Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 171)



  160. The obsession with the London Underground often overlooks the problems of people in south-east London. Given that you have said this is largely targeted at commuters from outer London areas—which is constituencies like my own—Network South East is already running at over-capacity at peak times. There is no more room on the trains; the electricity supply cannot take longer trains so there is no scope there for creating any extra capacity. There are pinch points at Lewisham and at London Bridge that prevent any extra trains being put on. What contingency have you made for constituencies like mine for people to switch to public transport?
  (Mr Turner) Our forecast during the morning peak hour from the southern area which, by our definition, includes the south-east area, is for an hourly transfer to buses of 2,450 passengers. We are expecting to provide—and will be providing—2,660 passenger spaces. So, as I said earlier, we are providing in the order of 10 to 20 per cent more capacity than we are expecting to need as a result of congestion charging on the buses.

  161. And that extra capacity matches the types of journey that people want to do. I mean, if it is a local hopper bus that is being put on then that may not actually serve the commuter.
  (Mr Turner) It matches our best estimate of the type of travel that they would be replacing. Because it is buses we have the flexibility to be able to adjust the service provision to more match it in the light of experience. That is not quite so easily achieved in terms of rail, as you rightly say, because of some of the network constraints that are there.


  162. Mr Kiley, on that?
  (Mr Kiley) If I could add one point, and it is a possibility at this point, it needs to be investigated; it will not be done by the time congestion charging starts, but it could be done within the next 12 to 24 months. We are going to review the entire bus network which has not really been done in a thorough way for half a century. With the rapid increase in demand and with the ridership numbers that are showing, we need to be able to control costs and one way to do that is to prune roots that are not really doing very well because the city has changed over the last 50 years. One thing I believe we need to look at—and south London comes to mind here—is whether express services of some sort are an idea that is long overdue in London. When you raise this people immediately say, "Well the street system here is crazy. It is not a grid system like New York, say, or Paris and therefore these ideas cannot work". I am not so sure that is the case as I am getting more and more familiar. I think this is particularly true of south London. There may be opportunities here of more rapid service and longer journeys and I think we have to take a very careful look at that. It will not happen by 17 February, but it can happen within a reasonable period time so that people will have options.

  163. That is an encouraging note, Mr Kiley. Mr Turner, can I ask you, do you really think you can justify including Kennington Road and Newington and leaving Kensington, the King's Road and Knightsbridge out of the scheme?
  (Mr Turner) Yes.

  164. Why?
  (Mr Turner) Because the scheme needed to be readily understandable at the start.

  165. I am sure it is understood by the people of south London who are in the scheme and the people of Kensington who are not.
  (Mr Turner) It needs to have a by-pass route. We want the deterrent to be the charge, not the road network, not the administration and so the by-pass to central London—the Mayor having decided it should be centred on central London—is the Inner Ring Road. It is largely an accident of history that the Inner Ring Road runs through Kennington, but it does. It is on all the maps that it is the Inner Ring Road, all the atlases, so as a first stage it is the logical boundary. However, as the Mayor has indicated, if the scheme is successful he is likely to ask us to look at extending it further to the west, in particular, and to the east, because both Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea and Tower Hamlets have indicated that they would rather be in the area than outside. Indeed, many of the Kennington residents themselves said they would rather be in the area than outside. As a logical understanding of the scheme I can feel happy that the Mayor chose the Inner Ring Road. As a second stage I think he could, if you like, take in more of the affluent areas to the west of London.

  166. Can I put to both of you something which seems to me really rather important. We have heard evidence this afternoon from previous witnesses about a number of possible schemes which might—or might not—include all NHS workers; it might look for an alternative through the education system of dealing with the role of teachers and nursery teachers; presumably, also, this new breed of assistants that we are going to have. All of those exemptions are really very considerable in central London. Do you not consider that what you may be doing is shifting some of the cost of this scheme on to other agencies and other groups, and how would you justify that?
  (Mr Turner) What we have tried to do—and, in fact, the Mayor asked us to look, as he indicated—is look at a number of alternative ways of dealing with key workers. We spent a lot of time looking at key workers and the low paid. The problem is one that the system we are introducing is not as flexible as colleagues from Bristol indicated in terms of electronic road pricing (which is a much more flexible system). We believe that the system we have introduced is fit for purpose. We believe we can actually manage what we are doing and we think through careful use of the descriptions we have adopted many of the requirements that the Mayor has put upon us and the public has put upon us in terms of exemptions and discounts. Perhaps not all of them. There will always be some people who feel dissatisfied and indeed the scheme is meant to act as a deterrent to people to travel. The point that the Mayor made—which I think is a very important point—that the improvements that we are making to public transport, in advance of the scheme going ahead, have to be taken into account. The night bus service is substantially—

