My Lords, I start by offering the congratulations of, I hope, the whole House to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on his elevation to Secretary of State. He brings to the job knowledge and enthusiasm far surpassing that of several previous Secretaries of State. I shall also refer to what is going on, or not going on, in London. The Secretary of State may recall the Answer I got on 9 June:
“Industrial relations issues are matters between employers and their staff. The Government would expect that any disputes that could not be settled by discussion should be settled by using the various mechanisms that are available”.—[Official Report, 9/6/09; col. WA 147.]
Amen to that, but Londoners are being held to ransom. Many people who fear losing their jobs are making extraordinary efforts to get to work because they think that if they are missed for a couple of days, they can be missed for a good deal longer. I believe the behaviour of Mr Crow and the RMT to be utterly reprehensible. There are mechanisms. People on the Underground are well paid and have long holidays. I think the action is pretty disgraceful.
My main theme today is that the consumer—the passenger and freight user—is not adequately served by the present structure of the railway industry, which is made up of a variety of bodies that serve their own, rather than the consumer’s, interests. I do not blame the Minister for the structure, but the Office of Rail Regulation is independent of government, which is a good thing, but spends most of its efforts supervising Network Rail and adjudicating disputes between operators about access. Network Rail is independent of government or, at least, not subject to intervention. It is interested in presenting a good face. How does it achieve that? It does so by producing unambitious timetables compared with those in 1989, for example. They are slack timetables, and any railwayman will tell you that when working complicated junctions, presenting trains within 10 minutes is the way to run an unpunctual railway. Network Rail does not manage engineering work properly—my noble friend Lady Scott will refer to that—it does not provide a 24-hour railway, it uses buses too much, it does not deal with service disruptions and it pays its staff excessive bonuses. ATOC represents the interests of train-operating companies, often in the very short-term. It is akin to a trade union or professional association, and it certainly does not put the interests of the user first. We hear a lot about consumer focus, but that is largely marketing jargon.
Passenger Focus collects information about performance and tries to establish what the passengers want, but it has no teeth. The Minister will recall the article in Transit magazine, which I drew to his attention, in which Passenger Focus found that of the new trains the Pendolino has the worst rating. The private sector designed this, and it really has not done its job properly.
The DfT has to make the case to the Treasury for more money. It lets franchises through a very expensive, secretive and disruptive process that is very short-term. It tries to influence strategy without an adequate professional background, and, as the DSRA, is becoming a large bureaucracy. Who represents the consumer? I also refer the Minister to my second letter to him about NATA, the New Approach to Appraisal, the system by which judgments are made on where we will invest in the transport network. That still places far too much emphasis on adding together the short-term savings in time made by motorists, and it does not achieve the shift to public transport or save carbon.
I suggest that we think in terms of a new public corporation akin to the BBC. I know that the BBC is far from perfect, but it does operate in the public interest. This would comprise an independent, competent and enthusiastic chairman and two or three deputies. I might even be tempted to suggest that if the forecasts about the next election are right, the Minister might be the sort of person whom I have in mind. It should be someone of status who can command people to do what they want, rather than some cipher or someone who has made his career in a merchant bank.
The new body would have a clear remit to work in the users’ interests and would have independent members and the four chairmen of Network Rail, the ORR, Passenger Focus and ATOC. It would let franchises on a more sensible basis that ensured incentives to improve the customer experience. The Minister has often said that he has an open mind about franchising. This body would undertake strategic planning—that is, planning beyond the next five years—and there would be no organisational upheaval, except possibly in the DfT. I would not move the short-term arrangements for finance, staff relationships or new works to the new body; I would simply tell it to focus on what the consumer will get.
What should franchises and local authority bus contracts look like? They should contain a limit on fares and charges, which I think my noble friend will mention. They should be long enough to encourage investment in crime prevention. I was very pleased to see what was included in the new Southern franchise in that respect. The franchisees would have the freedom to buy as much as possible from a non-monopoly supplier: that is, to step outside Network Rail and its almost ridiculously high estimates for carrying out small works. They would be free to suggest better timetables with better connections—something that has never been properly addressed—and they would be free from arbitrary targets about such things as the seating pitch. On the other hand, they would concentrate on the things that people want, such as more accommodation for luggage.
I draw the Minister’s attention to one problem with the revenue-share arrangements, or the cap-and-collar arrangements, which operate in a number of franchises. If we want these franchisees to carry out improvements, they must make a business case to their own boards, but if 80 per cent of any improvement goes to the Department for Transport it destroys the business case that must be presented within the companies. I do not know the answer, but we must ensure that the incentive to invest and improve is kept alive and out there so that everyone tries to do better all the time.
The franchises would have to meet standards to get extensions, but past achievements would become very relevant and would lead to an advantage in the next bidding round. People would know that, if they did the right things, they would not only please their customers but gain some advantage when it came to reletting or renegotiating the franchise. I remind the Minister that local authorities encouraged the modernisation of the bus fleet to encourage compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act and modern ticketing. They gave bus companies a reverse discount on the bidding price provided that those companies did all the things that were wanted under the Act. I remember that your price could be up to 15 per cent less than the next bid, provided that you made the modifications to your bus fleet.
I turn to two or three other matters, one of which is coach passengers’ rights. These are being negotiated with the European Commission. I have an answer from the Minister. It is not a very good one because, in most countries in Europe, local passenger bus services are provided under public service obligation conditions. In the UK, they are mostly provided under commercial conditions, but I am well advised that if we have anything that increases the cost of local bus travel, particularly if we have another repeat of the situation with drivers’ hours, we will find that local bus operators will carry heavier burdens, produce fewer services and charge higher fares.
The fear of crime is reckoned to deny public transport of about £11 billion of business a year. I am not suggesting that whatever you did would get all that money in, but a very large sum of money is to be gained by public transport if we can do a lot to allay the fear of crime. I come back to the Southern franchise, which I am very pleased to see has had attention. I just look forward to it being extended elsewhere.
