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Felling Bypass

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 14 December 1965

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mrs. Harriet Slater.]

9.13 p.m.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity of initiating a debate upon what is known in the North-East as the Felling bypass. The bypass passes through my constituency, and it is giving a great deal of concern and anxiety to my constituents.

It may be that after the serious discussion that we have had today and the ramifications of the Rhodesia crisis, the subject of my Adjournment debate will seem relatively unimportant. But I can assure the House that to my constituents it is a matter of very grave and urgent importance, and there are a number of questions that I shall be putting to the Parliamentary Secretary during the course of my remarks.

The bypass was completed in 1959 and, though I may refer to the stretch of road as a "bypass", it really is nothing of the kind. One assumes that a bypass is a stretch of road which bypasses a town or village or something else, but the particular stretch of road with which I am concerned cuts through a fairly heavily populated residential area, and it is that situation which has given rise to the difficulties which I want to explain to the House.

I do not think that the problems which I am going to explain to the House are new to the Ministry of Transport, because ever since the bypass was opened the situation has given rise to complaints. Indeed, my predecessor was dealing with complaints arising from the conditions on this bypass from as far back as 1961, and when I succeeded Mr. Moody in October of last year I inherited the problems. I inherited a large file of letters from the local council to Mr. Moody, and from Mr. Moody to the Minister of Transport, and the replies in the opposite direction.

I think it is fair to say that, having read the correspondence which passed between my predecessor and the Minister of Transport during those years of 1961 to 1964, I get the impression that the Minister of Transport in those times treated what I contend is a very important question from my constituent's point of view with complete and utter indifference, because although the requests which my predecessor made were reasonable, they were met all along the line with a complete refusal to do anything.

It is to the credit of the present Minister of Transport that from my beginning to deal with this problem after my election to this House, I received sympathetic and understanding consideration. It is also fair to say that I have made some progress with the present Minister. Not as much progress as I might have wanted, but none the less it is in contradistinction to my predecessor's lack of success.

I think that for the benefit of the House I ought to explain the problems. The road goes through a heavily populated residential area. In fact, it cuts in half the urban district area of Felling. On the north side of the road there is a large thickly populated residential area, and the people there are compelled to cross this extremely busy main trunk road when they go to the shops, when the children go to school, and when they go to church.

The accident rate on this bypass has been very high ever since it was opened. But what appals and alarms my constitutents and me is the tremendous increase in the accident rate this year. In a recent two-month period three people were killed in separate incidents. Two were schoolchildren, one coming home from school at lunch-time and the other returning to school after lunch. The third was a lady aged 77. This is a measure of the problem that now faces us.

There is another feature of the road which the House must understand. I have already referred to the people who live in this residential area, but there are two—perhaps three—other reasons why I want the road made much safer. First, on its northern side, in the Green Lane area, is situated the Government's industrial training centre, together with an industrial rehabilitation centre, where disabled people are retrained for new jobs. They are obliged to cross this road at least twice a day. Representations have been made to me from the instructors at both the training centre and the rehabilitation centre to urge upon the Minister the need for adequate steps to be taken to secure a greater degree of safety.

This year the Minister has not been entirely unsympathetic to me. On 2nd July I received a letter from him in which he described certain road works which he proposed to authorise to make the roads safer. Those roadworks consisted of the installation of traffic lights at the junction of Green Lane with the bypass, together with ancillary works, such as the realignment of the pavements in the area and the making-up of the central reservation at the junction of Carlisle Street and the bypass.

In his letter the Minister explained that these road works unfortunately could not be completed, or even started, until a link road was constructed by the urban district council on the new industrial estate. I replied by saying that although I generally welcomed the initiative of the Minister in authorising these works I felt that they did not go far enough and that, in addition to those works, there was a need either for an underpass or a pedestrian footbridge at the Carlisle Street junction.

I am pleased to inform the House that, as the result of my further representations and since I asked Mr. Speaker's permission to raise this matter in the House, the Minister has sent me a further letter, in which he says that he, too, is appalled at the tremendous increase this year in the accident rate. He goes on to say that he knows how strongly I feel about this and that he also is distressed at the alarming rate of increase. He then said that, in view of this, he has now asked the Felling Urban District Council to prepare alternative schemes for either a subway or a pedestrian footbridge at the Carlisle Street junction.

