Public Transport: Carshalton and Wallington

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Tuesday 26th March 2024

(3 weeks, 3 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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Mr Deputy Speaker, as we approach the recess, may I wish you and all colleagues a very happy Easter?

Today, I would like to address the adequacy of public transport in my Carshalton and Wallington constituency, which is one of the worst boroughs for public transport connectivity in Greater London. Being able to move around quickly and conveniently, as well as easily to commute to jobs and businesses across London, is vital for a vibrant economy and community, and my constituents living on the edges of London and Surrey deserve the same levels of connectivity that the rest of our capital enjoys.

I would like to mention a variety of areas of public transport from trains to buses, the Overground and, of course, our roads. There are also areas where transport provision could be much strengthened, and I will no doubt touch on some of those a little later. My constituents in Carshalton and Wallington have been deprived of consistent and reliable public transport by the Mayor of London, backed up by a Liberal Democrat council. Rather than help improve our connectivity, the Mayor and the council have overseen the shelving of the tram extension; the scrapping entirely of the Go Sutton bus; the possibility of reducing bus services such as the 410; the scrapping of the 455, and replacing it with an inconvenient existing route; and all this while bringing in the so-called Superloop, which is just the rebranding of an existing bus route.

Before the pandemic, I and my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) were keen to begin discussions on an extension to the London Overground from West Croydon to Sutton, but the sheer mismanagement of TfL’s finances by the Mayor means that is now unlikely. To almost no one’s surprise, the Mayor is asleep at the wheel, otherwise occupied with his vanity projects, and too busy imposing the ultra low emission zone on my constituents. He seems content to leave my constituency stranded without a public transport system that it can be proud of.

Since the pandemic, rail services to stations at Carshalton, Wallington, Hackbridge and Carshalton Beeches have been running at a reduced level. Regular, consistent services are vital to connect my constituents with employment, education and essential services in other parts of London, and of course Surrey. That reduced service means fewer trains from Carshalton to London Victoria. Indeed, something like half the existing services are running, which has meant a significant reduction in accessibility and convenience. Off-peak services from Carshalton Beeches and Wallington to West Croydon and beyond have been reduced from six to four trains per hour. Fortunately, Thameslink services to Blackfriars have remained unchanged, which offers some semblance of stability, but the overall picture paints a concerning narrative of dwindling connectivity and accessibility for my constituents.

I have long campaigned for, and been successful in convincing rail operators to restore, some of the peak-time services post covid, as well as extending the number of carriages on some peak-time services. However, those services are still too far from what they used to be, and my mailbag is often filled with correspondence from constituents who have been unable to board extremely busy weekend rail services made up of just four or five carriages. I would appreciate any support the Minister can provide to help convince rail operators to restore more peak-time rail services, as well as adequate numbers of carriages on trains and adequate weekend services.

Staying on the topic of rail, I wish to thank Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Rail, which operates Southern and Thameslink, for their continued engagement with me in a number of different areas. One of those is the southbound platform at Hackbridge station, and we have now secured funding to fix what I call the Hackbridge gap problem. That gap is a huge step down from train to platform. It is extremely dangerous, and many people have fallen down. The issue has become so serious that some people have had to travel on to the next stop at Carshalton, and come back to Hackbridge via the northbound line because they simply did not feel safe disembarking from Hackbridge station. I am glad that we have secured funding to do that, and I look forward to seeing the project get under way.

I have also been campaigning hard for step-free access to the southbound platform at Carshalton Beeches station. We have put in several Access for All applications over the years, and I hope that the Minister will give some indication as to when the next round might be available for comment. I sincerely hope that we will be successful this time round, so that once again people do not have to travel on to Sutton, the next station, and come back to Carshalton Beeches the other way in order to disembark safely.

Moving slightly outside my constituency, if I may, another area that would greatly improve transport for my constituents—indeed, this is probably the major sticking point when it comes to increasing rail capacity for my constituency and most of suburban London—is the Croydon area remodelling scheme, which is the major junction on the Brighton main line and the suburban rail network in south London and the home counties. The project does a number of things. It would upgrade East Croydon station and the surrounding rail infrastructure to enhance capacity and efficiency, and it encompasses several pivotal elements, including the revitalisation and renovation of the station itself, the remodelling of Selhurst junction, which is where trains are becoming congested, and the expansion of railway tracks north of East Croydon.

The capacity issues that that project would resolve are often the sticking point for running more rail services in the region. Indeed, GTR and Network Rail have spoken regularly about their ambitions to make suburban rail services a lot more like the metro system that we have on the London underground—a sort of turn-up-and-go system, rather than the strict and limited timetable we currently have.

By delivering on the Croydon area remodelling scheme, or the Croydon bottleneck, we would help alleviate the congestion, which would be good not just for my constituents, but for the majority of London and the south-east. It would unlock rail capacity all the way down to Brighton and parts of the south coast, as well as in the capital. In the words of the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman):

“In the current economic context, it is more important than ever for the enhancement schemes we take forward to be affordable and respond to changes in demand for travel”.

That is exactly what the Croydon area remodelling scheme would deliver.

Moreover, as we await updates to the rail network enhancements pipeline, it is essential to acknowledge the broader context in which the Croydon area remodelling scheme operates. The Government’s commitment to rail enhancements, shown through the Network North announcements, reflects an effort to modernise and expand railway infrastructure across the country, and they should be commended for that. The Croydon area remodelling scheme would bring a more efficient, sustainable and interconnected transport network to London and the south-east, and show clear improvements, not least to rail capacity, for my constituents in Carshalton and Wallington.

Finally, I want to talk about connectivity by road, which is still the most common form of transport in my constituency. The one thing that is attacking my constituents the most and causing them the most grief is the dreaded expansion of the ultra low emission zone. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson), who brought in a Bill to overturn ULEZ. It was incredibly welcome that the Government gave it their backing, but very disappointing that Labour and the Liberal Democrats tried to prevent the Bill from progressing. In fact, Labour Members talked out the Bill to prevent its passage through this House.

As the Secretary of State has rightly said, ULEZ is a cruel form of taxation affecting the poorest in society and hitting heavily those who have older motor vehicles that they simply cannot afford to upgrade, with or without a scrappage scheme. My constituents regularly raise their concerns about ULEZ with me, and I completely agree with them. As I have stressed, the Mayor fails to acknowledge the poor connectivity of Carshalton and Wallington. On top of that, he has decided to tax the most hard-working, poorest Londoners. It is time that the pollution argument that is often made when it comes to ULEZ was eradicated. Genuine concern for the environment would involve a complete ban of non-compliant vehicles, not a charge to use them. Provided that Khan finds himself with an additional £12.50 per car in the TfL coffers, people can drive as they please.

The evidence is clear from the Mayor’s own impact assessment and assessments that have been done since that this is not about air quality, but about the Mayor’s inability to manage TfL’s finances. The expansion scheme was roundly rejected by the people of London, as can be evidenced through his consultation, yet the Mayor, backed by the Lib Dems and the Greens in City Hall, all gleefully voted in favour of it. In fact, the Lib Dems boasted that it was their idea in the first place. The Mayor went ahead with this tax on motorists, and he did not even mention it in his manifesto to get elected.