The Minister suggested that we should go to see Alison Munroe of HS2 about how the East Coast Main Line should be upgraded and how that would fit in with his proposals for a new railway to Scotland. We showed Alison Munroe that our proposals for south of York fitted in well with what might be done north of York. We have taken soundings in Scotland, which suggest that Edinburgh and Glasgow as two cities have come together in viewing themselves as one with lots of connections. It will probably be necessary to use only one route into Scotland. I would suggest that the east coast must be that way because I would not like to be the person trying to put a line through the Lake District.
Finally, tourists value things such as being able to see out of windows. The Scottish Executive is going through its class 158 fleet and moving the seats back so that people can see out of the windows again. That seems very simple to me. You might squeeze a few more seats in by making everyone very uncomfortable, but if they do not have any room for their luggage, cannot see out of the window and the fares are high, they will not travel. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. In his little finger, he knows more about the railway system and how it operates than probably the whole House put together. It is good to have him here as an asset in discussions on these matters. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Adonis will very much appreciate what he has to contribute to these deliberations. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend most warmly on his promotion to the Cabinet. I came to admire him greatly when he spoke on education. As he knows, I did not always completely agree with him, but I always came away from discussions more impressed than I went into them. I felt that he had deep commitment and an unrivalled enthusiasm for the responsibilities with which he was charged. He is the right man, in the right place, at the right time and we all wish him well.
Having said that, I hope he will forgive me if, in the context of my conviction that he will get things right, I dwell a little on the immediate reality facing him. In doing that, I shall draw from my experience. I declare an interest as a passenger—if I am allowed to use that old-fashioned word of which I am proud—on the railways. Last Thursday, I went home. The train arrived in Penrith an hour late. On Monday, I endeavoured to come back to the House. The train arrived in London two hours late. Today, I am concerned—I put it no more than that, as I am sure other noble Lords are concerned—about how I will get to Euston because of the Tube strike which confronts all of us with all its dire consequences, as the noble Lord has just described.
These are the realities being experienced by thousands of rail travellers. Therefore, it is not a matter of getting only the strategies right, it is a matter of making sure that they are delivered. We need therefore to look very closely at middle-level management, leadership and the rest. I have been struck by how much the staff on the railways have to offer in conversation in their analysis of the situation. Sometimes it might be a bit indiscreet in the context of the firms for which they work, but I have heard good sense over and over again. I am sure that my noble friend in his commendable travels by rail across the country will have encountered the same experience.
Whenever we discuss the latest delay in which we find ourselves, one of the things they say is, “But, my God, why do we not really have an integrated system in which those responsible for the infrastructure and those responsible for the operation share that responsibility in one integrated undertaking?”. Some argue for the good old days of nationalisation, as they saw it, but it does not necessarily have to be nationalisation as we encountered it in the past. The need to get the infrastructure and the operation closely intertwined cannot be overstated.
In that context, I suggest to my noble friend one very high priority—again, I speak from experience as a regular user of Virgin West Coast. Poor old Virgin West Coast and its staff are constantly in the front line; but more often than not the problems are not their fault, but the result of the infrastructure. I find it—I am sorry to use emotional language, but the message of exasperation is expressed by many—a disgrace that massive amounts of money have been spent on the improvement and updating of the west coast line, yet it is still impossible to operate a good service, in particular because the signalling fails over and over again. I suggest that my noble friend would do well as a priority to hold a searching inquiry into how and why this happened, what we can learn from it and how that can inform our approach to the future administration of the railways.
My views are perhaps coloured by my experiences. I have doubts about the possibility of running a high-tech, 21st-century railway on Victorian infrastructure. For that reason, I am excited by my noble friend speaking so bravely and courageously, and with so much vision, about the need to get on with a dedicated high-speed railway, for environmental, social and economic reasons—a priority that we must all endorse.
However, it is not either/or. As you move to high speed over long distances, there are communities in the space between the main centres. At the moment, because of the effort to speed up the timetable on Virgin West Coast, there are a lot of very disappointed, discouraged people, because fewer fast trains stop at Penrith and Oxenholme. The cost of this is that more people turn to their cars, with all the problems of pollution and all the things that we want to overcome in getting our transport and environment strategy right.
What many people are looking for is not an either/or, but, alongside high speed, an emphasis on reliability, with trains leaving when they are expected to leave and arriving when they are expected to arrive; cleanliness; lavatories that work and are properly equipped; space for luggage; decent catering; and courteous staff. I find that the staff are frequently courteous, but the other services are sometimes lamentable. Lavatories in particular can be a disgrace. On long distance trains, the difficulties—I was going to say “frustrations”, which there are—are appalling for passengers, particularly the handicapped, who find that lavatories are not working. These are the things that people are looking for—not just 10 minutes off their journey time. They are looking for reliability and standards. I hope that my noble friend will look closely at getting the balance right between high speed and the rest.
Outside this place, I am very much involved in one of the richest assets of this country, the national parks, to which the Government are deeply committed. The national parks have a serious transport issue affecting them. They attract 75 million visitors a year, 90 per cent of whom travel by car. This is hugely damaging in terms of poor air quality, traffic noise, erosion of tranquillity, physical encroachment, kerbside parking spilling on to the fells and visual blight. However, to get people to change their mode of travel will require high-quality, affordable and convenient alternatives—not tokenism, which leads just to more frustration, but regular, affordable and reliable services. Public transport is not the whole answer, but it is a significant part, together with better provision for walking, cycling, community transport and other innovative initiatives. If people can get to national parks and other protected and rural areas affordably, enjoyably and reliably by public transport, they are more likely to use it. This will not only protect the national park environment from traffic-related harm, but will help relieve congestion and carbon emissions and open up the countryside to more people.
National parks have a hard time securing public transport funding. All fall within more than one administrative transport boundary, and must persuade more than one local transport authority that their share should be prioritised. This results, at best, in small sums to support light services by comparison with their urban counterparts.
We are approaching the 60th anniversary of the 1949 Act that brought the parks into existence. It would be a very good time to see the Minister bring out a thought-through, sustainable transport policy for the parks. It would be a suitable counterpart to the recently announced bid to identify England’s first sustainable travel city. The Government take pride in the national parks. There is an issue here for the Minister; I hope he will address it.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, on securing this timely debate. As many noble Lords may recall, I am chief executive of London First, a non-profit-making business organisation whose membership includes both transport providers and users.