I welcome this initiative. It seems that we are making progress in little stages, but this also is to be welcomed. Of course it will take time for the surveyor to the Felling U.D.C. to prepare these alternative schemes. It will take more time, presumably, for the Minister to give his blessing and sanction to one or the other. It will then take more time for the subway or footbridge—whichever is ultimately decided upon—to be constructed. In the meantime, I am afraid that more and more of my constituents will be slaughtered on this road.

I have a number of suggestions. I urge upon the Minister the real urgent need to complete work on the schemes for a footbridge or an underpass in the shortest possible time. Understandably this will be several months, but nevertheless, I urge upon my right hon. Friend the need for these works to be completed as quickly as possible. There is something else which the Minister can do much more quickly. I want him to authorise the installation of traffic lights at Green Lane immediately. I do not want to see any delay in the provision of these lights.

I do not accept as valid the arguments that we must wait for the industrial link road to be constructed between Carlisle Street and Green Lane: this road is necessary only because of the proposal to block up the central reservation. My suggestion, therefore, is that the blocking up of the reservation should be left until the link road is constructed. In the meantime, in order to ensure that the junction of Green Lane and the bypass is made safer, the installation of the traffic signals could proceed immediately. This is my second suggestion.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport
(Mr. Stephen Swingler)

Perhaps I can assist my hon. Friend. There is no question of the installation of traffic lights at Green Lane being dependent on the link road. In the letter which my right hon. Friend sent to him recently—though he may have misunderstood it—it was not stated that one scheme was dependent on another. They are being considered separately and will be installed as quickly as is possible.

I understood from that letter that the Minister was saying that while he approved of the installation of traffic signals at Green Lane, the scheme could not be considered in isolation. The inference was that the installation of the signals would have to wait until the link road had been constructed. I clearly recollect that that was the inference of the letter because on receiving it I immediately wrote to the Clerk to the Felling Urban District Council to inquire whether he could expedite the construction of the link road so that the Minister could proceed with the installation of the traffic signals.

If I am wrong in this respect I am only too pleased, because it means, if I understood my hon. Friend's intervention correctly, that the completion of the link road is not holding up the provision of the signals. I imagine, therefore, that my hon. Friend will now be able to say, "We will immediately authorise the installation of these traffic signals".

My third point is that on this road there are variable speed limits. On one section of it there is a 30 m.p.h. limit, on another a limit of 40 m.p.h. while on the third there is no limit; it is derestricted. When we were considering with the Minister the possibility of providing a surface pedestrian crossing at the junction of Carlisle Street my right hon. Friend told me—it was proper that he should do so and I entirely agreed with him—that the provision of such a crossing at this junction was impracticable and that instead of reducing the number of accidents would probably cause accidents because it would give a false sense of security to pedestrians.

It is at this very point of the road that we find the derestricted area. It is at this point that the motorist leaves the 40 m.p.h. limit and enters the derestricted part. This is one of the principal factors in making this spot the death trap that it is. I suggest, therefore, that there should be a speed limit on the whole length of the bypass which falls within the Felling Urban District area. I do not mind which limit is chosen, although in the view of the Council it should be 30 m.p.h.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can go that far tonight or whether he will say, "We can impose a 40 m.p.h. limit on the derestricted part of the road". However, if he cannot go that far I urge him most seriously at least to remove the derestriction signs at this junction—in other words, at the point where one changes from a 40 m.p.h. limit to a derestricted road—to somewhere away from this junction. I believe that that fact, combined with the change down from derestricted to 40 miles an hour is part of the cause of some of the fatalities occurring at this spot. The case calls for urgent action.

I have put forward three suggestions. First, the Minister should seriously consider the imposition of speed limits along the whole length of the by-pass. Second, there now appears to be no valid reason why the installation of traffic lights at the junction of Green Lane should be delayed for one minute longer. Indeed, I hope that as a result of this debate, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will tomorrow send out the necessary instructions for that work to be done. Third, my hon. Friend should take steps to expedite the completion of the plans for either an underpass or a pedestrian footbridge at Carlisle Street and, having done that should ensure that the construction work is carried out with the minimum of delay.

