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19 July 2006 : Column 99WH—continued

That approach suggests that rail transport should be seen as an on-cost. I suggest that it is far better to regard it as an investment that contributes between £9 billion and £15 billion to central Government: much more than it receives. Investment in the London transport system benefits not only Londoners but the entire country. It is often suggested by people outside London that the capital is overheated and overcrowded, and that the pressure needs to be relieved by having more investment outside London. In fact,
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London has substantial under-used resources: there is high unemployment in many parts and low employment rates, as well as many bottlenecks that prevent the effective use of resources.

In addition, the population of London is due to grow by between 900,000 and 1 million in the next few years, and those additional million residents will be living all around London, but working mainly in the centre. In order to accommodate this huge pressure on the capital, TFL has introduced proposals for London’s transport investment needs in “Transport 2025”, and more specifically in “Rail 2025”. The centrepiece of that is the East London line and the North London railway, both of which provide mainly orbital routes that will join up in about six years to form a London orbital rail network. It is worth while spending some time understanding the implications of that.

The 2001 census showed that, although 38 per cent. of Londoners live and work in the same borough—a figure that has been falling rapidly; it used to be much more than that—25 per cent. travel into central London along radial routes, like the spokes coming into a hub, and 19 per cent. take orbital journeys to work. That was defined in the survey as someone who lives in one borough, but works in another that is not in central London, so the journey to work is not radial but orbital. That means that for every four commuters travelling into the centre, there are three travelling across London to get to work. Inevitably, a far higher proportion of orbital commuters travel by car, partly because they often have to because there is no public transport, and partly because they can.

It is not only Londoners who make orbital journeys, as commuters and travellers going through London do not particularly want to go through the centre. One of the key points about the London orbital is that it will provide interchanges where commuters coming into London can switch to the orbital route to avoid travelling through the centre. That will be at places such as Clapham Junction, Willesden Junction, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Ms Butler), West Hampstead, Stratford, and in east and south London at points that are not yet exactly clear. There will be places where all the trains stop and people can get off and, instead of going to a London terminus, they will be able to travel more directly to where they want to go. Indeed, I welcome the fact that the Mayor of London has recently discussed powers to enable him to insist on the train-operating companies stopping at these orbital interchanges.

There has already been a 30 per cent. rise in rail journeys and there is another big increase to come that can never be met by the traditional model of everybody coming into the centre and then travelling to their required destination. Victoria station is already so overcrowded that it often has to be closed during rush hour because there are too many people on the platforms. The irony is that many of the people who travel into the centre do not actually want to be there.

A further reason why we need an orbital rail network is to serve the communities that were forgotten or overlooked by the tube network when it was created. South London springs to mind in that context as, certainly in my part of south London, it was believed at
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the time that clay could not be tunnelled through. Although it is now considered to be the best material for tunnelling through, large parts of south London where left without the tube for that reason. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) is another example of an area of London that has never had a tube. It is only now with the arrival of the East London line that it will have a tube system. That means that communities that have so far been deprived of the advantages of having a tube will now have it. People hardly know that Haggerston and Hoxton exist because they are not on the tube, but they will now have new stations.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Of course, everyone knows about Haggerston, and I live a few steps away from the new station there. Does my hon. Friend agree that the advantage to the people of Hackney of the new orbital route and the East London line is not just the convenience of being able to access the tube, but that it will play an important role in regeneration in an area which has long had some of the highest unemployment rates in the country?

Martin Linton: My hon. Friend makes the point for me that these are real places with real transport needs, but because they have not appeared on the tube map until now, they have been relatively less well known. It is a huge problem in south London, particularly for the entertainment industry and tourist attractions, that tourists always navigate entirely using the tube map—indeed, this is also the case for some north Londoners—and do not recognise the existence of anywhere served only by the rail network. I very much hope that the new East London line, whether it is run as a tube or metro service, will be on the tube map. The biggest single benefit will come from people seeing that we are on that map and being able to find the service.