When business leaders are asked what is the major driver of London’s future success, the quality and quantity of transport infrastructure is their enduring response. Business leaders in other UK cities mirror this response.
So why does transport matter? Recent research by the Centre for Cities, in keeping with the Eddington report, affirms that good transport, particularly in and between major cities, is a necessary condition for economic growth. And the UK simply does not have the world-class transport system that it deserves.
In the capital, we have seen decades of neglect: transport investment that is inadequate to maintain, let alone improve, our networks, outstripped by economic and population growth. While we have welcome commitments to Tube modernisation, Crossrail, Thameslink and a third runway at Heathrow, they are long overdue and, of course, yet to be delivered. We are in a perpetual state of catch-up.
London is the UK’s gateway to the world economy, a true world city. But its millions of commuters would not consider their daily experience to be world-class—and certainly not at the moment. Many of us who are on the Underground at rush hour, unable to elbow our way into the crush, would use much less parliamentary language to describe our journey. With another 1 million people and at least half a million extra jobs forecast by 2026, London’s constrained transport capacity will once more pose a threat to our national success and global competitiveness, as well as damaging Londoners’ quality of life.
On the other hand, there is clear evidence that investment which builds London’s economic capacity benefits the UK as a whole. Investment in transport infrastructure can cement long-term growth and prepare us for the upswing when it comes. London is not an island state and its needs resonate with national needs.
I shall focus on quality and cost, but I should like to mention one issue in relation to crime. Initiatives from the Mayor, Transport for London and British Transport Police have seen a significant reduction in crime on public transport in the past year. This is very welcome but, critically, it is not accompanied by similar reductions in criminal behaviour in areas adjacent to the transport nodes. We must be certain that we are not merely displacing the problem. I look forward to British Transport Police working with its colleagues in the Metropolitan and City forces to tackle this issue.
I want to make three principal points. First, improving quality may be reliant on loosening capacity constraints. Secondly, some transport improvements depend less on money and more on customer-focused management and co-ordination. But, thirdly, good-quality public transport ultimately costs money. Whether it is the taxpayer or the passenger, someone has to foot the bill.
Quality and capacity are intimately linked. Quality improvements are limited where capacity is constrained. Let us consider congested streets, crowded Tube and stacking in the air. If London is to be the best city in the world to live in, we forget at our peril that people come here to do business. If we are to attract and keep the brightest of the world’s talent, the capital must do more than transport them in glorified cattle trucks. Reliability, comfort, convenience and speed are fundamentals.
A recent London First study of the quality of the passenger experience at Heathrow, our only hub airport, makes the point. It concluded that one of the reasons that travellers are so frustrated is that it operates at 99 per cent of its permitted capacity. It gives us frequent flights to many of the places we want to go, but by scheduling without any slack. This inevitably leads to delays. Whenever something goes wrong, there is no room to recover.
To continue the Heathrow illustration, a third runway will deliver the quality improvements needed only if measures are in place to prevent it from filling up again to bursting point. Regulations and customer-focused management must address delays, noise and air pollution. A mechanism will be required to allow slots to be withdrawn if standards are breached. When bigger comes, best must be the minimum acceptable outcome.
That leads me to my second point. We need to create the conditions for better operational management, be it of air capacity, on the Underground or on London’s roads. Overcoming poor quality is not just a matter of supplying more trains, more buses or more planes. It requires, particularly in the capital, a high and better level of co-ordination. It requires clever modern management of, and investment in, the less glamorous infrastructure of signalling and safety systems.
Spend just a little time looking at the impact of roadworks in London and you will quickly understand the difficulty of assigning responsibility, aligning incentives and ultimately mitigating the effects on quality. Choked streets impact on quality of life, air and noise pollution, as well as the car, taxi, bus and van passenger experience, not to mention efficiency. There needs to be more strategic oversight of journeys involving more than one mode of travel. High-speed rail, enthusiastically and commendably championed by the new Secretary of State, will not fulfil its potential if passengers’ journeys consist of a comfortable hour from Manchester to Kings Cross and an uncomfortable armpit-to-elbow hour from Kings Cross to Hammersmith.
I turn to my third point. Noble Lords are too wise to be taken in by the fool’s gold of bigger, better and cheaper. Yes, we need investment in transport. There is a legitimate debate to be had as to whether public transport should be funded by the state or by the user, but we are in a deep recession with unprecedented peacetime deficits. We need to be realistic about how we weigh increases in fares against the burden of tax, as well as being conscious of the need to maintain socially important concessions.
Let us ensure that there are no scales over our eyes. We cannot have continental levels of public funding at American levels of taxation. Indeed, we may not be able to afford continental levels of investment at historically continental levels of taxation until we have tamed the deficit. Of course we must seek the right public and private structures to optimise efficiency. Crossrail, for instance, is being funded by a combination of taxation, business contributions and the fare box. But whatever the arrangement, good quality public transport costs.
I conclude by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Adonis on his recent elevation. It is refreshing to have a Secretary of State who is both passionate and knowledgeable about his brief. And all the better, for me at least, for his being in this House. Given the state of forward funding for investment, he must concentrate on maximising bangs for bucks. His aim should be to prioritise investment, which will unshackle growth and support increased economic activity. Transport investment passes that test. Transport investment in London gets an A*, underpinning growth in the most productive region of the UK, and thereby generating billions of tax for the Exchequer.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the opportunity to contribute to a debate on public transport and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, on initiating it and on the informed way in which he spoke to it and introduced our proceedings. As other noble Lords have done, I also take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister on his promotion to Cabinet. We all used to think of him, rightly, as an expert in education, but it has been clear over the past few months how engrossed he has become in transport. I wish him well in pursuing the policy goals that he has identified.
I welcome many of the improvements that have been achieved in transport policy over the past decade and in transport investment. In particular, I welcome the growth in rail travel. I understand that there are more passengers now than at any time over the past 60 years and the accompanying investment has been welcome, as well as the plans for continued investment into the future. This has been a welcome change from the underinvestment which certainly took place before 1997. I am also glad that a boost has been given to rail freight, and I hope that that process will continue.
