Humber Estuary (Bridge)
2. Mr. Wall
asked the Minister of Transport if he will now make a statement about the Government's proposals for bridging the Humber Estuary.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)
As said on a number of occasions, decisions on the construction of this bridge must await the Government's consideration of the Humberside study.
Why is not this bridge on the Government's list of priority bridges? Does the Minister expect the Government to fulfil before the next General Election the undertaking which was given at the North Hull by-election?
I am happy to repeat the exact words used by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment [column 2]and Productivity on this subject in the House in January 1967. She said:
“The Government will make decisions … when they have considered the results of the current planning studies. … The Bridge will be given a place in the road programme so as to fit in with the development” —
“in the 1970s if need be …” —[Official Report, 25th January, 1967; Vol. 739, c. 1494.]
Hull (A63 Congestion)
7. Mr. Wall
asked the Minister of Transport when the M62 will be continued from the A1 intersection to Hull.
Mr. Bob Brown
Alternative lines for the section of the M62 between Ferry-bridge on the A1 and Gilberdyke on the A63 have been investigated and the decision is now being considered on the choice of line on which further preparation is to continue.
Since the Government have been in power nothing has been done to improve Hull's communications with North-South traffic routes apart from the by-pass at Elloughton, and as nothing more is suggested, does the hon. Gentleman realise the loss to the port of Hull because of congestion on the A63?
I fail to know why the hon. Member makes that assertion when the original M62 ended at Ferrybridge. The Gilberdyke extension was designed as a spur to carry Humberside traffic across the Ouse on the A63.
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that there is a considerable amount [column 3]of industrial as well as domestic development awaiting investigation into the planning of the M62 and the sooner it can be done the better it will be for all concerned, including a number of impatient industrialists?
I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend. I can assure him that we are pursuing this matter with the greatest diligence.
Automatic Rail Crossing
11. Mr. Barnes
asked the Minister of Transport how many automatic half-barriers he has authorised at level crossings in built-up areas since the publication of the Hixon report.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Neil Carmichael)
Is my hon. Friend aware that British Rail is planning to install an automatic crossing at Grove Park Terrace, Chiswick, only 100 yards or so from the entrance to a primary school? Would he agree that it would be helpful to give general guidance to British Rail that such areas are unsuitable for these crossings?
Following the Hixon inquiry, the whole question of automatic half-barrier crossings was gone into fully and each site proposed for a crossing is very carefully examined. The local authority make representations and these are taken into account before such a crossing is authorised. Every precaution is taken to see that the crossing is suitable for the site before a decision is made to go ahead with it.
Has the hon. Gentleman considered any improvements to the design of the actual barriers in situations such as this?
The Hixon inquiry suggested that an industrial designer should be appointed to consider design and presentation of automatic half-barrier crossings. A first report has been received and is being studied and some alterations will follow from the report.
Motorway Service Stations (Aircraft Landing Strips)
12. Mr. Dood-Parker
asked the Minister of Transport what consideration is [column 4]being given to the provision of landing strips for light and short take-off and landing aircraft and helicopters at or near service stations on motorways.
Mr. Bob Brown
In view of the interest in this, shown by the number of telephone calls I have received since it was mentioned on the B.B.C. this morning, will the Minister undertake to earmark land alongside service stations and receive representations so that this matter can be looked into?
That is a completely different question. The Question refers to service stations as such.
Mr. J. H. Osborn
Is the Minister aware that there is a site near a motorway intersection, namely, M1 and M18, and near a service station at Todwick close to Sheffield, where the local authority wishes to purchase the land? Will he give that project every encouragement?
This will receive consideration as and when we hear from the local authority concerned.
15. Mr. Dalyell
asked the Minister of Transport what is his estimate of the cost of bridges and tunnels on the Trans-Pennine Way.
The estimated cost of bridges, excluding minor structures, on the 43¼ miles of the Lancashire—York-shire Motorway, M62, between Worsley and the Lofthouse Interchange with the M1 is £14.21 million. There are no tunnels proposed.