I mentioned Haggerston and Hoxton, but Dalston Junction is also involved. There is a new station at Surrey Canal road and another at Sands End—although I believe that it will be called Imperial Wharf—in Hammersmith and Fulham. Furthermore, Shepherd’s Bush will soon be linked to the West London line and, at last, 163 years after it was built, Clapham Junction will be on the tube. That is of enormous interest to my constituents.

Orbital routes are important. In so far as the great expansion in demand for transport in London relates to radial routes, it can already be accommodated simply by building longer trains, longer platforms and better signalling. That is what the rail industry will do. I do not underestimate the cost; the project will use a lot of Department for Transport and Transport for London resources, but it is a relatively simple and straightforward solution.

London’s great fortune is that we also have orbital routes: the South London, East London, West London and North London lines, which have been underused over the years. They are full of freight paths and run very few passenger trains, which in some sections come only once every 30 minutes. The project will cost a lot
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of money, but all we have to do is join up those four routes to have a ready-made orbital network.

Ironically, the first phase of the East London line extension is not so much an orbital route as a radial route in from Croydon and Crystal Palace. However, it paves the way for an orbital route, and the second phase of the East London line extension—the one of main concern to me and some of my hon. Friends—will be an orbital route. Not only that, but, as it provides the missing link, it will allow all four East, North, West and South London lines to be joined up in a network that will enable a full orbital route to exist. Work is already well under way; the enabling works contract for the first phase, involving work on viaduct bridges, was in June last year. The rolling stock contract is already advanced and the main works contract, worth £500 million, is expected to be awarded next month. The bidding process for an operator for the East London and North London lines is already at an advanced stage. The appointment should be made next year and the completion date is June 2010.

Phase 2 is vital because it will link up the orbital route. It is crucial that it follows on directly from phase 1. That, of course, depends entirely on the Treasury and the Department for Transport providing sufficient capital or prudential borrowing to TFL to continue the programme on which it has embarked. The Mayor of London has told me that he regards the East London line as a single project. Provided that he can get the prudential borrowing or capital that he needs in the comprehensive spending review, he intends that phase 2 should follow on from phase 1 and he thinks that things could be ready within three years.

That, ironically, would take us to June 2013, just 10 months after the Olympics. It would be good to know that there was a way of ensuring that the work was completed before the games. Although there is a promise to build the East London line in my party’s manifesto, there has been no promise that it will be ready on any particular date.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying that we need the link. I am concerned that there is a phase 1 and phase 2 when it would be much better if it were all done in one phase. My suspicion—and, I suspect, that of my hon. Friends—is that phase 2 might get delayed for funding reasons. We need a clear commitment that phase 2, which includes a planned extension to Highbury and Islington in my constituency, will be followed and that we will retain the option of a link to Finsbury Park, which would become a sub-orbital network in the same way as my hon. Friend has outlined in other cases. Does he support that position?

Martin Linton: As the Government were committed to building the East London line in their manifesto and as it follows the logic of all their transport policies, I remain completely confident that they will enable phase 2 to go ahead so that trains eventually run from Clapham Junction to Highbury. I accept that, to create an orbital interchange in that part of London, it would make huge railway sense for Finsbury Park to be added to the system. It is a natural hub, whereas other stations in the area are not.


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The cost is great; greater than anticipated. Phase 1 of the East London line will cost close on £1 billion. Originally it was a national scheme, but it is now a London scheme; London is borrowing the money to carry it out. The Treasury, through the Department for Transport, funds the Mayor of London to enable the money to be paid back.

By comparison, phase 2 is costed at only about £250 million to £275 million. I regret to inform my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch that, of that £275 million, £200 million is the cost of extending the line by just two stations, up to Highbury and Islington. For technical reasons that I do not fully understand, that is the expensive part of the project. None the less, it is very important that it should go ahead. It might be worth pursuing why that cost is so disproportionate.

