on the cruise liner. I will not go into detail because I do not intend to speak about that, but I entirely agree with his points.
I, too, want to be parochial and I will talk mainly about the proposed Silvertown tunnel in the context of TfL’s funding. I have long called for a solution to the problem of traffic congestion on the approach roads to the Blackwall tunnel. It is a daily environmental disaster and occurs when queues of traffic build up, particularly at peak times, causing a huge environmental problem of air pollution in that part of our borough. The topography of the area means that a lot of pollution collects in the river valley, and having stationary traffic stuck there for long periods just adds to the problem. That traffic will not disappear. It needs to go somewhere and the problem needs some relief. There are no alternatives. We do not have the London Underground in south-east London beyond North Greenwich station and people rely heavily on surface and suburban rail services, which are already at over capacity so we need to increase capacity there. I will come to that later.
In many circumstances, people are forced to drive. That applies particularly to residents of the boroughs of Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Newham, for which the Blackwall tunnel is the nearest river crossing. People have to use that crossing to get across the river, so we are seeing a significant impact on people’s daily routine because quite often they are delayed and cannot predict when they will be able to get through the tunnel. In addition, many businesses lose time and money because of the traffic congestion. We need to deal with the traffic congestion at the Blackwall tunnel and we need a third bore, but dealing with the issue by building a road crossing alone will not be sufficient.
We have been offered buses by TfL, and we will take the buses. They have buses in other parts of London, and of course we want more buses. However, the equivalent of a small city has been built in Docklands. We have seen massive expansion not just of housing, which will continue to grow, but of businesses and leisure, and more and more people want to go north and south on the eastern part of the Thames corridor, rather than on the traditional route, like the spokes of a wheel, served by suburban rail that goes in and out of central London. Without increasing significantly public transport links that go north and south across that east Thames corridor, we will congest even more the central London transport system, because people have no choice, if they want to use public transport, other than to go in and then out.
It is always good to give a Northern Ireland flavour to a debate on London transport. The hon. Gentleman referred to using more buses. I, too, encourage people to use more buses, because if more buses are bought, they will come from Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, so it is always very good to have that.
I cannot think of a better reason to want more buses. To get even more parochial for a minute, I want to put in a plug for TfL finally to deal with the issues with my local services, on which my constituents have been campaigning. I am talking about the B16 and 178 buses through Kidbrooke. Those issues must be resolved; we are not accepting no for an answer, and we welcome the moves that it has made already on the B16.
The 132 bus runs from Eltham to North Greenwich, and when I became a Member of Parliament I campaigned for its introduction. TfL came to my office to meet me and said, “There’s no demand for such a service.” It was to provide a public transport link along the route corridor of the A102, the Blackwall tunnel approach road. Finally, as the Olympics approached, we got an extension of the 132 bus route down to North Greenwich. It was a single-decker bus and it quickly filled up, so a double-decker service had to be introduced. That service is now often oversubscribed and passengers are left behind at the terminal where the bus starts—at North Greenwich—such is the increasing demand from people for public transport links along the route corridor of the A102, which connects with the A2 and my constituency of Eltham.
A road crossing, therefore, will not be sufficient: we need to have the DLR. If TfL is not going to build a DLR link, there is no point in building the Silvertown link, because it will just become as congested as the Blackwall tunnel is now. People will have no alternative to switch to—in the large numbers that we need them to switch—if we are to protect that route from becoming congested again in the future, just with more cars. As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West pointed out, the DLR has in recent times increased its usership significantly—by more than 50%. It has gone up from a few million passengers, as my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse said, to nearly 100 million passengers a year. That shows how effective it can be, so a DLR link from Silvertown to North Greenwich—that is then brought down the route corridor of the A102 to places such as Kidbrooke and Eltham—will have a significant impact by changing people’s choices of the transport method that they use to get across the river in that part of the city.
We cannot allow traffic to grow, and I accept that some form of tolling will be needed, but no one else in London pays to cross the river by their local bridge. I do not see why my constituents should have to pay to cross the river when no one else in London does. If TfL says that the only way to fund schemes in the future—because of the cuts to its budget—is to introduce tolling, I say that it has to be fair to my constituents, who in recent years have watched billions of pounds being invested in the London underground, which does not come anywhere near where we live. We accept that it is a major contributor to London’s economy and is vital—no one disputes that—but the comparison between the investment in other parts of London and that in outer south-east London does not stand up to scrutiny. We have bus services, but other than that, TfL spends precious little on investment in that part of London, so asking for—no, demanding—a DLR link as part of the scheme is just asking to be compensated for the lack of investment in previous years.
