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Roads

Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 22 November 1961

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Motorways (Accidents)

2.

asked the Minister of Transport what action he is taking to prevent accidents on motorways resulting from a motor car crossing from one carriageway to the other when out of control.

I am taking steps to ensure that the dangers of driving too fast, particularly in bad weather, are brought home to drivers. For example, in conjunction with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and others concerned, a demonstration of winter driving hazards is being staged tomorrow for Press, radio and television correspondents.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a fence has been designed which combines both anti-dazzle and anti-crash protection which might well be erected between the two highways? Is he arranging to have such a fence erected? Is he aware that although the expanded metal fence on M.1 is not primarily designed for anti-crash purposes, it has been hit at least ten times by cars which would have gone into the other carriageway, that no one was injured and that in one case the car was travelling at 90 m.p.h.?

In other cases they have gone through the barrier, so it has not been so good as my hon. Friend suggests. The main point is that if there is a crash barrier the disadvantage is that it might cause a vehicle hitting it to rebound into its own carriageway and come into collision with traffic behind it.

M1 (Anti-Dazzle Screen)

3.

asked the Minister of Transport what has been the result of the monitoring by the Road Research Laboratory of the experiment with an expanded metal anti-dazzle screen on M.1; and if he will now extend the screen for the full length of the motorway.

Studies made by the Road Research Laboratory have confirmed the efficiency of the screen in preventing dazzle from oncoming vehicles. The laboratory also keeps a check on its effect on accidents. There is so far insufficient evidence for them to reach a conclusion on this.

For the reasons given in my Answer to the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) on 15th November, I am not prepared at present to extend the screen on M.1 or to install a screen on other motorways.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that it was eleven months ago that I was told by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that the Road Research Laboratory was monitoring this experiment? How long does it take to complete monitoring and reach a conclusion? With reference to the Answer my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans), would not my right hon. Friend agree that what he described as the danger and discomfort from dazzle in the driving mirror from lights of following vehicles is very much less than the danger and discomfort from headlights of approaching vehicles, and that the light from following vehicles can easily be eliminated by having an adjustment on the rear view mirror?

We have examined all the motoring magazines to see what the correspondents have said and find that opinion is divided between having and not having a screen. Everyone has his own opinion about this, but the Road Research Laboratory says that a screen which is good for oncoming traffic has the disadvantage that vehicles behind do not dip their headlights and their lights are shown in the driving mirror.

Will my right hon. Friend have experiments carried out with amber headlights such as are used in France? Is he aware that they do not dazzle and are very much better in fog? Will he take his bicycle and ride about the roads at night in France and use his own eyes?

I take my bicycle to France and ride about there. The Road Research Laboratory has tested the amber light and rejected it.

Does the Minister accept the proposition that the dazzle from headlights is difficult and dangerous when the headlights are on-coming and also when they are coming from behind, but the fact that a device protects one from the first and does not protect one from the second is no reason for not having such protection as one can have?

The accumulated evidence collected by the Road Research Laboratory and the police suggests that the balance of advantage is with keeping motorways as they are, but if they decide that the balance of advantage is the other way, I shall consider the matter.

Motorways (Construction)

9.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in order to expedite the construction of cross-country long-distance motorways, he will authorise that such roads in future be developed by private enterprise and local authorities jointly, the capital required being serviced by tolls, in cases where the necessary finance is forthcoming.

This is an interesting suggestion. Legislation would be needed to enable tolls to be charged. I feel sure, too, that Parliament would wish to consider very carefully any proposal to allow local authorities to use for the profit of private interests the powers given them to construct motorways, including the right to acquire land compulsorily and to close private accesses. In any case, it is doubtful if proposals on these lines would expedite the provision of long-distance motorways, in view of the extent to which civil engineering resources are already very heavily committed.