In the limited amount of time available to me this afternoon, I shall concentrate my remarks on the transport situation and the transport needs in my own part of the country, the north-east of England. Obviously, there as elsewhere, good public transport is important, not only for the quality of life of the region’s population but also for the contribution that such transport makes to the region's future economic prosperity.
The first area that I refer to is that of concessionary travel. I had better declare an interest as a concessionary pass holder myself. I am delighted that concessionary bus travel was extended across England. Indeed, I played a part in the campaign, having introduced a Bill on it when I was a Member in the other place and having successfully lobbied the then Chancellor—now Prime Minister—to introduce it. However, there are some issues regarding concessionary travel that still need to be sorted out. A couple of weeks ago in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, referred to the situation in border areas—particularly in the border areas of England and Wales and those more relevant to the north-east between England and Scotland. The noble Lord said that it was an Offa's Dyke and a Hadrian's Wall issue. It is certainly not a Hadrian’s Wall issue, since most of the length of Hadrian’s Wall runs nowhere near the border between England and Scotland. Indeed, as the line of Hadrian’s Wall runs right through the middle of the great city of Newcastle upon Tyne, the thought of having different concessionary travel documents was extremely alarming. I am sure that the Minister will assure me that I do not need to worry on that score. However, I know that people in the north-east would benefit very greatly if there were better reciprocal arrangements across the border between England and Scotland.
There is another important issue about concessionary fares that I would like to raise with the Minister, regarding the Tyne and Wear metro train system. The system was originally designed as an integrated system, of the kind to cheer up my noble friend Lord Judd. Like him, I believe in integrated systems. It was designed so that buses and metro trains would operate in a complementary way to create a proper, unified system for the Tyne and Wear conurbation. Sadly, bus deregulation undermined this very greatly but, despite that, people in the conurbation still use a mixture of train and bus in their regular travelling. However, concessionary bus passes, unlike in London or Greater Manchester, cannot be used by local residents to travel free on the metro system. The system is that a card, costing £12 a year, has to be purchased first to allow residents to benefit from that concessionary travel. I would like Tyne and Wear residents to benefit in exactly the same way as those in the much larger Greater London and Greater Manchester areas. I should be grateful if the Minister could write to me about this to see whether there is a way in which to overcome this particular difficulty.
The regional development agency in the north-east, One North East, has identified in its recent documents a number of transport priorities to which I hope the Government will give sympathetic consideration. Indeed, the regional development agency makes the very interesting point that the north-east, whose economy has diversified greatly from the old days of heavy dependence on steel, shipbuilding and coal, now has a significant export-led economy and a positive balance of trade, which is quite an unusual situation compared to other UK regions. This export-led economy, with a higher proportion of manufacturing than many other regions, means that the region needs good connectivity and transport links, both with other parts of the UK and with European and international destinations.
Through the Northern Way initiative, various ways of improving the transport links between the north-east, Yorkshire and the north-west have been identified and put forward to Government. Obviously, I hope that the Government will respond, because that will result in a more balanced economic picture across the whole of the UK.
If links from the north-east to Yorkshire and the north-west are important, so are links northward to Scotland. As we know, there has been considerable transport investment in Scotland, particularly in roads. The north-east certainly does not want to be an area of poor road and rail infrastructure between Yorkshire to the south and Scotland to the north. In this respect, my noble friend will probably not be surprised if I refer once again to the importance of dualling the A1 road north of Newcastle, to benefit both public and private transport.
Dualling the A1 is important for the economy of the north-east region and the safety of the region’s people. At present, the Al north of Newcastle is an appalling mixture of single and dual carriageways. Some single-carriageway sections look very much like the dualled stretches which, perhaps as a result, might explain why a large proportion of the many accidents on that route have been head-on collisions, where motorists have thought they were on a dualled stretch only to find, in the most tragic of circumstances, that they were not. That issue has been of all-party concern in the north-east of England, and will continue to be so unless it is satisfactorily addressed.
I conclude by referring to future rail investment. Generally, I welcome very much the Government’s approach to that, but I would obviously like assurances that the north-east will not become less competitive for trade and investment, when compared with other regions, in decisions regarding future high-speed links between London and Scotland. I was very grateful for the words of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, on that.
The north-east’s economy has seen much progress during the lifetime of this Government, and I am sure that the region as a whole wants to play its full part in the sustainable transport strategy that the Government have identified. The region needs to be able to build on what has been achieved so that we can play our full part in the sustainable economic prosperity of our country for the long-term future.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, on securing this important debate.
I propose to concentrate on British aviation, and I do so as president of the British Airline Pilots Association, in which capacity I have been involved—with one or two gaps—since 1980, which is quite a long time. I receive £12,000 a year from that, but that does not stop me disagreeing with BALPA from time to time.
I have, of course, had contact with many Secretaries of State, but I put on record my appreciation of my right honourable friend Geoff Hoon and my honourable friend Jim Fitzpatrick, who together have done so much to advance the cause of British aviation. At the same time I want, as many others have done, to welcome my noble friend Lord Adonis, who will certainly bring to air transport his considerable intellectual talents.
There can be no doubt that British aviation is suffering in the economic downturn, and we would neglect it at our peril. Aviation is a form of public transport, just as much as buses or rail. It is no longer a mode of transport for the elite; half of our population took a flight last year, and more than 180 million people use our airports. Aviation is much safer than the car or rail; I pay tribute to them as well, but the UK has the lowest accident rate in Europe, and BALPA plays a full part in achieving that desirable objective.
Aviation pays its own way. It receives no public subsidy. It makes a massive contribution to our economy. It provides £11 billion to that economy and 500,000 jobs are directly or indirectly dependent on a healthy and viable aviation industry. So much for quality and cost, but there is also a downside. Recently, British Airways, which I have long admired, published some dire results. Part of that miserable saga was due to the policy—mistaken I believe—of concentrating too much on first and club class passengers. British Airways formed the false belief that such passengers could be its saviours. I believe that it was wrong. The statistics bear eloquent testimony to that fact. Regrettably, all that has little to do with the economic situation and everything to do with miscalculation, however well intentioned the authors may have been.