If people in my area are to be asked to pay a toll to pay for the river crossing, we should toll every river crossing in London and make everyone pay to cross the river, because that is the only fair balance that we could strike. I see the Minister’s eyebrows going up as he thinks, “Actually, there might be a point there. We might be able to make some money.” It is true that we have sat by in south-east London and watched money being spent on the London underground, while getting precious little—
They might well, but there are bridges beyond Vauxhall. I can point all the bridges out to the Minister if he needs me to do that; I can name them all. We need the Silvertown link, but it cannot be built without the DLR.
I want to move on to talk about a site in Kidbrooke, Henley Cross that is owned by TfL. TfL is definitely trying to maximise its income from that site, but we need such sites, which are in public ownership, to be used to provide local services and vital affordable housing where possible, not just sold off to the highest bidder. I would like to put in a bid to TfL to consider that site in relation to the Kidbrooke regeneration and the need to identify sites for secondary schools in the borough of Greenwich. Henley Cross is situated between the motorway—well, the approach road to the Blackwall tunnel—and the railway. The site is unsuitable for people to live on, but it would be suited to other uses. Perhaps some sort of land swap could be arranged with the Kidbrooke Village regeneration and a school could be built where it was intended to build a Sainsbury’s supermarket. I urge TfL to sit down with the London borough of Greenwich and with Berkeley Homes, which is doing the development, to consider that option, rather than cramming housing on to the site, which is unsuitable because of its location.
Finally, I want to turn to TfL taking over the running of suburban trains, which are vital for my constituency as it relies entirely on suburban trains as the major route into London because—as I said—we do not have direct links to the London underground. If that is to happen, TfL needs to start planning ahead now. At peak times, trains that run through my constituency—through Eltham, New Eltham, Plumstead and along all those routes—are heavily oversubscribed. They have so many passengers they have PIXCs—people in excess of capacity. We need to increase capacity on those lines. That means that when the Thameslink scheme is completed and the new rolling stock becomes available, the current Thameslink rolling stock must be made available to Southeastern, which wants to purchase it, so that it can increase capacity on those vital services in south-east London.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) on securing the debate. I also congratulate the Minister of State on his recent promotion, and I know that he will enjoy the additional challenges it brings.
I have been asked to sum up for the third party, and I will try something quite unusual, which is to do so in a third-party way, and to be as apolitical and as helpful as I can. I want to refer to Scotland and what the Scottish Government are doing, because I believe in their approach, and I think it would be helpful to bring it into this discussion.
The hon. Member for Harrow West talked about Transport for London services being crucial to business and to people. He talked about London’s urban growth being the fastest in the European Union. I have something in common with him, because Inverness is the fastest-growing city overall in Europe. I know exactly what he is talking about, but perhaps on a different scale.
People coming into London have an interest in this issue as well as those already in London. People need to make internal connections, but external connections cannot be ignored. It is every bit as important to make sure that links such as the Gatwick Express operate properly. I hear again that it is a disaster this morning, incidentally, with two trains cancelled and another stuck for many minutes on the line. The hon. Gentleman talked about roads being under pressure, and the knock-on impact of a failure to invest. That came through in all hon. Members’ contributions, as did the point that what may have been missing is a longer-term vision and an overall view of how things should be developed.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) made an important intervention in which she talked about the absolute need to engage people in major decisions. That brings me to my first point about the approach in Scotland, which I feel passionate about. I think there is agreement across parties on an outcomes-based approach to development, where we take things forward towards a longer-term outcome with people in mind, rather than as an afterthought. That came through time and again.
The Minister spoke in an intervention about smart ticketing, and I compliment him on doing so. We have to make it easier for people to use different modes of transport, but it is important—we must mention this early—that smart ticketing be fair. It should be carried forward in such a way as to enable everybody to interact with it. A point was made about fairness later on, and adopting an outcomes-based approach makes a big difference to that.
The hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) rightly mentioned the hard-working staff on the network. Too often, we forget that when we ask people to take charge of new developments and bigger challenges, those involved in their delivery will be put under pressure. The hon. Gentleman was quite right to mention those people. We should reflect in the same way on the people who work in the transport system across the nations of the UK. He made the telling point that the DLR recently had its first strike for 23 years, and that tells us something about the communication that is needed. He also made an important point about the growing need to take shipping into account.
One thing missing from the debate—I am not trying to score points, but I want to take in the context—was any discussion of possible airport expansion. Hon. Members do not know where the pressure will be in London, because the decision has not been made yet, but that must be taken into account in future planning.
I agree about that frustration. As I have said, I will not try to use this debate to score points, but we must look at making decisions that are connected to others that we make. Other hon. Members brought that out in spades today.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) talked about Transport for London as a property developer. He asked what kind of developer it would be, and what it would do in future. The point about outcomes for people shone through in his questions, and it is important to look at what kind of outcomes there will be. If property development will be a vehicle for investment, he is quite right to say that we should know what kind of investment will be made. He asked what the point was of TfL investments if not to improve transport for people.
The hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) talked about air pollution, having the correct infrastructure requirements, and the need to see what people want to do in the future, which goes back to my point about outcomes. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who is unfortunately not in his place, mentioned buses in an intervention. I want to mention Britain’s largest bus manufacturer, Alexander Dennis, in Falkirk. It would, I am sure, be delighted to supply vehicles. What is needed is an outcomes-based approach with a longer-term view. People should not, as the hon. Member for Eltham pointed out, be made to pay more just because of where they live. That should be taken into account when deciding how to take things forward.
I said I would talk about Scotland. Since 2007, more than £15 billion has been invested in transport, and the Scottish Government have adopted an outcomes-based approach to policy, through which they look for a healthier, wealthier, greener approach to development. I believe that that is now considered to be the right approach by those from across the different parties in Scotland. We have looked at sustainable transport options that will encourage people out of their cars, and made sure that we made the investments necessary to connect people.
Our conversation this morning contains a contradictory message, and I will fire back a bit of a warning to hon. Members. They cannot say, “Let’s not invest in cycling and walking” while moaning about emissions and congestion. There has to be a balance between those things. In Scotland, since 2011, we have invested in 190 km of cycling and walking routes. We have also made the largest single investment in Scotland’s transport history with the £3 billion upgrade of the A9, because it is a vital part of the transport mix, and it is what people asked for and required. I am delighted to say that it connects my constituency with Perth, and that connection is ongoing. That development was vital to the highlands economy, and it was part of our work on a mix of transport options, which included simultaneous investment in the rail links between Aberdeen and Inverness, and Inverness and Perth. Investment is not limited to those lines, however; hon. Members will be aware of the recently opened borders railway link, with which we threw off the ghost of the railway cutback and built the first new railway in Scotland since the Beeching cuts. In our rounded approach, we take an outcomes-based look at how transport has to be put together.
I will not take much more time. In summary, people’s absolute need and right to be connected fluidly to all the different transport options available came through clearly this morning. That is a substantial challenge for an organisation as big as Transport for London, but if it takes an outcomes-based approach—I fundamentally believe that all hon. Members’ contributions this morning indicated the need for such an approach—it will start to get somewhere with looking at the wider picture and the longer-term view.
Of course, if greater public investment is to be made, the public need to be involved and feel involved. It would be a good move for Transport for London to look at how it engages with people and how it will take forward conversations with the relevant communities, so that it can ensure that it carries forward in its planning the points made by hon. Members this morning. I hope that it will heed my warning and take an outcomes-based approach to such development.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) on securing this debate, and the Minister on his recent promotion. We have had a fantastic discussion in which hon. Members have spoken with passion and conviction about their local area. It is important that those points are heard.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West gave an excellent account of the whole range of issues. I was struck by his mention of potential delays to the upgrade of the underground system. I hope that the Minister responds positively to my hon. Friend’s hope that he might meet a delegation of staff, particularly given the number of staff cuts in the control rooms. My hon. Friend concluded with some interesting suggestions about how the funding gap might be closed, and I am sure that the Communities and Local Government team will listen closely to that.