While appreciating that much has been and is being done now for new road construction, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that it is absolutely clear that much more needs to be done? If the limiting factor of additional new road construction is the amount of capital which can be provided, surely it would be just as well to get this new capital from any source that may be available. Would the Minister keep this matter under consideration and perhaps take the view that the right responsibility of government is to build new roads in the cities and for private enterprise to build outside them?

I will certainly keep this under consideration, as we are doing. The limiting factor is not so much cash, as it were, but the resources of the industry, especially skilled men. What has disturbed me a lot recently is the reduced number of bids that we get when we put out schemes to tender. Also, the prices are higher, which indicates that the resources of the industry are strained to the utmost.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many counties, such as Dorset, only see railway lines closing and have no hope for twenty years of new roads; and that this is a very serious problem for them?

A590 (Backbarrow By-Pass)

10.

asked the Minister of Transport when he anticipates work will start on the Backbarrow by-pass on A.590.

Preparation is going ahead and, if all goes well, construction should start within two years.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to bear in mind that this quite inexpensive scheme will do a very great deal to open up communications in this area? I hope that he will make sure that pressure is applied, so that the work will not go back beyond the dates he has given.

Marlow Bridge

11.

asked the Minister of Transport if he has yet come to a decision about the future of Marlow bridge; and if he will make a statement.

We will reach a decision as soon as we can. But the analysis of the traffic survey made last August must first be completed.

Is my hon. Friend aware that on 30th November, 1960, he wrote to me saying that he realised that a decision "must be taken soon". Would he interpret for my benefit what he means by "soon"? Is he aware that there is strong opinion in Marlow that the Ministry is just waiting for the bridge to fall down?

Whatever may be the opinion in Marlow, that is certainly not the opinion in the Ministry of Transport. In answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, "soon" means as soon as we have had the traffic survey, and have analysed the results.

High Wycombe By-Pass

12.

asked the Minister of Transport when work on the High Wycombe by-pass will begin.

There have been many objections to the line of the road in the draft proposals published earlier in the year. We are now considering these objections and shall consult the county council. An alteration in part of the route may be needed. Like my hon. Friend, I am anxious to see work on this important project started as soon as possible.

While appreciating the difficulties with which my hon. Friend is now confronted, may I ask him to do all he can to speed up the decision? At the moment, High Wycombe is the safest town in England; one can cross the road in perfect safety, because no traffic can move.

I hope that the House will not draw too many conclusions from the latter part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. My hon. Friend knows that, to date, we have received about 778 objections, including a petition, which I have here, from 666 people who do not like the idea of our building part, at any rate, of this by-pass. We will certainly get on as quickly as possible, but I think that this case shows to the House the difficulty we are in in trying to get these things done quickly.

Pedestrian Crossings (Double White Lines)

13.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will introduce regulations so that double white lines are provided at the approach to pedestrian crossings.

No, Sir. Pedestrian crossings are already well marked by stripes, flashing beacons and studs. It is an offence to park a vehicle on the approach side of a pedestrian crossing, and the Highway Code enjoins no overtaking at or when approaching a crossing. Double white lines would not prevent overtaking on streets where there is room for two lanes of traffic on each side.

Is my hon. Friend aware that very large numbers of accidents occur on pedestrian crossings as a result of cars passing on the approach to the crossing and knocking over those pedestrians who have seen the inside car stop? As drivers have become used to double white lines, would my hon. Friend at least give further consideration to this measure?

We are always willing to consider any suggestion which would help us to get rid of this sort of problem, but I think that it is mainly a matter for the common sense and good driving manners of motorists. As I said in my Answer, the Highway Code very strongly advises motorists not to pass another vehicle when it has stopped at a pedestrian crossing, and I am sure that the police enforce this as much as they can.

Accidents

14.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in the interests of road safety, after more than one serious road accident has occurred at the same spot, he will ask the police to supply the fullest information to the highway authority so that lessons may be learned and more accidents avoided.

