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Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): Is my right hon. Friend aware that this first attempt to have a structured transport plan will be warmly welcomed throughout the country not only by all passengers, but by people who use all forms of transport, whether by road, rail, sea or air?
Will my right hon. Friend clarify one or two points? Does his undertaking on the train protection system mean that, if Lord Cullen makes a different recommendation, my right hon. Friend expects to update the equipment in all existing trains? Is he telling us that there will be new lines as well as enhancement on the London underground system? Can he assure us that, in the new round of
Above all, does my right hon. Friend accept that, because transport takes so long to bring into operation, it is essential that passengers immediately begin to see much better conditions? They want new systems; they have waited over 20 years and they want those systems to begin operating as soon as possible. This is the first serious attempt to provide that level of care.
Mr. Prescott: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that welcome. She is right to point out the concern about safety systems on our railways. I have already promised, and announced to the House, that we will implement the recommendations of Sir David Davies that the warning systems should be applied on all lines and that automatic train protection should be introduced for high-speed lines. If Lord Cullen makes further recommendations about the timetable, I will want to consider those seriously and I would be inclined to say that we should adopt them, but the House will understand that I must wait and see what those recommendations are.
I want us to have the safest railway system, and automatic train protection will give us that. Early warning systems will achieve that level of safety more quickly than I could implement automatic train protection, but I await the report of Lord Cullen, who is taking into account the Uff inquiry and Sir David Davies's report on these matters.
On new lines, the London transport plan to which I referred, and on which the Mayor will report in the autumn, considers the new cross-London line, as my hon. Friend knows, and the east London link, which will connect the underground and the surface railway system. I am glad that, through our negotiations, we were able to establish the new channel tunnel rail link, which is in its first phase and is now on budget and on time. We rescued that from collapse when we came into office. The second stage will provide us with a new line, and we are all looking forward to that. So there are new lines, as well as enhancements to the system.
With regard to public-private partnerships, we will lay down targets and keep the passenger in mind as we modernise the system. The passenger has priority in our considerations. We will set tough targets, and tough penalties if they are not achieved by the companies. I am sure that my hon. Friend's Committee will examine the contracts when they are issued.
On new investment, the decision to bring forward the date for removing slam-door stock was a good decision in the interests of safety, and means that the industry can concentrate on the long-term target of securing investment to provide the new kind of trains that we want on our railway system.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath): Unlike the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), may I on behalf of those on the Liberal Democrat Benches categorically welcome the Deputy Prime Minister's statement? After 18 years of a Conservative Government, public transport was left in crisis and there was massive congestion on our roads.
However, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand the anger and frustration of many at the fact that, in the first three years of a Labour Government, there have been real-terms cuts in investment in public transport. The situation was not quite as the Deputy Prime Minister said--win, win, win, and win again. It was lose, lose, lose, and only now are we beginning to win, and we welcome that.
Can the right hon. Gentleman, first, assure the House that, after 10 years of the plan, he expects that there will be less traffic on our roads than at present? Secondly, given that he rightly said that we need early measures to prove his commitment and to improve people's environment, lives and road safety, such as safe routes to school and 20 mph limits, will the right hon. Gentleman give a clear assurance that the necessary money will urgently reach local government?
Thirdly, can the Deputy Prime Minister explain why he said in his statement that there would be additional money for the maintenance of local roads at local authority level, yet in the comprehensive spending review document issued two days ago, the amount of money for local authority road maintenance remained constant at the current level?
Finally, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what assurances he has been given about the security of the important and welcome private finance that he is bringing in, and why, given the Select Committee reports on the PPP for the National Air Traffic Services and for the tube, both of which were rejected, he sees that as the only appropriate way of bringing in private finance?
Mr. Prescott: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his warm support of our document, but I cannot accept his criticism that we made no improvement in the past three years. I tried to highlight some of them. I do not want to repeat them, but they include more services available on the railways--4,500 of them--and 2,000 new bus services in the rural areas. Those are definite improvements, although I acknowledge that we undertook not to spend more than the programme that we inherited.
To be fair, the Tories' programme of expenditure in the first two years after we were elected anticipated a cut of £1.8 billion. We kept those resources instead of cutting them, but that was not sufficient to meet all the demands. We made a choice, which affected the road programme in particular, largely because we took the view that, if we could get the public finances into proper order, we could begin to enjoy the level of public investment that was needed. That decision was right, although it led to some criticism about whether we were doing enough.
The local government transport plans will be presented to me in the next month or so, and I will make a decision in December. The plans will include recommendations for by-passes, of which there are 100. The Opposition spokesman was confused about that. There are to be 50 rural and 50 urban by-passes, making a total of 100. The hon. Gentleman would have benefited from reading the report.
Local transport plans have been allocated £59 billion in the programme, and £30 billion of that is directed towards improving road maintenance. We have caught up with the backlog. After all, when we came to power, we were told
On the point about more cars and more roads, I have made it clear in several exchanges here that the growth in the number of cars and other vehicles on our roads has decreased from 8 to 2 per cent. There is therefore some decline. My job is to find a better public transport system so that people can begin to choose to use their cars less and public transport more. That is behind much of the programme; two thirds of the money that I have announced will go towards improving public transport.
Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham): If anybody needed reminding of the reason for the parlous state of transport when we came to power in 1997, the statement of the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) did that. He had nothing to say about public transport; he did not mention buses once. That demonstrates the Conservative party's attitude to transport and the reasons that we were in such a mess.
I worked in London's public transport service for 12 years. The £3.2 billion that my right hon. Friend has announced today will be most welcome. However, I draw his attention to plans for the East London line, which I also welcome, and the orbital route that is planned around London. That route does not turn eastward towards south-east London. As I never tire of reminding the House, south-east London does not benefit from the London underground. People who travel to central London rely on the rail network, which is overcrowded at peak times. We need alternatives to Network SouthEast for people who travel to central London. With the east London river crossing for the rail link of the East London line, can we also have a scheme for a link to the south-east?
Mr. Prescott: I have some sympathy with the points that my hon. Friend has made to me on several occasions, both publicly and privately. The Mayor now knows the resources that are likely to be available to him, and he can begin to take them into account in his transport plan. There is considerable investment in new lines and in modernising the existing system. I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituents will benefit from that. I tell my hon. Friend to keep pressing me, but also to get on to the Mayor.