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Traffic Congestion, Purley Way

Volume 531: debated on Thursday 29 July 1954

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11.33 p.m.

Today we have discussed many subjects, and at the conclusion of the day I want to raise a matter which, although it primarily concerns my own constituency, must affect large numbers of people who live in the southern part of this country.

The Brighton Road passes through Purley and Coulsdon and right through East Surrey. I want to speak particularly of the very bad crossroads at the end of Purley Way at the junction of the Brighton Road and the Eastbourne Road.

Before I explain the problems which I have to lay before the House, I ought to describe the geographical position at that place. Between the wars a new arterial road was built past Croydon Aerodrome, which at that time was of great importance as an international airport. That road came down to Purley Corner via Purley Way, narrowing like a funnel as it came to the corner, where it met the old road which came through Croydon, and so from South London. Then the two roads branched off at right angles, one to Brighton and one to Eastbourne. As if that was not sufficient complication, there is another local road which comes in there, the Banstead Road, which is of great local importance, although it has no significant through traffic.

Coming from London on either of those main roads, there are, of course, many delays, but there is nothing compared with what happens at busy times of the day, particularly at weekends, at Purley Corner. The traffic coming along Purley Way is held up as it approaches Purley Corner. It is then stopped at the lights, after which it goes straight on to Eastbourne or to the right to Brighton. The lights are as efficient as they can be, but the inevitable result is that traffic moves for only a short time before it is stopped again when the lights change. Once the traffic has moved off, although I would not say that it has a clear run to Eastbourne or Brighton, it has certainly got over the worst of the journey.

Some improvements have been made in the last few months. The fountain which used to be in the middle of the crossroads has been moved to the side and the tramcars from Croydon which used to have their terminus there have been removed. In addition to the traffic difficulties, this is the main shopping centre for miles around. It is time that something was done to relieve this considerable congestion, which will continue until something is done.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation has been good enough to visit these crossroads. I am sure he must agree that some remedy must be found for the problems as soon as conviently can be. My own suggestion is that there should be a roundabout. Some roundabouts have recently been constructed on the main road to Purley Way, and I am sure a roundabout could be constructed at Purley Corner. That is the only feasible way I can see by which the flow of traffic can be kept continuous, and the only method by which the congestion at the weekends can be relieved.

Some miles further south of Coulsdon there is on the main Brighton road on which a lot of traffic travels extremely fast, and I do not criticise it for that, a road junction of extreme danger because it is not apparent. There has been one serious accident there in which two persons lost their lives and there have been others in the not too recent past. Two important sideroads come in there, both partially blind, the one coming from the East is hidden by the bend in the road and the hill, and if one comes out slowly one is likely to find oneself in the stream of fast moving vehicles. Again I have had the opportunity of discussing this with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, whom I find sympathetic about it. The solution is not to extend the 30 miles an hour speed limit or to provide lights, which must inevitably slow down the traffic, but once again to provide a roundabout for the safety of both vehicles and pedestrians.

I do not wish to detain the House any longer except to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the danger and inconvenience to the people in the locality and the drivers who have to pass these dangerous and awkward places, and to the necessity to ensure not only the flow of traffic but the safety of pedestrians and those who travel in the vehicles. We cannot allow our main roads—and these are very important main roads—to be neglected. We cannot allow the traffic to increase without anything being done for its speeding up. I would ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary if we can hope in the near future for anything to be done in this part of the county which will alleviate the difficulties and assist in preventing the serious delays which occur at Purley Corner and the dangers at the crossroads which I have already mentioned.

11.42 p.m.

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

No one can be long Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport without being very well aware of the amount of inconvenience and danger which is caused by the inadequacy of our roads to deal with the present volume of traffic. I make no complaint that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has raised the question of two roads in his constituency where there is a great deal of traffic which does not come from his constituency but which uses those roads in travelling between London and the South Coast. My hon. and learned Friend is a very pertinacious representative of the interest of his constituency, and he persuaded me to go to Purley Corner to study on the spot the problems which he has again brought forward tonight. I am glad that he has described my attitude to these matters as sympathetic, and certainly he has done me no more than justice when he has so described me.

I have studied both the problems of Purley Corner and the question of congestion and danger as well as the other problems which he asked me to study. I have had the matter looked at by the divisional road engineer concerned with that part of the country. But when he asks me to give a date when remedial measures can be taken, he is asking for his particular problems to be dealt with on their own without taking into full account the many other parts of the country which are concerned with equally or even greater problems.

In the new road programme which was announced by my right hon. Friend, who is shortly to become the Secretary of State for the Colonies, on 8th December last he indicated what the priorities would be. The first was that he would try in spending the additional money which was made available to give priority to those industrial areas where improvement of communications was likely to have a direct and beneficial effect upon our industry. In the second place, he indicated that he would try to complete some of those large road schemes which had been interrupted by the war and where a large sum of money had been left unused because of the failure to complete those schemes.

My right hon. Friend indicated that where there were black spots he would try again to carry out such alterations and improvement of the road as would be likely to reduce accidents. It is only under the third of those categories that my right hon. Friend would be able to bring either of the projects which the hon. and learned Member has mentioned tonight. I am glad that he has not attached too much importance to the idea of extending the speed limit. Having looked at both of these stretches of road, and having been advised by the divisional road engineer I do not believe that a general extension of the speed limit would have beneficial effect.

In the case of Coulsdon, the solution in the long run will probably be found by provision of the roundabout for which my hon. and learned Friend asked. That will be a considerable undertaking, and it will involve acquisition of a considerable amount of land, which will need fairly large expenditure. When so many demands are being made on the resources at the disposal of the Ministry, I am not able to indicate when it will be possible to carry out the improvement. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend, that I have not forgotten what he showed me. The matter is still being carefully considered in the Ministry. We will do what we can to give priority to this scheme if we are satisfied that provision of a roundabout is likely to reduce accidents.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.