Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech opening final section of M25

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Near Watford, North London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Around 1100.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1267
Themes: Environment, Transport

John Moore (Secretary of State for Transport)

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. Could I first very much welcome everybody, especially of course the Prime Minister, who we're absolutely delighted to see has been able to come and join us today on this very important day for our country, as well as for London and the whole of the area. And might I say, if I can pick out one other person here only how delighted I am to see my predecessor, the former Secretary of State for Transport who has been so involved in today's affairs, couldn't possibly resist and who is obviously rightly here with us today, Nick Ridley.


I want to say practically nothing because this is very much a day for the contractors, the engineers and all the people who have put this wonderful orbital motorway together. I will simply ask Don Holland, who is in fact the Chairman of Balfour Beatty and speaking on behalf of the contractors today, to say a few words before I ask you to officially complete the opening of this great orbital motorway. Mr. Don Holland … [Applause.]

Don Holland

Prime Minister, John MooreSecretary of State, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my privilege and pleasure today on this occasion to represent all the contractors and the consulting engineers who have been involved in the construction of this final section of the M25. It is a great honour for the construction industry Prime Minister, to have you here today to open this splendid motorway, and I'm sure I speak on behalf of all the many thousands of people who've been involved in the engineering and the construction, when I say that we are delighted that their efforts are recognised in this way.

Projects on this scale affect many people, both in their working and private lives, and therefore the co-operation of all the parties involved helped to make the task easier and more acceptable. In this respect I would like to thank the staff of the Department of Transport, the local highway authorities, the police, British Rail, and all the statutory undertakers for their co-operation. I'd also like to thank the members of the public, both local residents and those who have traveled in this area during the construction period for their forbearance and patience. Without everybody's co-operation, the construction of this final link in the chain would have been much more difficult.

Today is a day [that] will become a milestone for the construction industry as the M25, one of the great highways of the world and I believe the longest ring road in the world, is a showpiece of British engineering skills, planning, design and construction, and such projects have in the past and will continue, to provide a reminder of the achievements of the British construction industry. This project will serve to illustrate to our overseas customers the prowess of the British construction industry in producing the skills, techniques, resources necessary for mastering the challenges of major projects around the world. It is with a mixture of pleasure and sadness that we have reached the end of this project. Pleasure because the achievement and the pride we feel in completing a project which compares with the civil engineering works of our Victorian forbears. A little sadness that fine construction teams have now broken up and departed to other places. I take this opportunity to thank them sincerely for their sterling efforts in completing this fine civil engineering project. The Roadworks Programme is of course an important part of the infrastructure of this country, development of which we consider essential for Great Britain's future prosperity, and we all hope that we will continue to take part in these major programmes for some time to come.

It is, therefore, with great pleasure on behalf of Brian Cahill [phonetic] and Partners, Sir Alfred McAlpine, Fairclough Consortium, Edmund Nuttall, Cutler & [end p1] Helland [phonetic] and Balfour Beatty that I now hand over this last section of the M25 to you Prime Minister. [Applause.]


John MooreSecretary of State, Mr. Holland, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am told that the M25 is the longest city bypass in the world, one-hundred-and-seventeen miles of motorway. That's as far as from London to Bristol. Of course the idea's been around for a long time. Indeed it dates back to a Royal Commission on London Traffic in 1905 and it was proposed again by Sir Patrick Abercrombie in 1944. Construction, however, only began in 1972. Nineteen miles were built in the 1970s and 98 miles since 1979. And as you know it's already proving its worth. It's cutting the time to the ports and to the airports, and it's allowing people to make journeys that they could not have faced before. And it's making life much more pleasant for people in many of our communities, it's taking heavy traffic away from our towns and villages, and from London itself. Of course, the road runs through some of the most attractive countryside, but great efforts have been made to blend it into the landscape, including the planting of some two million trees.

Now some people are saying that the road is too small, even that it's a disaster. I must say I can't stand those who carp and criticise when they ought to be congratulating Britain on a magnificent achievement and beating the drum for Britain all over the world. [Applause.] Indeed some of their criticism puts me in mind of an old saying about Sainsbury's. The saying is “Nobody shops at Sainsbury's because of the queues” . It's popularity is a mark of its success, not of its failure. Now as you know enormous amounts of traffic are already using the Motorway and that's why we've announced the widening of one major section of the road, and why we've announced the construction of a new bridge at Dartford. And to some of those who say “We always build our roads too small” we can only point out that at some of the planning enquiries those who object to the new road say that our traffic forecasts are excessive, and that improvements to existing roads would be enough. Fortunately the planning inspectors and the successive Secretaries of State have not accepted that viewpoint. Indeed I think you will all agree that on this great occasion as we open the last section, when some of our splendid civil servants have accepted the Secretary of State for Transport, and we have two very distinguished ones here today, wish to push on with this great highway, in that case they've always been quite right to say “Yes, Minister” . And it's because they've said “Yes, Minister” to successive Secretaries of State and I know how anxious they were to get this complete, that we are here today.

This is a road of which we can all be proud. It's a showpiece for British engineering and our great construction companies and I would like to thank and congratulate them all on this magnificent achievement. Some of them have worked have on seven or eight British motorways. Some of them have worked on exports, roads, rapid transit systems, dams, great engineering projects all over the world. I know, several of the faces I see here today I have seen, whether it be in Hong Kong, whether it be in Sri Lanka, whether it be in other countries which take our engineering and these people export their talents for Britain. They are absolutely top-flight construction companies, not only in our country but in the world over.

And so it gives me very great pleasure in congratulating everyone concerned to cut the tape, and declare open the final section which completes the M25, this £1 billion investment in Britain's future, this great achievement for Britain. [Applause.]