British Airways is not the only one in trouble. Most if not all our airlines face enormous difficulties, but the leaders must not, in this hour of crisis, lose their heads. There has to be more co-operation than there has been in the past. Trade unions need to do their utmost to understand the problems that airlines confront and airlines should recognise that the unions and people living under their flight paths have worthwhile views that airlines must not ignore.
The world over, aviation encounters stormy weather, and here in the United Kingdom the Government have to bolster it rather than make it less competitive than its neighbours. Hence, I have real worries about air passenger duty. Surely, it will have an adverse impact on a troubled industry. I hope that my noble friend will allude to that.
I now come to the environment. At present, the effect on global CO2 emissions is minimal at about 0.1 per cent. Of course, that will increase, but the next generation of aircraft will be even more environmentally friendly and we should do our best to ensure that the Government and all who care about the environment make certain that aviation is not insulated from the environmental advances that we need. International action is vital in that regard, but effective action takes time. For instance, we now take terminal 5 for granted, but the original planning permission was lodged when Mick Jagger was 40 years old!
My final point is about airports. I am and have always have been a supporter of further development at Heathrow. The airport there exists. It can be improved and expanded, but it is essential that proper account is taken of certain elements. People living near the airports should be fully consulted and where necessary appropriate action taken.
Secondly, road and rail access to the airport must not be overlooked. I have seen for myself how already inadequate road access has become much worse over recent years. I fear it could become even more difficult in times ahead. I hope that those who are responsible will take appropriate action over that single factor. Imaginative action must be taken, but I see little sign of that at the moment.
I am an avid supporter of an expanded Heathrow and of British aviation. The alternatives which have been broached are simply not viable. Yet the airlines need to be fully responsive to the anxieties that British people seek to express.
To conclude, I wish my noble friend every possible success. I have long been an admirer of his and remain so.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Bradshaw for tabling this debate and note that, in your Lordships’ House at least, the lure of public transport failed to match up to that of constitutional reform. Nevertheless, the die-hards are here. I am pleased to see one of the usual suspects, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, on the Front Bench today. It is sad to see that there is a low level of participation in this debate given the role that public transport plays in reducing congestion, improving accessibility, dealing with climate change and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, said, promoting economic development and growth.
I was involved in local government transport in 1997 when the Labour Government came to power. We welcomed then their commitment to public transport. There have been some significant developments and yet it is interesting to note that the cost of public transport, against the cost of motoring, has gone up significantly since 1997. The overall cost of motoring has gone down by 13 per cent in real terms while rail fares have risen by 7 per cent and bus fares by 17 per cent. As the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, said, it would be naïve to imagine that somehow there is going to be a whole lot of money to throw at the railways, but we have to recognise that if the cost of public transport is to be so high then we have to ensure better quality. At the moment we are asking people to pay more for a service that is declining.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, said, people clearly want to use trains. The numbers are growing. Yet there are times when the service tests even the most dedicated railway fan and public transport user. It comes down to what my noble friend Lord Bradshaw exemplified well as a general lack of consideration for passenger convenience. The Public Accounts Committee in another place recently produced a report which highlighted this in terms of high car-parking charges, overcrowding on trains and complex fare structures. Its analysis was that the Department for Transport is itself not sufficiently passenger-focused. The culture within that department is something I know the Minister can do something about.
I am a regular rail user and travel up and down the country. I prefer to travel by train but it really tests you at times. The problems start at booking. There is an immensely complicated fare structure now which is extremely difficult to find your way around even for people who understand the system. That also assumes you have access to the internet and are good at using it. If not, it is almost impossible to take advantage of the cheaper, pre-booked fares. Quite often, when you talk to the station or call centre staff they do not know what the best available fares are. If you are travelling at the weekend, you are then almost certain to be faced with the horror of planned engineering works. We would all accept that engineering works have to take place and weekends are probably a good time to do them. However, it is a fact that, compared with many European countries, we do this sort of work much more slowly. Track possessions in this country go on for longer than in other places. There is a serious job of work to be done to benchmark how Network Rail carries out this work compared with how things are done elsewhere.
Certainly, from my dealings with the industry over a number of years, I suspect that a large part of that is due to over-zealous enforcement of health and safety regulations. The irony is that quite often the enforcement of theoretical health and safety regulations ends up causing delays that push people on to the roads which, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, are palpably statistically far more dangerous. We would rather have people on the railways. We need to ensure that health and safety regulations are there to support the safety of the railway and not to deal with some sort of theoretical risk.
Diversionary routes when there are engineering works are often a problem. There is evidence that train operating companies are reluctant to divert on to each other’s parts of the network; they lose income that way. If they put on a bus, then Network Rail picks up the tab. There is a real incentive for train operators to go down the—for them—easy route of putting on buses rather than negotiating diversionary routes. The bus replacements are often poor quality and are usually not well equipped to deal with luggage and buggies. I have to tell the Minister that, as an enthusiast, I have all but given up travelling on the railway at weekends. It is simply becoming too difficult. Some of those issues also apply to redevelopments, such as those around Reading station at the moment, where diversionary routes are needed and the train operating companies are simply not co-operating.
Assuming you get through all that, you get to the railway station and then to the great parking rip-off charges. Birmingham and Manchester are now charging around £55 for four hours’ car parking. That is quite extortionate. Virgin is apparently now making about £1 million a year from the car parks at Birmingham International and Coventry. It now appears to be a parking organisation with a railway attached.
On passenger experience when you get to the station, I had a slightly odd experience in February on Ipswich station. I was in my anorak with my notebook, spotting the trains, and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, appeared. I found out afterwards that it was part of his great tour around UK stations. I congratulate him on doing that. I read afterwards that he had said,
“the quality of stations is extremely variable and at many major stations the service level is often downright poor”.
Well, amen to that! That is indeed the case. A campaigning group called Trailblazers produced a report entitled End of the Line. It has reported that about half of all stations lack the basic facilities for disabled people. That is disgraceful after so many years of disability access legislation.
I recently saw posters on First Capital Connect warning passengers of the dangers posed by the ticket barriers that First Capital Connect itself had put up. In Sheffield, a trial scheme barred the bridge which was the pedestrian access for the tram passengers. Negotiating turnstiles that get you into the public loos—which you have to use because the loos do not work on the trains—when you have a piece of luggage or child in tow, or if someone has a stick and so on, is nigh on impossible. All of these things add to the difficulties for people when travelling by rail.
