Column 2of competition from efficient British Airways and is unaware of the great benefits of liberalisation to the travelling public on both sides of the Atlantic ?
Mr. MacGregor : I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that further liberalisation would bring great benefits--the benefits of further competition--for passengers on both sides of the Atlantic. I also agree that United Kingdom airlines are very competitive. I can only speculate as to why the talks have been postponed and it has not yet been possible to take them up again, and I do not know whether my hon. Friend is right. I am disappointed that the talks were postponed and I hope that the United States Government will recognise the real values and virtues of our proposals, which are serious, and agree to meet us around the negotiating table again soon to discuss them in greater detail.
Dr. Godman : Where does Glasgow airport stand in that scheme of things ? It is a major employer in the area and there is burgeoning demand for transatlantic flights to and from Glasgow. I hope that the Secretary of State is arguing the case for that airport as much as for other airports south of the border.
Mr. MacGregor : I am aware of the improvements at Glasgow airport and of the considerable expansion there--not least since the British Airports Authority was privatised, which has greatly increased investment.
On transatlantic routes and the negotiations--sadly, there are no talks at the moment--the answer is that in December we proposed complete liberalisation of flights from Glasgow airport.
Mr. Channon : Am I to understand that the American Government are refusing to negotiate at the moment ? Is that not extremely unsatisfactory and very much against the interests of air travellers ? What steps does my right hon. Friend propose to take to break that deadlock ?
Mr. MacGregor : It is very disappointing. There would be great benefits if we could reach a successful conclusion to the negotiations. We are in discussions with the United States Government in the hope that we can resume the talks as soon as possible. I have said that I would be prepared to go to Washington if that were likely to benefit the progress of the talks in any way.
Mr. Olner : I hope that the Secretary of State will put great pressure on his American colleagues, because his news will be greeted with great disappointment, especially at Birmingham airport. Our regional airports need that way into transatlantic routes. I hope that he will do all in his power to ensure that the Americans come to the negotiating table and that regional airports are not used as a bargaining chip for the London airports. I would not want him to miss that point.
Mr. MacGregor : I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are doing everything that we can to develop services at regional airports, including Birmingham. Representatives of those airports are on the United Kingdom negotiating team because they know the position and they can be sure that their voice is fully heard. I can, therefore, give the hon. Gentleman the assurances that he seeks.
As I said, I am disappointed, too. I hope that we can resume negotiations. It would weaken our negotiating position simply to give away valuable rights to United States airlines with nothing in return ; therefore, we must consider the negotiating package as a whole and not give away parts of it in advance.
2. Sir Roger Moate : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are the maximum traffic flows over the Kingsferry bridge on the A249 ; what was its design capacity ; what are the traffic flows on a typical two- lane motorway ; and what steps he is taking to speed up construction of a second crossing of the Swale.
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Key) : There are about 26,000 vehicles a day ; design capacity figures are no longer readily available. The traffic flows are equivalent to 33,500 vehicles a day. The priority given to the Iwade to Queensborough improvement will depend on the outcome of the road programme review.
Sir Roger Moate : I thank my hon. Friend and his officials for the sterling work that they have done in bringing forward this project, even to the planning stage. Does he understand, however, that as up to 26,000 vehicles a day go over the single lifting bridge, the only means of access to the Isle of Sheppey, and as there was an electrical failure a couple of weeks ago, this is a transport crisis waiting to happen ? Will he please try to ensure that the construction of the second crossing is a matter not just of local priority but of national priority ?
Mr. Key : It is clear that the vast majority of people who replied to our consultation exercise are in favour of the scheme and wish it to proceed as swiftly as possible. Sheppey is an environmentally sensitive area, but the needs of industry and of the local population are also great. We shall have to consider the scheme in the light of those factors.
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman) : I am asking Railtrack, as one of its first acts on taking over infrastructure provision in April, to examine the case for providing an alternative route for channel tunnel freight trains which avoids central London.
Mr. Soley : I hope that the Minister will take on board--I think that he is beginning to do so--the enormous and growing opposition from residents who live alongside the west London line. That opposition does not affect just my constituency, because the proposal to increase usage of the line to about one train every eight minutes, day and night, is seen as unacceptable in a residential area. If the current minimal use of the line is increased, people should be compensated when trains pass within a few feet of their windows. Concern is growing, however, about local authorities that are not financially equipped to meet that need.