I urge caution to those voters who are now being told by the Mayor that he will not bring in any more charges if he gets re-elected—do not believe it. We know that the Mayor of London is currently looking, and has employed people in TfL to look, at a pay-per-mile scheme, which means that every single car driver in Greater London will be charged not only for using their car, no matter whether it is compliant, but for how long and how far they drive it. We must reject that. We must get rid of the Mayor of London on 2 May and replace him with someone who will not charge car drivers, and that is Susan Hall.

Between 26 September and 6 November, in the early stages of the expanded ULEZ, something like 2,700 fines were issued in Sutton, and nearly 100,000 in London as a whole, once again proving that ULEZ is simply a money-making scheme. I have heard from many of my constituents that they have not been accepted for the scrappage scheme. Only about a third of applications in my borough have been accepted so far, yet these people simply cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles. That places a huge burden on people and is a threat to their livelihoods.

The ULEZ charge means that elderly people are isolated in their homes because they cannot afford to get in the car and leave, and people are not coming to visit them. Small businesses either have to pass the £12.50 charge on to their customers or absorb it, at a time when they are struggling as well. It means the Royal Marsden cancer hospital has to refund cancer patients £12.50 a day to come to Sutton to receive treatment for cancer. The NHS should not be having to reimburse ULEZ charges to cancer patients. There should not be ULEZ charges on cancer patients, and yet that is the reality we live with in Sutton. Nurses, doctors, teachers, parents, charities and businesses are all being affected by the ULEZ charge, and hard-working Londoners deserve better.

To conclude, I ask the Minister whether he will continue to work with me to see what we can do to improve public transport connectivity at a time when the Mayor is clearly not interested in doing so, and when the Lib Dems gave up on my area a long time ago. I very much welcome the Minister. He has been a great friend to Carshalton and Wallington. He has visited before in other Government roles, so I would be delighted to welcome him back to see the transport opportunities in Carshalton and Wallington.

Will the Minister reiterate from the Dispatch Box that the Mayor’s unwanted ULEZ charge on Londoners does not help my constituents? Labour should have backed the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford last week. The ULEZ charge places a burden on people at a time when they can least afford it. We should be looking to increase the public transport connectivity of London, rather than attacking those who cannot change to an alternative.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I call the ever-present Minister, Guy Opperman.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman)
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There is a sense of déjà vu for you and me, Mr Deputy Speaker, because the last debate before the House rose for Christmas featured yourself as the Deputy Speaker; the Transport Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), honourably fighting the fight on behalf of the Department for Transport; and my good self, making the case at the Dispatch Box on an Adjournment debate. It is a privilege and honour to be the last Minister to speak at the Dispatch Box before Easter.

I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), who said at the outset that we need to wish everybody in the House who works so hard to keep us safe in this place that we cherish, love and adore a very happy Easter and a gentle rest over the Easter holidays, so that we all emerge recharged, rebooted and ready to keep the flavour of democracy alive on an ongoing basis, because that really matters. Having the opportunity to address the House, make the case for democracy and for individual constituents, and bring their concerns, hopes, fears and aspirations to this place is something we should all cherish and adore.

It is a great honour and privilege to respond to my hon. Friend. I have visited his constituency in the past; I would be delighted to visit it again, and I look forward to doing so in the next few weeks. To answer his three points at the outset before I get into the nuts and bolts of the issue, I would be delighted to work with him on the causes he has set out and delighted to visit soon.

I am also delighted to make the case that ULEZ is a blunt instrument, and we will discuss that in a bit more detail, although I assure the House that we will not spend the next two hours and seven minutes discussing it. ULEZ is a blunt instrument that needs to be taken in the context of the individual circumstances of the Londoners and outer Londoners whom it affects. It needs to take into account the impact it has on low-income and public sector workers, because the stats on that are genuinely horrifying. It is not something—with great respect—that is being dealt with sensitivity. It is not being done under the Mayor’s manifesto. I was the Minister who responded to the Bill last Friday on behalf of the Government, and I will touch on that in some detail.

My hon. Friend raised a number of issues, which I want to address. The first is the issue of the Mayor and his finances because, as my hon. Friend will be aware and as the Secretary of State has put on the record in writing, the Mayor had to be bailed out by a multibillion-pound settlement due to his mismanagement of his funds. Clearly, that has had an impact on the provision of bus services, which are key. As the Minister for buses, I am passionate about buses and the growth in bus services post covid. I am alarmed and concerned to hear about the litany of bus services that have been lost in my hon. Friend’s constituency due to the actions of the Mayor.

I regret to say that I have no power whatsoever to intervene in the mayoral zone to address any of the bus losses or to nudge individual operators to make changes. I will come to rail in a second, because we have some power there. I know that my hon. Friend has worked with the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), in copious detail to address those issues. That is the reality of the mayoral situation on buses, and it is of great concern.

Only yesterday, I met my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Anna Firth) to have an hour-long discussion with bus operators to thrash out difficulties and try to find a way for the bus service improvement plan and bus service operators grant to address particular issues. That ability does not exist, unless the Mayor provides the right sort of assistance and prioritises the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington. On buses, regretfully I am powerless to intervene, but his constituents have the ultimate power to do so, and I urge them to do that for the reasons that he set out and that I utterly endorse. I put my backing behind Susan Hall.

I know that my hon. Friend has worked with the Rail Minister over a period of time to try to improve and enhance the rail service that his constituents sometimes have enjoyed and sometimes have not. As someone who commutes in from south London when I am here in Westminster, I have experienced some of that pain. I accept that there are ongoing difficulties, some of which have been addressed—he rightly identified the companies that have assisted him and played ball. We are at about 85% of pre-covid numbers. I assure him that the Rail Minister is happy to meet him, operators and particular cohorts of constituents and councillors to discuss potential improvements and further ongoing work that can be done.

My hon. Friend raised the important issue of the Croydon area remodelling scheme. I agree that it is clearly a massive improvement and enhancement that we should get behind. Such an investment will be a massive improvement and be of wider benefit to his constituents. On the other rail and infrastructure projects, he talked about Govia Thameslink Railway—GTR. He has worked closely with that operator on the services that it provides, particularly the busy weekend services between Carshalton and London Victoria, which are vital. He rightly made the point that timetable changes will take effect from June 2024, and services will run with eight to 10 carriages, rather than five as some did previously. I am sure that he will welcome the additional capacity for passengers using those services. We require all train operators to continually review the services they provide so that their timetables reflect changing passenger demand, carefully balancing cost, capacity and performance.

My hon. Friend raised Access for All, which he has championed repeatedly. He would love me to triumphantly pull out the Oscar-winning envelope from this Dispatch Box and confirm the campaign that he has fought for so assiduously for so long. I regret that I cannot do that today, but in time-honoured tradition I can confirm that the next announcement on extending Access for All and improving rail accessibility will be made very shortly. He has made his case repeatedly. If he has not again met the Rail Minister who oversees that issue, I will personally communicate that to him, so that he fully understands how much it matters to my hon. Friend’s constituents and how brilliantly he has made the case.

On ULEZ, there are a number of myths I want to address. We need a genuine discussion on this issue. My hon. Friend spent about five minutes of his speech on it, and I want to spend some time on it in response. The principle of having a clean air zone in the centre of a city is, I think, utterly without dispute. The Government legislated for that, and local authorities and mayors agree with it. For those of us who are right in the heart of the city in Westminster, the original congestion zone makes total sense and is fully understandable. There is an argument —it is a hard argument to make, but there is an argument—that there was authority to extend it out to the south circular and the north circular, and that that would be a wider congestion zone. But it is patently clear from reading the present Mayor of London’s manifesto—I spent rather too long reading it; an hour and a bit of my life I will never get back—that there is no argument whatever for the extension that has taken place. My hon. Friend rightly talked about the consultation and the responses to it. The best I can do is make two points.