9.36 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan) is to be congratulated on referring to what I know to be a very serious and urgent problem. As I represent the neighbouring constituency of Gateshead, West, it is not unnatural that I should not only be very familiar with the question to which my hon. Friend has referred but that I should know the urgent need there is for the three steps he has asked to be taken as soon as possible.

I have here a cutting from the Gateshead Post of 10th December. My hon. Friend has clearly demonstrated the urgent need for some action to be taken on what is known as the Felling bypass, and in this week's Gateshead Post there is the banner headline
"Gateshead Supports Bypass '30' Limit."
The cutting refers to a meeting of the Gateshead Borough Council, which had before it a communication from the Felling Urban District Council drawing attention to Felling's difficulties, and the Gateshead councillors' immediately supported the views expressed by that local authority.

I was interested to hear the suggestion of the Minister of Transport that to decrease the speed limit to 40 miles an hour and 30 miles an hour would not stop the speeding. That view was confirmed by the chief constable of Gateshead, who said that even prosecutions for speeding had not brought about the remedy that was required. The Press cutting also said that the Mayor of Gates- head, alderman R.N. Baptist, had stated that
"… the committee should support Felling's proposals, and also asked the M.P. for Gateshead West constituency to apply for an overpass or a subway on the Gateshead part of the bypass"
That means that I am now giving prior notice to the Parliamentary Secretary that further correspondence and representations will follow, because it is not only in the Felling section of the bypass but equally on the Gateshead side that there is considerable concern about what is happening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East referred to the appalling increase in the accident rate. He spoke of three people who have been killed and the serious problem facing the residents in his area. I was delighted to learn that progress has been made as a result of my hon. Friend's energetic efforts. My hon. Friend said that the Minister had told him that alternative schemes were to be prepared. Whilst my hon. Friend accepted this and was delighted to have the news, he said that he recognised that it would take time to put into effect the remedies suggested by the Ministry. He said that, whatever scheme was inroduced, there would have to be all the preparations, all the thought, and all the discussions with the divisional road engineer.

I sometimes wonder how many schemes which have been put by the Minister to the divisional road engineer that we have up there in that part of the country have been rejected by him. I have from time to time put a number of cases to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. I have been disturbed because of the decisions so often taken by the divisional road engineer. For example, I asked for a pedestrian crossing in Lobley Hill Road where there is a school, a shopping centre, a clinic and a library. Old people have to draw their pensions. Mums have to push their prams across the road. Children go to and from school. I asked if a pedestrian crossing could be provided in this area of Gateshead.

This proposition went before the divisional road engineer. As a result of the representations made, I was very surprised to receive a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary dated 9th September saying this:
"Experience has shown that where the crossings are lightly used drivers tend to show little respect for them, and in these circumstances the crossings become a hazard rather than a help to pedestrians."
I do not understand that language. If a pedestrian crossing is provided, enforcement by law should bring about an improvement in the situation.

May I help my hon. Friend? The reason for this logic is that the provision of a pedestrian crossing would create a false sense of security in pedestrians. The approach from the east to this crossing is somewhat blind because of a bend. Cars coming down this stretch of road at 60 or 70 miles an hour career round the bend at that speed because it is derestricted at this part. Pedestrians on the crossing would have a false sense of security. The accident rate could well be increased rather than diminished.

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for helping the Joint Parliamentary Secretary out. This is in my constituency. I was going on to argue that if pedestrian crossings are a hazard we had better get rid of them. I am using this example in my argument about the divisional road engineer. I should like my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to consider this. This is not a lighthearted criticism. I assure my hon. Friend that I am serious. I have contemplated tabling a Question asking on how many occasions representations made by the local authority at Gateshead have been turned down on the advice of the divisional road engineer. I am very much concerned about this. I hope, therefore, that an opportunity will be taken to look at it.

