London (Underground Motorways)
1. Mr. Gwilym Roberts
asked the Minister of Transport what study he has made of the feasibility of underground motorways passing underneath London from north to south and east to west with access to the centre of London; and what is the estimated cost of a three-lane each-way motorway scheme of this type.
The Minister of Transport (Mr. Richard Marsh)
A study of proposals put forward in 1966 for a network of underground motorways in London showed this approach to be unrealistic on both technical and economic grounds. The cost of a complete underground network would be several thousands of millions of pounds.[column 2]
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the later part of what he has said is not the answer to what I asked for precisely in my Question? What I have asked for is probably the most simple long-term approach from the point of view of providing links with the future Channel Tunnel, the possibility of an airfield at Foulness, and of bringing thousands of commuters into the city centre? Would not my right hon. Friend agree that this is worthy of a further long-term study?
No, Sir, I am afraid I would not. The technical problems of constructing, operating, and maintaining a system of 60 ft. diameter highway tunnels is not simple, and the difficulty of finding thousands of millions of pounds for them seems insuperable at the moment.
Are not there grounds for considering roads under major amenity areas such as Greenwich Park and Hampstead Heath?
Roads in such areas will be considered, but it is a very expensive proposition to build a total network of tunnels.
Road Accidents (Collapsible Telegraph Poles)
2. Mr. Gwilym Roberts
asked the Minister of Transport what figures are available of the number of accidents resulting from collisions with fixed objects on roadsides; what study he has made [column 3]of the use of folding collapsible telegraph poles; and what plans he has for promoting the extended use of collapsible poles on roadsides.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)
The most recent estimate for a 12-month period ending in March, 1968, gives a total of 900 accidents of this type. A small trial installation of breakaway lighting columns was erected in 1964. The results of this experiment are satisfactory and trial columns of this type will be erected shortly on the A1 in Yorkshire. The question of using folding collapsible telegraph poles is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members will find the results of the original experiment and the suggestion that there will be further developments in this direction very welcome, but will he consider giving some general advice to people constructing motorways and other roads of this kind that they should not introduce more and more rigid obstacles which are likely to cause further accidents?
We are studying this. I have already referred to the breakaway lighting columns, and we have other ideas in train, but we must ensure the proper and economic positioning and prominence of fixed roadside objects.
Levens Park, Westmorland
5. Mr. Dalyell
asked the Minister of Transport with which outside bodies he has discussed his proposals for the M6 motorway at Levens Park, Westmorland.
The usual consultations with local authorities and statutory bodies took place before draft proposals were published.
I will, with permission circulate a list in the Official Report.
Following is the information: Local Authorities and Other Bodies Consulted about Kendal Link Road British Railways Board. British Waterways Board. Central Electricity Generating Board. Forestry Commission. General Post Office. Lancashire River Authority. Lakes and Lune Water Board. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. [column 4]Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Ministry of Public Building and Works. National Coal Board. North Western Electricity Board. North Western Gas Board. Royal Fine Art Commission. South Westmorland Rural District Council. Westmorland County Council.
6. Mr. Dalyell
asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on his official visit to Levens Park, Westmorland.
I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) on the 2nd April, 1969.—[Vol. 781, c. 122.]
Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us concerned about Levens Park appreciate his change of heart since this Question was put down?
I have not changed anything at all, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for thanking me for it.
Blackpool and the Fylde
8. Mr. Blaker
asked the Minister of Transport whether he has now received an interim report arising out of the project feasibility study of alternative routes north and south of Preston designed to resolve the congestion caused to traffic travelling to Blackpool and the Fylde; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Bob Brown
The interim report is expected at the end of this month. The final report on which decisions will be taken is due in the autumn.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that, as long ago as 1964, studies showed that, by 1970, a motorway link between the M6 and the Fylde Coast would pay for itself within two years and would save 24 deaths and 740 other casualties a year? Will he give the report urgent consideration when it is received?
I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.
Trunk Roads (Hard Shoulders)
13. Mr. Berry
asked the Minister of Transport what percentage of the total mileage of trunk roads now under construction will have continuous hard shoulders.[column 5]
Mr. Bob Brown
None, Sir, except a very small proportion of all-purpose trunk roads which will eventually become motorways. All motorways under construction have hard shoulders.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I referred to trunk roads? I am very concerned about those trunk roads of motorway standard which are not actually motorways. They tend to be dangerous because there is no safe area for cars to come off the road when they break down and stop. Could the hon. Gentleman look closely into this, also, in connection with the proposed widening of the M4 on the Slough and Maidenhead by-passes?
