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By-Pass Road, Cardiff

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 13 May 1954

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

10.0 p.m.

I hope to bring the attention of the House to what appears at first sight to be a local problem. It certainly is a South Wales problem. In the nine years that it has been my privilege to represent part of the City of Cardiff in this House, it has not been often that I have sought through the Adjournment to raise specific constituency matters. But both my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), I know, were equally desirous in seeking the Adjournment on the question of a by-pass road for the City of Cardiff.

The City of Cardiff is a beautiful city; it is a progressive city. It has much to be said in its favour. Unfortunately, it is not governed by a Labour majority, unless the votes being counted at the moment prove to be sufficiently enlightened. Even so, it is a progressive city of which all of us who live within its boundaries are indeed proud. The City of Cardiff is concerned about its traffic problems and the corporation, through its town clerk, has approached the three Cardiff Members of Parliament and sought our support in connection with the beginning of the eastern by-pass for the city. The city serves as a venue for the people of the valleys of South Wales. It is very often the scene of great international football matches. It is the scene of great demonstrations of all sorts and on Thursdays and Saturdays the city is especially crowded when our friends and relatives come in from the valleys.

I am a valley boy and I know how the people of the valleys look on a trip to Cardiff as a special day out. But it is 'becoming intolerable to be in the city when it is crowded. One can almost walk across the tops of the motor cars to reach the other side of the road. I do not want to be guilty of exaggeration, but I do know that the problem is getting similar to the problem in London. When there are great events in London, we know how traffic congestion in one part affects several other parts, and in Cardiff we frequently find that state of affairs. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East and the hon. Member for Cardiff, North will testify to that.

The problem has become one of the major problems for the city and the watch committee has not been unmindful of it. The chief constable advised the corporation that we ought to develop a one-way system of traffic which would mean a great loss to our shops in various parts of the city. After a tremendous campaign, the one-way system for Queen Street was withdrawn. Every responsible person is now agreed that we need the eastern by-pass, which would relieve the city of the heavy industrial traffic from London, the Midlands and the Bristol area, moving to West Wales.

There has been an astonishing increase in traffic flowing through the main streets of Cardiff since 1945. The increase from 1945 to 1951 was no less than 50 per cent, of the traffic passing through Queen Street, Duke Street, Castle Street and on to Cowbridge Road. The traffic which is pouring through the streets of Cardiff means that there is a general slowing down in the activities of our area. Before the war we established the Western Avenue which has been a godsend in relieving the city centre. This proposed eastern by-pass will extend from the Western Avenue to the North Road Junction for five and a half miles in an easterly direction joining the main London—Newport Road at St. Mellons. It would be a blessing to Cardiff.

Like the roads in other cities of this country, our roads in Cardiff were not constructed for the heavy industrial traffic which they have to carry today. Cardiff is not an ancient city. We have ancient monuments but the city is, roughly, only 100 years old. Our leases are now beginning to run out, but that is a matter of industrial development, and I do not wish to get involved in that provocative subject tonight. Although Cardiff is not an ancient city, the roads are not wide enough for the heavy burden imposed upon them at present. We have, I think, a right to ask the Ministry of Transport to help us to face this problem. I know that the cost of the new road would be borne by the Ministry.

Cowbridge Road which runs through the heart of Cardiff West, and runs through my constituency, was last year the scene of fatal accident after fatal accident. I myself visited three homes where children had been killed within a short period of time. It is a death-trap for the people who live there. The suggested arterial road would be a means not only of easing the temper of motorists and easing the problem of transport, but it would also be a means of saving life within the city.

I hope that the Minister will not say, "Yes, we all agree with you, but we have not the money." This is one of those projects for which we must find the money and where it is too important to wait. I hope that if he succeeds in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East will support this request which comes from the city fathers.

10.9 p.m.

I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) on his zeal and initiative. Only he and I know how far he has travelled today.

I will not go into details of his journey, but he has travelled hundreds of miles to be here this evening to put the case for a road which would run through his constituency and which affects us all in Cardiff.

I wish to support the case made originally by the council to the Lloyd Committee. I know from my personal knowledge that conditions, are becoming quite intolerable in the city centre. Whatever plans the Ministry may have for relieving traffic on either side of the city, they will be of little avail if all the traffic passing through the city is so slowed down that time is lost which has otherwise been gained. All of us who know the city and who have been there on week-days, and indeed at week-ends, know that this is a most serious problem.

I know as well as anybody does the difficulties of the Ministry of Transport in this matter but I tell the Minister that there is a real case to be met here, and I hope that he will give us some indication of the degree of urgency that he attaches to the scheme and when he hopes it will be undertaken. Again, I congratulate my hon. Friend upon his initiative in securing this Adjournment debate.

10.11 p.m.

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

I know that the traffic problems of Cardiff have been worrying all three hon. Members who represent that city. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) who asked us a question about the matter only a short time ago. However, I recognise that there is no difference of opinion at all between the parties as to the importance of something being done to relieve the traffic congestion in Cardiff.

We are most anxious as soon as possible to begin work upon the Eastern Avenue. As the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has said, Western Avenue has already been completed, and it is already serving a useful purpose. Obviously the value of what has already been done would be very much increased if it were possible to complete the road which would provide a by-pass around the busy, important and beautiful city of Cardiff, so that the heavy industrial traffic between the industrial towns of the South of Wales could by-pass it.