Will my hon. Friend encourage the Minister to clarify—if not today, then shortly—whether the British Transport police will maintain their funding levels and, therefore, the numbers of constables and other police able to operate on the tube? There seems to be some doubt about whether they have benefited from the Government’s largesse to other police forces.
I am sure that the Minister will have heard that point. My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) made some fascinating points. The point about the cruise terminal was new to me, but I hope that others will hear it. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) continued his fantastic campaign on the Transport for London Bill, reiterating points that were made in a debate a few weeks ago and that, doubtless, will be made again. I will return to those.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) took me back to my childhood: I used to be driven by my parents from south London through the Blackwall tunnel when there was only one tunnel. I remember the pong, which I think was from a dog biscuit factory. Some things do not change, really, and there is clearly much more work to be done. His points about the unfairness of potentially charging his constituents to cross the river were well made.
I want to talk a little more generally about London’s transport system. As someone from outside London, I have to say that London’s system is widely admired as a model of excellence. There are now more passenger journeys in the capital than in the rest of England combined. In the UK, other metropolitan areas—including Manchester, notably—are keen to bring in Oyster-style, multi-platform, integrated smart ticketing. Indeed, I understand that Singapore’s Land Transport Authority last year announced a new Government contracting model after explicitly studying the bus systems of London and Australia; they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that is clearly the case here.
We all know that the Department for Transport took a huge hit in the comprehensive spending review, as did the Department for Communities and Local Government. I fear that the repercussions will reverberate through the quality and connectivity of the transport system across the entire country. I am also sure, regrettably, that the savage reductions in funding and subsequent cuts to transport services will be keenly felt by all those who rely on them to go about their daily life. It is distressing but simple: cuts to central Government funding and local authority budgets mean that services will suffer.
Let us remember that in 2013 TfL’s operational funding was slashed by a quarter, requiring it to identify £16 billion in savings by 2021. Last month it was announced that the grant worth £700 million in 2015-16 will be phased out by the end of the decade. The Department for Transport said that this may be mitigated by “new commercial freedoms” for TfL. The implications of those commercial freedoms are potentially significant, and I will largely focus on them.
Along with funding for cycling nationally, London’s dedicated transport funding has been deliberately targeted in the spending review. As of 2014-15, a record 8.6 million people were living in the capital. By 2030, that figure is forecast to reach 10 million, rising again to 11 million by 2050. The pressures on the capital’s transport system will only intensify. TfL has already been making fierce and highly controversial cuts, but even it said in its annual budget last year:
“It is becoming progressively more difficult to achieve this without compromising our core services.”
I would be grateful if the Minister could offer some assurances about how the cut to TfL’s revenue support has been planned. It is well known that before the late 1990s, London Regional Transport was plagued by a pattern of annualised budgets and sudden funding reductions, which in turn created huge inefficiencies. TfL has more long-term financial certainty under Labour’s Greater London Authority Act 1999, but can the Minister really guarantee that additional costs will not be created—for example, in variations to TfL’s commercial contracts—as a result of this decision? We need further assurances.
Since October 2013, the bus service operators grant, which was previously paid to bus operators that were running bus services under franchise to TfL, has been incorporated into the general grant paid to TfL and the Greater London Authority. Now that TfL’s grant is being snatched by the Treasury, so too is this important grant that pays bus operators to keep costs down and helps to subsidise fares for ordinary people. BSOG was already cut by 20% in the previous Parliament, with the total value of the grant across the country falling from £469 million in 2009-10 to £298 million in 2013-14. Now the Government are quietly removing it from TfL entirely. That is unacceptable, and we will not let it go unnoticed. I would greatly appreciate the Minister’s assurance that BSOG will again be allocated to the capital on a separate basis; otherwise, this is clear discrimination against London.
TfL passes part of its grant to the boroughs to spend on local road maintenance and improvement. I am sure that those boroughs would be pleased to be told how that will be funded when TfL’s operational funding is soon reduced to zero. We have heard about the other possible method that TfL might use to alleviate the loss of the grant and to raise revenue to invest in London’s transport network. That method—the so-called commercial freedoms—is proving especially controversial, and many of my hon. Friends have already raised concerns about the wider implications.