We have looked into the question of the all-purpose trunk road and we have put down hard strips, but usually the policy is to provide sufficient lay-bys—about two, each 100 yards long, for every mile—to enable people to get off the road if necessary.
17. Mr. Edward M. Taylor
asked the Minister of Transport how many persons were injured or killed in road accidents in 1968; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Bob Brown
In 1968 6,810 people were killed in road accidents, 88,563 were seriously injured and 253,835 were slightly injured. This represents an overall reduction of 7 per cent. on 1967.
This is the second year running in which deaths and injuries have been reduced, and the total is the lowest since 1962, despite increases in traffic. This shows that a steady rise in accidents is not inevitable. But the total is still far too high for complacency: the provisional figures for January, 1969, suggests that a renewed effort is needed if this favourable trend is to be maintained.
The whole House will welcome the improvement in 1968 and 1967 and will hope that this can be continued. But was the Parliamentary Secretary not rather concerned at the provisional figures for the beginning of the year, which showed a sharp increase? What steps is he taking to try to identify the causes of this increase? Will he investigate to see whether the introduction of British Standard Time had any relevance?[column 6]
Clearly, my right hon. Friend is extremely concerned about the increase in the figures for January, but nevertheless we are the only country in Europe which has succeeded in reducing casualties over two successive years. We are determined to try to maintain that improvement by continued publicity and, if need be, by further legislation.
Mr. William Price
Has my hon. Friend any figures to show in what percentage of cases excessive speed was a factor?
I should need notice of that question.
18. Mr. Edward M. Taylor
asked the Minister of Transport by what percentage work on motorway and major roads projects in 1968 fell short of the planned programme; and what were the comparable percentages in each of the previous four years.
I would refer to the Answer given to the hon. Member on 14th April.—[Vol. 781, c. 207–8.]
Is it not deplorable that, over the last five years, about £60 million of the planned road programme has disappeared in cuts or administrative slippage? Why did we have an 8.7 per cent. or £21 million reduction in 1968–69? What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that some of our road programme this year does not disappear in the same way.
There has been faulty forecasting about the programme, largely because of the availability of new techniques now, and steps are being taken to rectify that. The underlying reason is that the Government have decided to build roads on a scale so much bigger than was ever envisaged by the hon. Gentleman's party that obviously we are coping with a great deal more. The hon. Gentleman mentioned 1968–69, when road building was 9 per cent. up on the year before, and was just over double what his party spent in its last year in office.
Mr. Raphael Tuck
Can my right hon. Friend explain why, although the Conservative Party continually says that if it comes to power it will cut the social [column 7]services, every time we have one small cut in the social services right hon. and hon. Members opposite make a large outcry?
It is the nature of the beast. But the roads are not social services—[Interruption.]—they certainly are not—and it is important that we should have a much higher level of expenditure on them in the future than we have had in the past. That is why I am pleased that the House, through the present Government, is spending six times as much on road building as it did 10 years ago.
Sir Knox Cunningham
Is it also in the nature of the Socialist beast to increase taxation and enlarge expenditure?
One of the things the hon. and learned Gentleman will realise eventually is that if one wants to spend more money it has to come from somewhere.
M1 (Crash Barrier)
22. Mr. Dudley Smith
asked the Minister of Transport if he will now give instructions for a crash barrier to be erected on the central reservation of the M1 between markers 53 and 55 in the two miles north of the service area at Newport Pagnell.
Mr. Bob Brown
A working party is investigating the whole question of crash barriers on motorway central reserves, and this section of the M1 will be considered in the light of its report.
Is the Minister aware that this must be the most dangerous section of motorway as regards cross-over accidents? Is he aware that in the past seven years nearly 20 people have been killed in such accidents, and that many have been seriously injured? Will he now pay heed to the representations made to him by the coroner for that area?
I am not aware of the number of accidents to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I am aware that the number of cross-over accidents is rather higher in relation to the volume of traffic than on adjacent lengths where traffic volumes are higher.