My Department has been in close touch with the city council and has been employing the surveyors of the city council as its agents to carry out the necessary preliminary survey for this work. It is my right hon. Friend's intention, as soon as the details have been carried far enough, to proceed with the making of a trunk road order.

That is a straightforward answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West and the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) as to whether or not the Minister recognises the importance of the scheme. We are prepared to undertake it as soon as funds permit. Because it is so largely concerned with the heavy industrial traffic of South Wales, and, indeed, of the country as a whole, and not primarily that of the inhabitants and ratepayers of Cardiff, we are prepared to go a long way in making this road, Western Avenue and also that part of the Cowbridge Road to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, West referred, a trunk road. It is difficult to describe, but I refer to the part of Cowbridge Road to which the hon. Member referred. The whole of the cost of building the new road and the cost of maintenance of the existing part will be borne by the Exchequer.

I hope, therefore, that the two hon. Gentlemen opposite and also my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North will regard that as being, as far as it goes, a satisfactory answer, and will realise that we recognise the importance of the matter and that in due course it will be undertaken, and undertaken at the cost of the Exchequer.

Yes, it is a beginning.

The hon. Gentleman no doubt realises that I am now coming to the question of the time-table, and that is where I fear I may not be able entirely to satisfy the two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken. On a number of occasions, we have been asked in this House to make certain that the Principality of Wales obtains fair treatment, and that case has been put by the right hon. Gentleman the Father of the House and by hon. Gentlemen representing Welsh constituencies who sit on both sides. The Government have recognised both the strength and the justification for this nationalist sentiment, and it was as a result of that that the Lloyd Committee—

Would the hon. Gentleman substitute the word "national "for "nationalist?"

I really do not want to split hairs, and I think that perhaps the word I used is, on the whole, more appropriate in the circumstances.

The Lloyd Committee went into the whole question of what could and should be done in order to help the Principality of Wales. We have always recognised since before the war that, owing to causes for which Wales was in no way responsible, it has suffered from particular misfortunes. The great industrial development which took place there was succeeded by a period of depression, and, for that reason, it appeared to be justifiable to treat Wales, and especially South Wales, in a special way in order to try to reduce the amount of unemployment that exists at the present time, and certainly to prevent the recurrence of the very heavy unemployment which existed there between the wars.

It was for that reason that the Government considered that they were justified in undertaking the very large road developments in Wales and in the adjoining part of England which was announced by my right hon. Friend on 8th December last. Hon. Gentlemen representing Welsh constituencies will be aware that there are some colleagues of mine representing English constituencies who thought that there had been discrimination in favour of Wales. If that were so, I think it could be justified for the reasons I have given—because of the vital need of trying to encourage new industries to establish themselves in those parts of South Wales where the mining industry, in particular, the tinplate industry and others of the early and pioneering industries of the whole country, upon which our prosperity had depended in the past, are now in a state of decline. It was for that reason that the very large programme was approved by the Government.

Let me begin by dealing with a road scheme in the immediate vicinity of Cardiff. The Whitchurch by-pass was recently approved, and will be included in the first three years programme, and will cost £250,000. It is not actually within the city boundaries of Cardiff, but in that developed area, and it will confer very great benefit on the city of Cardiff. Then, there is the Neath—Llanelly road, already approved at a cost of nearly £1 million. There is the Swansea Eastern Approach, to which the Government grant will amount to well over £250,000. There is the Neath by-pass, Part II, which will cost £1.6 million, and there is the Port Talbot by-pass, to cost £2 million. These schemes amount to almost £4 million of Exchequer money.

In addition to that is the route along the heads of the valleys. The hon. Gentleman described himself as "a son of the valleys." He will realise how important it is for people living in the northern and uppermost parts of the valleys that there should be road com munication to make industrial development reasonably possible. The cost of the improvements of the Hirwain—Abergavenny route will be approximately £4 million. It is proposed to construct part of the Newport by-pass at a cost of £1½ million, in order to enable traffic from the South Wales ports to get on to road A449 to Raglan, which it is thought will be of considerable benefit to the whole of that part of Wales.

Then there is the Ross Spur and by-pass, providing a new route on that industrial area of South Wales to the great industrial area around Birmingham, which will cost a very large sum in the neighbourhood of £5½ million. Although part of it may be outside the Principality, it is being undertaken in the interests not solely of that part of England but in the interests of industrial South Wales. It is therefore incontrovertibly the case that in the new programme that was announced very large works are being undertaken for the benefit of Wales in general and of South Wales in particular.

We are subject to pressure, but I think reasonable pressure, from the representatives of many industrial areas in England who are asking that urgent and long overdue work of road development should be carried out. I hope that with that spirit of reasonableness and moderation which always distinguishes the hon. Member for Cardiff, West he will recognise that in this first announced programme of road construction we are doing a great deal for South Wales. We have done a great deal for Cardiff. With the assurance that we fully recognise the importance of this by-pass, I hope that the hon. Member will not press us to undertake it out of the general order of priority.

I hope that the Minister will understand that neither my hon. Friend nor myself committed ourselves to the exact route suggested for these roads. We are very appreciative of the manner in which the Minister has given his reply.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-four Minutes past Ten o'Clock.