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The final exemption concerns wheelchair users' access from the platform to the train. We share London Underground's view that it is impractical to use manually-

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deployed boarding ramps on a frequent metro service because of restricted space on platforms, the limited amount of time that each train waits-at peak times, there will be 32 trains an hour at Kings Cross or one less than every two minutes-and the 3.4 million people that the system handles every day. Instead, LU will provide "platform humps"-raised areas on the platform which are positioned to allow level access to those carriages which have wheelchair spaces. These have already been successfully trialled on the Northern line, and wheelchair users prefer this solution since there is no need to involve staff and it allows independent travel.

These time-limited exemptions are linked to London Underground's step-free access programme which is providing a step-free route from the street to the platform. The order provides exemptions at each station which will expire on the dates given as each station becomes step-free. The number of exemptions will therefore progressively diminish until the work is completed in December 2013, and London Underground has already allocated £5.5 million to complete this work.

This is extremely encouraging but, while the new trains have lower floors than those they will replace, and stepping distances will reduce significantly as a result, some platforms will remain non-compliant. At nine stations, provision for step-free access has yet to be established, and the order therefore provides for the exemption to fall at such time as this is provided. For a further 12 stations, an exemption with no time limit has been sought, since the geometry of the platforms currently presents an insurmountable barrier to level access.

Perhaps I may explain. Some platforms on the Metropolitan line form the oldest stretch of underground line in the world, dating from the 1860s when attitudes towards customer accessibility were very different. Some platforms are severely curved or of compromised height where the line is shared with other London Underground or National Rail lines. In those circumstances, allowance must be made for the different height, size and shape of trains which use the same track and platforms. There is no known solution to these problems at present. Although London Underground is exploring possibilities, setting an expiry date for these exemptions would be entirely artificial. We and the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee believe that this is an appropriate response to the issue and will continue to monitor the situation closely. If a novel solution were developed, the exemptions could be revoked at any time.

In summary, we believe that the order represents a sensible approach to these issues. Similar exemptions were granted for similar reasons for the new Victoria line trains which are currently being introduced into service, and will allow London Underground to resolve some of the challenges which compliance with RVAR represents in the short term to a metro service with high frequencies, inaccessible stations and a mix of old and new vehicles. The order will enable London Underground to replace a fleet of vehicles first introduced in the 1960s with new trains that are significantly more

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accessible in all respects and will provide significant accessibility improvements in a co-ordinated way for the benefit of all passengers.

The order's provisions are supported by the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, the Office of Rail Regulation and London TravelWatch, which is the official organisation representing the interests of transport users in London. I commend the order to the Committee and look forward to hearing the views of noble Lords.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister for his clear introduction of the order. I should say immediately that it is largely uncontentious, although it raises some issues about the amount of time that will elapse before Metropolitan line trains are fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. We appreciate that the consultation has been undertaken on this and that broadly there seem to be few disagreements with the order.

We appreciate that the Metropolitan line is the oldest Tube line and therefore was not built to accommodate the standards that we now demand: that disabled people should be able to travel without hindrance, or with as little hindrance as possible, to enable them to live as full lives as possible. The uniformity of the timing of announcements across all the trains seems to make sense as it means that the wheelchair-bound, who need to know how long they have to exit or enter the train, can do so with confidence, and the timing announcements are of course invaluable to blind people, who rely on them to enable them to judge when they should, in particular, leave the train. We accept that the 1.75-second amendment to the order, to be held for the time being, is sensible across the piece. A change to three seconds would be of greater benefit, but we assume that that will come in due course if the timing of the trains can also be sorted out-that seems to be a problem as well.

The one major area of concern is, of course, step-free access. While I hear what the Minister says about the humps that will be used, which seem to be a perfectly useful and sensible measure, without step-free access the trains are unavailable to those in wheelchairs and, it has to be said, to mothers with buggies. I know we are talking here about disabled access but there are other people in the world who have moveable vehicles, and mothers with buggies are among them. As a result of this, they will continue to have to use other stations or make different journeys for a number of years to come.

