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Built-Up Areas (Speed Limits)

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will introduce a speed limit of 25 miles per hour in a selected town for an experimental period.

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

While I appreciate the motives underlying my hon. Friend's suggestion, I do not think that it would serve a useful purpose. A maximum speed of 30 miles per hour has been accepted for many years as reasonable in built-up areas, and pedestrians as well as motorists are accustomed to it.

May I ask my hon. Friend whether the Minister is prepared to carry out any experiments with a view to reviewing the present speed limits?

I do not think that there is any need for that. As recently as 1949, the Ministry of Transport asked the Committee on Road Safety to make a report on this matter. The Committee included representatives of the Police, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and also the Pedestrians' Association, of which my hon. Friend is the chairman. It expressed the view that the existing 30 miles per hour limit was reasonable and accepted as such by the public.

Surely if the motorist has become accustomed to a speed limit of 30 miles per hour there is no reason why he cannot become accustomed for an experimental period to a speed limit of 25 miles per hour?

For no fewer than 27 years 20 miles per hour was the maximum speed limit, and it was found to be unsatisfactory and was abolished in 1930.

Is the Minister aware that many towns are now concerned about the speed limit which is in existence, and is it not a fact that since the time he mentioned there has been an increasing number of accidents—and the faster they go the more accidents there are? Is there not a case for the reduction of the speed limit in the towns?

The majority of accidents in this country are in those areas where there is a speed limit.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation from which sections of the main Bristol road, within the boundaries of the city of Birmingham, he is considering removal of the 30 miles per hour speed limit; and when his decision can be expected.

My right hon. Friend has asked the Birmingham City Council to de-restrict the section of Bristol Road South which lies between Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, and St. Lawrence Road, Northfield, and is awaiting the council's reply.

When the Minister decides to de-restrict this area, will he hold a meeting locally so that full objections to his scheme can be properly heard?

My right hon. Friend has made a request to the Birmingham City Council, and to deal with what might happen if they decline to agree to what he proposes would be to answer a hypothetical question.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will list the causes of the 59 road accidents which occurred in the past three years on the section of Bristol Road South, Birmingham, between the Austin Motor Works and Rubery.

As the answer involves tabulated figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware that his figures relate to the three years ending December, 1952, and that the more recent figures to 30th April this year indicate that over a three years' period the figures have gone up by at least 25 per cent.? Will he, therefore, now revise or review his decision not to impose a 30 miles an hour speed limit? The chief constable of Birmingham states in a letter to me that he is in favour of such a speed limit. Why is the opinion of this chief official of the city disregarded?

I am aware that there has been an increase in the number of accidents since the figures I gave last week. I have, however, had some census figures on the road prepared, and it appears that the average number of accidents a year per thousand vehicles per day per mile on this stretch of road was only 1½ injury accidents as compared with an average for the whole country in similar circumstances of seven or eight. There is, therefore, no justification for introducing a speed limit.

Following are the figures:

Birmingham County Borough Council

Bristol Road South (A.38)

Road Accidents between Lickey Road (Austin Motor Works) and City Boundary (Rubery)

The prime causes of the road accidents on the above stretch of road, as determined by the Police, between 1st January, 1950, and 31st December, 1952, are as follows:

Drivers or Pedal Cyclists:

Inattentive or attention diverted10
Misjudging distance, clearance or speed (vehicles or objects)5
Turning right without due care5
Pulling out from near side without due care4
Turning to left without due care1
Stopping suddenly3
Proceeding at excessive speed having regard to conditions3
Reversing negligently2
Losing control1


Heedless of traffic—crossing road not masked by stationary vehicle3
Heedless of traffic—stepping, walking or running off footpath or verge3
Heedless of traffic—crossing road masked by stationary vehicle2
Heedless of traffic—playing in road2
Heedless of traffic—walking or standing in road1
Slipping or falling1

Passengers, etc.:

Negligence on part of conductor1


Ice, frost or snow2
Fog or mist1

Cause not traced



asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to what extent an area has to be built up, and how far the total of road accidents is taken into account before he imposes a 30 miles per hour speed limit on an urban road in a development area.

