I am a strong supporter of public transport in London and I frequently try to get to work on the docklands light railway. It follows, therefore, that I support the extension of the DLR. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his close and genuine interest in the operation of the DLR. I remember one occasion on which he offered to come to my house and to come into central London with me on the DLR. Fortunately for him, he could not do so that morning. If he had tried to make that journey, he would have been half an hour late.
I have one serious concern. How can the management of the DLR be expected to run an extended system to Lewisham and Greenwich when they cannot run the present system? Docklands Light Railway Limited must be the most badly managed and incompetently run part of the whole London transport system. I have wasted more time hanging around for trains and buses than I care to remember. The Government were right to transfer the management of the DLR from London Regional Transport to the London Docklands development corporation if for no other reason than that the LDDC cannot do any worse than LRT has.
The basis of my concern is widespread. About two years ago, I went to see the management of the DLR to discuss my concern about the unreliability of the system. I was then introduced to the proposals for the extension under the river to the south and I was given a map. I was concerned by what I saw on the map, so a few days later I went to LRT to discuss the proposals with it. I was told that the map I had been given was already nine months out of date and that all the proposals had been changed. I was not impressed by the management of DLR giving me a map that was more than nine months out of date.
Mudchute and Island Gardens are the two stations affected by the extension. I understand the need and desire of the DLR management to double the length of the trains which means that they have to double the length of the platforms. However, they did not double the length of Mudchute station and Island Gardens station. The people using those stations face a reduced service because trains terminate at Crossharbour. The galling point was that the DLR management put notices through the doors of local residents saying that that represented an improvement of the service of the DLR, although the opposite was the case. People are not fooled by such stupid statements.
No notice is given of changes in the bus routes which operate in the evenings and at weekends. There are no public announcements on platforms about what is going on during the daily disruption. The indicator boards on the stations rarely work. The escalator at Tower Gateway is frequently out of operation. In other words, the service is infrequent, irregular and unreliable.
There is no co-ordination between routes to Stratford and the connecting trains at Crossharbour to Tower Gateway and Bank. The disruption is bad because it is daily. The only thing that is regular, reliable and predictable is the extent of the disruption.
The DLR's reputation is now appalling, but I fear that it is justifiable. What concerns me most is that it is bad for the long-term success of docklands, to which I am strongly committed, and it undermines all the good work of the developers, of the Government and of the others involved in the massive enterprise. I say yes to the extension, but only if the management are paid by results directly related to the DLR's reliability and punctuality, which is the only incentive to bring about radical improvements in the operation of any newly extended system. The DLR is superb in concept, but disgraceful in its management.
I urge the promoters to take note of those serious points. I have described what we have had to put up with over the past four years. If the system is extended, as I believe that it should be, it is vital that the quality of the service is dramatically improved. The people of that part of London deserve better from the management of the DLR.