Step-free access is also germane in the context of movement from the station entrance to the platforms. If there are no lifts or escalators then wheelchair users and mothers with buggies cannot get to the trains. I noticed that this matter is being looked at, and the salient remark was made that people should not be allowed to get out of trains on to a platform to which there is no step-free access, but this is a continuing problem. There are a number of stations in London, not only on the Metropolitan line, where it is just impossible for anyone who has any wheels at all to get themselves down to the Tube.

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Will the Minister explain in more detail what plans are being made to provide step-free platform access and entrance-to-platform access, and who is responsible for the latter provision-the mayor or LUL? The Minister explained this quite clearly but it is important to establish it: is it correct that a significant number of stations will never be able to accept trains that are compliant because the platforms themselves cannot structurally be made to fit the trains or to be accessible to them? We ought to be clear that there will be, as I think the Minister said, nine platforms that will never be accessible for these trains.

With regard to the provision of accessible trains so that all the trains on this line will comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, 2020 has been cited as the date by which all trains will be compliant. I think 5,600 trains out of 26,000 have already been done, but what progress is being made to ensure that the target will be met, and are there any contractual disciplines to ensure that it is? With that, we are happy to accept these orders.

Lord Bradshaw: We, too, support the order. In many respects the railway outside London is very old, as is much of its rolling stock, and the modifications necessary to meet these standards will be incredibly expensive. The noble Baroness touched on the subject of stations to which there will be no step-free access, and at many of these the cost of providing lifts will be very high. One of the problems in a democracy is deciding where limited money will be spent; in the end, we have to make judgments that some people may find unacceptable but which the majority may accept. The order is a good and clear agreement as to what can best be done.

As to the introduction of new rolling stock, both for London Underground and the big railway, there will be a lot of obstacles between now and the date that the new rolling stock will become available. The Government have still not published their rolling stock plan for the big railway and London Transport is in tremendous contractual trouble as a result of the PFI arrangements that the Government introduced and which were supported manifestly by the Prime Minister. It is difficult to see how the necessary rolling stock will be provided to meet the dates outlined.

I shall make one other point that is not strictly related to London Underground. Disability discrimination legislation applies equally, of course, to road transport, with which I am more familiar, and bus companies have invested hugely in buses that kneel and that have ramps, visible handrails, audible warnings, visual warnings and so on. However, the Government have manifestly failed to deal with the big objection that often these buses cannot berth alongside the kerb because of the flagrant breaches of parking restrictions that are allowed. On the railways we have the benefit that the train will pull up at the platform; unfortunately, bus passengers have no guarantee whatever that the bus will be able to get to the kerb.

The Government have major problems but, having made those points, I will happily otherwise support the order.

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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am most grateful to both noble Lords for their contributions. We now have a happy tradition where the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and I debate these issues more or less on our own, quite often in this Room. We have done so again today. I thank them both most sincerely for the constructive and helpful speeches they have made. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, strayed a little wide of the order relating to the Metropolitan line, and I hope he will appreciate that I cannot comment on access to buses today. However, I am sure that he, with his usual ingenuity, will find an opportunity to return to that subject at some stage in the future

I am able to answer the questions that the noble Baroness put to me. She rightly drew attention to the problems at stations where, at present, we have no solution, normally because the levels are wrong or because they are severely curved. As I said in my opening speech, the exemption does not have a time limit applied to it for the 12 stations for which it is sought. We accept that there are problems there. The mayor is responsible for allocating the budget for London Underground and how he allocates the budget in this area is a matter for him. Some of the work required would be very expensive and it is he who will have to decide what the correct priorities are.

However, the order ensures that the platforms listed in the schedule are made step-free by the exemption dates. As a consequence, the number of exemptions should fall as the works are completed. I am sure that London Underground will note very carefully what the noble Baroness said about mothers with buggies-or, indeed, dads with buggies. They, too, need to get on and off trains. She is right to draw attention to them.

The noble Baroness also asked about the progress being made to ensure that the 2020 RVAR target is being met and whether any contractual difficulties are being experienced. So far, as I said, 5,600 vehicles are already compliant out of a total fleet of about 16,000. The department is working closely with industry and with DPTAC to ensure that the end date is met. That has already included work to bring the older vehicles up to compliance in recent franchises-that is a condition of new franchises. At this stage, we do not expect contractual issues to get in the way of meeting the 2020 target.