My hon. Friend said that it will take time to get sanctions. It would take time also for the building of a structure, whether it be a footbridge or an underpass. In the meantime, says my hon. Friend, the road is still perilous to cross and he put forward the three proposals which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will consider. My hon. Friend referred to the need to complete at the shortest possible time whatever is believed to be the remedy. He also made a suggestion concerning traffic lights at Green Lane. The Parliamentary Secretary might look into this and the question of the variable speed limits along the Felling by-pass of 30 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.h. and then a de-restricted road. This must be confusing to drivers, and I am sure that if some standard could be laid down it would assist pedestrians. I am glad that my hon. Friend has had the opportunity of raising this matter. I know how much his constituents will appreciate his having ventilated it here and I hope that before long further progress can be reported.

9.49 p.m.

Hon. Members opposite are smiling, thinking no doubt that I shall occupy the next three-quarters of an hour. I put them readily at ease. I do not intend to do that. I express my sympathy with and support for my hon. Friends the Members for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan) and Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall).

I use the road which is the subject of this debate fairly regularly and I know the hardships and difficulties there. I was a member of Durham County Council when the road was completed. Even then the provisions now demanded by my hon. Friends were being asked for, but, unfortunately, those requests were not conceded.

As I have said, I travel this road fairly regularly. As recently as last Friday night on the way from Newcastle I noted the large volume of traffic which congregates at the Heworth churchyard roundabout. The traffic is particularly heavy in the early morning and at midday. There is a school nearby and I would draw the attention of the. Parliamentary Secretary to the dangers which school children encounter from the traffic there. I want my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to travel along there in his own car or in an official car between, say, a quarter past eight and half past nine in the morning. He will then understand the problems and dangers which people have to encounter. I have encountered them myself, particularly when wanting to catch the 9 o'clock train in order to get to the House of Commons on time. The Felling Council, of course, has had to put up with them for a very long time.

The traffic is going to Washington, South Shields, Jarrow, Sunderland and all such places in the area, and this adds to the congestion and danger. The danger to pedestrians is such that on two sections of the road there should be a 30 m.p.h. limit. The different speed limits, 30 m.p.h., 40 m.p.h. and then unrestricted, create a dangerous situation because the ordinary motorist does not always realise what section he is in.

There is a good deal of heavy industry on the north side of the road, and conditions round about 5 o'clock in the evening have to be seen to be believed. There is an enormous volume of traffic, cars, buses, pedestrians and every sort of thing. There are long queues at the bus stops which people have to pass round, and drivers of vehicles have to slow down on innumerable occasions in the interests of everyone concerned.

Knowing what the dangers are, one could sometimes wish to stop all traffic on this road. I do not say that, of course, but let us have something done for the safety not only of pedestrians in my hon. Friend's constituency but of the travelling public generally in the area. People pass through going to South Shields, Sunderland and the other places I have mentioned, and they go down to Houghton-le-Spring on the 39 and 40 buses. I can go so far as to give the bus numbers because I have travelled that way a good number of times.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East urged the adoption of three safety measures. First, I emphasise the importance of speed limits. There should be a speed limit of 30 m.p.h. on every section of the road. It may sound like putting it the wrong way round, but, in fact, having a speed limit would speed up the traffic. Furthermore, there would not be the congestion at the Tyne bridge as we know it now.

My hon. Friend spoke next about the traffic signals. For my part, I plead for an underpass. This could be of great value. Further down the road, beyond White Mare Pool, in my home town there is an underpass. Pedestrians can cross the road in comfort and safety knowing that they have a free passage without interference from road traffic.

I appeal to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to come to the area and see for himself. He will find a reception favourable to him and he will see the difficulties that the pedestrians have in getting across this road. If his heart is not touched to do something then, I feel that it will be touched when he sees the danger that children have to contend with, particularly when going to school and returning home. If he comes to see for himself he will earn the undying gratitude of the people in the area.

9.55 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport
(Mr. Stephen Swingler)

I begin by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan) on two counts. The first is that he gave me such detailed notice of the points he wished to raise. Indeed, he and his constituents have been giving notice of these points for some time—almost since the bypass was opened. We therefore have a considerable file about it. Secondly, my hon. Friend dealt clearly and in some detail with the background, history and basic reasons for bringing this matter before the House.

