Skip to main content

Harrogate Road, Bradford (Speed Limit)

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 9 March 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [ Mr. Vosper.]

6.10 a.m.

It is very late, and I will not delay the House, but the case which I want to place before the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, to whom I apologise, is one in which he may be able to assist.

I am trying to get an argument settled; an argument which has been going on in the City of Bradford since 1947. It refers to the speed limit on a length of main road which lies between St. John's church, Greengates, and the city boundary in Apperley Lane—a length of over half a mile. This is a widish road but it cannot be termed, from a motorist's point of view, a good road. It has several awkward bends, and a bridge which is insufficient for fast moving heavy traffic.

Under the Road Traffic Act, 1934, this road was automatically restricted because it had street lighting and it was regarded as a built-up area under the provisions of that Act. In 1936, following certain representations made by the Corporation, and others, a public inquiry was held for considering whether any change should be made in the classification of this road so far as restriction was concerned. At that inquiry, among those who objected to the proposal to derestrict the road, were the deputy-town clerk, the city engineer, and the chief constable, together with the Cyclists' Touring Club, Those who supported the proposal to derestrict were the A.A. and the R.A.C.

I asked my hon. Friend's predecessor if I might have a look at the report of the proceedings of the public inquiry, but was very surprised to learn that it was not the custom to make the report of such proceedings available, even to an hon. Member of this House. But I leave that point. I was, however, surprised to find that the Minister decided, following the inquiry, that the area was not to be regarded as built-up and, therefore, the main criterion for the imposition of a speed limit was not fulfilled under the 1934 Act. The Minister made an order for derestriction, and that order was made against the wishes of the Bradford City Council, and against the wishes of the residents in the area.

The main part of my case is to suggest to my hon. Friend that the situation has changed very much since 1936 and that the road traffic conditions which obtained then certainly do not obtain now. I argue that the case for the re-imposition of the speed limit is very much stronger now than it was then. There has been considerable industrial development adjacent to the road since 1936. Factories have been extended and I believe one or two new establishments have been built. In addition, many new houses have been built in the districts of Greengates and Eccleshill, which has led inevitably to an increase in both vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic.

This road is one of the main outlets from the City of Bradford to the countryside and, particularly at week-ends, many thousands of people use the road on their way out of the city. In 1936, the traffic density, as stated at the inquiry, was 200 vehicles an hour. If it was 200 then, it surely must be much more today.

In recent years many representations have been made by the city corporation to the Minister concerned and many other representations have been made by firms and residents in the area to Members of Parliament and the Corporation. I have here a petition praying that the speed limit be reimposed. It is signed by 1,175 residents of that district. At the conclusion of the debate I will hand it to my hon. Friend. The petition came from the residents in the area and was sponsored by the Community Association.

This stretch of road has an appalling accident record. I will show, by giving the figures, that it cannot be regarded as anything but a death trap. The record of accidents from 1st January, 1947, to 17th December, 1953, shows that out of 67 accidents, six people were killed and 50 injured. These facts are causing the gravest concern to many thousands of people who live in that neighbourhood. I suggest to my hon. Friend that the position should be reviewed. The previous decision should be withdrawn and the matter should be regarded as serious and urgent.

At a meeting on 18th December, 1953, the Bradford Watch Committee passed a minute relating to this matter, the latter part of which reads:
"Resolution: That in view of the increasing road traffic this Committee are strongly of the opinion that a 30 miles per hour speed limit ought to be imposed on the portion of Harrogate Road from St. John's Church Greengates to the City Boundary in Apperley Lane, and that the Town Clerk be instructed again to press the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation to make an Order under Section 1 (6) of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, revoking the existing Order."
My object in raising the matter now is to enable my hon. Friend to state publicly either that he is prepared to advise his right hon. Friend to set up another inquiry into the matter, or that he has considered it and is prepared to recommend the Minister to make the order as suggested in the city corporation minute.

I have had a long argument with the Department on this matter. I must say I was disappointed, when I took it up with the previous Parliamentary Secretary, to find that the protests of local people who should know the situation were treated with scant courtesy and that the decision and opinion of the corporation was flouted in a manner which I think is regrettable when considering a matter of local importance and interest. I will not delay the House another moment. I hope that my hon. Friend will have good news for me to take back to Bradford as a result of my raising the matter today.