First, take the congestion zone in Bristol, which is clearly relatively successful. It was introduced with due consideration of businesses and people living in the heart of the city, trying to keep a vibrant city going. That congestion zone is one mile by two—basically, two square miles. The London congestion zone has now gone up to approximately 600 square miles. It is 50 miles by 50 miles. The impact on the wider economy of London —park for a moment the air quality, because he rightly addressed that—is obviously massive. Everybody who lives and works in London can see that. It has had a tremendous impact on the businesses that we all want to support.

Secondly, there is a democratic deficit. When the ULEZ is extended so far out to those on the outer limits of London and those who live beyond the London boundary, they are clearly penalised in a very significant way. More particularly, the penalty falls on two groups. I take this from its own impact assessment, as I and others set out in the House on Friday. It falls on the low-income group and on public sector workers—surely the worst groups to be trying to penalise with an extra tax. Anybody who knows anything about the public sector knows it is really hard to get NHS workers, care workers and police officers in central London. I could go on.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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The Minister is absolutely right about public sector workers. I mentioned that the Royal Marsden Hospital is having to refund ULEZ charges to cancer patients. One other point we must surely consider is that something like half of all Metropolitan police officers live outside the geographical area of Greater London. No wonder people do not feel that they can come and work in the city if they have to pay £12.50 a day. Does the Minister agree that ULEZ will surely have an adverse effect on crime in London if the majority of our officers have to travel in and pay £12.50 a day to police our streets?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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My hon. Friend has brilliant eyesight, because he can see the highlighted passage I was about to read out, showing that 50% of police officers in the Metropolitan police area live outside the London boundary and commute in. The percentage for all emergency workers is probably not far off that. There is no doubt that there will be a recruitment issue in all those sectors. I have spent three and a half weeks of my life in St Thomas’ Hospital, requiring intensive care—and on not one but two occasions, because I am so accident prone. Someone may require overnight nursing care, for example, and a nurse coming into London from outside will be penalised on the day she comes in, and when she leaves her night shift she will be penalised again. She will be landed with a double whammy of a ULEZ charge—and then we are surprised that London hospitals are struggling to retain staff.

Is there evidence that ULEZ is making a dramatic difference to air quality? The evidence that has been set out in a variety of ways suggests that improvement is minimal in some respects, especially in the outer reaches. Is there an impact on the economy? Definitely: there is a negative impact. Is there an impact on public services, public sector workers and the low-income people who, according to the impact assessment, will be more affected by ULEZ expansion? There is not a shadow of a doubt that that is the case. I do not want to get too political on the last day before the Easter recess, but my hon. Friend asked what would happen in the future, and the idea that the present Mayor will not expand the impact of the ULEZ is for the birds. It is a bit like asking, “Are there moustaches in Mexico?” or “Do bears go to the toilet in the woods?” We both know that what the Mayor is proposing to do is to extend the present proposal in a variety of ways.

The key point that was made on Friday by my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr French), my right hon. Friends the Members for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Sir David Evennett) and for Ashford (Damian Green), my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon)—from a sedentary position—and various colleagues from Watford was that great thought should be given to the benefits of this public policy as against the massive burdens that are being imposed. We must clearly consider why we are doing this on an ongoing basis.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington remains a massive champion of this issue, and I should be delighted to see the changes that he seeks. Of course, the Rail Minister will continue to work with him, and good work is being done. We want to continue to support him and his constituents. I commend him for bringing the debate to the House before Easter, and I commend his efforts on behalf of his constituents.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(4 weeks, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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With great respect to the hon. Lady, she knows full well that her council attempted to have an active travel scheme in Jesmond, and it so messed it up that it had to scrap the scheme. The LTN was scrapped, and there were 23,000 objections and a considerable waste of money. With due respect, active travel is doing a great job, and we support it, but councils have to take local communities with them.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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7. What steps he is taking to improve rail services.

Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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Officials and I are focusing on improving rail services in the short and long term. This week, I brought together representatives from across the rail industry for a leaders in rail session to discuss how, collectively, we can make changes to deliver a better passenger experience. Longer term, we remain committed to bringing track and train back together under Great British Railways, and to continuing to build on the £100 billion of investment since 2010.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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Carshalton and Wallington is one of the poorer parts of London for connectivity. It was promised that the ultra low emission zone would bring additional public transport investment, but instead the 455 bus has been scrapped, the Go Sutton bus has been scrapped, the 410 bus service is being reduced, and the Superloop is just an existing bus route that has been rebranded. One thing that would improve connectivity is delivering on the Croydon area remodelling scheme that National Rail and Network Rail are working on to improve connectivity in London and the south-east. What discussions is the Department having with Network Rail about moving this project forward?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I thank my hon. Friend, who is an absolute champion of that project, and he makes his point clear. Upgrades made in the Gatwick area are already delivering significant improvements to the Brighton main line, and the industry continually reviews how best to respond to changes in demand. I understand that my hon. Friend has been in discussions with the operator on the options for increasing capacity on busy weekend services between Carshalton and London Victoria, and that Govia Thameslink Railway will shortly respond to him directly. I will continue to work with him on the enhancement project that he champions.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 14th December 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I was delighted to meet and engage with many of the different manufacturers from the UK only two weeks ago. I look forward to discussing the matter with them in more detail.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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T9. What conversations is the Minister having with Southern and Thameslink about increasing rail capacity and running longer services from Carshalton and Wallington, addressing the dangerous gap at Hackbridge station, and installing step-free access at Carshalton Beeches station?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I have met my hon. Friend and I appreciate the work that he does campaigning for the stations in his constituency. I have regular conversations with people from Govia Thameslink Railway, and I know that they have recently increased capacity on some busy services through Carshalton and Hackbridge. On Hackbridge station, I offer to meet him with a team from Network Rail to see whether we can address the matter that he mentions.

Road User Charging Schemes

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Monday 26th June 2023

(9 months, 4 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon (Orpington) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I would like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for leading the debate.

At the outset, I have to say that I fully support the sentiment of both the petitions we are discussing today, but I will primarily speak to the petition that refers to a desire to amend the GLA Act 1999 to remove the Mayor of London’s power to impose road user charges. The issue has been brought into very sharp focus by the Mayor of London’s decision late last year to move forward with the expansion of the ultra low emission zone to the Greater London boundary, a policy that I have spoken about in the House a number of times.

My Orpington constituents are part of the London Borough of Bromley, which will be impacted by the decision. My constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to the expansion of ULEZ, which they see quite rightly as a tax-grabbing scheme to fill the holes in Transport for London’s finances. Moreover, it is a tax-grabbing scheme misleadingly dressed up as an environmental measure. Despite a growing clamour and loud discontent, the Mayor is continuing with its implementation. Indeed, he has effectively made a mockery of the public consultation on his plans by ignoring the fact that it showed that over 60% of those consulted were against the scheme, including 70% of those living in outer London.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that TfL began ordering hundreds of the number plate recognition systems required for the expanded ULEZ in April 2022, a full month before the public consultation even started. Documents obtained by the London Assembly Conservative group show that the Mayor’s office, having been briefed that the vast majority of consultation responses coming in were opposed to the expansion, then attempted to influence the outcome by targeting an advertising campaign at particular groups of people who were more likely to respond favourably. There also appears to be a strong indication that City Hall attempted to suppress responses from certain individuals in order to make the outcome appear closer than it was.

