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Volume 476: debated on Monday 26 June 1950

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asked the Minister of Transport how many proposals have been put forward by local authorities for building underpasses at busy traffic junctions instead of roundabouts or other crossings at the same level.

I have not received any proposals by local authorities for dealing in this way with existing traffic junctions, although I understand underpasses are contemplated in connection with some schemes of future road or bridge construction. I have plans for four underpasses at junctions on trunk roads.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this form of traffic junction is about the best for ensuring the least possible amount of congestion, and will he do everything possible to encourage local authorities to adopt it?

The fact that I have indicated that we have four schemes under consideration on trunk roads shows our interest in this type of underpass, but every case must be considered on its merits. A very important aspect at present is that of cost.

Pedestrian Crossings


asked the Minister of Transport whether he has now reached any final decision regarding the rights of pedestrians. at controlled pedestrian crossings; and whether it is his intention to deal with this matter by new regulations or by giving guidance to road users in the Highway Code.


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the need for greater uniformity in the marking of pedestrian crossings; and when he proposes to make regulations to secure this end.

I have not yet reached a final decision on this matter, since various aspects of the question have required careful examination, including recent reports by the Road Research Laboratory on the experimental marking of pedestrian crossings with black and white stripes and on the illumination of crossings at night. I hope to make a further statement soon.

In view of the congestion in Central London and the need for an even flow of traffic, will the right hon. Gentleman expedite his announcement so that pedestrians know where they stand, because the present uncertainty is most unsatisfactory to all concerned?

I certainly share the concern of the hon. and gallant Member. It will be recalled that, a little while ago, I indicated that legal difficulties have intervened in this very complex problem. We are pushing on with the examination as quickly as possible, and I hope to be in a position to make a statement before very long.

Signposts (London)


asked the Minister of Transport if the promised system of new signposting between Dover and London has now been completed; and to what extent he is satisfied with the signposting in the London area itself.

The new signposting between Dover and London has been completed except in Southwark. Work in that Metropolitan borough is in progress, and I consider that when it has been completed the signposting of this particular route in London will be satisfactory.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he were now to agree to accept my challenge to go out of this building and try to find his way to Dover by his own signposts he would be lost in the first five minutes?


asked the Minister of Transport what part of London is indicated on the signposts on Eastern Avenue when the distance to London is given.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in the case of many of these signposts, this is not so, and will he accept my assurance that when I tried it the other night I finished up near Finsbury Park?

I would not altogether accept the guidance of the hon. Gentleman in that direction. The Question asked whether there was an indication of locality when distance was given. Where the hon. Gentleman finishes up is a matter for him.

Does the Minister realise that it was the direction on the signposts that landed me at Finsbury Park? Most of them are sheer nonsense. Would he look into the matter?

Conway Bridge


asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the dangerous condition of Conway Bridge and the considerable congestion of traffic caused by its inadequacy; and when he is likely to be in a position to invite tenders for the construction of a new bridge across the River Conway.

I am aware of the conditions at Conway. Designs have been got out for a new bridge, but I am unable to say when it will be possible to start construction.

Is the Minister aware that, owing to the condition of the bridge, the Bridge commissioners have recently imposed restrictions on commercial vehicles crossing it, thus causing increased operating costs? Would he make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make additional funds available for this kind of essential work?

The representations which I make to my right hon. and learned Friend are not confined to Conway; they cover many similar propositions.

Traffic Conditions, Durham


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the dangerous traffic situation in Silver Street in Durham City; and if he can give any information as to the steps his Department proposes to take to alleviate the danger.

I am aware of the conditions at this place and, as my hon. Friend knows, I arranged for a local inquiry in 1946. The initiative in this matter rests with the city and county councils. I informed them of my general agreement with the recommendation made in the report of the inquiry and they have been in consultation with each other and with my divisional road engineer with a view to the preparation of an agreed scheme.

Is the Minister aware that when negotiating Silver Street a person is exposed to the danger of a serious accident? I raised this matter four years ago, when I was told that the report of the local inquiry was being considered. Does not the Minister think that after this long period something tangible ought to be put forward in an endeavour to solve the problem?

This is a serious problem, but my hon. Friend ought to know that some of the delay in getting an agreed scheme is due to the divergence of local opinion.



asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been called to the dangerous crowding of the north-south road which passes through Eton; and when the construction of the projected by-pass via Bray, including a new bridge across the Thames, may be expected.

I am aware of the conditions of the road through Eton, and I understand that the local authorities concerned are examining the possibility of an alternative north-south road. I am unable to say when sufficient resources will be available for the construction of the new bridge and the east-west by-pass via Bray.

