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Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1961

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50 Mph Speed Limit


asked the Minister of Transport the total mileage of roads under a 50 m.p.h. speed limit; how many miles of this type of road were previously subject to a 40 m.p.h. speed limit; and how many were previously derestricted.

None, Sir. But on 15 weekends during the summer a speed limit of 50 m.p.h. was imposed experimentally on 750 miles of trunk road. All these roads were previously unrestricted. The experiment ended on 17th September and its results are now being studied.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the imposition of an overall speed limit prevents accidents? Is it not a fact that at one time of the day it might be safe to drive at 50 m.p.h. but that at another time it might be extremely dangerous? Is it not wise to try to prevent the imposition of speed limits wherever possible?

I do not think I would disagree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. Our experience with this type of experiment is that last year we found a substantial drop in the number of accidents as a consequence of it. This year, we think that the same picture is likely to be repeated, but we are awaiting the results of the experiment.



asked the Minister of Transport the total expenditure from Exchequer funds on the new road construction and major improvements in Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, Brecknockshire, Pembrokeshire and Monmouthshire in the five years ended 31st March last.

Despite what has been done, is there not evidence that the new works have not been commensurate with the tremendous industrial growth of the region?

I would not agree on that. We have been doing a great deal of work in Wales. Over the next six or seven years, we plan to spend an additional £50 million, which will include the Severn Bridge. Wales will, of course, receive the terminations of the London to South Wales and the Birmingham to South Wales motorways. We have not being doing too badly.

Is it not clear that the comparatively small amount which has been spent in comparison with the expanding industrial needs will mean that if there is closure of passenger railway lines in Monmouthshire there is every danger of industry in Monmouthshire choking itself on its own roads?

Industrial Association Of Wales And Monmouthshire (Report)


asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been drawn to the comprehensive report on future highway requirements in South Wales and Monmouthshire prepared for the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire, a copy of which has been sent to him: and what plans he has for road development in that area.


asked the Minister of Transport if he has studied the report prepared by the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire, a copy of which has been supplied to his Department; and what reply he has made to the Association.

This is a valuable Report and I congratulate the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire on its initiative. It is useful to my Department to have independent reports like this. I am studying its proposals and hope to make a further statement before long. In the meantime I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a note of my plans for highway improvements in the area.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that that is not a fully satisfactory reply? Has he noticed that this comprehensive report points out that already half the trunk roads in South Wales are overloaded and that the position is likely to get considerably worse in the future? As Wales has been rather the Cinderella of our road programme in the past, does my right hon. Friend not agree that it should be given greater priority in future road plans?

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. It grieves me, but I cannot, because during the next six to seven years the programme of work in Wales and on the Severn Bridge will amount to more than £50 million worth, not far short of the report's recommendations.

Will my right hon. Friend note that some of the work for which he gives credit in Wales is work really in the Midlands? He attributes the Birmingham motorway as a benefit to Wales. Well, it may be, remotely, but will my right hon. Friend consider what actually is being done in the Principality?

Does the Minister think that the possible closure of the railway train services in Monmouthshire will not accentuate the very serious road shortage which we already have in that area?

Following is the note:

Highway Improvements In Wales And Monmouthshire

1. I propose to carry the London-South Wales Motorway from the Welsh end of the Severn Bridge westwards to form a by-pass of Newport.

2. The main trunk road improvements I have planned in South Wales are:

  • (a) The coast road (A.48) from the end of the Newport By-Pass to North of Swansea;
  • (b) the Heads of the Valleys Road;
  • (c) the road from Ross to Newport;
  • (d) the Taff Vale Road from Cardiff to Abercynon.
  • All except ( b) will be brought up to two-lane dual carriageway standards.

    Some lengths of the coast road have already been improved and other lengths—notably the Port Talbot By-Pass—are due for an early start. Work is under way on parts of the Heads of the Valleys Road and more is due to start very soon. Work has also started on the improvement of part of the Ross-Newport road.

    3. The classified road improvements in South Wales and Monmouthshire include the Swansea East Side Approach Road, the bulk of which is now completed, and the Newport Second Bridge.


    asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been drawn to the comprehensive report on highway requirements in Monmouthshire prepared for the Industrial Association of Wales and Monmouthshire, a copy of which has been sent to him; whether he is aware that the Pontypool-Newport road is now carrying more than twice its designed capacity; and whether he will order an enquiry into the effects of closures of railway passenger lines in Monmouthshire upon traffic volume on the Pontypool-Newport road.

    Yes, Sir. I am aware that this trunk road is carrying twice its designed capacity. I am now considering the recent recommendation of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee that the proposals to withdraw passenger services on the Eastern and Western Valley railway lines should be agreed. The Committee's report takes account of road traffic conditions and I do not think another inquiry at this stage would serve any useful purpose.

