Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 191 - 199)



    The Committee suspended from 17.14 to 17.20 for a division in the House


  191. Gentlemen, can I apologise to you on the record for making you wait and I also apologise to you in advance in case we get interrupted, again as we may very well do. Would you please identify yourselves?
  (Mr Smith) I am Richard Smith, Director of Transport Strategy for London Transport.
  (Mr Willis) I am Jon Willis, Project Development Manager for London Transport.
  (Dr Quarmby) David Quarmby, Chairman of the Docklands Light Railway Limited.
  (Mr Brown) Ian Brown, Chief Executive of the Docklands Light Railway Limited.

  192. Are there any general remarks either group want to make?
  (Mr Smith) I do not think so; you have seen our evidence.

  193. In that case why does LT not currently anticipate widespread introduction of light rapid transit systems in London?
  (Mr Smith) We see that there is a niche between the underground, national rail (carriers of very high capacity) and buses carrying the lower density, the main flows in London in a sense, but there really is only a relatively small gap and you have got to give the highway space to light rail and you have got to have enough demand to justify it. We have done a large number of studies. We looked at 65 areas, brought it down to nine, and have ended up currently looking at four particular studies trying to see whether there is a real cost benefit between bus and light rail or guided bus and we ended up with four. I should say that since we did that the world has moved on a bit in terms of the degree to which government and local authorities are prepared to give road space to public transport. If we did it again there might be some more but it is on two hands rather than counting into the twenties or thirties. It is a relatively modest but important role.

  194. This Committee last week had a joyous day riding round, as you know, not only on DLR but on the Jubilee Line and on the tram system in Croydon. It is very clear they are all interrelated and the flow of people onto your system is greatly assisted by a really efficient light rail system feeding in at certainly points. Surely that is something which you have taken account of?
  (Mr Smith) Certainly we have, but we also believe that if local authorities particularly are prepared to give that level of priority we have to persuade them to give that level of priority to buses and buses, too, will be rather better at doing that job and the first step we have to look at is very high priority bus services before we step to the relatively expensive even for guided bus option.

  195. What are the four areas you looking at now if they are not secret?
  (Mr Smith) Not at all, they are being publicly consulted on. You will be aware from our evidence that we are about to start running Millennium Transit between Charlton and the Dome and one of our areas is an extension of that, the so-called Waterfront Transit. The next is a Barking and Romford scheme. They all fulfil slightly different roles. Very different from that is Cross River Transit which links from across the Thames from Elephant and Castle up to King's Cross. The final one is Uxbridge Road which is currently a very high priority bus service, very much out the way of any other rail service and very heavy flows for a much higher level of priority light rail or guided bus.

  196. I think my colleagues have got various things they want to ask, but why was not Millennium Transit 1 not operating over an electronically-guided busway from the first day of public service?
  (Mr Smith) It is in any case a trial to demonstrate the project and it is a very new technology. We are doing it to make sure we understand it. There are still software elements that have to be finally resolved and until we do that we clearly cannot be running it over the guide way because we cannot operate it unsafely.

  Chairman: I suspect people will come back to it again. Mr Stevenson?

Mr Stevenson

  197. I understand that when the Docklands was first considered, the options were boiled down to the light railway or buses on a guided system. It is also my understanding that the bus option was more attractive on a cost-benefit basis and yet the light rail was chosen. Why was that?
  (Mr Smith) Perhaps Mr Willis, who was involved at the time, should answer that.
  (Mr Willis) The Docklands Light Railway had a cost-benefit ratio of 0.5:1. In other words, it was not justified in pure transport terms. The busway option had a cost benefit ratio of about 1:1 so in other words it would have been justified on a conventional—

  198. As a lay person that sounds a heck of a difference.

  (Mr Willis) It was a significant difference. The argument then progressed as to what effect those two options would have upon regeneration of the area and by this time the Development Corporation were partners in deciding what transport option should go through and an exercise was done to try and understand what the difference would be in terms of development of the two options and this was largely done by talking to developers, estate agents, etcetera. It came up with the result that the DLR would generate 9,000 more jobs than the bus option and as a result—


  199. You mean generally, not just in the DLR system?
  (Mr Willis) In the DLR system in the Isle of Dogs and that was done in terms of looking at the different kinds of development that would be generated by a rail scheme with a better, faster connection to the central area than the bus option.

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