Whilst not grudging facilities for the citizens of Manchester and Sheffield, is it not a little rough on those of us who live near bridges over water such as on the Forth? Why should a construction which cost, according to the Answer, some £4 million less than the Forth Bridge carry no tolls, whilst those of us who live near the Forth Bridge have to pay tolls?
For large estuarial crossings the only alternative route is much less convenient. The toll does not cause any material diversion of traffic. Toll collection costs are comparatively [column 5]low, because they are concentrated in the one place. There is a great saving in time and convenience for motorists in large estuarial crossings. Motorists do not need to go all the way round or alternatively wait for a ferry: there is a very genuine saving for them.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the 1964 manifesto in Scotland indicated that in the view of the Government Party such tolls as that on the Forth were indefensible?
But there have been a number of changes. Since then there has been a speeding up of bridges and estuarial crossings. This was considered to be a fair way to pay for these crossings which brought such advantage to the motorist and others. It was considered that the toll was a fair way to meet the expense.
16. Mr. Dalyell
asked the Minister of Transport what has been the annual revenue from tolls on the Severn Bridge since opening; and what was the cost of collection.
In the first full financial year April 1967 to March 1968 revenue was £740,689 and the operating costs of collection were £42,185 or 5.7 per cent.
According to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the cost of collecting revenue through tolls is twelve times the cost of collecting similar revenue by Selective Employment Tax. What conclusions does my hon. Friend draw from this?
They are two quite distinct forms of charging. Over the whole variety of Government taxes there must be wide variations in cost of collection. This does not mean that one method is invalid because it is less costly or more costly than another.
18. Mr. Berry
asked the Minister of Transport how many miles of motorway were started and how many miles were completed in 1968.
Mr. Bob Brown
Work on site started on some 97½ miles during 1968 and con[column 6]tracts were awarded for a further 42½ miles shortly before the end of the year. Approximately 30 miles were completed.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the total completed is even less than that forecast in February of last year? Can he give an assurance that the contracts now in operation can be coped with without any danger of shortage of materials, which could lead to delays and then to higher prices?
I cannot give any guarantee that no slippage will occur. No one can guarantee that.
Mr. John Lee
When will the M4 be completed? Can we be assured that there will be no delay in its completion?
If my hon. Friend cares to table a Question on that I will give him a reply.
Why is the amount started and completed so far short of target? Is it because there was a major contribution by the Ministry of Transport to the reduction in public expenditure and the burden of falling public expenditure is falling on the motorist?
No, this is not so. There are many reasons for a slip in the planned programme for a scheme, not the least being those arising from the deep impact which road construction makes on people and on property. It has always been the policy that people's rights should be safeguarded and that their objections to new road proposals affecting them should be seriously and conscientiously considered. I am sure that the hon. Lady would not demur from this view.
North Circular Road
19. Mr. Berry
asked the Minister of Transport when he expects the North Circular Road to be of dual carriageway standard throughout its length.
Mr. Bob Brown
By the late 1970s, except for a very few short lengths.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree that this road is at present the only ring road in the north of London and is, therefore, of tremendous importance? Will he bear in mind two points? First, can we have more flyovers and underpasses such as are now being [column 7]started on the A4088? Secondly, where houses will be affected and knocked down, will he, first, give maximum warning to the occupants and, secondly, and even more importantly, will he ensure that they have adequate compensation when the time comes?
On the second point, we are goverened by the statutory processes which we must follow, so the hon. Gentleman need seek no assurance on that. The question of more underpasses will be considered in the design stage.
Chesterton Bridge Route, Cambridge
27. Mr. Lane
asked the Minister of Transport on what date he now expects construction of the Chesterton Bridge route in Cambridge to begin; and what proposals he has for shortening the preparatory process for urban road schemes of this kind.
Mr. Bob Brown
Construction is expected to begin in June 1969. We are concerned that the preparatory processes for schemes of this kind should be completed as rapidly as possible, but we must have, of course, regard to the interests of those affected.
