London Underground (Investment)

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd November 1992.

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Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham 12:00 am, 23rd November 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what level of capital investment in London Underground he is expecting to authorise in the coming year.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

The settlement reached will allow investment of about £1 billion in London Underground, including the Jubilee line extension in each of the next three years. Investment next year in London Underground will be higher in real terms than at any point in the 1970s or 1980s.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

Does my hon. Friend agree that London desperately needs new underground lines to relieve the congestion on London transport? The news in the autumn statement that the Jubilee line extension will go ahead, subject to private sector money becoming available, is good news. Will my hon. Friend confirm when he expects work to start on the Jubilee line extension?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

My hon. Friend is right that we need to continue extending the infrastructure of tube lines in London. We made it clear in the autumn statement that funds for the Jubilee line are reserved. My hon. Friend will appreciate that it is a matter for negotiation between the two parties to the partnership—the Government and the creditors of the former Olympia and York. Those discussions are proceeding. I hope that we shall be able to start construction in the near future, subject to those discussions.

Photo of John Austin-Walker John Austin-Walker , Woolwich

Does the Minister recognise that, in addition to the capital problems that London Underground faces, it has a severe revenue problem, which is one of the reasons why 5,000 jobs are under threat? Although I welcome the fact that tomorrow's impending strike appears to have been called off, on the ground that there will be no compulsory redundancies, does the Minister accept that the loss of 5,000 jobs will have a serious effect not only on safety on London Underground but on passengers' perception of safety and may lead people back onto the roads?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I know that the hon. Gentleman has not been here long, but it might be a good idea if he knew what he was talking about before he started on a rant of that nature. The first thing to establish is that the reductions in jobs are a result of the progress in contracting out services, which produces better quality services for passengers. The basis of the company plan always was voluntary redundancy and more staff on stations, not fewer. In short, I reject everything that the hon. Gentleman says, with the one exception that I join him in expressing pleasure that both sides have seen the sense of continuing to implement the company plan, as they appear from the recent announcement to have done.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

My hon. Friend will have heard the welcome on both sides of the House for the Jubilee line new investment. In what way can he and the House be satisfied that the remaining funds for London Transport will allow maintenance and re-investment in existing lines to continue so that there is no deterioration in track or trains?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

May I direct my hon. Friend to the fact that investment in the next three years—excluding the Jubilee line and for that matter the crossrail project, the funds for which are also protected—will be about £½ billion greater than in the past three years. That should give my hon. Friend the reassurance that he seeks. We shall continue to improve the quality of the existing infrastructure, as well as adding to it through the significant projects that I have mentioned.

Photo of Keith Hill Keith Hill , Streatham

Can the Minister confirm that, as a result of the autumn statement, the long planned modernisation of the Northern line will be delayed for at least a further three years? Does not that mean that travel conditions for my constituents in Clapham and Balham on the already atrocious misery line can only get worse?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

The hon. Gentleman must not be caught in one of those embarrassing political time warps. I suppose that he has read the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report. If he has, he will know that the MMC singled out the Northern line as one on which it had noted a significant improvement in the service.

Photo of Mr Richard Tracey Mr Richard Tracey , Surbiton

My hon. Friend has mentioned the MMC report, which says that £700 million per year is required for core funding of the London transport network—the underground and indeed, the bus services. Can my hon. Friend give the House an undertaking that that level of funding will continue to be provided alongside what he said about the Jubilee line and lines such as the Northern line?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

The figure in the MMC report is London Transport's assessement of the cost of producing the decently modern metro service, to which the Government remain entirely committed. In this year's settlement, London Underground Limited will continue to tackle the backlog of under-investment which the report identifies. Clearly, it is for London Transport to determine the priorities for the investment at its disposal. I confirm to my hon. Friend that we remain entirely committed to the principle.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson, Shadow Spokesperson

Is it not a fact that in his autumn statement the Chancellor announced a 30 per cent. reduction in capital investment for London Underground, as compared with the figure that was announced in the autumn statement of 1991? The chairman of London Regional Transport says that the reduction will mean that the Northern line modernisation will not go ahead. It will mean the closure of Aldwych station and eventually the loss of 7,000 jobs in the supply industry. Is it not amazing that we have the most expensive underground system in Europe and that we have the angriest travellers, the angriest management and the angriest staff? That is a remarkable achievement, even by the Minister's standards.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

If I have to pick something to answer out of all those points, I make the point that I understand the hon. Gentleman's disappointment at the level of the settlement, even as he expressed it. However, he will know that investment in the survey period will still be higher than in any year in the 1970s or 1980s. That represents a considerable investment measured in hundreds of millions of pounds—investment not merely to maintain the system in its present state but to improve it, and it excludes the commitment measured in billions to extending the system.