It is completely clear that the Mayor was never interested in any opinion that did not concur with his own, including that of my constituents. Time and again, he has shown himself to be entirely unrepentant in his determination to impose prohibitively high extra costs on Londoners. Orpington simply does not have the public transport alternatives that exist in central London. We do not have the tube. We do not have trams. We have a bus network that is far from comprehensive and is unreliable. We have country lanes, farms and hedgerows. It is a vast place, and people need their cars to get around.

My inbox and postbag have been full of messages from people who are desperately worried because they own a non-compliant vehicle and can afford neither the daily charge nor the cost of a replacement vehicle. For some, the expansion will simply mean that they are not able to drive any more. Indeed a TfL-commissioned report by the consultancy firm Jacobs, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers), was published in May 2022 and warned of a disproportionate impact on low-income households due to their lesser capacity to switch to a compliant vehicle and/or to change mode.

The Labour party likes to hector everybody about the cost of living, but this scheme is by one of their own Mayors and it will hit people on low incomes the most, because they are more likely to have an older vehicle. Elderly constituents have written to me distraught about how they may no longer be able to go out and do their weekly shop or see family and friends because they cannot afford to drive their cars. They are terrified of isolation. They have survived the pandemic, but they may not survive this.

Single traders have told me that they will no longer be able to operate. Social care workers have told me that they will have to leave the profession. My local higher education college has told me that the impact on large numbers of their staff will be devastating. I must agree with small business owners, who are rightfully complaining that after the pandemic the ULEZ charge is a crippling additional cost they do not need at this time. Restaurants and venues within the ULEZ will see a reduction in footfall. The Mayor clearly fails to grasp that a painter and decorator or a builder or tree surgeon cannot take their tools up and down escalators and compete for space on public transport.

To add insult to injury, the scheme may close businesses in Orpington. One of my constituents recently told me that he will have to give up his business, because if he is forced to buy a new vehicle or pay £12.50 every day, it will no longer be viable. That is the reality of the situation—businesses closed, family visits severely restricted and workers worse off. All of that is about to be imposed by the Mayor of London at a time when the cost of living is increasing. That arrogance and total disregard for the great difficulties that will be imposed on less affluent people are driving my constituents to despair, and the scheme is entirely unnecessary.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he share my surprise that, when challenged in the London Assembly on the issue, a Labour member responded to those worried about the cost of living by saying, “Go and buy a new car; it will only cost £3,000.”?

Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon
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I would like to say that I am surprised by that answer, but I am afraid that I am not. It comprehensively shows the lack of grip from some of the people making the decisions that we are talking about. I remind Members present that every single member of the Labour group on the London Assembly voted in favour of this when they had the opportunity to stop it, as did every member of the Liberal Democrats group and every member of the Green group.

The Mayor’s own independently produced “London-wide ULEZ Integrated Impact Assessment” states:

“The Proposed Scheme is estimated to have a minor (NO2) to negligible (PM2.5)…impact on exposure to air pollution”.

Asthma UK ranks Bromley and Havering as the second and first boroughs, respectively, in terms of the cleanest air quality in the capital, so why should my constituents have the ULEZ imposed on them in this way? Improving air quality sounds great on paper and might earn the Mayor of London brownie points from rich Labour donors who finance anti-democratic pressure groups such as Just Stop Oil, but the reality is that the scheme will change little in terms of air quality.

Devolution, as personified in the form of elected metro Mayors, has created a form of electoral dictatorship in certain regions of the country. Most metro Mayors have almost no elected scrutiny of their actions and no local checks on their power. The London Assembly has done valuable work in scrutinising the Mayor, but in practice it is a toothless tiger in terms of its ability to check his power. The expanded ULEZ will do little to improve air quality, but it is likely to go ahead because the Mayor and local authorities have the power to create clean air zones even if they are flawed. That power needs urgent review.

Section 143 of the GLA Act 1999 appears to offer hope to my constituents, because on the face of it the section gives the Secretary of State for Transport the power to direct the Mayor of London with regard to his transport strategy under certain conditions. However, I am aware that Department for Transport lawyers apparently see that as a grey area. So let us put the issue beyond doubt and do the right thing: let us agree with the petitioners and seek to remove the power of Mayors and local authorities to unilaterally impose these charges.

--- Later in debate ---
Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I, too, thank my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for the way he presented the petitions. I totally agree with everything that has been said by my Conservative colleagues, and I do not want to be too repetitive. I will emphasise some really important points, not least of which are that this ULEZ expansion was not in the manifesto of the Mayor of London, that the consultation showed overwhelming opposition to it, and that, according to his own integrated impact assessment, it will do nothing to tackle air quality.

Gill Furniss Portrait Gill Furniss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In 2020, the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), a deputy chairman of the Conservative party, said:

“I fully support the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and its planned extension. The majority of car journeys in the Two Cities are not made by local people. They are travelling through, ruining our air quality.”

Why does the hon. Gentleman think she said that? How can he say that the Conservative party does not support ULEZ?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I am very happy to help the hon. Lady figure out what London looks like. Its geography comes from the two cities. The Conservative party did support the inner London low emission zone, but it does not support the greater London low emission zone, which applies to my constituency.

Gill Furniss Portrait Gill Furniss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

She is the deputy chair of your party!

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I have long been opposed to ULEZ.

Gareth Bacon Portrait Gareth Bacon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that the inner London ultra low emission zone is contained in the congestion charging zone, which has a massive surplus of public transport alternatives and demonstrably worse and less clean air than outer London? That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) was in favour of it while she was leader of Westminster City Council and why it was supported when it was initially consulted on under the mayoralty of Boris Johnson by the GLA Conservative group.

Outer London is completely different. It does not suffer from the same bad air or have the public transport alternatives. That may help the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Gill Furniss) to understand why there is a very big difference between the inner London ultra low emission zone and the outer London ultra low emission zone proposed by the Mayor.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Characteristically, and as a former member of the London Assembly, he is absolutely right. Indeed, I imagine that our hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) may have been less supportive at the time if she had known that, only a few years later, the Mayor would be looking to cut the historic No. 11 bus route out of central London and her constituency.

Richard Holden Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Richard Holden)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to intervene on my hon. Friend. I just thought it would be worth reflecting on the quote given by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson. Back in 2020, there was no proposal from the Mayor of London to expand ULEZ to the Greater London boundary, so whatever my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), who is not present, was saying in 2020—I am sure the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Gill Furniss) let her know that she was going to mention her in Westminster Hall—was not in support of whatever Mayor Khan has put forward. It was not anything about what is being debated today because that was not the ULEZ proposal of Mayor Khan at the time. That is largely the point of some of the petitioners who have been in touch about today’s debate.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. We are not under any real time pressure, but can I remind right hon. and hon. Members that interventions should be short and to the point? They are gradually getting longer and longer.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Mr Stringer. I will quickly move on then, and just say that the Minister is absolutely right.