While I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for confirming that date and for all the information which he has given me in correspondence, may I ask whether he does not accept that the preparatory processes in schemes of this kind seem often to take an unacceptably long time? Will he not have another look at this with other colleagues concerned to see whether new processes could be devised which would still safeguard individuals but shorten the typical time?
This is something that we are always looking at, but the rights of the individual are the main consideration in any scheme. Clearly, if we can ever shorten the processes, we will.
M1 (Safety Fences)
28. Mr. Dudley Smith
asked the Minister of Transport if, as a result of his review, he will now consider installing centre crash barriers along the length of the M1 motorway.[column 8]
The Minister of Transport (Mr. Richard Marsh)
I have agreed to central safety fences on M1 from the M10 junction for 1,500 yards to the north. I am reviewing present criteria and will consider any consequent application to M1.
Is the Minister aware that if one is unlucky enough to have a burst tyre or to lose control of a vehicle it is just as likely to happen on a point of a motorway where there is not a crash barrier as where there is? Therefore, has not his policy on crash barriers been illogical? Would he not now consider putting a crash barrier the whole length of the motorway?
It is the first time that anyone has suggested putting crash barriers along the centres of all motorways. Even if this were thought desirable—but there is a lot of argument against it—the cost would be astronomical in relation to the road programme.
Sir J. Langford-Holt
Would not the Minister agree that one of the most dangerous things on this motorway is the light given by oncoming vehicles, especially in rail? Why has not he or his predecessors built a light barrier which could be done by hedges and very cheaply?
We are in process of building hedges in the centre stretches of many of our motorways where this is desirable. One comes back over and over again, however, to the fact that there is nothing dangerous about the M1 or the cars on it. The biggest danger comes from some of the drivers.
32. Mr. Hastings
asked the Minister of Transport when he plans to sanction a by-pass at Ampthill on the main Bed-ford-Dunstable road.
Mr. Bob Brown
This scheme is not yet programmed, and it is not at present possible to say when its preparation will be authorised.
Apart from the economic return on this road, does the hon. Gentleman realise that the nature of the narrow streets in this attractive old town increases congestion, and there have already been accidents? The work is vitally necessary. Will he reconsider [column 9]the matter and give us a date for the beginning?
We appreciate all that the right hon. Gentleman has said, but the high cost, which is estimated at about £1½ million, of having to construct over 6 miles of new road and the low traffic volume involved give this by-pass scheme relatively low priority. I am sorry, but I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman anything else.
37. Mr. Lomas
asked the Minister of Transport if he will define the term, “Slow down” , which is now displayed on many roads of this country when a hazard is ahead; and if he will substitute for this phrase one which states a maximum speed at which vehicles may travel.
Mr. Bob Brown
“Slow down” is not an authorised road sign or road marking. The word “Slow” is used to warn drivers of a potential danger ahead and the need for caution. In such cases it would be difficult to select one speed which would be a suitable maximum for all vehicles in all road conditions.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that there is a world of difference, in relation to two vehicles, one travelling at 70 m.p.h. and one at 30 m.p.h., in what “Slow down” means? Should there not be a specified speed limit substituted?
I have already said that “Slow down” is not an authorised sign. The sign “Slow” means what it says.
Will the hon. Gentleman help the House further? If “Slow” means what it says, what is “Dead Slow” ?
If we take both “Dead Slow” and “Slow” , I should think that “Dead Slow” must indicate an almost stopping speed. The sign “Slow” should clearly indicate to a driver that there is a hazard ahead and that he ought to use common sense and slow down.
Motorways (Fog Conditions)
41. Mr. William Price
asked the Minister of Transport whether he will [column 10]take steps to introduce an automatic speed limit on motorways when fog lights are operating.
The operation of these lights already indicates an advisory maximum limit of 30 m.p.h. It would not be possible to enforce a mandatory speed limit in fog.