6.30 pm

Baroness Hanham: What contractual constraints are on the company to deliver by 2020? Presumably, conditions are attached to the contract or the delivery date not being met. There must be something that says that the contract must be delivered at a certain time and that, if it is not, what the penalties are.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: Yes, the penalties are in the legislation and the requirement to make vehicles compliant is part of the new franchises, so a train operator that failed to comply-as I said, we have no knowledge that there is likely to be any difficulty in this area-would be in breach of its franchise, with the implications of that for the continuation of the franchise.

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Lord Bradshaw: Would the Minister clarify that? We are talking principally about the Metropolitan line, where there is no franchise, is there not?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I think that the noble Baroness was referring to the compliance of the national railway.

Baroness Hanham: I was referring to the contract that must at the moment be in place for the new trains and for the improvements to be made to the old trains. I was asking: in that contract, what are the penalties if it is not met?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I apologise to the noble Baroness for misunderstanding her. I thought that she was asking about the national picture. The position with the Metropolitan line is that all the new trains are capable of complying with the regulations now. With the order, we are effectively holding back the implementation of the RVAR regulations so that the new trains can run on the same track alongside the stock that I used to go to school on in 1960, the A-stock trains. Those trains are being progressively phased out. By 2015 the whole of the Metropolitan line will be served by the new trains, and they will all be fully compliant.

Baroness Hanham: Will the date be met? The tension I am trying to get at is that we have these exemptions coming in. As I understand it, the new trains are all due to be delivered by 2020. What are the penalties to the company if they are not? It is not the exemptions to the disability Act that I am worried about at the moment; it is what happens if the trains that we are exempting are not built and ready. What are the penalties to the company for that?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I think that the noble Baroness may be misunderstanding one of the elements in the order. The order exempts the new trains temporarily so that they can run in an identical manner to the 50 year-old A stock. Those trains will be compliant when they are the only trains operating on the Metropolitan line. The other exemptions that we are discussing under the order are the exemptions that apply to things such as stations, which in the majority of cases can be met but, as I said earlier, there are 12 stations where we cannot put an end date on the exemption because the engineering work that would be required is too considerable. The trains on the Metropolitan line will all be compliant by 2015; what will not be compliant by 2015 are all the stations. There will still be stations that, because of their curves, will not be compliant.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked about the Government publishing their rolling stock plan. Again, that goes a little wide of the order, but I can tell him that the plan is still under development and we will be writing to the committee with the details when the work is completed.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I should not like Hansard to indicate that I had not understood what the order was about. I think I have probably indicated that I did understand it, but I was widening the issue

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slightly to say that these trains are due to be provided by 2020. There must be some contractual arrangement by which they are provided by 2020 fully compliant, and, if they are not, there must be some contractual penalties. I do not mind if the Minister does not have the answer, but that was my question. I agree that it went slightly wider than the order, but I want it to be understood that I understand what the order is about.

Lord Bradshaw: The noble Baroness is right to press this matter. From my understanding, there is no contractual obligation because the company responsible, Metronet, has gone into liquidation. Does LUL simply pick up what the bankrupt company has left and does it have to adopt all the contractual obligations? It seems a very strange way for a company in liquidation to perform.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I certainly did not wish to imply that the noble Baroness had not understood the details. It is obviously my fault for not understanding what she was saying and I apologise for that.

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The position is that the Secretary of State is required to ensure that all rail vehicles are compliant by 2020, except the heritage vehicles, which we debated some while ago and which are exempted indefinitely for reasons that we agreed at that time. New trains have to be compliant from the moment they come in. Therefore, all the new trains that come in on London Underground will be compliant unless an exemption is sought for operational reasons. In the case of Metropolitan line trains, the operational reason is the fact that the new trains are running on the same track and offering exactly the same service to customers as the 1960 A-stock vehicles. When the A-stock vehicles are withdrawn, the new trains will become entirely compliant and the exemptions will no longer need to apply. The contractual obligation is indeed on the Government and on Transport for London because that is what the law says: it is what happens with new rolling stock coming in after the passage of the legislation. I hope that, with those answers, I have satisfied the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 6.38 pm.

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