Like other colleagues, I have seen at first hand in my postbag the local, organic opposition to ULEZ continue to grow—not just from my own petition, which is continuing to grow by hundreds of signatures every week, but from the very real stories that we are receiving from constituents about how expansion of ultra low emission zone will impact them. In Carshalton and Wallington alone, it is estimated that 30% of all vehicles will be deemed non-compliant; that means that roughly 30,000 cars will not be deemed compliant if the expansion goes ahead. How many people will be impacted by that? How many families? How many small businesses? How many pensioners? How many charities? These are real concerns voiced by real people, yet how are they portrayed? How are they dealt with? The Mayor of London, seemingly deaf to these concerns, labels them wackos, nutjobs and conspiracy theorists—and that is when he is not too busy trying to sell his book or going around the world advertising marijuana farms.

Where do my constituents go for help? The Mayor is not helping them—the Conservatives are the only party opposing the expansion—so what about their local council? Behind all the smoke and mirrors is the inescapable fact that the Liberal Democrats have been consistently pro-ULEZ. That dates back all the way to 2020 when it was actually a Lib Dem Assembly member who berated the Mayor for not introducing a whole-London ultra low emission zone. Then, closer to home, a Lib Dem Assembly member has welcomed the expansion of ultra low emission zone as “right and necessary” and Sutton’s Lib Dem councillors have been voicing their support for the expansion of ULEZ to our roads for years. One went so far as to state boldly on social media that

“Yes we are in favour of ULEZ”

and voted down a motion moved by the Conservative group on Sutton Council to call on the Mayor to drop it. Even now, even when they are trying to claw back some kind of credibility, they can still only go as far as to say that they want a delay. Well, a delay is not good enough. The only acceptable thing to do with ULEZ is to scrap it. I am looking towards the Opposition Benches: it does not surprise me that it is not only the Labour party who are not here, but the Lib Dems, too.

It is incredibly heartening to see Conservative colleagues working together across London and outside of it, and I congratulate the five Conservative-run councils that have brought forward this proposal. However, having heard your warning about this matter being sub judice, Mr Stringer, I will not go any further than that.

We are not only dealing with constituents who are frustrated and worried—worried to their wits’ end. There are also other groups and sectors who I fear have been left out of this conversation. One is charities—for many charities, buying a new ULEZ-compliant vehicle would be tantamount to financial ruin. I believe that speaks volumes about the weaknesses identified in the heavy-handed approach to ULEZ that has been adopted. Tens of thousands of Londoners, including many people in Carshalton and Wallington, will receive no help from the Mayor of London’s scrappage scheme and, as we have already heard, the scheme is not nearly enough even for those who do qualify. Many Government Members have long argued for a broader and more holistic approach, rather than the current scheme.

That goes back to the crux of the issue. The Mayor of London seeks to punish people for being unable to afford to upgrade their vehicle instead of encouraging people to have a greener lifestyle. Instead of spending millions of pounds on ULEZ enforcement cameras, he could have invested that money elsewhere—for example, on expanding London’s green bus fleet; improving the connectivity of outer London boroughs; beefing up the scrappage scheme; fixing the massive failures in his solar panel roll-out; or bringing back the boiler scrappage scheme that the last Mayor had in place.

Take Carshalton and Wallington as an example. Like the borough of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Gareth Bacon), we have a terrible public transport accessibility rating for a London borough: it is just 2. We do not have the tram, the London overground or the tube; we have bus networks and a limited number of national rail networks. As my hon. Friend said, those are often unreliable.

The expansion of the tram to Sutton was scrapped by this Mayor and yet he has the audacity to say that he will somehow improve the public transport network, which, in our case, is a super-loop bus that already exists and has a limited number of stops. How can my constituents get to work, visit friends and family, and go about their daily lives if they cannot afford the £12.50 daily charge and there is not a sufficient public transport network in place? The short answer is that they will not.

Rather than encouraging people to take action through proactive means, the Mayor has decided to go with the heavy-handed approach of slapping hardworking Londoners—the least well-off in our communities—with an arbitrary fee just to leave their driveways. That is not the way to do things, so I urge the Government to consider again the petitioners’ asks. We cannot allow this ULEZ expansion to go ahead.

--- Later in debate ---
Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There have been no recent proposals from the Opposition Front Bench when it comes to actual cash. We have just approved a new plan of £500 million supporting bus services across the country, and a £2 fare cap. That is money that we have put in to support fare schemes in the combined authority areas, which I know Labour mayors up and down the country like to take credit for. That is money that the Government have been investing right across the country, whether in Greater Manchester or Greater London.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

Does the Minister share my confusion that Labour’s argument for ULEZ, advanced in this place and in our local areas, is that local authorities have been forced to do this, and that they do not want to? That is not what the Mayor of London is saying. The Mayor of London has written a whole book about how proud he is of the ultra low emission zone. Does my hon. Friend think that is really the best that Labour can come up with?

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I tend to agree with my hon. Friend. The Mayor put the idea of an expanded ULEZ in his manifesto, but it was not the expanded zone that we see today, which was only delivered by the votes of the Labour party, the Lib Dems and the Greens in the London Assembly. They voted to extend it right to the outer borders of Greater London, rather than what the Mayor of London had proposed in his manifesto.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough shouted at me from a sedentary position that whatever we are providing for the bus sector is still not enough. I would love her to tell me how much more we should put in. When I speak to Labour politicians at the moment, none of them can tell me. They have no plan. They are just an opportunistic Opposition. This Government have put more than ever before into the bus network. We have capped prices for working people, which is something the Labour party never did when it was in office. Right up and down the country we have put in the new bus service operators grant of 22p per kilometre, which now includes electric buses—something that was not the case just a few years ago. We remain committed to an end date for non-zero emission buses, and that consultation will be reported on soon.

Rail Services: Carshalton and Wallington

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Wednesday 26th April 2023

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move,

That this House has considered rail services in Carshalton and Wallington constituency.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. This is not the first time that I have had to raise rail provision in the Carshalton and Wallington constituency, and I am sure it will not be the last. First of all, I thought it might be useful for me to outline the situation that my constituents currently face when it comes to local public transport provision. Being situated in a London borough—the London Borough of Sutton—many people will assume that Carshalton and Wallington is incredibly well-connected in its public transportation. However, if anyone looked at my own casework inbox, they would see that that is far from the case.

Broadly, the borough has an average public transport accessibility level, or PTAL, of just 2, with parts of my constituency ranking at level 1 or even zero. What is more, Sutton continually ranks at the bottom of connectivity surveys and is the only London borough not to have access to an underground, overground or Crossrail station. As you can imagine, Dame Maria, that puts enormous strain on the existing public transport network, especially the rail service, which is not helped by the limited bus system.

The strain is felt across all four local train stations: Carshalton, Wallington, Hackbridge and Carshalton Beeches. It is not just the gap at Hackbridge station—I will talk more about that later—that my constituents have to consider, but the gap in overall service. That is because trains running through these stations take commuters north to central London, particularly London Bridge and Victoria, and south to Sutton, Epsom, Dorking, Horsham and further afield. Even before the pandemic, many of the peak services would already be at capacity by the time they reached one of our local stations, and well before they reached their intended destination. I had not been in this place for long before lockdown, but emails from constituents attested to cramped and uncomfortable journeys. I had experienced such journeys myself, as someone who used to commute from those stations. Indeed, I now commute every day to this place.

Fast forward to today, and post pandemic the situation is largely unchanged, just with fewer trains. Despite the return to user levels reminiscent of pre-lockdown levels—at least, that seems to be the case—commuters in Carshalton and Wallington still have to face very cramped peak-time trains.