Is not it apparent that some maniacs are prepared to drive at 70 and 80 miles an hour, however thick the fog? We ask simply, appreciating the difficulty my right hon. Friend has, “What can he do about it?” .
What my hon. Friend said is true. There is a very small but very dangerous minority who just drive badly on these roads. The problem with a mandatory speed limit would be that it would be even more dangerous to have police cars tearing up and down the roads as well in thick fog. If my hon. Friend asks me how I am to convince the small minority not to drive at 70 miles an hour in thick fog, I am bound to confess to the House that I really do not know.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Will the Minister go on reiterating the age-old rule that it is best to drive in such a manner that one can pull up in the distance one sees ahead? Will he further consider that it might be desirable even to make the breach of that rule a specific offence in the future?
For reasons which hon. Members on both sides will understand, I do not want at this stage to say much about specific offences in relation to accidents in fog on motorways, because a lot is happening in that direction. But I am grateful for the opportunity, because one cannot do it too often, to beg people to use their common sense when driving. Driving at 70 miles an hour in thick fog is incredibly stupid.
Mr. Dudley Smith
Is the Minister aware that each fog light on the M1 must be put on independently, which takes about 4½ hours for 70 miles of motorway? Is not it time that we brought ourselves up to date?
We are doing this. The lights are put on remotely by police passing by them. We are putting the new signs in now. The first is already [column 11]in use on the Severn Bridge and the second is now being installed on the M4 between Chiswick and Langley, and should be ready by March this year. The whole motorway network should be equipped with the new system by the mid-1970s. It will be a system as sophisticated as anything anywhere else in the world.
Tiger Lane, Bromley
46. Mr. Hunt
asked the Minister of Transport whether, when implementing his order to stop up a length of Tiger Lane, Bromley, he will ensure that the public right of way leading to Cromwell Close is retained.
Mr. Bob Brown
I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's decision on this Order, but in reaching it he will bear this request in mind.
Is there to be a public inquiry on the matter? If so, will the Minister bear in mind, when considering the evidence that the right of way has existed for more than 500 years, that it is widely used by many of the residents in the vicinity, and that many of us can see no reason why it cannot be retained, even after the proposed car park has been built?
The question of a public inquiry is a matter for my right hon. Friend, after fully considering proposals and objections. The objection period expires on 21st February, and so far 13 objections have been received. We cannot say when a decision will be reached.
M4 (Approach Roads)
47. Mr. Gresham Cooke
asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the danger arising from vehicles entering motorways from approach roads, he will close some of the 10 entrances and exits in the 23 mile length of the M4 from London to prevent the road being used for very short distances.
Mr. Bob Brown
No, Sir. There is no evidence of undue risk at these specially designed accesses, and to close any of them would force traffic back on to the heavily loaded roads which the motorway was designed to relieve.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Does the Minister agree that there is an exit or [column 12]entrance at distances of under 2½ miles all the way down the first 23 miles of the M4? Local traffic is bobbing in and out, and the whole object of having a three-lane motorway out of London to the West is being hindered by local traffic.
I cannot accept that. The M4 was specifically designed to by-pass Slough and Maidenhead. If we were to close any of the entrances to it we should throw the major weight back on to the A4, which would defeat the object of the expenditure on the motorway.
British Railways (Deficit)
3. Mr. Edward M. Taylor
asked the Minister of Transport what deficit was incurred by British Railways in 1968.
The British Railways Board's final accounts for 1968 are not yet available, but the Board provisionally estimates that its total deficit for the year was about £147 million.
In view of the substantial write-offs of capital under the Transport Act and the subsidies that are provided for, does the Minister anticipate that in 1969 the Railways Board will break even or possibly make a surplus?
We anticipate that with the realistic opportunity which is being given to the Railways Board under the Transport Act there is every possibility and hope that it will break even.
British Railways (Chairman's Salary)
14. Mr. Ridley
asked the Minister of Transport if he will seek to increase the salary of the Chairman of British Railways.