In view of the heavy traffic that passes down the narrow lane which is the High Street of Eton and crosses that willow pattern bridge into Windsor, and the vicious corner opposite Eton College, will my right hon. Friend add this road to the list of those to be presented to the Chancellor.

Toll Bridge, Hayling Island


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the acute congestion caused on the road from Havant to Hayling Island by the existence of the toll bridge; and if he will take steps to have the toll bridge freed at an early date.

I am aware of the conditions on this road. The initiative for freeing the bridge from tolls rests with the local authorities concerned. I regret that I cannot now undertake to give any immediate assistance from the Road Fund.

In view of the fact that at Whitsun it took some hundreds of cars nearly as long to do the last eight miles from Havant to South Hayling as to do the 60 miles from London to Havant, cannot the right hon. Gentleman take some hastening action?

No, Sir, I cannot, because my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated some time ago to this House that one of the savings which I had to effect was in connection with toll bridges.



asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that Larkhall Rise and Larkhall Lane, Clapham, is a busy traffic road which has no traffic lights; and whether, in view of the fact that the junction of Gaskell Street and Larkhall Lane are very dangerous to schoolchildren, he will arrange for traffic lights to be placed at this spot as soon as possible.

Traffic conditions in these streets are being examined by the local authority and my Department to see what steps can be taken to improve them. I have not so far received any application for the approval of traffic lights at the junction with Gaskell Street, but one relating to the junction with Union Road is being considered.

Will the Minister do his best to hurry up these local inquiries, and, in those inquiries, consider also this question of the Gaskell Street crossing where there have been a number of fatal accidents, one only a few days ago?

Carriageway, Parliament Square


asked the Minister of Works what is to be the width of the new carriageway in Parliament Square; and how this compares with the width of the existing one which is to be superseded.

The new carriageway in Parliament Square will be a uniform width of 50 feet. The existing carriageway which will be superseded varies in width from 58 to 65 feet.

I am aware that this was done by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, but does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the result of having a narrow carriageway will be to increase congestion instead of diminishing it?

I can only say that things are not always what they seem. The police authorities, the Home Office and the Ministry of Transport have been into this matter, and they are concerned that the space available should be enough for what is known as weaving. The weaving length is being increased from 82 feet to 182 feet. I agree that the carriageway is narrower, but the transport authorities and police are satisfied that that is all right.

Train Fire, Scotland


asked the Minister of Transport what action was taken as a result of the report, dated 16th January, 1950, on the fire which occurred in an express passenger train on 23rd June, 1949, at Penmanstuch Tunnel in the Scottish Region, British Railways.

The serious issues raised in the Report, of which I sent the hon. and gallant Member a copy on 2nd June, are receiving the close attention of the British Transport Commission. The batch of about 30 coaches which had been sprayed with this particular cellulose lacquer, were withdrawn from service immediately after the accident. Other coaches in which cellulose lacquers of any kind may have been used are being tested for fire risk as they pass through the shops for repair, and preventive precautions are being taken as may be suitable. The attention of the associations concerned with the manufacture and use of passenger road transport vehicles has been specially drawn to the Report.

In case this lacquer might be used on other forms of transport, will the Minister bring it to the notice of all concerned?

I was under the impression that I had done that, but I will again look at the list of associations to make sure that they are all covered.

Would the right hon. Gentleman send a copy of this Report to the associations dealing with this particular industry?

Hamble River (Pollution)


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that on the morning of Saturday, 17th June, large mases of semisolid tarry oil floated into the Hamble river, extensively damaging the paintwork of vessels, and fouling their gear so that it could only be thrown away, finally covering the foreshore so that visitors may not use it for a considerable time to come; and whether he will institute an inquiry into this nuisance.

I was not aware of this incident, but, as the mouth of the Hamble river is within the jurisdiction of the Southampton Harbour Board, I have been in communication with that board. They have informed me that they have investigated the matter and have not been able to trace the source of the pollution.

Is not the Minister aware that vessels lying in that river pay very heavy dues for the privilege of doing so, and does he not agree that they are entitled to a certain amount of active protection against this expensive menace?

This is, of course, very annoying indeed, but it is a matter for the Southampton Harbour Board, and, so far, they have been unable to give me any indication as to how the nuisance has arisen.

What action does my right hon. Friend contemplate taking should he find the source of the pollution in this particular case?

Could the Minister look at the matter rather more generally because there are constant complaints in Spithead and the Solent about masses of oil coming down and being deposited on the beaches, besides doing damage to vessels?

I will certainly pursue the investigations farther than I have so far been able to do at the short notice at my disposal.