The Department for Transport has stated that TfL could save the necessary £700 million a year by generating additional income from the land it owns in London, or with the “additional financial flexibility” that the Government will provide it with. TfL is one of the largest landowners, owning 5,700 acres of land in the capital and more than 500 potential major development sites. Against this backdrop of cuts, it is only natural that TfL wants to plug at least partially the gap that the grant will leave by selling off existing or underused facilities. We support making good use of assets, but there are certain issues that really must be addressed.
First, we need to be sure that forced sales will not, paradoxically, have an adverse impact on the very transport system that they are trying to fund. Selling off land might seem like a good deal in the short term, but it might not look so bright a few years later, when it transpires that the land is needed to expand transport services to meet increasing demand. If TfL land is to be used for housing, let us at least ensure that it is housing at a price that ordinary Londoners can afford. We need a pledge from the Minster that there will be a strong affordable housing element in such developments—particularly important given the disastrous general housing policies being pursued by the Government. Sadly, I have little confidence that that will be achieved.
We are deeply sceptical of the Government’s motives and fear that the asset sell-offs will be all about short-term gain at the expense of securing a future transport system for ordinary Londoners. I do not have time to go into the nitty-gritty of the argument, but the proposed mechanism for property development—namely, the provision allowing limited partnerships—is deeply worrying. I am sure that there will be time enough to discuss that controversial element when the Transport for London Bill wends its way back to us from the other place. Ultimately, a long-term investment strategy aimed at raising money to reinvest in the transport system is one thing, but short-term profiteering on property development is quite another.
In conclusion, TfL’s transport system works, and it ought to be protected, but it is at serious risk from a Government who seek short-term savings and do not understand the importance and value of a widely admired but pressured system that keeps our great capital city moving.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) on securing this debate about Transport for London funding, which is timely following the spending review. I will put the cart before the horse by dealing first with some of the questions that have been raised, meaning that if I do not have time to conclude my remarks, what I want to say will be cut off, rather than what hon. Members might want to hear.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the upgrade of the sub-surface lines will be further delayed by the cuts in Government funding, and I have to point out that the delay was announced before the spending review. Indeed, the delivery of the upgrade is a matter for the Mayor. We have protected TfL’s capital funding and expect the Mayor to prioritise such tube upgrades as part of that process. The hon. Gentleman also asked whether other projects will be delayed; once again, it will be a matter for the Mayor to prioritise such projects. We will be agreeing a settlement letter with the Mayor that makes it clear which infrastructure projects we expect him to deliver, and by when.
I certainly take note of the hon. Gentleman’s point; no doubt that issue will be raised during the upcoming mayoral election.
The hon. Gentleman raised the specific point of accessibility at Harrow on the Hill station, and I will ask Mike Brown to provide me with a report as soon as possible about the practicality of addressing that. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, many of our Victorian tube stations do not lend themselves to such upgrades at a reasonable cost, although we have made considerable progress. In particular, the new Crossrail project will vastly increase accessibility for people with mobility problems.
The hon. Gentleman also asked whether there could be further devolution of property taxes, which is, of course, a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has announced that business rates will be 100% devolved to local authorities from 2020. There will be a consultation on that in 2016, including on how the system will work in practice. Various things will need to be considered, including how the income from London’s business rates will be split between the Mayor and the boroughs, and which Government grants that will replace.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) talked about the garden bridge. The Government and the Mayor have each agreed to make a funding contribution, but most of the costs will be met by the private sector. The garden bridge will be an iconic and attractive addition to the capital, and it will be free—there are no plans to charge people who use it.
The hon. Members for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) and for Eltham (Clive Efford) raised the issue of the Silvertown tunnel, which is, again, a matter for the Mayor. Transport for London has recently consulted on the proposal. We agree that the tunnel is an important project and hope that the Mayor can deliver on it quickly. TfL is considering what package of public transport improvements might be needed to complement any new crossings, which might include DLR extensions, but the Mayor will need to take a view on the relative priority of such extensions compared with other schemes.
The hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse also mentioned the cruise ship terminal. I have visited both London Gateway and the port of Tilbury, and I was impressed by the investment going into those projects. Indeed, London is re-establishing itself as a major port. I pay tribute to Dame Helen Alexander, whose term as chair of the Port of London authority ends at the end of this month. She has been a driving force behind the work that has been going on.