Highway authorities generally are in touch with the police about accidents which suggest that an improvement is needed to the highway, but I am considering whether any additional measures would help. If my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind, I will gladly look into it.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to bear in mind how important it is for traffic engineers to know the full facts of these accidents, because they can often learn for the future from the unfortunate lessons of the past?

I quite agree with my hon. Friend. We have a policy in the Ministry of trying to eliminate the "blind spots", as we call them, where accidents occur. A pamphlet has been published showing the progress made. It is an excellent pamphlet. I have a copy here, and 1 will present it to my hon. Friend.

M1 (Extension)

21.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, having regard to the traffic needs of the East Midlands and of the special function of the M.1 extension as a by-pass road for Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, he will accelerate procedures for the construction of that section of the motorway which is intended to link the present terminal point at Crick with the junction with A.611 at Selston.

31.

asked the Minister of Transport when the motorway M.1 will be extended to Yorkshire.

47.

asked the Minister of Transport by what date he estimates M.1 will be in use beyond Leicester, thus easing the present traffic congestion in the city and suburbs.

I have nothing at present to add to the Answers which were given on 24th October and 15th November to the hon. Members for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) and Ashfield (Mr. Warbey).

As this programme as a whole is lagging, as compared with what happened in the case of the first section of the M.1, and as the total length of the Yorkshire extension is 86 miles, will the Minister give serious consideration to the idea of starting, completing and opening the extension in two or three sections, each of which would provide a valuable traffic link and which would serve as a temporary terminal?

It is a little early to decide that particular matter, because we are still in the stage of the numerous statutory preliminary processes which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, have caused some delay to this project as a whole in the past. But I will certainly bear that in mind.

Does the Minister realise that the extension of the M.1 into Yorkshire is needed in the near future in order to speed up the passage of raw materials and manufactured goods to and from the great industrial cities and towns of Yorkshire, and is it not the case that the Minister is short of money for this project owing to the economic mess into which the Government have led us?

No. The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong in the second part of his supplementary question. The reason this project lagged was simply that the people in Leicestershire objected very strongly to the original line. That put the whole project back, as we have now seen, by a couple of years. We have now a new line and we are progressing with that as quickly as we can. In the meantime, we have proceeded with the large-scale improvement of the Great North Road, which also goes in that direction, and which will serve us very well not only in the intermediate period but for a long time to come.

Can my hon. Friend speed up these formalities in order to cut the waiting period and enable a start to be made sooner? Would it not be of great assistance to the highways committees of Leicester and Leicestershire if they could have some idea when the pressure on Leicester City at the moment will be relieved by the construction of the M.1 beyond that city?

As I have said before in Answers to Questions, Parliament has placed upon us an obligation to proceed in these road matters at a certain pace. We cannot, much as we should like to, speed up the preliminary processes faster than Parliament will allow us to do. Within the confines of the processes imposed upon us, we are making all the speed that we can.

Carlisle

23.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will include road schemes for the relief of traffic congestion in the City of Carlisle in his classified road programme for 1964–65.

We are still considering the classified road programme for 1964–65. I can assure my hon. Friend that we are well aware of the claims of Carlisle for a place.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in addition to the congestion in the centre of the city, we also get an invasion of traffic from the north into Carlisle, which is rather reminiscent of the days of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the damage that it is doing to our city? Has not his right hon. Friend had an invitation from a lady constituent of mine living in Scotland Road to spend a night at her house—and is he aware that this lady, so far as I know, is still languishing for a reply?

My right hon. Friend tells me that he has not so far received this invitation, but before replying he would like to know how old the lady is.

South-West Motorway

24.

asked the Minister of Transport when work on the south-west motorway is to start.

Work has already been put in hand on four sections of the London-South Wales Motorway, one of which, the Maidenhead By-pass, is open to traffic.