Mr. Freeman : I hope that there is all-party support for the exploitation of the channel tunnel, for both passenger and rail freight trains. I am sure that the hon. Member shares my hope. My Department has recently agreed to consider requests from all local authorities, including those in London, for additional financial provision to contribute towards the erection of noise barriers. I answered another question recently from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) dealing with compensation issues.
Mr. Dunn : In the context of rail freight, is my right hon. Friend aware of the policy to involve private money in transport schemes, as advocated by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) ? Will my right hon. Friend speculate on how many extra freight trains would run as a result of that policy ?
Mr. Freeman : Perhaps my hon. Friend refers to the document published today, which I have read with interest. I am bound to say that it is a consultation document, which contains no proposals. Meanwhile, the Government are getting on with introducing private sector capital to the rail infrastructure. [ Laughter .] The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) laughs, but I can tell him that, within the next few days, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will issue the pre- tender qualification documents to invite private sector finance for the construction of the channel tunnel rail link.
Column 5for the Oakham bypass in Rutland. Does not my right hon. Friend's reply show that whereas 90 per cent. of journeys are undertaken by road, nearly half of his Department's spending is on public transport ? Will he undertake to trumpet that statistic rather widely and use it to confound those critics who try to argue that the Government do not spend enough on public transport ?
Mr. MacGregor : I entirely agree. We are spending substantial sums on the road programme and on, I assure my hon. Friend, the bypass programme, which I know is widely welcomed. When we compare our expenditure with that made a long way back, it is clear that we are spending record sums on public transport. The fact that 40 per cent. of my Department's budget goes towards the equivalent of 10 per cent. of total journeys shows how much we are skewing it towards public transport. I assure my hon. Friend that I am determined to demolish the myth that the Government do not spend on public transport. Many statistics, including those on London Underground, prove that.
Mr. Harvey : Given the future balance between spending on roads and on public transport, will the Minister bear in mind the growing evidence of the connection between vehicle emissions and respiratory allergies ? That evidence has come particularly from the Office of Science and Technology and the British Lung Foundation. Is he aware that 90 per cent. of the carbon dioxide pumped into the air comes from vehicles ? Will he bear in mind that small children are among those most at risk because in urban areas they are at the height of vehicle exhausts ? What steps will he take to toughen standards for vehicle emissions in urban areas ? Will he put more money into public transport as an alternative to the motor car ?
Mr. MacGregor : I have already said that 40 per cent. of my Department's budget is spent on public transport. The fact that 90 per cent. of passengers and inland freight goes by road clearly shows how much we are spending on it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will support me in all the other measures that we are taking, such as insisting on catalytic converters, our drive for further improvement in vehicle emission standards and the programme to improve motorways, trunk roads and local roads. If we can remove congestion, we shall remove a considerable amount of atmospheric pollution. Our traffic-calming measures are also contributing to reducing that problem.
Mr. Matthew Banks : What proportion of my right hon. Friend's budget is being spent, and how much is it costing the taxpayer, to remove protesters from places such as Twyford down where protesters have failed to achieve their aim in the democratic process but now seek through public disorder and, in some instances, violence to achieve their aims ? Is it not time that we spent that money on road safety schemes and public transport infrastructure in general, on which it deserves to be spent ?
Mr. MacGregor : I take my hon. Friend's point. The cost to the public purse of security measures at Twyford down was £200,000 and the protest against the M11 link at Hackney has also cost a considerable amount. The important point is that there have been prolonged public inquiries into those schemes and others, at which everyone has had the democratic right to have his or her view taken into account and expressed. Decisions must be taken and it is a negation of democracy for a tiny minority of people to
Column 6hold up what the vast majority wants. Moreover, my hon. Friend is correct to say that the money could otherwise have been spent on environmental issues, such as planting even more trees and shrubs along the roads concerned.