Road Developments (Putney)
24. Mr. Hugh Jenkins
asked the Minister of Transport what major road [column 8]developments are planned which will affect the constituency of the hon. Member for Putney; and to what extent they will involve the destruction of houses or blighting of amenities.
Mr. Bob Brown
The Greater London Council's plans for London's primary road network include sections of Ringways 1 and 2 in this area. It states that these routes are being planned so as to have the minimum effect on property and amenities.
Is my hon. Friend aware that changes appear to be taking place all the time in the G.L.C. plans? Has the G.L.C. kept the Ministry of Transport in touch with precisely what its present programme is? Will my hon. Friend encourage the G.L.C. to make up its mind and let everybody know where it stands?
Yes, Sir. The proposals form part of the Greater London Development Plan, which is due to be submitted to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government by 31st July.
Mr. Frederic Harris
Has the Minister any idea when Ringway 2 will be built?
Subject to the Greater London Development Plan public inquiry findings, Ringway 2—the “C” ring—is unlikely to start before the mid-1970s.
27. Mr. Speed
asked the Minister of Transport if he will now announce his decision on the road improvements to the A5 trunk road in the borough of Tamworth; and when he estimates work will start on them.
Mr. Bob Brown
No decision can be taken on the need for or the timing of any improvement of this section of A5 until the highway network for the expanded town of Tamworth has been settled, and of course the effects on A5 traffic of that network and of other trunk road works in the area have been studied.
That is a very disappointing reply. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the road problems at Tamworth particularly the A5, have been shelved by successive Ministers of Transport over the past 20 years; and that if [column 9]no action is taken in the near future both the A5 and the borough of Tamworth will grind to a standstill?
I would not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman has said about some previous Ministers, but I certainly believe that my right hon. Friend is getting on with this job as expeditiously as possible. The hon. Gentleman should understand that this work depends on the completion of the transportation study which has been put in hand by the Staffordshire County Council.
Road Construction, Cornwall
32. Mr. Geoffrey Wilson
asked the Minister of Transport what, in money terms, was the amount of planned road construction in the county of Cornwall in the road programme for 1968; what was achieved in that year; and what lengths of roadway these figures represent.
Mr. Bob Brown
During the financial year 1968–69 the value of new trunk and principal road improvement work programmed for commitment or grant assistance was £541,200. The value of work actually committed or approved for grant was £542,550, representing work on approximately 3½ miles of new or improved road.
The amounts of actual expenditure during 1968–69, including work on schemes programmed earlier, are not yet available.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that Cornwall, being a development area, is particularly dependent on transport? Will he ensure that all possible progress is made for the rapid improvement of transport facilities in that area?
The Government are very well aware of the needs of Cornwall as a development area. That is precisely why the A30 and the A38 have now been given relative priority as the main route to Cornwall. This policy is supported by the South-West Economic Planning Council and by the Joint Committee for the South-West.
Dr. John Dunwoody
Will not my hon. Friend agree that major road improvements are an integral part of regional policy, and in a peripheral area like Cornwall that work is even more important [column 10]than in development areas as a whole? Will he continue to look at the special need for main road improvements in this county?
Is the Minister aware that the figures he has just given are deplorably low? Even though the improvements to the A30 and A38 are to be welcomed, they will not be helpful unless there is similar development of the roads within the county to accommodate traffic.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should be quite so pessimistic. In terms of road mileage, it is true that 3½ miles is not much road, but the hon. Gentleman should understand that one can create quite a considerable improvement by spending a fair bit of money simply on junction improvement.
34. Sir R. Russell
asked the Minister of Transport what was the estimated cost of the programme for building motorways and other roads in the South-Eastern Region in 1968; and how much was actually spent in that year.
Mr. Bob Brown
Central Government expenditure on new and improved motorways and other roads in the South-Eastern Economic Planning Region in 1968–69 was estimated at just over £50 million, excluding land costs; about £46 million was actually spent. Data for spending by local authorities in the region is not yet available.
Sir R. Russell
Can the Minister say why there is a shortfall of £4 million? What steps are being taken to see that the programme is kept up?
The shortfall of £4 million was caused mainly by delay in statutory procedures in connection with the two radial motorways M3 and M23. As to future shortfalls, we shall certainly aim to see that we keep to the programme as forecast but, as I have said, public interest and individual rights come into this.