The proposed motorway from London to west of Basingstoke is still at an early stage of planning. I cannot say when we shall be able to make proposals for its route.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the South-West feels that it is very neglected in this matter? If he will look at his own pamphlet, showing where the new roads are to go, he will see that they go to the north, the north-west and the west but not to the south-west. Will he take action about this because there is very heavy traffic on the roads leading to the south-west?

This was a policy decision taken a number of years ago to concentrate our main effort for a number of years ahead on the improvement of the communications between the main industrial centres of the country. I am quite sure that this is still the right order of priorities, but we have not forgotten the claims of the south-west and, as my Answer indicated, we have long-term proposals for a London-Basingstoke motorway.

Motorways (Safety Rails)

25.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking to put safety rails down the centre of motorways.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer I gave to the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) on 8th November.

Having seen that Answer and heard the Answers given this afternoon, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend would agree that the answer to this problem is to put very tough shrubs along the centre of the motorways, which would have the combined effect of reducing dazzle and of making any collision on the centre-pieces rather less severe than it would be if there were a more substantial barrier?

That is a possibility. It has been studied by the Road Research Laboratory, but we have to remember that shrubs take some time to grow.

Easington, Castle Eden And Old Shotton

26.

asked the Minister of Transport what road improvements are in contemplation for the junction at Easington Village and the various bottlenecks on the Stockton Road at Castle Eden and Old Shotton in County Durham.

A scheme for the provision of a roundabout at the junction in Easington Village is included in our trunk roads programme. A by-pass of Castle Eden and a diversion to eliminate the bad bend in Old Shotton are also contemplated, but it is too soon to say when these can be carried out.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Easington Village junction is converged upon by seven roads and that there is considerable confusion there? In view of the heavy traffic in that area, is it not possible to proceed rather more expeditiously with the work?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall act as fast as possible, because I realise the seriousness of the traffic congestion in that area.

Parking Meter Schemes

32.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will refuse to sanction schemes submitted to him by local authorities for placing parking meters in streets unless they include provision for a considerable number of parking bays smaller than those in existence at present.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend does not prescribe the length of parking bays. We think this is best left to the local authorities which prepare and administer the schemes. Most schemes have some end bays which are shorter than the usual 20 ft.

I realise that the Minister goes about on a bicycle, but do not many of his colleagues—probably the majority of them—go about in very large cars? Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, for example, goes about in a Mini-Minor and that two Mini-Minors could easily fit into most of the parking places provided?

I am not aware of any of the points mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, except the last one. I and most of my colleagues travel in comparatively small cars. I can only repeat that my right hon. Friend has no duty to prescribe the length of parking bays. It is entirely a matter for local authorities.

Long Street, Thirsk

33.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the danger to pedestrians, especially the elderly, in Long Street, Thirsk, through the absence of pedestrian crossings in this portion of the trunk road A.19; and what steps he proposes to take to mitigate this danger in the immediate future.

It is unusual, Mr. Speaker, but may I add my congratulations to the loud chorus of "Hear, hear" which has been expressed in welcome to a very noble Member of this House, namely, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan), who celebrates his ninetieth birthday today.

The Answer to the Question is this. I explained fully in my letter of 14th March last to my right hon. Friend why the conditions on this road do not justify the provision of a pedestrian crossing. I have re-examined the position in the light of the most recent accident records but I regret that I can see no reason to alter my decision.

Has not my right hon. Friend overlooked the fact that at an inquest on an elderly person who was killed art this site early this year the jury strongly recommended the provision of a pedestrian crossing? My constituents unanimously take the view that unless something is done there will be a repetition of the accidents to elderly people crossing the trunk road, because at present they have no aid at all.

A zebra crossing does not necessarily by itself and automatically bring safety. I wish it did. It has to be sited correctly and there must not be too many of them, otherwise the motorists tend to ignore them. I have consulted the police in this matter. They agree with me that it ought not to be provided.

Is my right hon. Friend content to have these fatal accidents constantly occurring? My Question asks what steps he proposes to take to mitigate the danger. Does he intend to take no action at all to mitigate the danger?