6.24 a.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. Hugh Molson)

I fully understand the attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. W. J. Taylor) in wishing to bring before the House the desires of the great city he represents that the derestriction of this road in 1936 should be cancelled. He has accurately stated the position. Under Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, provision is made for the application of the speed limit in built-up areas, and for the removal of speed limits in the case of roads which are not in built-up areas, even though they may be in urban areas.

My hon. Friend has devoted his attention to the Harrogate Road from St. John's Church, Greengates, north to the old city boundary, which was mainly de- restricted by the Minister after a local inquiry in 1936. I might say he might have been raising the matter of Apperley Lane, but I understand that he is raising the case of Harrogate Road.

I am dealing with that section of the road to the city boundary up to Queen's Hotel in Apperley Lane and over the bridge to the city boundary.

There have been two city boundaries, the old and the new, and I was not sure whether my hon. Friend was referring to the old stretch of the road, which is about 1,000 yards. In our view that area cannot properly be described as a built-up area. I have furnished myself with a map drawn by the surveyor of the city council in 1947. It is true that there are a certain number of buildings close to the road, but they are chiefly of an industrial character. There are not a large number of residential houses, and certainly there can be no question of any development in depth.

My hon. Friend referred to the unfortunate record of this road for accidents. It is true that there have been a considerable number of accidents but, with the possible exception of one, we do not find that they can possibly be attributed to excessive speed. My figures are not precisely the same as those of my hon. Friend because they cover a different period of time. From 24th July, 1951, to 1st March, 1954, there were two fatal accidents, one of which involved a pedestrian and might possibly have been due to excessive speed. The other involved a motor cyclist and passenger, but the cause of that accident is not known because there are no witnesses surviving.

There were five injury accidents, one of which involved a pedestrian who fell while pushing a carriage; one involved a cyclist who skidded; two involved private cars, and were found to be due to carelessness; and one was due to a defect in the vehicle concerned. In addition, there were 15 non-injury accidents reported during this period, seven of which were caused by dogs on the carriageway.

Apart from the fatal accident I have referred to, there is no case in which it can be said with any assurance that excessive speed was even a contributory factor in these accidents. Much the same applies in the other lengths of road in Apperley Lane, where there were two injury and seven non-injury accidents. One injury was caused by a pedal cyclist losing control, and the other involved a motor cycle and was due to the slippery conditions on the road, for it was winter and the road was covered with snow and ice. Therefore, while I freely admit there have been a large number of accidents upon this road it is not, as far as I can see, the case that they have been due to motor vehicles travelling at an excessive speed.

My hon. Friend suggested that, because the local authority was anxious for a speed limit to be restored, that in itself was the reason why my right hon. Friend should cancel the derestriction order. We find that if restrictions are imposed on lengths of road which are really not so built up as to make the motorist feel that a safety limit is justifiable the restrictions are ignored by drivers. I saw only a short time ago a remarkable graph of the Road Research Laboratory showing that restriction on a road that is not built up virtually has no effect at all upon the speed at which motorists drive.

We believe, therefore, that in the general interests of the country as a whole, and to ensure that restrictions, where they are applied, are treated with respect, it is extremely important that there should not be restrictions in cases where they are not really necessary. In a recent debate in another place Lord Lloyd said in response to several representations that my right hon. Friend believed that many cases of existing speed limits were unreasonable, and that the Minister is considering the possibility of a review. It really would not be consistent with a policy of this kind for us to restore a speed limit on a road of this sort where we are not really persuaded that it is necessary.

However, as a result of my hon. Friend's representations, we have looked carefully at the accidents that have happened. It appears that an unduly large proportion of these accidents have taken place after dark. Out of a total of 31 personal injury and other accidents on the two stretches of road, no fewer than 18 occurred after dark. It may, therefore, be that the street lighting on this road, which is rather old-fashioned—it is, in fact, the old-fashioned type of gas mantle lighting on columns 15 feet in height— should be examined. It is certainly not up to the standard which my Department likes to see. I will gladly undertake that we will discuss with the Bradford City Council the question of whether this unhappy accident record is not due to the old-fashioned and unsatisfactory lighting upon the road.

I hope that I have persuaded my hon. Friend that it would not really be justifiable or in accordance with our general policy to reimpose the speed limit.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the trouble he has taken to give me such a detailed reply.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-eight Minutes to Seven o'Clock a.m., Wednesday, 10th March.