That means that I can be reasonably brief in my reply, which may raise hopes in some breasts and dash them in others. However, as I say, I can be reasonably brief and sometimes that means that a Minister is making a relatively agreeable reply to hon. Members. I hope that in some ways my reply tonight will be agreeable to my hon. Friend and to other hon. Members in spite of the fact that inevitably the debate has a very disagreeable and uncongenial background.

Perhaps I can say this to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall). What I said to him in the letter about pedestrian crossings was of course based on a long history of analysis of the policy on pedestrian crossings over three decades, roughly speaking, during which there was a time when local authorities put down as many pedestrian crossings as they pleased, with the result that such crossings in the late 1940s rose in number to a very high figure and it was claimed, at any rate, that respect for them diminished accordingly to a very low level.

That was followed by a period in which there was a drastic reduction in the number of pedestrian crossings precisely in order to raise respect for them. An attempt has been made to develop sophisticated criteria for the putting down of pedestrian crossings based upon this experience over a long period. It has been based partly on the assessment of need and partly on what is inevitably the psychological question of how we develop and maintain the respect of drivers for pedestrian crossings, for otherwise we frustrate their purpose.

Precisely because at the moment we are not rigid or dogmatic about this, we are carrying out in two towns an experiment of multiplying the numbers of pedestrian crossings quite deliberately in order to test the results in terms of road safety and respect and to compare them with the experience in other towns. We hope to be able to satisfy my hon. Friends and the local authorities and the people they represent in that they may be able in future to be more confident in the judgments we make as to whether or not a particular claim for a crossing is justified.

I do not want to detain the House more than a moment because I believe that hon. Members opposite wish to raise a certain matter. But I would ask my hon. Friend how far the criteria have been made clear to the local authorities concerned, because it is my experience in Newcastle that, even where the local authority, after police investigation, feel that there is a strong case for a crossing, it has been deterred by previous policy from putting in an application and that it has been further strengthened in its fears because of the long delays due to pigeon-holing.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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

I think that local authorities know the criteria fairly well. They know that they are based on certain arithmetical counts of the numbers of vehicles and pedestrians at particular points, as well as other factors. If there is any reason to suppose that they do not, I will certainly investigate it, but over a period of years these criteria have been discussed with the local authority associations—not necessarily agreed, but discussed and developed.

The point I want to make in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West is that we are not dogmatic about it. We are prepared to test and are testing these criteria and are doing so quite deliberately in a couple of towns by saying that we will grant more pedestrian crossings to see what happens and to compare the results with those of other towns where the criteria are being more stringently applied.

My hon. Friend speaks of the dangers of being dogmatically rigid, briefly remind him of a specific instance of this rigid dogma, as it is regarded by the public. I refer to the A690 and the question of placing a pedestrian crossing in a heavily built-up area where the speed limit has recently been raised to 40 m.p.h. A crossing in this area has been refused and yet about a quarter of a mile up the road, on a dual carriageway entering the Borough of Sunderland, the limit is 30 m.p.h. Public opinion is that the Ministry has applied rigid dogma.

think that I had better reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Urwin) about that separately. He is probably among the majority of hon. Members who have in mind particular cases, not all of which always carry in my head, but which very often require careful investigation. In the cool light of the morning I will certainly examine what my hon. Friend has said and I will make a considered reply to him.

I must now rapidly come to the important issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East. As I said, there is an uncongenial and disagreeable background to the debate. There have been four fatal accidents—some hon. Members said that there were three, but, unfortunately, there have been four—on the Felling bypass and they are a terribly tragic story, especially tragic as two of them happened to school children at a time when a crossing patrol was on duty. I know only too well that it is very easy for people to assume that it needs accidents and fatal casualties to stir the Ministry of Transport into action about pedestrian crossings. We have been profoundly shocked by these tragedies on the Felling bypass, and they have certainly given us a in our examination of how to help pedestrians in my hon. Friend's constituency.