The southern extension to Clapham Junction, my main concern, is a relatively cheap £75 million, most of which is to build the new station at Surrey Canal road in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock). Once that has been built, we shall campaign for a station at Brixton. The idea of having a line in south London that goes through but does not stop at Brixton seems extraordinary. The Mayor has commissioned a business case for a station at Brixton, although that would involve huge technical difficulties. I shall pursue the same strategy and get a business case for a station in north Battersea.

Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I agree that it would be great if the trains stopped at Brixton. That would enable people to visit Hoxton and Haggerston, which many people have heard of and do visit, but with greater difficulty than if they were a station in Brixton.

Martin Linton: My hon. Friend will know the difficulties of travelling from one part of London to another when it involves going through the centre. That problem will become very apparent during the Olympic games. People living outside London think that London has the Olympics, but east London has them. The difficulties that people living in south-west London will have in reaching the Olympics would be very great at the moment but would be considerably helped by the new line. Similarly, if a person wants to travel from Brixton to Hoxton, their journey, which would now take 50 or 55 minutes, would be reduced to about 15 or 20 minutes.

Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): I agree strongly with my hon. Friend and with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), who said that we should consider doing all the work under phase 1, especially given that the Olympics are so near. Given the Olympics, Wembley and even the line from Queen’s Park to Stratford, does my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton) agree that the extension of the London orbital network, by joining east, south, north and west London, is paramount to having a successful Olympics?

Martin Linton: I agree absolutely. We must remember that the Olympics are just six years and two
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weeks from now. We are talking about a transport system that will last 100 years, but if the Olympics helped to concentrate minds and demonstrate the advantages to people, that would serve a purpose. If we had an orbital route functioning for the Olympics, so that people from all over London found it easy to get to them, that would be of great benefit to them.

I come back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington: the most important reason for having an orbital route in London is regeneration. When the East London and the North London lines are joined together under a single operator, they will bring into the London rail and tube system nearly 100 new stations—about 30 on the East London line and about 60 on the North London line. Those lines go through 80 per cent. of the wards in the top 20 per cent. of deprivation in London. Four out of five deprived areas will be served by them.

Some people say that it is old fashioned to see the structure of London as a well-to-do centre, a deprived inner ring and a wealthier ring of suburbs. There are many exceptions to that pattern, and one could point to parts of outer London that are becoming more deprived. Nevertheless, a central pattern exists, and an orbital route would be good for regeneration because it would link all those places. The south London spur, which will cost £75 million, would enable people in north Battersea, Clapham, Brixton, Camberwell, Peckham and Deptford to get to jobs in docklands in 15 or 20 minutes. At present, those journeys might take well over an hour. An orbital route would bring employment opportunities to many deprived areas, and I am sure that one can make a similar calculation for the Gospel Oak to Barking line and the North London line, which will end at Stratford.

Jeremy Corbyn: As my hon. Friend knows, the Barking to Gospel Oak part of the North London line was saved from closure some years ago when a previous Government tried to get rid of it altogether. However, in advance of the construction of the necessary links that he outlined, it is possible already to improve the service by running trains beyond Gospel Oak through to Willesden Junction and Ealing Broadway. As wonderful as Gospel Oak is, it is not a natural suburban interchange. Trains from Barking could easily run to many more destinations all around London. I hope that if TFL is listening to or hearing about this debate, it will recognise that that can be included in the service requirement document now, even before the new lines have been constructed.

Martin Linton: Indeed, I believe that Network Rail is already waking up to those possibilities. It conducted a worthwhile, although very overdue, exercise to produce the cross-London rail utilisation strategy, which considers the use that is being made—or not being made—of those lines. For instance, Network Rail has started running trains straight through from Clapham Junction to Gospel Oak through Willesden Junction, but they are infrequent and under-publicised. The trains are choc-a-bloc with people who know about the route, but the marketing of railways within London has been poor, and there are many examples of stations that are full of regular commuters but little passing trade.