I will take as much action as I can to mitigate danger, but I do not think that the action my right hon. Friend proposes is the right one.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on Adjournment.

M1 (Dangerous Conditions)

34.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the recent experience in wet and stormy weather on the M.1, he will provide at each entrance to a motorway a warning system so that all motorists may he aware of such dangerous conditions.

I do not think it should be necessary to provide a special warning system but I am taking steps to re-emphasise the need for motorists to take special care in wet and stormy weather, either on motorways or on other roads. This is basic to safe driving.

Clearways

37.

asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has to extend the clearway system to other roads.

I hope shortly to add to the length of clearways on trunk roads and roads in the London Traffic Area as they are brought up to the necessary standard. I am asking local authorities outside the London Traffic Area to consider making clearways on such of their roads as are suitable.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this scheme has brought a great deal of satisfaction to many road users? Will he press on with it as fast as he can?

I will certainly press on with it as fast as I can in the area under my control, which is the London area. We are now considering 13 lengths of road, totalling approximately 54 miles. It is up to other local authorities in the country to take the initiative for their areas, but I help them all I possibly can.

Great North Road (Yorkshire)

38.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress has been made with improvement of the Great North Road in the West Riding of Yorkshire since the completion of the Doncaster by-pass.

Dual carriageways have been opened to traffic between the northern terminal of the Doncaster by- pass and Wentbridge and on the Brother-ton by-pass. In addition the Went-bridge by-pass with its imposing new bridge over the Went valley, will be opened to traffic next week and will complete a 26-mile stretch of dual carriageway from south of Blyth in Nottinghamshire to Knottingley Round-about.

Does my right hon. Friend know that some of us think that at last he is providing the goods and doing very well indeed?

It is rather a shock to me to hear any hon. Member say that, but I will try to bear it.

To give an example in the use of good and simple English, will the right hon. Gentleman and his Department cease using the phrase "dual carriageway" and substitute "double roads"?

Worcester And Kidderminster Road

39.

asked the Minister of Transport what proportion of the A.449 road between Worcester and Kidderminster has been marked with either double white lines or with hazard lines; and what is the daily average of passenger car units that use the road.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the figures he has just given probably account for the fact that on this stretch of road there has been a serious accident every two weeks for the past three years? When may we expect something to be done about this stretch of road?

No; I do not accept the interpretation my hon. Friend puts upon the figures I gave.

May I have a reply to the second part of my supplementary question? When does my hon. Friend expect something to be done about the appalling conditions on this road?

West Country (Holiday Traffic)

43.

asked the Minister of Transport what estimate he has made of the delay caused to holiday traffic proceeding to the West Country; what is the number of cars estimated to be entering Devon and Cornwall during holiday weeks; and what steps he will take to provide an adequate motorway that will prevent this frustration to the travelling public.

Figures from this year's traffic census are not yet available. I know that holiday traffic to the West Country is delayed, but only at a limited number of weekends. Certain road improvements are being made to help the flow of traffic, but the main objective of our road programme must for some time remain the improvement of the heavy industrial routes.

Is not that reply, that road traffic to the West country is sometimes delayed, the greatest under-statement of the year? Is it not a fact that at holiday time people are held up for up to twelve hours, with consequent tremendous frustration for industrial people whose only opportunity comes at that time each year to get away from it all for two weeks? Although we must give some priority to industry, does not the Minister think that he is taking a lopsided view of the purpose of life if the subject of leisure is completely eliminated from his consideration?

No, Sir. I do not think so. We really have to concentrate on the improvement of the heavy industrial roads. It would be a waste of money to spend large sums in improving roads in certain holiday areas which would be heavily used only at limited periods of the year. In practice, there is, I think, a tendency emerging for people to spread their journeys over the twenty-four hours and not to concentrate them so much on certain times of the day.