There is evidence that the franchise owners, who are now increasingly strapped for cash, are cutting their costs by raising charges in certain ways, such as parking, but also by reducing the number of staff in what they see as the soft areas: those that are not regulated and in which the Office of Rail Regulation does not take an interest. So there are fewer cleaners, fewer catering staff and fewer staff on the railway station. That means that the journeys are downright unpleasant. Last year I travelled from Devon to Paddington on a Sunday on the train that had come all the way from Penzance, a journey of around eight and a half hours. There was no catering available due to staff shortages. By the time we got to Taunton, to great cheers the buffet car opened because an off-duty member of staff had heard the announcement and thought it was outrageous that passengers should travel so far without refreshments. She opened it saying she would probably get the sack for this but it seemed like the right thing to do. Good for her.
There is often no space for luggage or seats are not available. National Express East Anglia is now going to charge us to book a seat, and First Great Western is abolishing the weekend upgrade. All of these things make train travel into something that is quite often just too much hassle and it is easier to get into the car.
If something does go wrong on the trip, my experience is actually rather different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I often find that station staff are quite poorly equipped to deal with the problems that arise if something goes wrong unexpectedly. On Peterborough station recently we rescued the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, who had been given some bizarre advice by the staff which would have put several hours on to her journey. Luckily my husband, who is also known as the human travel planner, was able to help her by giving better advice. I think it is extraordinary that often staff who understand what the best diversionary route might be are simply not available.
There is something about quality which is very difficult to measure but which has a real impact on people’s willingness to travel and their satisfaction with the journey. I urge the noble Lord to take that forward and find ways in which we can make the passenger journey much more interesting and pleasant. I know one has to be careful about drawing exact parallels with buses, but it interests me that the places where the buses are operating best are where we have an entirely integrated system, where the buses are being run by a bus company working with a local authority which also manages the roads and the parking. When everyone is working together the outcome is significantly better. I think there are lessons to learn, because at the moment the problem is that this whole question about passenger experience is everyone’s job and therefore no one’s. It simply gets lost in the miasma. I hope that the noble Lord can use his undoubted intellectual powers to think about how this situation might be improved for passengers.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, for initiating this wide-ranging debate. Using public transport is a fairly universal experience, especially for those who live or work in a city. There is no realistic alternative other than a pedal cycle or going by foot. I use the train from south London to attend your Lordships’ House. I see the chronic overcrowding every day at peak times. Luckily, most of the time I can avoid standing for the 20-minute train journey. Noble Lords will be painfully aware that we have problems in London today, but these are down to the dinosaur of a trade union leader whom I will not waste my breath by naming.
I also regularly travel to an Army camp in Hampshire, but it is a very finely balanced decision as to whether to go by train and then bus, or by car all the way. Each mode has its own advantages and disadvantages; I will not go into detail, but it is important to understand how difficult it is to persuade motorists to leave the car at home and how easy it is to deter them from using public transport. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, talked about the relative costs of a private car and public transport.
An important duty for me must be to join all noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord the Secretary of State. His appointment is seriously good news. My only regret is that I doubt that he will be given enough time to really make a difference.
I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. As he made his speech from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, I take it that he was articulating official Liberal Democrat policy.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I agree with his views about Network Rail, a subject that I shall turn to later.
As for the DfT, I do not understand why the department is so heavily involved in the specification of new rolling stock. What can the department do that the industry itself cannot do? The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, made the very good point that you cannot have continental levels of transport investment with United States levels of tax. That point is relevant to all modes of transport.
The largest increase in bus travel has been in London, followed by the West Midlands. In London, the combination of a significantly increased number of buses—to the point where they are almost creating their own congestion—and the Oyster card has been very effective. The picture for rural bus services is not so good. In fact, last year’s transport statistics showed a reduction of 34 million journeys outside of London. I cannot avoid the feeling that the customer base for rural bus services consists of people without access to a car—of course there are two cars for every household on average. These people are frequently not well off at all, but often time is not too much of a problem. They do not think that bus fares are good value for money but, as a regular motorist, I think that the bus is good value for money. I sometimes share a double-decker bus with two or three others, going from Alton to Bordon for about £3.
However, what deters and concerns me is that I have a 10-minute walk to the bus stop, possibly in the wet. Nothing can be done about that, of course, but I have to arrive at the bus stop about eight minutes before departure time and then wait until the bus comes. I have to wait standing up, which makes reading inconvenient. Most importantly, I have no idea when the bus will come or even if I have missed it. When will all bus users know when the next bus will arrive by means of an electronic message board, or will this never happen?
My question for the Secretary of State is: what research has been done to identify the factors that deter motorists from using public transport? It is certainly no use relying on my prejudices or my hunches. If he does not know, perhaps he will write to me.
In a previous debate, I spoke about the success of the rail industry. Last year alone, there was an increase in passenger kilometres of nearly 5 per cent. However, in many areas we are running out of capacity; our population is growing and that growth is concentrated in the cities, for the reasons that noble Lords will understand and the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, explained so well.
The noble Baroness, Lady Quin, referred to the transport needs of the north-east. In some ways we have an overheated south-east and we need to be careful to ensure that investment does not exacerbate the problem there and neglect other regions. What is the Secretary of State doing to avoid that pitfall and to allay the concerns of the noble Baroness?
The noble Baroness also talked about ticketing problems, which, as the Secretary of State will know, is a subject dear to my heart and to many other noble Lords. Some improvement in ticketing systems is being made. London commuter stations are having ticket barriers installed in order to facilitate the use of Oyster cards and to protect revenue. The Oyster card system is good but I am a little concerned that the industry does not seem to be very ambitious for the wider system in the long term. It seems that we will be stuck with the stress and inconvenience of buying tickets for each ad hoc journey for some time to come. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, made some good points about the current situation.