I think we should wait and see what the National Board for Prices and Incomes has to say about top salaries in the nationalised industries.
How can the Minister justify paying more to those who run the steel industry than he pays to those who run the railways? Does this imply in his mind that the railways are not so important or so difficult to run? It is an absolutely incomprehensible decision.[column 13]
It is very easy to understand. It arises out of the complete failure of hon. Members opposite over many years to face up to the problem of nationalised industry salaries, which are now very different in many industries. It implies no level of seniority. It is the price one has to pay. What we are doing at present—it is a pity that it was not done earlier by hon. Members opposite—is putting the whole thing before an independent inquiry to see what comes out of it.
Is the Minister implying that the salary of the Chairman should be higher and therefore that it is not adequate at the moment?
No. As I was explaining to the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), we have sought the advice of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. It is not for me to pre-empt the Board's advice. I have my personal views on this.
Merseyside (Rail Projects)
21. Mr. Brooks
asked the Minister of Transport what is the latest estimate he has received of the cost of constructing the Mersey railway loop line in Liverpool and the burrowing junction at Hamilton Square Station, Birkenhead; and what estimate he has made of the increase in the peak-hour carrying capacity of the railway permitted by these projects.
British Railways' current estimates of the cost of these two improvements are £5.0 million and £680,000, respectively. They would enable the present peak hour carrying capacity to be increased from about 15,000 to 26,000 each way. A further increase to 35,000 could be achieved by lengthening platforms, at a cost of £750,000, to permit eight car trains to be used.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there will be great satisfaction that nine years after this scheme was first costed it appears not to have escalated at all in cost, which surely must be unprecedented during the 1960s? Is not this a very urgent step which would do much to relieve the congestion which otherwise would develop in the Mersey road tunnels?
It is certainly a very urgent step. It is also a very expensive [column 14]one. It would be wrong to take an ad hoc decision on a scheme of such magnitude until the completion of the Merseyside Land Use and Transportation Study, the results of which can be expected in a few months and with which the scheme to which my hon. Friend has referred will be integrated. A decision will be taken in the light of all the factors.
Foreign Ships (Chartering)
22. Mr. Ridsdale
asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give a general direction to British Railways prohibiting them from chartering foreign ships when suitable British ships are available.
No, Sir. Such a direction would be inappropriate and unnecessary.
Is the Minister aware that since the Question was put down British Railways have acted on this advice? To save the jobs of quite a number of British seamen, will the hon. Gentleman ensure that such a wise policy is continued?
This has been the policy of British Railways where possible. That is why a general direction would be inappropriate and unnecessary.
Railway Superannuitants (Pensions)
30. Miss Quennell
asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the review of railway superannuitants' pensions.
I understand that the Railways Board is reviewing its superannuation arrangements. Any proposals for changes would be put to my right hon. Friend for consent under the provisions of the Transport Act, 1962.
Does not the Parliamentary Secretary realise that the railway superannuitants have had only two increases in their pensions during the last 20 years when there have been five Pensions (Increase) Acts and their pensions are derisory? How much longer are these consultations to drag on before the Minister begins to consider whether he will improve the scheme?
My right hon. Friend is discussing with the Board's officials [column 15]ways of improving present pensions and arrangements for the salaried staff. I hope that those discussions will allow the Board to formulate acceptable proposals to put to us. I should point out that it is the responsibility of the Railways Board to decide how much of its resources should be used in this way.
Will my right hon. Friend recognise, however, that railway superannuitants have been very patient and waiting a long time for recognition of their just claims? Public service pensioners have had two increases and railway superannuitants throughout Britain are now in a difficult position economically.
My right hon. Friend is generally sympathetic towards any proposals for improvement, but he must await the formal submission by the Railways Board before judging whether he can approve any increase.
