§ 4. Mr. Bennett
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about improvements to public transport in Greater Manchester.
§ The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris)
Subject to the availability of resources, the Government are ready to fund worthwhile improvements to all forms of transport in Greater Manchester.
§ Mr. Bennett
Does the Minister realise that the people of Greater Manchester have suffered a decline in the frequency of their train and bus services and a decline in safety standards at stations because of the removal of staff, while the only minor improvement has been the restoration of trams in the centre of the town? If people in Greater Manchester are to enjoy good public transport, that requires substantial investment in at least five or six more lines for the Metrolink.
§ Mr. Norris
I am not entirely surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman spraying around yet more hundreds of millions of pounds in spending commitments, as the Labour party 1381 is prone to do on every occasion. He has an extraordinarily partial view of public transport in Greater Manchester. To describe the Metro as a minor improvement is to turn churlishness into an art form. It is a superb piece of public transport infrastructure, which serves its purpose extremely well. The Passenger Transport Authority has spoken to us about further extensions and when those are ready to be considered in detail, we stand ready to do so.
§ Mr. Sumberg
Would not one way of providing more money for public transport in Greater Manchester be to abandon the disastrous proposal for the M62 relief road? That would not only generate resources, but ensure a feeling of great relief in my constituency and end the planning blight that presently exists as a result of the proposals.
§ Mr. Meacher
As the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment report published today makes it clear that the economics of many road building schemes are unviable—that includes not only the M25, but the M62 road widening—will the Minister answer the question that he has just dodged and tell us whether he will now call a halt to any further work on the M62 road widening?
As the logic of the SACTRA report is that any cut in road building will only increase congestion unless investment is shifted into alternative public transport systems, will the hon. Gentleman now concentrate instead on extending the excellent Metrolink in Manchester and on financing the trans-Pennine rail link, which would be far cheaper than the road works on the M62, would be far more popular and would do far more to relieve congestion?
§ Mr. Norris
On the hon. Gentleman's latter point, as I told his hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), the Manchester authorities have—unfortunately, at a late stage—brought forward plans for the second extension to the Metro system. We have said that we will be perfectly happy to examine those in detail, although no allocation has been made in respect of 1995–96 because it is not anticipated that work would start by that time, so to that extent the application is somewhat premature.
On the hon. Gentleman's more general point, my right hon. Friend has made it perfectly clear that the advice contained in the SACTRA report is valuable and entirely consistent with a number of the principles that the Department has been utilising for many years.
If I may say so, the real difficulty that has emerged from the matter is the extraordinary commitment of the hon. Gentleman, and indeed his hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish, to a complete moratorium on road building. That has already got the hon. Gentleman into trouble with his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), who has just told the House how much he wants a road scheme. If the hon. Gentleman looks around him, he will find that every one of his hon. Friends favours abandoning the road programme in general—but not when it relates to their own constituencies.