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One of the problems with the railways in London as opposed to the tube is, strange as it sounds, a marketing problem. Everybody knows about the tube. They understand the tube map. People who arrive in London instantly grasp how the tube system works and where they can get to, but people who have been living next to a rail station, perhaps for nine months, still have not discovered that they can get regular trains from it.

The train-operating companies need to understand that their mission in life is not simply to take people in and out of London but to take them around London—in other words, to have a tube mindset rather than an inter-city mindset—and they must market the stations and the services that they provide to the population in a way that can be understood. The companies must operate a turn-up-and-go system. It is no good expecting Londoners who are used to the tube to memorise the times of trains at all their local stations. Unless they are regular commuters, they will not do that.

Ms Butler: Does my hon. Friend agree that having a single operator would mean that stations would be safer and that secure stations accreditation could be more easily rolled out along the network?

Martin Linton: I pay tribute to the good work that my hon. Friend has done on the safer stations scheme in respect of stations in her constituency and elsewhere. I had a long campaign to get one of my local stations, Queenstown Road, staffed. It was completely unstaffed for 11 years, but now there is one member of staff. That helps the situation enormously, and regular users of the station are much happier about it. One of the reasons that people are put off using the railways as opposed to the tube system is the fear of crime and unlit stations. They are afraid of walking into a station and suddenly realising that they are the only person there, and that there are no staff to protect them in the event of an emergency. I very much welcome safer stations.

London has a huge advantage because of the railways. My constituency is practically made of them. Hundreds of lines criss-cross it in every possible direction, but the local residents get little use out of them. Bizarrely, many stations in inner London were closed in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, partly because of the Beeching inquiry but even before it. For example, Battersea High Street station on the West London line was closed during the war. Stations in Camberwell and Walworth were closed at about the same time, and there are now long lines of railway track with passing trains that do not stop, even though they pass through some of the most densely populated areas of the entire country.

The existing mainly cross-London railway routes are a huge asset. They could be used if they were added to the tube system, invested in, joined up, marketed and run by a single company under the auspices of TFL, which has played a key role in focusing our energies on this issue. London transport could be a real success story in years to come.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making an extremely good case for a an
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orbital railway around north and south London, but may I bring him back to the Barking to Gospel Oak line, which is very important in my constituency? Is not there a powerful case for approving electrification of that line? First, it would mean that diesel trains would no longer be used and, secondly, it would increase the capacity for freight on the line.

Martin Linton: I have to confess that as a south Londoner I only recently heard of Gospel Oak. I had to look it up on a map. I am glad that it has been included in the North London railway concession and that we have trains from Clapham Junction along the Gospel Oak line, but the fact that that line, which runs from Barking through my hon. Friend’s constituency, through Tottenham, Leytonstone, the whole of Haringey and Islington and ends up in Camden, has been so little used is a poor reflection on the use of London railways. Indeed, I did not realise that it is not an electrified line.

I have, however, a slight concern about freight. I believe, as I am sure we all do, in as much freight running on the railways as possible, but a huge amount of the freight running through London does not actually have anything to do with London. It is going through London from Felixstowe to Liverpool, or it crosses the Battersea railway bridge in the journey from Dover to Newcastle. That railway bridge takes all the freight coming from the channel ports and going north of London. Yes, we believe in freight, but we do not want it to clog up London lines so much that Londoners themselves do not get adequate use of them.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): The hon. Gentleman speaks knowledgeably about the need to increase the use of trains and to raise their profile in London. Would he agree that one of the most effective ways to do that would be to move as quickly as possible to allowing the Oyster card to be used on both trains and tubes? Not being able to use it on trains must be one of the most restrictive things in terms of encouraging train use.

Martin Linton: I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I believe that the plans are well advanced. The Mayor has made the campaign his own and he has had considerable success in achieving that goal. Many of the Londoners who want to use trains will want to use their Oyster card on them.


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