    In view of the fact that the Industrial Association's comments have been published since the Consultative Committee met, may I ask the Minister whether he will give an assurance that, bearing in mind that 15,000 units a day use this Pontypool—Newport road, he will not take action which will throw all the people hitherto using the passenger service on to a heavily overloaded road of this character?

    I cannot give an assurance of that sort until I have examined in detail the evidence put before the Consultative Committee.

    Is the Minister aware that conditions on this road have to be seen to be believed? Therefore, will he go and see them? Does he not recognise that it would be absolutely shocking if he were to agree to the British Transport Commission's proposal for stopping the passenger services before there had been a really radical effort to deal with the whole road problem in the area?

    I do not think that any decision should be arrived at before the evidence has been examined.

    Will the Minister not have another look at this type of thing? He will be aware that a Select Committee of the House, when considering this question last year, asked the Government to accept some social responsibility as distinct from the profit-and-loss account which the Transport Commission has to consider when it closes branch lines? Will the Minister not give some directive, irrespective of what will be proposed in the new Bill, with a view to keeping these social amenities still available to the public?

    I was asked for my comments on this case. Obviously it is impossible to give a decision until the evidence laid before the Consultative Committee has been seen by me.

    When does the Minister expect to complete his study of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee's report?

    Temporary Flyovers


    asked the Minister of Transport whether in order to prevent traffic congestion he will, as a temporary measure, erect pre-fabricated steel bridges to carry traffic at points such as the crossing of A.5 and A.41 on the North Circular Road.

    We are studying various possible sites for temporary flyovers including some in the London area.

    We are about to publish our proposals for a permanent flyover at Brent Cross. A temporary flyover there would have too short a life to be worth while. Consulting engineers are investigating the situation at the A.5 junction.

    Many people will be pleased to hear that news. Would my hon. Friend say on general principle that these temporary steel prefabricated bridges have been a great help, not only at Knightsbridge but in other parts of the country?

    Yes, indeed, not only at Knightsbridge, but also the excellent example put up in Birmingham recently. We do not rule out the possibility of having temporary flyovers where the ground is suitable for them. I only say that they should really be suitable for the sites and have a reasonably long life, otherwise the money is wasted.



    asked the Minister of Transport whether he will authorise the extension of aluminium slotted screening between the carriageways to the entire length of the M.1.

    No, Sir. Although this experimental screen gives protection against glare from approaching headlights, there is no indication that its presence has, in fact, helped to reduce accidents. It may encourage drivers not to dip their headlights, thus increasing danger and discomfort from dazzle in the driving mirror from the lights of following vehicles. The screen is definitely not adequate as a crash barrier.

    Would my right hon. Friend not agree that this antidazzle barrier should be erected throughout the length of the carriageway? It certainly acts as a wind-break. Only the other day a lorry overturned on the M.1. Will he not look into the matter again? Would he not agree that the cost is well worth while even if only a few lives are saved each year?

    There is a committee which sits continually to consider safety on the M.1, and we have members of the Road Research Laboratory on it. They are not satisfied that what my hon. and gallant Friend asks for is justified at present.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people like myself who use this road fairly frequently, including the other day when the lorry overturned, find it quite invaluable to have this light barrier down the middle of the road? I notice particularly that where the barrier stops is the place where the dazzle starts again.

    This road is being observed almost daily by the Road Research Laboratory and my engineers. If my hon. Friend has any evidence to offer to them I will certainly see that it is sent.

    Junction, Harrow (Traffic Lights)


    asked the Minister of Transport when he will announce the plans for a new traffic control system at the junction of Alexandra Avenue and Northolt Road, Harrow.

    An improved layout for this junction, including traffic signals, has now been approved. I understand that the highway authority is now obtaining estimates of cost and hopes to proceed quickly with the scheme.

    While thanking my hon. Friend for his comments, may I ask whether he realises that plans for this road junction were first produced ten years ago? Is he aware that from personal experience I can tell him that it is impossible to join the main stream of traffic at this junction except by shutting one's eyes tight and accelerating?

    I would not advise my hon. Friend to do that. We certainly are aware of the difficulties at this place. That is Why we are getting on with this work, and it is a poor heart that never rejoices.

    West Auckland By-Pass


    asked the Minister of Transport if in view of the unemployment in South-West Durham, he will authorise the early construction of that part of the West Auckland by-pass which will improve access to the new Fielden Bridge industrial site at St Helen's, Auckland.

    This by-pass would be on a classified road for which the Durham County Council is the highway authority. It has not as yet proposed its inclusion in the road programme. Until it does so we cannot consider it for inclusion.

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the shortage of money for this purpose? Could he not make money available so that several things could be done at once, 100 acres of industrial development laid out, unemployment in the area relieved, and everybody satisfied?

    The hon. Member has not followed my original Answer. I said that until the Durham County Council puts forward a proposal for this road, which is one of its roads, we cannot consider it for inclusion in the county council's programme. The ball is in the council's court. When the council eventually brings its proposal forward we will try to do what we can.