The hon. Gentleman raised in particular the issue of ship-to-shore energy supplies in a number of ports across the country, on which I am keen. Indeed, ports could derive income from supplying electricity. We will certainly consider how that might be funded, but such sensitive sea areas come under the quality of marine fuel regulations that have been agreed throughout the European Union, so ships will have to use low-sulphur fuel or to be fitted with mitigation equipment to ensure that they at least take care of sulphur. I am aware that ships produce other pollutants when in port.
The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry), who speaks for the Scottish nationalists, talked about smart ticketing, which has been revolutionary since I arrived in London just over 10 years ago. I was then buying tickets, so the introduction of Oyster has been fantastic. Of course, a new aspect of ticketing, which is already in force on the west coast main line and is an element of the new Northern and TransPennine franchises, is automatic refunds when trains are delayed. I hope that new franchises take that on board. In due course, I hope it becomes the norm that if a train is delayed, a customer, having bought their ticket or season ticket on the train operating company’s website, will automatically get a refund, rather than having to apply. Passengers in the north of England are looking forward to that service becoming available.
I think it was the hon. Member for Harrow West who talked about meeting staff at the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. I occasionally meet the RMT, but more through my responsibility for shipping. I suspect that the Mayor of London would primarily be moving forward on that issue, but I hope that, following further discussions, we can soon deliver on the night tube. Many people look forward to some sort of agreement on that, particularly at this time of year when London’s night time economy is so vibrant. The hon. Gentleman also raised the issue of manning for British Transport police. Many people were relieved when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that overall police funding would not be subject to the cuts that many had predicted, but I will look into the specific issue of British Transport police and get back to him.
The hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) said that TfL is facing a huge hit to its revenue budget. Actually, in terms of capital funding, this Government will nationally be deploying 50% more than the previous coalition Government, which is good news for people who use our train services and roads. He also mentioned the bus service operators grant, which is indeed a fuel subsidy. One criticism that I get from bus operating companies and bus manufacturers is that the BSOG is a disincentive for the roll-out of environmentally friendly or green buses. For example, electric buses that use no fuel get no BSOG.
The hon. Gentleman also raised the fact that Transport for London will soon no longer need any day-to-day operating subsidy, which is a good news story as that has been made possible by our sustained investment in London in recent years allowing TfL to make significant operational savings. London’s growing population and successful economy mean that more and more people are using public transport in London, which in turn, as I pointed out earlier, means that TfL receives more and more income from fares. TfL’s commercial development programme is also allowing it to generate more income from the private sector.
Having not got on to my prepared introductory remarks, I shall conclude by making the point that the spending review settlement shows that we recognise that London today is a city on the move. The capital’s economy is moving emphatically in the right direction, and our support is helping to transform London’s transport network. I am proud to be part of that transformation together with all our partners, including TfL. The investment that we are making for the next five years will not just keep London mobile, but will equip the city for the challenges of the future so that it can compete and win in the 21st-century global economy.
I thank the Minister for his replies to many of my specific questions and the manner in which he approached his winding-up speech. I particularly welcome the fact that he will consider prioritising the Metropolitan line in the letter of agreement that he will sign with Transport for London following the spending review, and I am grateful that he will ask for a report on accessibility issues at Harrow on the Hill station.
I hear what the Minister says about further fiscal devolution being a decision for the Chancellor, but I gently suggest that he might want to use his not inconsiderable influence—he has been promoted—to press the case for the devolution of vehicle excise duty and stamp duty land tax. I heard his gentle sidestep of the request for a meeting with representatives of the workforce so that they could raise concerns about security, so I ask him to reflect on that. There are real concerns about security on the underground, not least as a result of the Leytonstone incident. Whatever he may think about unions in general, the workforce on the tube have reasonable points to make about security, so I encourage him to reconsider being willing to meet them.
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) in paying tribute to all the staff of Transport for London who do such an important job. I am grateful to their representatives—the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, the RMT and ASLEF—for providing us with briefings ahead of this debate. I am particularly grateful to TfL, London Councils and London First for their briefings, too.
This being the Christmas period, and while we are looking positively to the future of TfL, the last thing to say is I hope that there will soon be a Labour Mayor of London again. I particularly welcome the commitment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) to a fares freeze, which gives some hope to my constituents that they will no longer be treated as cash cows for Transport for London.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered Transport for London funding.