I have met representatives from Govia Thameslink Railway—the parent company of both Southern and Thameslink, which operate in our four stations—and from Network Rail, and I have brought up the need for more trains to call at Carshalton and Wallington stations during peak times. I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on the work the Government are doing to hold rail providers to account and bring back a full return to pre-pandemic services, and indeed to build upon them.

There are other issues that affect rail provision and the ability to boost the number of trains that can run effectively and on time, or even at all. For residents of Carshalton and Wallington, the train timetable tells one story, but the reality on the station platforms tells a very different one. Our lines are bedevilled with cancellations because of broken trains, a lack of drivers or signalling faults; at least, those are the reasons we are given. I hope that the Minister can shed some light on the work that the Government are doing to tackle those issues.

The other thing I find slightly confusing is that a reason that is often given for not reinstating peak service train timetables in the morning is that more people use the rail service at the weekend, and yet many of my constituents say that at weekends they cannot get a train and have to use replacement bus services, because engineering works are taking place. That becomes incredibly difficult, and I find it very confusing why engineering works cannot be done more efficiently.

I want to touch on infrastructure in a bit more detail. Much of the existing infrastructure is outdated and unreliable, which often means that trains that are scheduled to run are unable to do so, or that there are slower turnaround times for those that can run. Indeed, the infrastructure on the railway network in south London is preventing what is known as the metroisation of suburban rail services in London—the “turn up and go” service that we experience on the London overground. I know that there is an ambition to bring that to some national rail services, particularly in suburban London. With the infrastructure as it is, it is just not possible to achieve that.

I know the Government are already doing a number of things to try to ensure that not just Carshalton and Wallington residents, but the whole country, can reach its connectivity potential. Those things include electrification, digital signalling and better co-ordination between operators and Network Rail, the latter of which would hopefully alleviate many of the problems that we face with frequent service disruption. I would be grateful for an update from the Minister as to where we are in better fulfilling those connectivity challenges through advancements and improvements.

One of the biggest problems preventing us from having a more regular rail timetable is congestion on the railway line. That all comes down to the Selhurst junction—the so-called Croydon bottleneck. Network Rail has drawn up the Croydon area remodelling scheme to try to alleviate congestion at that junction, which is the main junction of the Brighton main line and suburban south London. Not only will the knock-on effects allow more trains and more frequent and reliable services on the Brighton main line, but suburban south London, including Carshalton and Wallington, will be able to run more trains, and more effective and longer trains. If finally implemented, the bottleneck scheme could not only unlock capacity in the south but improve economic output. I would be grateful if the Minister gave an update on the Government’s position on the Croydon bottleneck scheme and what can be done to reignite its potential.

While I fully accept that solutions to some of these issues may take some time to implement, some issues can be dealt with a lot more quickly. Even if more trains appeared on our timetables overnight, there would still be the issue of the trains calling at our stations, particularly Hackbridge and Carshalton Beeches stations. I have spoken to the Minister about this before, so I hope he will forgive me for repeating it. Hackbridge station has two main problems. First, it can only accommodate seven cars, when most of the trains that go through it at peak times have eight cars or more. If the platform were extended to accommodate at least eight cars—preferably 10— it would mean more safety for commuters waiting on that platform, particularly in the morning when the northbound platform towards central London can get very cramped.

Secondly, the southbound platform at Hackbridge has a very serious safety concern at the front end, where the gap between train and platform is so big that it has led to a number of accidents involving constituents falling in that gap, and stalling the rail network as a result. Thankfully, GTR and Network Rail have agreed to lower the level of the track to make it safer. However, they have not committed to completing that work until 2027. I do not think that is fast enough, because this is a very serious safety concern. The gap is so big that even a ramp is an unsafe alternative for those who have mobility problems. I am concerned about someone really hurting themselves by falling down the gap. That has happened already; we have avoided something incredibly serious, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

At Carshalton Beeches station we have connectivity problems, because the southbound platform does not have step-free access. I have applied many times to the Access for All fund to try to make that right. Those who are travelling back to Carshalton Beeches from central London or other parts of the rail network have to carry on through to Sutton, change platforms and then come back to Carshalton Beeches to disembark safely. As someone who passionately believes that the rail network should be accessible to all, I do not think that those with mobility problems should be subjected to that. What opportunities might there be to apply for the funding to finally make all four of my local stations completely step-free, both northbound and southbound.

In a debate about public transport in my constituency, it would be remiss of me not to mention the ultra-low emission zone. Although it is not directly related to rail services, there is a problem here connected to public transport provision. My constituents are faced with the real possibility that in August they will have to pay £12.50 a day just to use their vehicles in Carshalton and Wallington, as will people planning to visit the local area. The retort of, “Just get on public transport” does not work if we consider the state of the public transport network, as I have set out. The lack of rail services and other public transport infrastructure, and the unreliability of the service that does exist, further adds to the headache my constituents face when going about their day-to-day business.

I reiterate my call to the Mayor of London to scrap plans to expand the ULEZ. My call is backed by the Liberal Democrats and the Green party, and I hope the Minister will join me in it, too. This is the wrong time, and the plans will not work. I sincerely hope that I have the Government’s support on that. Yes, there are issues holding up full restoration of pre-pandemic peak services, but there are a number of solutions, too. These vary in implementation length, depending on the work needed to put them in place. However, solutions will free up capacity, increase usage and unleash unrealised potential across Carshalton, Wallington and further afield.

I sincerely hope that we can hear some Victorian-level ambition for our railway network from the Minister today. Rail does not have to be a relic of a bygone age. It can help super-charge our local economy and unlock new growth, not just for my area but for the rest of south London and the UK. The potential of a well resourced, well built and well serviced railway is exponential—so long, of course, as the Government’s rail plans remain on track.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 19th January 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is very much to do with it. The fact that the rest day working agreement is not being delivered means there is a real problem, which fundamentally argues the case for reform to working practices.

On the hon. Lady’s narrower question about transparency in P-coding, the rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), will be meeting the Office of Rail and Road to discuss exactly that issue, to ensure that passengers have a transparent understanding of rail performance.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

9. What steps he is taking to improve rail services.

Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The current sustained poor performance on the railways is unacceptable, and the industry needs to make significant improvements to deliver the punctual, reliable services that passengers and taxpayers deserve. We are addressing immediate issues in the sector by engaging and facilitating discussions between employers and trade unions to bring about a resolution to the industrial dispute. As the Secretary of State said, the Government will shortly set out the next steps for reform of the rail industry.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I welcome the Minister’s comments, but rail services in Carshalton and Wallington are still not back to pre-pandemic levels, and there are regular delays, industrial action and timetable changes by Southern and Thameslink. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to unblock the Croydon bottleneck, which is the real cause of congestion in south London, and to improve rail services for Carshalton, Wallington, Hackbridge and Carshalton Beeches commuters?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As a user of Southern for many years before I switched to Southeastern, I understand my hon. Friend’s points. I thank him for standing up for his constituents who use the services. The Department remains committed to working with Govia Thameslink Railway and Network Rail to address performance issues. Peak service provision for Carshalton and Wallington users is at pre-pandemic levels, although passenger numbers remain lower. I take his overall point about the entire service. I also share his desire to see improvements delivered for rail services in the south-east. For this reason, we have recently implemented upgrades to the track and signalling north of Gatwick airport, which will deliver journey time savings and improved reliability across the Brighton main line.

Expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Tuesday 20th December 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for his question. What is the Mayor spending the money on? He is spending it on local transport. Every single penny raised by the ULEZ is being spent on local transport, which is exactly what we need. That is the way we are going to overcome the toxic air that is killing our constituents.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Could the hon. Lady outline where the new public transport infrastructure is? What exactly are the improvements that the Mayor is apparently giving us?

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not here to talk about local infrastructure, but we have to invest in the local public transport infrastructure so that we can overcome this problem. I had to give up my car—it was a diesel car— when the first ULEZ came in, and I do not have a car now. I rely entirely on public transport, but it has to be improved. How will we get the money to do that? The expansion of the ULEZ is one way to get that money. I hope to hear from the Government how they will fund public transport in London, if that is the key factor that we need.

Nearly 10 years after Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah became the first person to have air pollution recorded as a cause of death, people in Dartford and London are still breathing toxic air. Poor communities and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities—those who are least likely to have a car—are the worst affected by air pollution. We have to take action.

In Wandsworth, the borough where my constituents live, 129 deaths a year are attributable to the effects of toxic air. That is such a shocking figure. Knowing that I was taking my children to school and exposing them to toxic air every day really worries me, and it worries all my constituents too. Currently the ULEZ goes through Putney, but it is not a wall—the world has not ended, life has carried on and travel has continued. It is not the hard-and-fast border it is being portrayed as.

Expanding the ULEZ will reduce NOx emissions by 10%, and PM2.5 exhaust emissions by nearly 16%, and prevent 27,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from being released. It will lead to a nearly 10% reduction in NOx emissions from cars in outer London, on top of the 30% reduction in road transport NOx emissions that is already expected from the current ULEZ and the tighter low-emission zone standards. It works, and it should continue. We need to have this action.

I welcome the news from the Mayor of London that, as part of the ULEZ expansion, he is introducing a scrappage scheme to support residents on lower incomes, as well as businesses and charities. It is the biggest scrappage scheme yet, at £110 million, and it will help those in Putney and every other area who are on low incomes and who need support to replace or retrofit their cars. I am pleased that the Mayor has also introduced new grace periods for disabled people, allowing them more time to adapt to change.

--- Later in debate ---
Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) on securing the debate, because much of what he and other colleagues have said so far about the impact that this scheme is going to have on their constituents certainly rings true for Carshalton and Wallington.

I note that not a single Liberal Democrat has turned up to the debate. Given that the Lib Dems voted for this policy in the Greater London Assembly, actually lamented that it took Labour so long to implement its policy and two Lib Dem boroughs have passed motions to support it, including Sutton, I am surprised that none of them could be bothered to come and defend it, but there we go.

I do not want to repeat what has been said about the ULEZ so far, but I want to highlight the severe impact this change will have on people in Carshalton and Wallington. As the Minister for London, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully), who is no longer in his place, pointed out, 30% or 30,000 vehicles in the London Borough of Sutton are non-compliant, according to TfL’s own data. That is 30,000 people whose livelihoods will be impacted by this change in a matter of months, as the Mayor has given people next to no time to prepare for it.

As has been said already, this change will hit the poorest Londoners hardest. What many will not be aware of, and will be shocked to hear, is that there are no exemptions in this ULEZ expansion to support small businesses, charities, keyworkers or the elderly, and there is very little in place to support disabled people. These are people who rely on their cars.

Sutton has a public transport accessibility level of just 2, because we have no tram, no tube network, no London Overground and no Crossrail. We have a few National Rail services to central London, which are currently being reduced due to Govia Thameslink Railway’s timetable changes, and a limited bus network. We have also seen this Mayor of London cut the Tramlink extension from Croydon to Sutton, despite the money already being in place when he took office, and we have had no investment or improvement in our bus network.

The question a lot of my constituents are asking is: “What can I do?” They cannot afford £12.50 a day. They cannot afford an annual fee of £4,500, or even the £3,000 that is the more conservative estimate for those who do not use their car every day. My hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr French) has already outlined that the scrappage scheme lauded as the apparent solution does not, in reality, even touch the sides. Back in May, even Sadiq Khan himself said that the scrappage scheme would need something like £180 million to cover everyone who would be affected, and even that was probably an underestimate. Furthermore, the scheme is open to those who were rejected last time, and two thirds of people were rejected last time. It is a system that will only breed more disappointment and discontent, with more people missing out.

The scrappage scheme is not the answer, but what is the Mayor’s answer, and what is Labour’s answer? I can tell hon. Members, because they were asked in the London Assembly. My London Assembly Member, Neil Garrett, asked the Mayor of London, “What should I tell my constituents if they can’t afford this charge?” The answer, not from the Mayor, but from a Labour Assembly Member was, almost word for word, “Well, a new car that is compliant is only about £3,000. Just go and buy one.” That is the political equivalent of Paris Hilton wearing a t-shirt saying “Stop being poor”.

That is the answer people are getting from the Labour party, backed up by the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, who are all saying the same thing: “If you can’t afford it, tough. You are going to have to live with it, or give up your car, give up your job and move out of London. You are not welcome here.”

I commend the work that is being done by Conservative-run boroughs in outer London, including Bromley, Bexley, Croydon, Harrow and Hillingdon, to do everything they possibly can, but I would like the Minister to feel the anger from our constituents and the huge impact that this change will have, not just on individuals, but on businesses and charities, and on the most vulnerable who live in outer London, and outside London.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford set out very eloquently, this is taxation without representation for many people living on the outskirts of London. I represent a constituency that borders Surrey. The border between my constituency and Surrey is a small country lane, which leads from the lavender fields into Woodmansterne—this is not somewhere with huge trunk roads and traffic coming in and out of London. Yet the people who live on the other half of Carshalton Road have no say in who the Mayor is and cannot do anything about this policy.

I strongly urge the Minister to take this away. I would be grateful to hear what advice he has received about the Government’s powers in this respect, and I ask him to join us in urging the Mayor of London to scrap this policy. It will hit the poorest Londoners and our constituents the hardest, and it will do little to nothing to tackle air quality; as we heard so eloquently from my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Gareth Bacon), the Mayor’s own impact assessment says that it has nothing to do with air quality. The policy has no public support and he does not have a mandate for it in his manifesto.

In reality, if this is not about air quality what is it about? We have already heard that it is about money, but it is about much more than that. TfL has already employed people to work on a road user charging scheme. Once these cameras are in place, be in no doubt that the Mayor of London is keen to expand the ultra low emission zone to be a road user charging scheme instead; he will expand the eligibility of the number of cars that are captured by it.

The ultimate goal for this Mayor—he has been quite open about this in his own consultation documents—is to have a policy whereby every single Londoner is charged every single time they use their car, regardless of how new or old it is. That is what he wants, and the camera network for ULEZ is the first step towards that. We need to stop it and he needs to rethink; otherwise, we will see a massive amount of problems coming from our constituents who cannot pay this unaffordable charge.

Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Dean Russell, with a maximum of seven minutes.

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Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) on securing the debate.

I am going to scrap my speech for a second. One of the great honours of living in London for part of the week is understanding how absolutely fantastic the public transport system is. If you try to get back to Manchester today on an Avanti train, Godspeed to you all. If you have tried to get across the Pennines over the last few months, Godspeed to you all. I have had the great honour in my nearly nine years as an MP to spend one day a month walking in London. I have done the London loop, so unfortunately I have walked through most of the places represented by the hon. Members present, including Orpington, Petts Wood, Ruislip, Wallington and Watford. What a beautiful place London is. I am still astonished by the quality of the public transport system, which is second to none on this planet and the envy of everybody outside this great conurbation.

