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London Rail Studies

Volume 160: debated on Thursday 16 November 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what decisions he has taken on the major new lines proposed by the central and east London rail studies; and if he will make a statement.

I am pleased to be able to give the go-ahead to the first major addition to London's Underground network since the Victoria line was approved, a quarter of a century ago.The extension of the Jubilee line to docklands was recommended by the east London rail study. I am authorising LRT to deposit a Bill for this extension, which is to be routed from Green park via Westminster, Waterloo and London bridge, along the south bank of the Thames to Surrey docks, beneath the river again to Canary wharf on the Isle of Dogs, and thence via Canning Town to Stratford. This will greatly support regeneration of docklands; it will relieve congestion on roads and the existing rail network including the docklands light railway; and it will further strengthen public transport links with BR lines at Waterloo (including the new Channel tunnel terminal) and at London bridge. The new line will also much improve accessibility for areas south of the Thames in Southwark and Bermondsey and in London's east end in Tower Hamlets and Newham that are not now well served by public transport. I know how welcome this news will be in those areas.The Jubilee extension will cost about £1 billion in today's prices to which developers will over time be making a cash contribution of over £400 million. I warmly welcome this contribution, which is of an unprecedented scale. This is a further example of public and private sector co-operation to the mutual benefit of both. The net cost to Government is approximately £40 million in 1990–91 and £150 million and £240 million in the following two years. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has agreed that these sums should be made available from the public expenditure reserve which was set with this in mind.The development of docklands is itself bound to ease pressure on transport and other services in central London. What is more, the central London rail study proposed a two-fold strategy to relieve congestion in the rail network serving the central area: a major upgrading programme to make the fullest possible use of the existing lines; and the construction of two major new lines.The major upgrading programme is already under way. I have approved record levels of investment by London

Underground and Network SouthEast to enable them to improve services and increase capacity. The Central line is to be re-equipped with new signalling and 85 new trains; a start is to be made on a similar upgrading of the Northern line; major works are either in hand or being planned to increase capacity at the most congested underground stations including Angel, Victoria, Waterloo, London Bridge, Tottenham Court Road, Kings Cross and Holborn; and, during the last 12 months we have approved nearly 1,200 new vehicles for Network SouthEast.

I welcome BR's proposals to develop their very successful Thameslink services, which at present carry through services from Luton and Bedford via King's Cross and Blackfriars to Brighton and other places south of London. Eighty more vehicles will be introduced next year, and the new St. Paul's Thameslink station will open in the spring. Off-peak services frequencies will increase next year. Provision of nearly £100 million has been made in the public expenditure settlement for the new trains and for design work and land acquisition principally at King's Cross for the next phase of development. The total project looks promising and the extra services would make a valuable contribution to the relief of congestion. BR hopes to be ready to seek legislative powers by November 1990.

But I recognise that more must be done to meet longer-term requirements. Further work has been carried out since the central London rail study report was published in January this year. This has confirmed the view that, as well as the major upgradings now approved, additions to the network will be needed to relieve congestion in the central area as the London economy continues to grow over the rest of this century. Any one of the new lines under discussion would cost at least £1·5 billion to build at today's prices and would be a major engineering project affecting central London during its construction. For these reasons we are not currently planning to start on more than one new central area line, in addition to the Jubilee extension. Further work is necessary to decide which of the options offers the most practicable and cost-effective solution. In reaching this decision, my aim is to ensure that we select the line which will best serve the travelling public who will benefit from it and who will contribute to its costs through the fares they pay.

It is important that we make good progress in completing this further assessment. I have therefore instructed that it should be completed in time for a decision during next year on the path of a new line, on its timing and its funding. Subject to the satisfactory outcome of this further work, I would expect to authorise the introduction of a Bill in November 1990.

The upgrading of the present system, the Jubilee line extension, the improvements to Thameslink and a new line through central London would transform London's rail network over the next decade.