  167. Mr Turner, I have great admiration for night buses, but last time I went on one from here I got proposed to by a drunk. I mean, he would have to be drunk. I nearly accepted too. Frankly there are large numbers of women who, having had an eight hour shift, are just not going to fight their way onto a night bus, whereas before maybe four or five of them have crammed into some broken down old car. Are you going to put a considerable burden on those people?
  (Mr Kiley) I think your point about night service is well taken, that people fear to use it because they are worried about exactly the situation that you found yourself in. We have this Transport Police Initiative moving now. It is principally during daylight hours but our intention, if this works—and by every sign it is working at this point—we will extend this in the next fiscal year to routes at night where there will be police on and around buses, particularly at sensitive bus stops and bus shelters where people are worried about the environment. I think that police presence which began in June is already showing; people who know it is there are being encouraged to use the service and on the routes where it is present and deployed, very mobile and very visible we are getting increases in ridership that go beyond what is coming just from the investment in the service. Your point is well taken and we have to be able to respond to that security challenge at nights.
  (Mr Turner) Another point, if I could add, Chairman, is that the Mayor has indicated to me that he would quite like us to be able to migrate the system to electronic road pricing if only the government would actually come up with a specification that would enable us to use smartcard technology in London. Much of the system that we have designed, in my view and my understanding of what is likely to emerge at some stage from the government, will by useable in that environment.

  168. There you have sent some interesting hares running. Finally, what measures are you going to introduce to make sure there is sufficient car parking at mainline railway stations?
  (Mr Turner) The question of mainline railway station car parking is a very interesting one in terms that it is managed by Network Rail now (I think that is right) and therefore outside of our direct control. One of the other issues that we have is the park and ride type facilities within London. We have had a policy of being concerned about because we do not really want people to actually make their journeys by car anyway. We think, if they are going to park, they should not actually split their journeys, they should actually park at their home station, so that would be in the home counties. We are concerned that on-street parking, in terms of rail-heading—as Mr Brake was indicating—should be prevented and, as the Commissioner has indicated, we have already made funds available—and will continue to make funds available next year—to protect residential areas from rail-heading on mainline intermediate stations.

  169. You talked to the local authorities about the existing physical restraints they have got, have you? Have you taken account of the fact that boroughs already have their individual policies on some form of physical restraints?
  (Mr Turner) Sorry, I am not clear what you mean by physical.

  170. What London First said was that success of congestion charging will be undermined if congestion is increasing for other reasons, especially action taken by local authorities to restrict the capacity of the network.
  (Mr Turner) Absolutely. We are anxious that the network as a whole operates well and particularly, as Mr Grayling said, in terms of the bus routes; that we do actually get the bus system to operate properly. In terms of the network around the congestion charging area we are working very closely with the local authorities to ensure that diversionary routes around the area are on appropriate roads so that the residential roads are protected. Also, the management of those main roads are improved to ensure that diversionary traffic can make the movements necessary.

  171. And you are also planning for a different set of contingencies if inter-urban charging comes in.
  (Mr Turner) If inter-urban charging takes place I think we would need to look very carefully again. But I hope that inter-urban charging would be associated with a more sophisticated approach to smartcard technology or GPS which is the type of migration path that I was talking about earlier in one of my earlier replies.

  172. I can see various firms are going to be very delighted with some of your suggestions, Mr Turner. Thank you both very much. We are always pleased to see you, Mr Kiley, whatever you are discussing you bring a little ray of light.
  (Mr Kiley) Thank you Chairman. You have made my day.

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