Every year, 4,000 Londoners die prematurely due to poisonous air, and the greatest number of deaths are in outer London boroughs, with 11 Londoners dying prematurely every day. Air pollution is quite simply a matter of life and death; it makes our communities sick. Despite the Government’s promise that there would be no weakening of environmental targets post Brexit, it seems that they are refusing to match the EU standards, setting a weaker target while sentencing our children and communities to an unnecessary 10 years of toxic air.

The challenge is threefold: we must tackle toxic air pollution, we must deal with the climate emergency, and we must deal with traffic congestion. I was at the Sutton Ecology Centre at the weekend, and I saw just how congested the A232 is and the problems there.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the A232 is only congested because the Mayor of London has scrapped the A232 review that he promised to do?

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The A232 is actually congested because there are too many vehicles on it—that is what congestion is. London is a beautiful town, so I do not know why we allow it to happen. It is incredible to me.

The Government’s own watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, says that the Government have failed to announce new targets, as they should have done under the Environment Act 2021, and that the new Government air quality targets are too weak and will condemn another generation to poor air.

We know that around 85% of vehicles driving in outer London already meet the pollution standards. Mayor Khan has introduced the biggest scrappage scheme yet: £110 million in support for Londoners on low incomes, disabled Londoners, micro-businesses and charities to scrap or retrofit their non-compliant vehicles. He has extended the exemption period for them and for community transport. As the hon. Member for Orpington (Gareth Bacon) said, the scheme was devised under the last Mayor of London, but it has taken Mayor Khan to implement it.

As was already pointed out, the Mayor also announced plans to add an extra 1 million kilometres to the bus network—much of that in outer London. Again, that requires leadership and support from central Government. The Government’s clean air fund excludes applications from London boroughs and the Greater London Authority. London’s share would amount to around £42 million, which would have gone a long way to expanding or supporting the Mayor’s £110 million scrappage fund.

I am a Greater Manchester MP. We have had problems. There are nitrogen dioxide sewers—controlled by Highways England—going through my constituency. If those roads were factories, they would have been shut down. They are simply not acceptable in this day and age. Local authorities were given a legal direction to clean up the air by 2024, and like Birmingham, Bradford and Portsmouth, they had to act, but Ministers have comprehensively failed to provide the necessary funding. Ministers need to help families and small businesses switch to electric vehicles, and they must take action to expand charging infrastructure. Plumbers who use their vans for work are being priced out of this revolution. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson) for having two brothers who are plumbers—wouldn’t we all want that?

This week, we learned that instead of charging ahead, the Government are slipping back on the charging infrastructure strategy. Rapid charging fund trials have been delayed, changes to planning rules have been kicked into the long grass, and take-up of the on-street charging scheme is anaemic. Labour’s plan for green growth will drive jobs, tackle the cost of living and help to clean up toxic air. There will be help for families with the cost of switching to electric vehicles, and we will provide the action we need to tackle toxic air. Britain is the only country in the developed world where private bus operators set routes and fares with no say from the public. That is not the case in London, but it is for bus services outside London. I was delighted to see the work that Andy Burnham has done as Mayor of Greater Manchester in setting the £2 fares, which the Government are now copying.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Putney, who spoke eloquently about the problems of Putney High Street, which is one of the most polluted places in the country. As somebody who rides a bike to Richmond Park occasionally, I have to go and experience it. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies); he is in charge of his facts, and gave powerful personal testimony about asthma and his children.

Let me say this to Conservative Members, genuinely and from the bottom of my heart: where there are low-traffic neighbourhoods, and where cars are tackled, electoral popularity rises. Tackling air pollution is electorally popular. I look at the percentage chances of Conservative Members winning their seats in the next election. In Dartford, they have a 64% chance of losing. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer) has a 57% chance of losing. The hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) has a 64% chance of losing. No wonder the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) is going on about the Lib Dems—they have a 52% chance of winning that seat.

Rail Cancellations and Service Levels

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is another esteemed member of the Transport Committee and I thank him for what he does. I heard some responses from Opposition Members. Perhaps I can set the tone on this: I will work collaboratively with the trade unions, and I recognise that they have a role to play in representing their members, and that they can influence change, because they can deliver it. I want to do that and have always done that with the trade union leaders with whom I have worked. They have that pledge from me.

I will meet Mick Lynch tomorrow and I very much hope that we can have a good conversation. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. When push comes to shove, the train operators, Network Rail and the Government are not putting the strikes on; the trade unions are. They have the choice as to whether we go ahead with a really damaging December for the railway and the economy, or whether we lift that gloom and have a good, positive Christmas. It is in their hands and I very much hope that they take the opportunity to take down the strikes.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

This is not just about Avanti and Northern Rail. Commuters coming from Carshalton, Wallington, Hackbridge and Carshalton Beeches stations are also struggling because of morning commuter changes made by Govia Thameslink Railway. Will the Minister agree to another meeting with me and colleagues representing constituencies served by Southern and Thameslink to ensure that that issue can be tackled?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend. He talked about other colleagues in the GTR network and that includes me, because that is an operator in my constituency. We recognise that improvements are needed from GTR, and officials are working with GTR in that regard. That is important; I recognise that although this urgent question is about cancellations to the north, we should be talking about service improvements that need to be made to the entire network.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 24th November 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Although Elliot Colburn is not here, will the Minister answer question 2 to allow us to bring in the shadow Minister?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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2. What assessment he has made of the level of public support for ultra low emission zone schemes.

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Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her question; I will certainly meet her. I know how important bus services are, and I will also be meeting, hopefully in the near future, local authorities across the north-east so that we can hopefully deliver that £163 million for them as well.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Two thirds of Londoners have said no to the Mayor of London expanding the ultra low emission zone to the whole of Greater London. Will my right hon. Friend join me and Conservative MP colleagues to tell the Mayor of London that it is not for the poorest Londoners to foot the bill for his financial failures?

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I said earlier, how to respond to the consultation and proceed is a matter for the Mayor to consider. I know that my hon. Friend has had a massive campaign on this issue, with over 5,000 people getting in touch with him about ULEZ. If hon. Members really want to see this policy changed, the best thing they can do is replace the Mayor of London at the next election.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 19th May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Trudy Harrison Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Trudy Harrison)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State has made it clear that we are always looking for ways to assist with the cost of living and, indeed, driving. Any decision to substantively modify testing requirements will be subject to appropriate consultation and legislation. It is right to keep the system under review, but no decision has been made and we will take seriously the responses from the consultation.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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T6. Even before the pandemic, rail services to and from Carshalton, Carshalton Beeches, Hackbridge and Wallington stations were congested and infrequent, but Govia Thameslink Railway is still operating a reduced timetable as people return to the railways. What discussions has my hon. Friend had with GTR to encourage it to get back to pre-pandemic levels and, indeed, fund the Croydon area remodelling scheme to put more trains on?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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As I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, the pandemic has really changed travel habits. Operators are using this opportunity to reassess services to ensure that they provide the rail timetables that meet new passenger travel patterns and are fit for the future, but also, importantly, carefully balance cost, capacity and performance. Our new timetables are demand-led. Where operators have modified their timetables we will keep them under review as appropriate.