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Lord Cobbold: My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I certainly welcome the good intentions of the Government to reduce congestion and to improve the road system. The list of projects in the report is formidable but I am sure that, for each project in the plan, all noble Lords will have three or four schemes that are not in the plan.
I ask the Minister one question. Have the Government ever seriously considered an outer ring road round London, perhaps as a toll road, to relieve the congested and often gridlocked M25 and, if not, why not?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, not to my knowledge. I do not think this or any preceding government have considered that. The noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, will know that substantial expenditure on the M25 is included in the 10-year programme.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, may I press the Minister harder on the West Coast Main Line on which many of us commute every week? When shall we see the investment to complete the upgrading of the track and when can we expect some new rolling stock between London and Scotland?
Secondly, will he bear in mind that the main artery by road from London to Scotland is the M6? Only six miles of that route, between Carlisle and the Scottish border, is not motorway. When can we expect that to be upgraded to motorway standard?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that we took a decision on the West Coast Main Line which attracted a good deal of flak: that, rather than rely on weekend and night working throughout the upgrading of the line, we would face the unpopularity of closing part of the line for periods of several weeks, starting next year. That certainly will speed up what had been unacceptably slow progress.
I think it would be unwise for me to go further than the information which is already in the progress report about completion dates, but they will certainly come about quicker than would have been the case.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, with the best will in the world, the Conservative Opposition have not advanced one constructive argument for a coherent transport policy? Does he not agree that all modes of transport have to conform to such a policy?
Does he also agree that the Statement did not deal with air transport? Is it not internationally unacceptable that post-11th Septemberand I speak here as the president of BALPAallies of the United States have been given huge subsidies by the United States Government? Does that not give them unacceptable advantages so far as European traffic is concerned? What are the Government doing about that?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, before I reply to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, I have the information to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Monro, in regard to the M6. I believe that he is referring to the Carlisle-to-Guardsmill section.
Turning to reply to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, the question of our negotiations with the United States Government and their aviation authorities is not covered in the progress report. The only aspects of air transport covered in the progress report are air traffic control, airport policy and airport improvements. I can assure my noble friend that the issues he raised are being covered in the ongoing discussions we are having with the American authorities.
As to the railways, is my noble friend aware that yesterday Virgin ran its first passenger train with the Pendolino stock from London to Manchester, completing the journey in two hours and nine minutes in one direction and two hours and six minutes in the other? I should declare an interest in that I was an invited guest on the train. Does my noble friend agree that this is undoubtedly an indication that at last the problems of the West Coast Main Line are being addressed and that there is hope that passengers will get the improved services to which my noble friend Lord Jones and the noble Lord, Lord Monro, referred?
Does my noble friend also accept that the commitment to better value for money and greater reliability that the Secretary of State has shown in his Statement today is shared entirely by Mr Bowker, the chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority? Can my noble friend confirm that when the SRA delivers its case for rail in 2004, the arguments it is likely to contain about the industry's long-term needs for investment will be sympathetically considered in the light of the 2004 spending review?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, all kinds of wild statements have been made about the supposed shift from rail to road in the Government's policies. The figures given in the Statement, and certainly those in the report, make it clear that we are not in any sense returning to the policy of predict and provide that my noble friend Lord Faulkner is rightly attacking. We recognise that there are certain pinch points which cause exceptional congestion and which can be tackled by judicious road provision, but this is not the U-turn described in the press.
I have been too busy reading government papers to look at the newspapers and I did not know about the Pendolino train runs. I am glad to hear it. I can certainly confirm that it is Mr Bowker's intention, with the Government's support, to gain control over costs in investment in the railways. Without in any way seeking to anticipate the 2004 spending review, it is quite clear that his success in doing so will determine how much will be achieved from investment in railways from 2004 onwards.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, my noble friend the Minister mentioned road congestion several times, as did my noble friend Lord Faulkner. Has the time not come to start looking at urban road charging as a means of reducing congestion? My noble friend announced the building of some new roads, which will be welcome to many people, but I am sure that he will agree that the congestion figures will go up and up. Is it not time at least to start looking at introducing inter- urban road charges as a means of restraining the unfettered growth that might otherwise occur?
My second question relates to rail and freight. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. The Statement did not mention any kind of freight. Freight operators are concerned about road congestion and the working time directive, which would indicate that they are quite keen to transfer freight to rail. My noble friend did not mention the targets in the original 10-year plan for a growth of 50 per cent in rail passenger numbers and 80 per cent in rail freight volumes. Are the Government still sticking to these targets? If not, what are the new targets?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, inter-city road charging is not a matter for the progress report. I am not saying that that issue will be ruled out from consideration when we come to the full review of the 10-year plan in 2004, but clearly it is a policy matter which has not been included in what is essentially a factual progress report of what has happened in the past 18 months.
As to the rail freight targets, we believe that it should be possible to increase the market share to 10 per cent by 2010 from 7 per cent nowwhich is indeed, as my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, an 80 per cent increase in rail freightprovided that the rail freight companies can deliver improvements in performance and efficiency. There has already been a 7 per cent increase in 200102 compared with 200001.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some noble Lords feel that it has been a valuable exercise to have a progress report on the 10-year plan? Indeed, it demonstrates the importance of the bi-partisan support three years ago for the 10-year plan. Clearly events change the context in which a 10-year plan has to be rolled forward, but we are now in the position where, against this framework, we can see some of the things that have gone right and some of the things that have gone wrong. If we had not had a 10-year plan we would be floundering around not quite knowing which way we were going. The 10-year plan provides a benchmark against which we can see, for example, that we have got our inputs right but that our outputs are not necessarily right at the moment, and how we have to improve standards in rolling forward the 10-year plan.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is right to remind the House that the 10-year plan was introduced less than two years ago with all-party support. All parties therefore should be interested in ensuring that the 10-year plan succeeds, rather than the more negative response we heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, today. This is very much an interim report which was called for because of specific circumstances. I am sure that what my noble friend Lord Lea said will be applicable to the review in 2004.
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