Mr. Wilson : Will the Secretary of State confirm that, as a result of the access charges announced by Railtrack last week, every part of the British rail network, including the vastly profitable east coast main line, will need subsidising by the taxpayer ? What sort of triumph is that for Tory doctrines ? Will he further confirm that, as a result of last week's announcement, the whole railway network will be charged those enormously inflated access charges indefinitely, whereas decisions on subsidy will be taken every year ? In the light of that, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that those inflated access charges will make the railway system appear to be far more heavily subsidised than it is and that, in the long term, those access charges represent the biggest threat to our railway network since Beeching ?
Mr. MacGregor : The hon. Gentleman must make up his mind whether he wants taxpayers' money put into the railway system to subsidise socially necessary lines. I hope that he will not condemn us for making it clear that we are continuing to do so. Had the hon. Gentleman done his homework, he would be aware that we are having the access charges accurately costed to reflect the cost of running the infrastructure. Until now, that has not been done. The costing will take account of depreciation and the proper return on capital so that we can get investment in the infrastructure.
The hon. Gentleman will know that the change that I announced last week will have no impact on fares or investment. He should look at the whole matter properly, as we are giving the system a proper commercial structure so that decisions can take account of the cost of different parts of the system.
Mr. MacGregor : In the summer of 1992, my Department carried out a number of surveys into the use made of motorways in this country. The results indicate that half the number of road users rarely or never use motorways and about 85 per cent. of motorway miles are driven by frequent users.
Mr. Thurnham : When does my right hon. Friend expect to be able to use new technology to recover the cost of motorways from those who use them rather than from motorists in general--not all of whom enjoy the undoubted benefits of motorways ?
Mr. MacGregor : As the figures that I quoted show, a surprisingly high proportion of British motorists hardly ever use motorways. We announced our decision in principle to go for motorway tolling so that, at least in part, the cost of motorways would be met by the user. I stress the words "at least in part".
As to technology, I expect to announce later this week the first part of our research and development programme
Column 7on electronic technology, which I expect to be one of the biggest in the world. We expect interest from more than 300 companies in that research and development.
Mr. Barnes : If there were more buses and trains whose routes were interlinked, might not car owners leave their vehicles at home more often ? Would not less money need to be spent on motorways and other roads, so that we could have a decent public transport system ?
Mr. MacGregor : It is clear from the choice of individuals to drive on motorways, and of companies to transport freight on them, that many more people want the freedom to use their vehicles, and I must take that into account. The hon. Gentleman must understand that myriad types of journeys are undertaken on motorways every day, which involve joining them and leaving them at different points. It would be impossibly expensive to duplicate that flexibility with a railway infrastructure.
Sir David Madel : In view of the ever-increasing congestion on the A5, will there be an early start on constructing the Sheep lane roundabout between Heath and Reach and Woburn ? Also, can my hon. Friend give a firm date for the commencement of the public inquiry into the north-south Dunstable bypass ?
Mr. Key : The Dunstable bypass must await my right hon. Friend's decisions on the road programme review. As to Sheep lane, we are examining the recommendation of the public inquiry inspector that there should be a roundabout at that point, but I cannot say when it will be implemented. I understand the frustration that my hon. Friend frequently expresses on behalf of his constituents, but I ask him to be patient a little longer.
Ms Walley : Does the Minister not realise that the road programme cannot be dealt with in a fragmented way ? When will he and the Government get the message that Britain needs a transport policy ? That cannot be formulated without a fundamental review of the roads programme. What account will the Minister take of the report, due out soon, on traffic forecasts ? What criteria does he use to decide what is included in the roads programme, which he has never properly justified ?
Mr. Key : An integrated transport policy means different things to different people, but that is exactly what the Department is producing. Since my right hon. Friend announced the decision last August, we have been undertaking a fundamental review of the prioritisation of the roads programme. The hon. Lady will not have to wait long to discover our conclusions. I announced last December--and I am delighted that it has taken only two or three months for the hon. Lady to notice--that we would review the fundamental methodology of road traffic forecasting.
The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris) : The pilot red route scheme in north and east London is to be extended to a 315-mile network throughout London. Detailed plans must be submitted to the traffic director by 24 June, and implementation will begin later in the year.
Mr. Duncan Smith : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is unfortunate that too many people have tried to suggest that red routes are some sort of urban motorway ? Notwithstanding some local difficulties, do they not bring great benefits ?