Each case is decided on the relevant facts. As was recognised by the Committee on Road Safety in their report on speed limits, published in 1949, no precise formulae can be applied generally.

The Minister knows that I am pressing him about this stretch of road. How far has the toll of life to go before we can get action?

The toll of life at present is so heavy that we are taking all steps that we can to reduce it. It is for this reason that the Government resisted the Prayer that was moved last night to annul the Regulations dealing with pedestrian crossings. We do not believe that any useful purpose would be served by imposing a speed limit restriction in areas where it is not likely to be observed by motorists. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

Dartford—Purfleet Tunnel


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation on what date work will recommence on the Dart-ford—Purfleet Tunnel.

As the hon. Member knows, it is proposed to recommence work on this tunnel next year. I cannot at present be more precise than this as to dates.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that information has been given now for months? Can he not give some idea whether the work will be recommenced at the beginning or the end of the year? In view of the fact that many other districts want tunnels and are well behind in the queue, has a decision not yet been reached?

The fact that information was given some months ago does not make it less true today. This is an immensely expensive project—I think, the largest on our list of undertakings—and I am very glad it has been brought so far forward. This conflicts very vividly with the policy of the previous Administration.

While I support my hon. Friend entirely, did not the Minister state in the House in December that the Clyde Tunnel had first priority?

Certainly, but this project is even more expensive than the Clyde Tunnel.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now say how many shields will be required for the Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel.

This is being considered by the Dartford Tunnel Committee, whose views we are awaiting.

Surely this matter has been now under consideration for a very long time? Has the Minister been doing anything to speed up a decision from Dartford, in view of the fact that he has just intimated that the Dartford Tunnel will be resumed next year? Further, is there any reason why, when Glasgow has been assigned first priority, he should have to wait any decision from Dartford at all?

My right hon. Friend always feels great hesitation about trying to hasten local authorities in these matters. We are awaiting detailed estimates from the Glasgow Corporation as well as from the Dartford Tunnel Committee, and therefore my right hon. Friend is in the position of being obliged to wait for the initiative to be taken locally.

High Wycombe

20 and 21.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) when he proposes to authorise the construction of the High Wycombe inner relief road;

(2) when he proposes to authorise the construction of the High Wycombe and West Wycombe by-pass between Loud-water and Stokenchurch on the A.40 road.

Early in June my right hon. Friend will publish a draft Order under the Trunk Roads Act for the inner relief road, and the project for the outer by-pass is under survey. I regret that I cannot say when it will be possible to fit either of these schemes into the road programme.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the considerable traffic congestion in High Wycombe is a source of grave inconvenience and loss to industry and causes considerable anxiety to the police in the area? Is he further aware that the seven miles' stretch of 30 miles an hour limit through the High Wycombe and Wycombe Valley slows down traffic on this important road to such an extent that it must cause considerable loss to industry? Cannot my hon. Friend bring this project forward?

We realise that there is great need of this road in High Wycombe, but the same applies to roads in many other parts of the country. It is unlikely that we could include this scheme in the road programme in the first few years.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this road is the main trunk road between London and South Wales and that South Wales is already very badly served with roads? Will he look into the matter with a view to its importance far beyond the implications of High Wycombe alone?

It is because the Government realised that Wales was badly served for roads that such a large proportion of the programme announced by my right hon. Friend on 8th December dealt with Wales.

Accidents, Leicester


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware that the county council of Leicester is concerned that certain places in the city and county of Leicester have such high accident records that improvements to reduce them are urgent; and what steps he will take to make speedy improvements to these places, a list of which has been supplied to him by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West.

I received the hon. Member's letter on Monday, and I am looking into the matter and will write to him.

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to keep in mind what he said a moment or two ago, that in cases where the initiative is taken by the locality he is prepared to deal with the matter, and will he see to it that these real danger spots, about which the Leicester and County Accident Prevention Council also communicated with his Department, are dealt with speedily, as a considerable number of accidents are taking place?

We will gladly look into the matter, but 48 hours is not really sufficient time in which to do it.