The railway system is inherently inflexible. Trains can go only at predetermined times over a fixed route. This can be balanced by reliability. Unfortunately, this is largely in the hands of Network Rail, about whose performance I am becoming increasingly concerned. I am being briefed that possessions for railway works are unnecessarily long, but the work does not start immediately and efficiently. There are also regular signal failures causing severe disruption. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, ably described the problems of reliability. Unfortunately for the noble Lord, despite all the delays, the alternative of a private car is not realistic for him. He talked about a commission or a study. I for one would certainly like to understand why signalling is so unreliable, both on the overground and on the Underground.
Because of the way in which Network Rail is set up, the imposition of a penalty by the ORR has no effect. It is a not-for-profit organisation with members but no shareholders with a financial interest. Any penalties simply go round in a circle, but the directors—those responsible—feel no pain. There are about 100 members of Network Rail, which is too many to be effective in holding the directors to account. At Question Time recently, I asked the Minister why he has not exercised the department’s right as a special member to nominate a director for Network Rail. Can the Secretary of State now answer that question and tell the House how he proposes to improve Network Rail’s performance?
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, talked about the importance of the aviation industry, which employs so many people in the UK and around the world. He will understand that we in the Conservative Party do not believe that a third runway at Heathrow is desirable. We would like to know the view of the Secretary of State and his boss, the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson. Are we still going to have a third runway or can any need be met by high-speed rail?
The Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, talks about crime on public transport. The problem is not just the actual crime but the fear of crime and, importantly, inconsiderate behaviour by other travellers. One of the first acts of the mayor, Boris Johnson, was to ban the drinking of alcohol on London Transport. That has made a big improvement and is very popular. However, a problem that I am beginning to see increasingly on the rail system is beggars. We are sitting on a commuter train in the evening and we hear a beggar asking for money. It is most distressing for all the passengers and in every carriage there is always one passenger who is stupid enough to give the beggar some money. Can the Secretary of State say what he is doing about begging?
I pay tribute to Ian Johnston, the former chief constable of the British Transport Police. The BTP has done well, but there are major and obvious challenges ahead, particularly with the Olympics and the effect of recession on certain types of crime. The theft of cycles from stations needs particular attention. The negative impact is obvious. One noble Baroness rightly talked about the problem of displacement of crime.
I have looked forward to and enjoyed our debate. I now look forward to the response of our Secretary of State.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and all other noble Lords for their generous remarks about my appointment. This is my dream job. When I was 15, I wanted to be chairman of British Rail and I saw Sir Peter Parker as a prince among men. Alas, that post has now been fragmented into about 20 pieces. However, being Secretary of State for Transport in a Government committed to public transport is as good as it gets for a transport moderniser. I am privileged to be entrusted with these important duties.
I have never seen transport as just about the means of getting from A to B, however exciting the new or old planes, trains and automobiles that make that possible. Mobility is as important as education and health to a successful modern society. You can tell as much about the values of a society by its public transport as by its schools and hospitals. Transport is just as important to promoting genuine equality of opportunity.
I also want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Geoff Hoon. As the son and grandson of railwaymen, he is a hereditary Peer among transport enthusiasts. I greatly enjoyed serving under him and I note also the tribute paid by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis to my right honourable friend. I also thank the officials of my department and all those who work across the transport sector without whose dedication we would not have made the improvements in the quality of public transport which it is generally accepted have taken place in recent years.
Having paid tribute to the industry at large, I obviously must mention the Underground strike in London today, which is so seriously inconveniencing millions of passengers. I deplore the strike, and I urge the RMT to engage constructively with Transport for London to ensure that there is no repetition. I also thank all those who have helped to keep London moving over the past 48 hours.
The best testament I can pay to the general improvement in public transport in recent years is to cite four compelling facts. Buses now account for 5.2 billion passenger journeys a year in Britain. In 1996, that figure was 4.5 billion. Trains now account for 1.2 billion passenger journeys a year. In 1996, the figure was 801 million. However, numbers are not enough. Robert Louis Stevenson may have believed it better to travel hopefully than to arrive, but today’s passengers actually expect to arrive. As my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, noted, too often their arrival is delayed in unacceptable ways. The public want a transport system that is reliable, modern, affordable and safe. Those priorities are all involved in the Motion and are key elements of government policy. Let me take them in turn.
First, I shall talk about quality and reliability. The bus fleet has been substantially modernised in recent years. The average age of the bus fleet is now 8.3 years, nearly meeting the target of eight years for bus modernisation agreed with the Confederation of Passenger Transport in 2002. Some 62 per cent of buses are now low-floor design, making them accessible to wheelchairs users, parents with buggies and the mobility-impaired. That compares to only 8 per cent in 1998. It is hard to overstate the difference that this is making to the lives of millions of our fellow citizens for whom public transport was previously a nightmare experience, if indeed they were able to take advantage of it at all.
As for the bus network, the number of services has radically increased in recent years. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, noted, London is the greatest success story, thanks to the lead taken by Ken Livingstone. Bus patronage in London has increased by a remarkable 63 per cent in the last 10 years, but many other parts of the country have also seen improvements, and we have seen the development or extension of successful tram and light-rail systems in Manchester, Nottingham, Croydon, Tyne and Wear, Docklands and the West Midlands. We want further sustained improvement in bus services, accepting the noble Earl’s points about the variability of many services outside London, especially in rural areas. That is why we promoted last year’s Local Transport Act, which is now being implemented. The Act gives local authorities a wider range of powers to promote bus services through voluntary or statutory partnerships of the kind praised by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott. That includes provision for statutory quality partnership schemes so that local authorities can become more involved in setting standards for the frequency and timing of bus services, as well as maximum fares. I hope that with those powers more local authorities, in partnership with bus operators, can replicate the successes we have seen in places such as London, Brighton, Oxford, Cambridge and Telford.
Modernisation has also been the hallmark of the rail industry in recent years. Since the completion of the £8.9 billion west coast upgrade, there is now the most regular and fast service ever between London and Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, north Wales and Glasgow, with a train every 20 minutes to Birmingham and Manchester, and a standard journey time reduced to 82 minutes from London to Birmingham and two hours and seven minutes from London to Manchester.