Is my hon. Friend aware that if he endeavours to meet the wishes of many hon. Members opposite in building new roads and so on and so forth, he will then be attacked from the Front Bench opposite for incurring public expenditure?[column 11]
R. C. BrownThe Parliamentary Secretary referred to the programme “as forecast” . Will he say which programme? Is he not aware that his Ministry has recently published a document delaying for periods of up to two years the start of a large number of major projects? To which forecast did he refer?
I should be interested if the hon. Lady could enlighten me as to the document concerned. London highways now come under my general purview in the Ministry, but I am not aware of the document she mentioned.
38. Mr. Rankin
asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the difficulties experienced in securing the observance of road safety regulations, if he will introduce further amending regulations with a view to ensuring greater safety on the roads.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Neil Carmichael)
I am not clear what particular regulations my hon. Friend has in mind, but we are ready to consider any proposal for amendments if they are really likely to assist road safety.
In view of the fact that my hon. Friend referred to a speed limit of 70 miles an hour in reply to my previous Question, may I ask whether he is aware that on the motorways that speed limit is regularly abused and disregarded? Is he aware that passing on the left on motorways is quite common? What will he do to enforce the regulations?
Enforcement of the regulations is a matter for the police. We believe that enforcement is working well, within the limits of available manpower. I should be anxious to know of any ideas my hon. Friend has for furthering the ability of the police or the Department to enforce the regulations which have already been made.
A34 Road, Birmingham
39. Mr. Christopher Price
asked the Minister of Transport what studies he has made of traffic flow from the M6 along the A34 into Birmingham when the Great Barr interchange is completed; and what steps he is taking to ensure that the A34 can carry the increased load.[column 12]
Mr. Bob Brown
The West Midland Transport Study has enabled long-term traffic flows along the A34 between M6 and Birmingham to be estimated. Dual carriageways are under construction on the trunk road part of A34 between the Great Barr interchange and the city boundary, and there are schemes, both in progress and in this year's programme, to provide further dual carriageways on A34 within the city boundary.
Will my hon. Friend give a categorical assurance that the full dualling of the A34 between Great Barr and Birmingham will be completed before the Motorway actually reaches A34 at Great Barr, and also ensure that when the Gravelly Hill main interchange and the Aston Expressway into Birmingham are constructed, the bulk of south-bound traffic into Birmingham will be channelled along that expressway and not along A34 through the middle of my constituency?
I am sorry that I cannot give my hon. Friend the assurance he seeks. Unfortunately, we do not expect the A34 to be completed by the time the Great Bar interchange is opened. The dualling from Queslett Road to Aldridge Road is expected by the autumn of 1971. Then the dual carriageways will extend from the city boundary to High Street, Aston. Efforts are being made to accelerate this, but it will depend on land acquisition.
Urban Roads (Green Paper)
41. Mr. E. Rowlands
asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the concern of citizens of many towns about the proposed destruction of homes to make way for urban motorways, he will prepare and publish a second Green Paper on urban roads; and whether he will establish criteria to ensure that all community costs are incorporated in any cost benefit analysis of an urban road.
It would not be practicable to publish a Green Paper with proposals for urban roads similar to “Road for the Future” . Large urban schemes are the responsibility of the local highway authorities and have to be seen in the context of local town plans and policies. [column 13]
Cost benefit criteria are being developed and will become increasingly valuable in the evaluation of major road schemes. It must be for the local communities in the first place to assess the social effects, along with the economic costs and benefits.
In view of the fact that in Cardiff, London and other major cities there is a citizens' revolt against such proposals for new urban motorways and deep questioning by planners, does not my right hon. Friend think he should take some account of bringing order into financial and social responsibilities, which does not seem to be shown at the moment by many local authorities concerning such massive urban motorway schemes?
As I have explained to my hon. Friend, we are at the moment developing cost-benefit criteria to enable us to do this effectively. One of the difficulties is that economic and Parliamentary tools have not existed in the past.
In this connection, has the right hon. Gentleman seen a recent report by a Committee of Justice on the effect on people owning land or homes in the vicinity of motorways? Will he give its recommendations sympathetic consideration?
I have not read the report yet. It is my intention to do so this evening.