Mr. Norris : My hon. Friend is entirely right. Labour picked up on the idea of red routes, and tried to scare many people who live on such routes into believing that they are some kind of urban motorway. In reality, they have brought tremendous benefits to pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport, as well as to the motoring public generally. They are an extremely good thing.
Mr. Norris : I have received representations from hon. Members, Members of the European Parliament, noble Lords, London borough councillors, the London Boroughs Transport Committee, the Freight Transport Association and members of the general public.
Mr. Dowd : I thank the Minister for that response. Can he confirm from the rich catalogue that he has just outlined that the only people in favour of the Government's proposals were the members of the Freight Transport Association, that the people of London have benefited hugely from the imposition of the ban and that, rather than lifting the burden from business, the Government's proposals to water down the ban will impose an extra burden on business, from which it thought that it had mercifully escaped ?
Mr. Norris : The hon. Gentleman is wrong on his first point. The vast majority of those who wrote simply asked for information on what was proposed. They were not helped by the deliberate misinformation that was put about by the Labour party, as well as by Members of the European Parliament who stand in the socialist interest and who saw fit deliberately to distort our proposals, to create the false impression that we were in some way watering down the London lorry ban. Conservative Members very much appreciate the advantages that the ban brings. What they do not appreciate is the mountain of paperwork that surrounds the current Greater London council-inspired scheme. That is what will be abolished, not the scheme itself.
Column 9compensation arrangements can be made for people living near the A40 in my constituency and in small roads whose homes are rattled by heavy lorries ? Their numbers are increasing. That problem is of great concern to my constituents.
Mr. Norris : First, I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the ban remains. Secondly, on the effect of the ban, it will remain the case that any vehicle that is not on an appropriate journey through central London will be committing an offence. It is that to which the scheme should always have addressed itself, rather than simply accumulating a mountain of paperwork. The savings will be about £400, 000 to the scheme operators --funded by the hard-pressed council tax payers--and about £3 million to the business community, which will, of course, flow through in prices. As to the A40, I am afraid that I have to tell my hon. Friend that compensation arrangements do not generally take account of the increased use of an existing road.
Mr. Raynsford : Does the Minister agree that, without a permit scheme, a night-time and weekend lorry ban in London can be enforced only by regular and widespread spot checks, for which the participation of the Metropolitan police is essential ? From where will the extra police resources come to do that ? Unless he can give an assurance that he has the agreement of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and the Home Secretary, to deploy extra police to enforce the ban, everyone will know that his claims about keeping it in force are simply hollow boasts, because in practice the scheme will be killed and millions of Londoners will be exposed to unnecessary noise, nuisance and disruption at night ?
Mr. Norris : By abolishing the ludicrous paperwork that surrounds the scheme, some £400,000 will be available to the London boroughs transport scheme to increase the amount of on-the-spot enforcement that is carried out. I should ask the hon. Gentleman whether he can think of any other city--indeed, of cities that are controlled by Labour councils--that sees the need for such paperwork. He would think in vain, because not a single council in the whole of the United Kingdom, whether controlled by Labour or by Conservatives, uses that ludicrous typical GLC-Stalinist paperwork basis.
Mr. John Marshall : On behalf of my constituents, I thank my hon. Friend for his support for the Enfield-Barnet lorry ban, the implementation of which will improve the quality of life of my constituents, and the implementation of which was delayed by the opposition of Labour councillors.
Mr. Norris : My hon. Friend makes an important point. Enfield and Barnet have taken advantage of the opportunity that is available to local authorities to introduce lorry bans much more stringent than the scheme on which the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) appears so keen--24- hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week bans on all vehicles above 7.5 tonnes. They are useful schemes and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks.
Mr. Freeman : Speed of intercity rail travel varies according to route and the types of trains used. The fastest timetabled United Kingdom service is the InterCity 225 on the east coast main line between Doncaster and Grantham, which runs at an average speed of 107 mph ; the fastest French service is the TGV Atlantique between Massy and St Pierre, which runs at an average speed of 153 mph.
Mr. Freeman : All British Rail's InterCity services--diesel and electric--are designed to run at fast speeds over 90 mph. If the hon. Gentleman makes inquiries, he will find that France operates a two-tier service--the TGVs, which are excellent, and the rest, which are not.
