HC Deb 11 January 1993 vol 216 cc593-5
7. Mr. Ian Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information he has about calculations of traffic speeds in London and in Paris.

Mr. Norris

The most reliable comparison is for day-time off-peak traffic speeds. These are about 31 kilometres per hour in London and 28 kilometres per hour in Paris.

Mr. Taylor

My hon. Friend should note that that is one up for London. Given the positive joie de vivre with which his appointment as Minister responsible for London's transport was greeted, would he like to tell the Evening Standard what it can do with its criticisms of him? Will my hon. Friend do his best to accelerate the trend of people moving to trains and away from cars by introducing road pricing around London's perimeters?

Mr. Norris

My hon. Friend has asked an important question and I commend him on his perspicacity and thinking on the matter. There is a tremendous tendency to knock London. The great British disease is knocking our own achievements. My hon. Friend has elicited the fact that traffic in London is appreciably better than it is, for example, in Paris. Comparisons with many other, even leading, European cities are impossible because their authorities do not even attempt to record mean average speeds. I agree with my hon. Friend's observation that we must continue to encourage public transport. That is why expenditure on roads in London, as a result of the current public expenditure survey, is about a third of that on public transport. There is a substantial commitment to public transport.

Mr. Simon Hughes

In addition to the sensible suggestion of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) for improving traffic in London, does the Minister accept that another good approach would be to authorise the completion of works on the Jubilee line extension? Given that the approval was announced in the autumn statement, are the works to be authorised this year, next year, some time or never?

Mr. Norris

The hon. Gentleman, who has always taken a keen interest in the project, knows well the answer to his question, which is that the Jubilee line extension has always been a partnership between the Government and private developers. Negotiations on concluding the agreement are well advanced. As far as I am aware, they are continuing and good progress is being made. The hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will be extremely pleased when the project can commence, but that must depend on the signing of the agreement.

Mr. Simon Coombs

What progress has my hon. Friend made in reviewing the success of the red routes scheme in London? What plans does he have to discuss with his colleagues the possibility of providing similar schemes in other large towns and cities in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Norris

The red routes, including the pilot route, have been spectacularly successful. Accidents have been reduced by about 17 per cent., which is about three times the level that has been achieved in the boroughs through which the pilot route passes. Speeds have been improved, but fortunately not greatly so, for private cars. About 8,700 more passengers a week are using the No. 43 bus service on the pilot route. I look forward to our being able to replicate those improvements throughout the priority network.

I am interested that Lothian, a Labour-controlled county in Scotland, is introducing and implementing a concept which it calls green routes, but which in every way is exactly the same as the red routes concept in London, even down to the fact that red paint will be used. Silly politicking has surrounded the red routes debate over previous months, but we have the clearest possible vindication in the general recognition that it is an extremely valuable concept.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am all for a bit of knocking, but there is no need to engage in it when comparing parking in Paris and in London. Parking in central Paris makes parking in London seem positively orderly and restrained.

The Minister did not answer part of the question of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) about road pricing. We understand that the Government will make an announcement about road pricing in London. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us when the announcement will be made?

Mr. Norris

I shall not comment on the hon. Gentleman's propensity for knocking in any circumstances, except to say that in terms of parking he is wrong again. He probably knows that one of the major contributory factors in achieving better road speeds in London is that parking is much better managed in London —this is a general recognition—than in Paris, where recently there has been—

Mr. Banks

That is what I said.

Mr. Norris

I am grateful. If I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, I withdraw. Perhaps I was too busy knocking him. I entirely agree with him.

My right hon. Friend has already made it clear that we are undertaking a substantial study of road pricing in London. That is something which the hon. Gentleman may have missed. He will know, if he has read the appropriate answer, that the research is to continue and that it is likely to take at least another year before the information is available. Much of it involves extensive attitudinal and survey research. The Government consider that road pricing is an important component in dealing with urban congestion in future and I shall be happy to keep the hon. Gentleman appraised of progress.

Mr. Mans

On the question of traffic speeds, can my hon. Friend say when the regulations associated with the Traffic Calming Act 1992 are likely to come into force? The Act has been in existence for nine months and many local authorities want to get on with producing schemes based on it, but are prevented from doing so because the regulations have not yet been published.

Mr. Norris

I congratulate my hon. Friend on having been the inspiration behind that Act. He is to be commended for having put it on the statute book. I understand that its provisions will be enacted shortly. It will certainly make a worthwhile contribution to road safety.