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Olympic Games 2012: Transport

Volume 703: debated on Wednesday 2 July 2008

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will issue guidance about the refurbishment of those transport points in London which will experience high numbers of passengers during the 2012 Olympic Games.

My Lords, the Olympic Delivery Authority is responsible for delivering transport for the 2012 Games. The ODA outlined its proposals in the first edition of the Olympic transport plan, published in October 2007. Future editions of the plan will become more detailed; it includes temporary and permanent works at a number of stations to provide for passenger demand during the 2012 Games and beyond.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, but is he aware that many important transport hubs in London are a complete mess? That mess needs to be cleared up before the Olympics. One such mess is South Kensington Underground station. Transport for London seems to speak with two voices; one is that of property development, which says that we have to build a Shangri-La over the top of the station; the other is the operating side, which says that we have to clean the whole thing up. Can we please issue guidance to Transport for London, saying that it should forget Shangri-La, clean up the mess in South Kensington Underground station and get it operational in time for the Olympics?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the question. I understand that South Kensington station has been the subject of protracted disputation over several years. My current understanding is that London Underground Ltd wishes and needs to upgrade the station and therefore an improvements programme is being prepared, which is scheduled to start towards the end of 2009. The programme is likely to comprise the partial enlargement of the ticket hall; the provision of step-free access, such as lifts for those with a mobility impairment; the construction of an elevated walkway above the District and Circle lines, linking the ticket hall; the refurbishment of existing elevators; and a general redecoration of the station. I also understand that it is consulting on wider redevelopment outside and above ground, involving part of the station building, which is grade 2 listed. That consultation is being undertaken in conjunction with the local Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

My Lords, one of the ODA’s original policies was to have a green Olympics, with as much passenger transport not by car as possible, including cycling and walking. There was originally a major plan of new cycle routes and walkways to the Stratford Olympics. Is that still there and will it be retained?

My Lords, as I understand it, the green transportation plan is very much in place. We are happy with how the transport plan is progressing. My understanding is that in 2012 there will be 10 railway lines, with one train every 15 seconds serving the Olympic Park. That is 240 trains an hour, making Stratford one of the best-connected locations in the world. That gives a flavour of how people will travel to the Olympic Games.

My Lords, the London Underground has an extremely efficient executive, but the biggest constraint on it developing its extensive underground plans is finance. Can the Government do anything to increase the finance coming to the London Underground executive, via Transport for London, to ensure that the plans outlined are executed and, indeed, increased?

My Lords, I recently answered a Question on that point and indicated clearly that finance is in place and that there is an agreed programme. Great progress is being made by Tube lines and Metronet, which has now been taken into Transport for London, towards completing the refurbishment programme for all Tube lines and railway stations.

My Lords, perhaps the Minister has not been in South Kensington Tube station in recent years. I can tell him that it is chaos on wheels. Platforms are extremely crowded, partly because there are large scaffolding constructions all the way down them, taking up a great deal of room. If we are going to sort it out in time for it to be feasibly used for the Olympics, we have to get cracking much faster than the Minister is suggesting.

My Lords, I have visited the Tube station in recent years, on my way to one of the museums, which I greatly enjoy. I understand that each year some 30 million people pass through the station, about one-third of them going to the museums. Of course we want Transport for London to carry out upgrades. As I outlined, it has a plan in place to start carrying out refurbishments by the end of next year.

My Lords, the brief I was given addressed the issue on the Order Paper. I apologise for not having infinite wisdom on this matter. Clearly the noble Earl’s question fully deserves an answer; he will be provided with one in writing.

My Lords, will these transport plans be completed in time for full-scale rehearsals to take place. Also, will the scheme of using public volunteers to guide people to transport be utilised? Both those schemes were behind the success of the transport system at the Sydney Olympics.

My Lords, I am sure that is part of the plan. As I understand it, in its recent assessment, the International Olympic Committee was satisfied that the ODA was well on track not only to securing a good transportation plan, but to putting all the other parts of that scheme in place. Sydney was a good role model both in how the Games worked and how people travelled to watch them.

My Lords, perhaps I misheard, but I think the Minister indicated that there would be a train every 15 seconds. Could he explain how people will be able to get on and off in that time?

My Lords, I suppose the short answer is “quickly”. Perhaps if the noble Lord had listened a little more closely he would have heard me also say that this involved 10 different railway lines.