Dame Irene Ward
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that ordinary individuals who ought to be justly treated by the Railways Board cannot be expected to wait while all the fuss goes on about them with the Railways Board? Is he aware that when I asked a Question last week the answer was that it was a matter for the Railways Board? Will he now undertake, because this would encourage the Railways Board, that as soon as the matter is settled he will give immediate approval or, if the proposal is not sufficiently generous, he will push it up a bit?
I have tried to indicate that there have been informal discussions between the Department and Railways Board officials, but as yet there have been no formal proposals from the Railways Board to my right hon. Friend. I must reiterate that the Railways Board is responsible for deciding how much of its resources it feels, from experience, should be devoted to the pensions of superannuitants.
Motorail Service (West of Scotland)
39. Mr. Rankin
asked the Minister of Transport what proposals he has for providing a motorail service for Glasgow and the West of Scotland.[column 16]
This would be a matter for the Railways Board. I understand that it is investigating this among other possibilities, but have no plans at present for such a service.
Plans should be forth-coming, should they not? Is my hon. Friend aware that Glasgow passengers travelling by motorail from London have to leave the train at Newcastle and finish the journey by road, or they have to leave at Edinburgh or Stirling? Is it not absurd that a great industrial city like Glasgow has no service of this nature right to its doorstep?
There are ten motorail services between England and Scotland. The question where these should be must be left to the commercial judgment and operational management of the Railways Board. My right hon. Friend has no locus to decide, unless there is very substantial investment involved. However, as I said, I understand that the Railways Board is investigating this among other possibilities.
45. Mr. Moyle
asked the Minister of Transport whether he will now announce his decision on the extension of the Fleet Line into South East London and the route which it will follow.
Mr. Bob Brown
The London Transport Board has not yet been able to put to us its proposals on this.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the extension of the Fleet Line now that the first stage has been announced is essential to the solution of the South-East London travel to work problem? Will he undertake to pressurise the London Transport Board to produce the remainder of its proposals as soon as possible?
Whilst generally agreeing with what my hon. Friend said, I am certain that the Board is aware of the urgency of the situation in the area without any pressurisation from me.
48. Mr. Ronald Atkins
asked the Minister of Transport what were the percentage reductions of weekly-paid [column 17]railwaymen and salaried railway staff, respectively, during the five-year period 1962 to 1967.
The reduction in railway staff from the end of 1962 to the end of 1967 was 36.7 per cent. for weekly-paid staff and 20.3 per cent. for salaried staff.
Do not those figures give credence to the view commonly held by railwaymen that British Rail management is more anxious to reduce the number of the operating wage-earning staff than its administration?
This is a tendency in all industry because of the increased complexity of industry and the materials it deals with. I think that what British Rail is really after is a generally smaller but much better paid railway staff.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the railway administration has tended to become top-heavy? What does he intend to do about it?
I cannot agree that the railways are becoming top-heavy in management. The problems of the railways are now much greater than they used to be, particularly the technical and management problems. Therefore, a strengthened managerial and salaried staff is required to operate the railways in the mid-twentieth century.
Weaver Junction—Motherwell Line (Electrification)
49. Mr. Ronald Atkins
asked the Minister of Transport what requests he has received from British Railways for the authorisation of the electrification of the Weaver Junction to Motherwell main line; and if he will make a statement.
I regret that I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) on 5th November, last.—[Vol. 772, c. 76.]
Is it not wrong that this excellent scheme which, for so little cost, would cheapen the cost of operation and increase the capacity of the line enormously and make it much more efficient, should be delayed any longer?[column 18]
Many factors have to be examined—for example, the regional industrial effects, including those on Scotland, future technological advances and developments of very high speed trains, and the railway construction industry. This is a very complicated matter and needs detailed discussion and examination, particularly in the present economic situation.
As preparations have already been in hand for some time on this, would it not be a waste of money to delay the matter further?
The money involved is very large in amount—so large that I do not think delay could have much effect. Many new techniques are coming forward which might militate against such a scheme or perhaps make another more desirable for this length of line. Where such a large sum of money is at stake, it is better not to make a hasty decision on a complicated issue.