Underground and buses 'need pounds 5bn'

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Transport campaigners have detailed a catalogue of inadequacies and mishaps on trains, Tubes and buses and called for the Government to stem the road-expenditure budget and to spend pounds 5bn on improving public facilities.

In a policy-briefing document released this week, Capital Transport Campaign, a pressure group, detailed examples of what they term the 'chronic state' of London's public transport system and warned that many travellers are at risk from out-of-date equipment.

The Underground is worst hit. Many trains have run for 35 years and 25 per cent of signalling is more than 40 years old.

In 1993, over 2,000 trains were delayed for more than 20 minutes and in November of that year, a power failure brought six lines to a standstill, trapping 20,000 passengers and causing parts of the Central Line to be out of service for almost a week.

The Central Line also suffers from some of the network's most crowded platforms and its core stations, between Liverpool Street and Lancaster Gate, exceed their planned capacity by 24 per cent.

In May of this year, District Line trains to Richmond were halted for six days after it was discovered that a bridge was unsafe and, three months later, torrential rain caused floods which closed about 30 stations throughout the network.

The campaign also states that many stations are in disrepair, while others are poorly lit, infrequently staffed and lack passenger-security measures such as closed-circuit television.

The briefing paper says priority measures for buses have dwindled as the number of private cars in London has risen sharply. Congestion has caused average bus speeds to fall to 5.2mph with passengers waiting up to half an hour for a five-minute service. A 12-minute journey on one bus can take up to 40 minutes longer.

It also reports that one in five Network SouthEast trains are between 30 and 40 years old and three in five Kent Coast trains are life-expired. Some track and signalling is now in a 'critical' condition, resulting in speed restrictions, delays and cancellations.

The campaign wants the Government to pledge pounds 5bn in the Budget to improvements over the next three years.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Transport disputed some of the campaign's figures and said the Government's subsidy to London Transport for 1994-95 totalled pounds 900m, and would rise to pounds 930m in 1995-96. He added that overall expenditure for all roads for 1994-95 was pounds 2,516m, rising to pounds 2,550m in the next financial year.

Denis Tunnicliffe, managing director of London Underground and a member of the board of London Transport, said yesterday an expenditure of pounds 900m a year for 10 years would secure 'a decently modern metro' for London.

'Our view is that London is crucial to the country's economy and public transport is crucial for London.'

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