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Transport for London

Volume 767: debated on Monday 14 December 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how regularly ministers and officials meet representatives of Transport for London.

My Lords, various government departments have regular meetings with representatives of Transport for London. The Secretary of State, along with other Ministers, meets the Mayor of London several times a year. My ministerial colleagues and I also have regular meetings with the commissioner and other senior staff at Transport for London, as do our officials.

Given that smoking and the consumption of alcohol are now banned on the Tube, should not Transport for London follow the lead of some American cities, such as Washington DC, and consider banning the consumption of hot food on Tube trains? Many passengers in congested carriages find that very offensive; it creates litter and, when left lying around carriages, can create a health hazard. Will my noble friend the Minister raise this when he next meets Transport for London and suggest that it considers this proposal, and perhaps undertakes a passenger survey to find out what passengers would like?

My Lords, my noble friend raises an important area of concern to many commuters across London. There are no current plans at TfL to introduce such a ban but there is a current policy, under the guise of Travel Better London, which helps Londoners to think about travel etiquette and seeks to address passenger behaviours that can lead to improvements in services. I will of course put on the agenda of our next meeting with the commissioner, which will happen shortly, the specific issue which my noble friend raises.

My Lords, there is an advertisement from Transport for London and the Mayor of London on Westminster station which states that Transport for London does not make a profit because,

“we reinvest all our income to run and improve your services”.

Since Transport for London is directly responsible, through a subsidiary, for running the London Underground, would the Government, at their next meeting with its representatives, like to express their support for Transport for London and the Mayor of London for this approach that, as a train operator, TfL should reinvest all its income in running and improving the services that it operates?

We have wide-ranging discussions with Transport for London across a variety of issues. I will be pleased to discuss any matters that noble Lords wish to raise, put them on the agenda and report back. However, I would add that a great deal of investment goes into transport in London and that over the last 10 years, we have certainly seen great improvements.

My Lords, in view of the success of the conference on climate change over the weekend, will my noble friend have urgent discussions with Transport for London about the appalling increases in congestion and pollution caused by the introduction of bicycle lanes, which are in use in large numbers only in the peak period? Will he at least ensure that other traffic can use those lanes during the course of the day? In the present situation on Lower Thames Street, for example, they are likely to die from carbon monoxide or other poisoning from pollution any moment now.

I think that all noble Lords would acknowledge the benefits of cycling across London. I stress that the Mayor of London has primary responsibility for planning in London, along with the air quality strategy. The introduction of cycle lanes is partly to encourage more sustainable forms of travel across the capital.

My Lords, when the Minister raises the subject of smelly food at his next meeting with TfL, what will his answer be when TfL says to him that cutting the government revenue grant to TfL from £639 million this year to nothing at all in a little over two years’ time leaves it with no choice but to let more of its premises and underground stations? This will inevitably lead to the letting of more, not fewer, fast food outlets in underground stations and consequently more smelly food on tube trains, not less.

What is smelly food to some may not be smelly to others, but let us not go into that particular issue. The important thing to remember is that there has been a tough spending round, but in our discussions London government has a substantial settlement for the next spending review period of £11 billion. We are working together to improve London’s quality of transport across the board.

The Minister will be aware that there is a Private Bill working its way through this House to do with, among other things, disposal of assets by Transport for London. When meeting Transport for London, will he ensure that it and the local authorities in which these developments will take place have a proper proportion of social housing coming out of them, not just housing for the very rich?

My list grows for my meeting with Transport for London. Of course I take anything I hear from noble Lords seriously and I will put it on the agenda and discuss it. The important thing to remember, however, is that the Government work hand in glove to ensure that, although there is delegation and devolution in London on issues of transport, we provide the best transport for the best city in the world.

My Lords, we all know the Mayor of London’s addiction to cycling, but is my noble friend Lord Higgins not absolutely right that what is happening now has done more damage, and is doing more damage, to London than almost anything since the Blitz? Is it not also hugely age discriminatory? There is a huge section of the population of a certain age, well represented in this House—I declare an interest—for whom cycling is not a practical option.

My Lords, when the Minister meets Transport for London with his shopping list of requirements, could he also raise the issue of the growing number of hate crimes, particularly Islamophobic hate crimes, that are taking place on tubes and buses, particularly in London? There are reports of the driver, or whoever is responsible, doing absolutely nothing until passengers eventually intervene to try to stop these crimes. What responsibility does Transport for London have when it comes to these sorts of crimes?

The noble Baroness raises a very important point. She knows I totally agree with her on the importance of this issue. All kinds of hate crime, whoever the perpetrator and whoever the victim, must be eradicated, including on our transport system here in London. Additional policing measures have been put in place to address the specific issue of hate crime. As the noble Baroness will also be aware, in terms of Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred will be a specifically recorded hate crime from April next year.