I know that the £16 billion east-west Crossrail scheme in London is particularly dear to the heart of the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine. I pay tribute to her personally, and to London First and the London business community, not only for prosecuting the cause of Crossrail over many years, but for promoting the highly innovative funding partnership between the Government and London’s businesses to which she referred. It involves businesses bearing part of the cost of the new line, from which they stand to gain significant benefit. Without that, Crossrail would not have proceeded. The Prime Minister, the Mayor of London and I officially launched Crossrail at Canary Wharf last month. The work is now well under way and I am confident that the project is beyond the point of no return.
Alongside Crossrail, we are investing £5.5 billion to double the capacity of the north-south Thameslink line in London as one of a large number of capacity enhancements taking place over the next five years. The franchising system is also generating better services. This week we announced the re-letting of the South Central franchise, which includes the busiest commuter lines in south London, Sussex and Surrey and, I think, the line used by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. I am not sure whether he uses South West Trains.
My Lords, in that case, the noble Earl will benefit substantially. Under the new franchise, thanks to more and longer trains, there will be an increase in the capacity of trains into London on the Southern railway in the morning peak, and leaving in the evening peak, of 14 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.
The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked who represents the consumer in the franchising process. It is the duty of my department to do so, but I stress that our recent specification of the South Central franchise followed extensive public consultation carried out by Passenger Focus, the passenger watchdog, which played a significant role in how we specified the franchise. This was specifically in response to the view that the department was not sufficiently customer-focused, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott. We intend to repeat this extensive public consultation, engaging Passenger Focus, when it comes to the specification of future franchises. Alongside this expansion of capacity, reliability has also been improving. Rail punctuality has improved by 12 percentage points in the last eight years. It now stands at nearly 91 per cent, which is the highest level since robust reliability measures were introduced. However, there is no complacency on my watch. Reliability needs to improve further still and on some lines—notably the west coast main line, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Judd—it is far below the level that passengers have a right to expect. I will consider carefully what my noble friend said on that matter.
I am also concerned to reduce the disruption caused to rail passengers by engineering work. The points of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, were well made and I agree with them entirely. I want engineering work on the railway to be more efficiently planned and executed and for more use to be made of rail diversionary routes, rather than the bus substitution services that are the bane of rail travellers’ lives at weekends and on bank holidays. The Office of Rail Regulation and the Government are on Network Rail’s case on this issue. I will happily speak more fully to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, outside the Chamber to explain what we have in hand. I know that this is also an issue of great concern to the noble Earl and I will also be glad to speak to him.
The noble Earl asked specifically about the appointment of a special member to Network Rail. I am sorry if I did not answer this question when he first raised it with me. We do not think that this is an appropriate course to pursue because we do not believe that the performance of Network Rail will be improved by micromanagement by the Government. Improvement depends on more effective management by Network Rail. That is what we and the Office of Rail Regulation seek to promote. I also want to see improvements to stations. On my recent rail tour of Britain, which the noble Baroness kindly mentioned, I found the variable and often downright poor quality of services at stations—including such basic services as toilets and catering, car parking and bike storage—most concerning. I have appointed Sir Peter Hall and Chris Green to prepare a strategy for improving service quality at stations and I encourage noble Lords with an interest in this subject to speak directly to Sir Peter and Mr Green, to whom I will make available the Hansard report of this debate.
Turning to aviation, I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis about its importance as a form of public transport. Many of my noble friend’s remarks were directed more to British Airways and other carriers than the Government, but I assure my noble friend that we will not neglect the aviation sector in our plans for the future. I note what he said about passenger duty.
I also very much agree with the point made by my noble friend and by the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, about the need to join up different forms of public transport much more effectively. This is a particular government priority in respect of Heathrow, where we are anxious to improve public transport access significantly. This will be a major benefit of Crossrail, and the House will note that the Government have asked the new High Speed 2 company to make recommendations to the Government about how a north-south high-speed line could include an interchange for Heathrow. I also note my noble friend’s remarks about green aviation.
Moving on to the second theme raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw—cost and fares—I think it is fair to say that never have so many bus passengers had it so good thanks to the new nationwide concessionary fares scheme which since last April has given all over-60s and many disabled people free bus travel nationwide. Eleven million people are eligible for this free travel in England, including 82 per cent of Members of your Lordships' House, although, alas, not me. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Quin for her role in persuading the Government to adopt this policy, and I note her points about how it could be extended further, including on Tyne and Wear Metro. I undertake to consider further what she said. The cost of this free travel to the public purse is huge, about £1 billion a year, which takes total public investment in bus services to £2.5 billion a year, which represents a doubling of public spending on buses compared to the position in 1997. We regard this as a vital investment in mobility and social inclusion for citizens who otherwise are highly vulnerable to isolation and a seriously constrained quality of life; although I hasten to add that I do not believe that is a serious problem among noble Lords.
In respect of other fares, the Local Transport Act gives powers to local authorities to agree maximum fares with operators. The majority of bus services are provided on a commercial basis by bus operators, but operators are highly sensitive to market conditions. As for rail, most rail fares are regulated. The current formula of RPI plus 1 per cent was introduced in 2003, after four years where the formula was RPI minus 1 per cent, so although we would all like fares to be lower if there were more taxpayer subsidy available, the net effect of the regulatory regime over the past 12 years has been only a small rise—about 5 per cent—in the real cost of regulated rail fares in a period when average disposable income has increased by more than 20 per cent.
As the House will be aware, RPI is currently negative and if it is significantly negative next month, under the formula, regulated rail fares would be expected to fall next January. I have made it clear to rail companies that the Government will enforce such a reduction in that event. I also told the Transport Select Committee of the other place on 25 February that the Government intend to remove the flexibility for rail companies to increase individual fares by up to 5 per cent above the average increase.
There is so much more I could say, but my time is up. I will write to noble Lords to take up other points that have been raised. In conclusion, public transport—buses, trains and aviation—is on the up, carrying more people more safely and more reliably, but we need it to improve further still. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for their constructive suggestions about how we can bring that about.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I shall not detain the House for long, as there is other business. I hope that the Minister’s remarks about fares could extend to charges because many rail companies are using the charging scheme for services provided as a means of getting a lot more money out of the public. As policy adviser to Peter Parker, maybe I got nearer the job than the Minister did. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.