Mr. Mans : Does my right hon. Friend agree that British Rail has many more services that run above 90 mph than French railways ? Does he also agree that we have the most extensive track network in Europe and that more people travel by rail in Britain than in France ?
Mr. Freeman : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. There seems to be a plot among those on the Opposition Benches to run down the quality of British Rail services--including a reference by the shadow Chancellor in the weekend press to the fact that trains from Waterloo to the channel tunnel terminal will run at 45 mph. That is not true. When the trains start in the summer, they will run through Kent at 90 mph.
Mr. Dobson : Does the Minister recall claiming proudly that, following the opening of the channel tunnel, the train journey from London to Paris would take just three hours ? Will he confirm that if the train travelled through France at the same speed at which it will travel through Kent, the journey would take not three hours but five hours 25 minutes--and those are the figures supplied by British Rail ?
Mr. Freeman : The hon. Gentleman must take account of the fact that trains must negotiate Southern region in the London area. No train could possibly run at 225 kph from the Waterloo terminal to the outskirts of London. I commend the train journey to all hon. Members--I hope that you, Madam Speaker, will be among the first to use the channel tunnel train service--and confirm that the trains will travel at 90 mph.
10. Mr. Luff : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with Hereford and Worcester county council or Wychavon district council about the proposed western and northern Wyre Piddle bypasses.
Mr. Luff : Does my hon. Friend recognise that, against the background of a rather disappointing transport supplementary grant settlement for Hereford and Worcester, there is very real pleasure among the residents of Wyre Piddle--a village which derives its name from the Piddle brook--at my hon. Friend's repeated reassurances that the northern bypass will be eligible for transport
Column 11supplementary grant ? Does he recognise, however, that there is equal disappointment among those same residents and the residents of Pershore in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) that the western bypass, which is a strategic road, is not recognised as such by his Department ?
Mr. Key : I am sure that there is not half as much joy in Wyre Piddle as the residents of Puddletown and Piddletrenthide in Dorset would feel if they could get their bypasses. As I explained to my hon. Friend, the northern bypass is on the A4538, which is a road of more than local importance in through-traffic terms. The B4083, which the proposed western bypass would relieve, is a secondary road linking Pershore and Wyre Piddle. I am none the less grateful for the continuing representations on behalf of the inhabitants of those delightful villages and will always be ready to discuss them with my hon. Friend.
Mr. Flynn : Does the Minister agree that progress on both the northern and the western Wyre Piddle bypasses--a matter of great concern to my constituents--would be accelerated if the Government adopted the imaginative policies presented today in the Labour party consultation document ? Does he further agree that, were the Government not locked in their ideological straitjacket, in which they see things as just private or just public, we should have had progress both on those bypasses and on the channel link, which would not have been 10 years behind schedule as it is today ?
Mr. Key : I have read that interesting fairy story. The bad news for the hon. Gentleman is that his party would slash road building of all kinds and the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) would be terribly badly off, as they would be if we had the misfortune of any influence from the Liberal Democrat party.
Mr. MacGregor : As a result of the franchising of passenger services, I expect to see better services run more efficiently, better targeted to markets and hence to what passengers want and to which they will respond.
Mr. Martin : To dispel some of the many misconceptions put about by opponents of increased commercialisation in our railways, will my right hon. Friend confirm that there will be through ticketing and through timetabling under the new arrangements and that those arrangements will be sensible ?
Mr. MacGregor : Yes, I can confirm that. As we have made clear on many occasions, we have given a clear commitment that through ticketing will continue. The regulator will have a statutory duty to promote it. Railtrack will be responsible for producing a working national timetable for the railway and will be required in its licence to make arrangements for the publication of the timetable, if it would not otherwise be published by another party.
Column 12schemes that have been carried out in other areas, that Ministers have no control whatever over the actions of individual companies after privatisation. Will he stop trying to mislead people who have the misfortune to need British Rail as it is ?
Mr. MacGregor : I make it clear again that the operators will be required to participate in common ticketing and revenue allocation arrangements which are based at the outset on BR's current systems. They will therefore be able to offer through ticketing on much the same basis as at present, on a range of ticket and fare types.