But, in fairness to ourselves, I should point out that we had made new proposals, as my hon. Friend knows, before these recent unfortunate accidents occurred. That was because of the actual increase in pedestrian and traffic volumes on the Felling bypass and the increases to be expected in the next few years. I think that my hon. Friend knows, because he mentioned some of them, the actions which we are taking, but I would like swiftly to put them on the record and to answer some of the points which have been raised. In June of this year, as a result of persistent representations, especially by my hon. Friend, we made the following proposals: to realign the staggered crossroads formed by the bypass, Green Lane and Hepburn Gardens and instal traffic signals; to seal the central reservation at Carlisle Street to eliminate right turns, which have been causing traffic congestion, and to construct a link road between Brewery Lane and Green Lane. These were proposals which were put forward in June. We consider that the traffic signals will obviously assist pedestrians at Green Lane and create gaps in the traffic to help those at Carlisle Road, who will also be helped by the elimination of the right turns.

Since these proposals were made in June, I very much regret to say that the four fatal accidents have occurred on the bypass. My hon. Friend quite properly represented to us that the proposals we made were inadequate, and that more needed to be done. Therefore, since that time my right hon. Friend the Minister has asked the agent authority, the Felling Urban District Council, as a matter of extreme urgency in view of the increase in the accident rate, to prepare alternative schemes for a footbridge or subway at Carlisle Street. As my hon. Friend implied, some time is bound to pass while these schemes are prepared; engineering work has to be done and either scheme will probably require an elaborate system of ramps and unclimbable guard rails along the eight approach kerbs to the junction.

There may be objections from nearby houses fronting any bridge or ramp structures. In the case of a subway some acquisition of land from front gardens of adjacent houses may be necessary. We do not know about these things, but they are being gone into by the agent authority. It may be necessary to remove a bus draw-in west of the Carlisle Street junction. Nevertheless, we are pushing ahead to see whether something more immediate can be done. We are now exploring the possibility of erecting a prefabricated steel footbridge at this site as a temporary measure. Felling Urban District Council is examining the idea to see whether it is practicable and offers a worthwhile saving of time.

These are the immediate measures which we are considering on the Felling bypass. With regard to the other measures I have mentioned, the scheme for the installation of traffic signals at Green Lane is now being considered in the Felling U.D.C.'s surveyor's department. Even here the work involved in realigning the side roads, which are classified roads and, therefore, are the responsibility of the council, will take some time. The relief road between Brewery Lane and Green Lane, which will also be a non-trunk road, is at present being built, and if the weather is reasonable it should be finished in a few months' time. I can assure my hon. Friend that everyone, both at the Ministry and the council offices, is well aware of the extreme urgency of these schemes. Although we regard these schemes, the installation of the traffic signals and the link road, as essential, they are not, as I said, dependent one upon the other. We aim to get ahead with both of them as rapidly as possible, though of course there are, as usual, difficulties in connection with them.

Some of my hon. Friends have raised the question of speed limits. The part of the bypass with which we are dealing has a 40 miles per hour speed limit on it, although there is a considerable section with a 30 miles per hour speed limit. That 40 miles per hour speed limit ceases at present just to the east of the Carlisle Street junction. The U.D.C. has told us that westbound traffic would see the speed limit signs much better and slow down in time for the junction if the limit were extended about 250 yards eastwards. This is a very recent proposal and we are looking at it very urgently. I cannot answer my hon. Friend on this point now, but I can assure him that we are treating it as a matter of urgency. But in the next few days we are going to put up some of the new style "children" signs on the bypass on both sides of Carlisle Street.

Would my hon. Friend consider restricting that section to 30 miles an hour all the way along instead of 40?

We have this proposal put forward by the council, and we feel obliged to consider its representations about the speed limit. We shall be prepared to consider any other safety measures which it puts forward, but let us first consider the present proposal in relation to the other measures which we are taking.

On the eastern approach to Carlisle Street, where the traffic has just come into the speed limit, these new "children" signs which we shall put up will be four feet high, the largest size permissible at the moment. On the other side of the junction they will be 30 inches high. I understand that the council has asked the chief constable whether he can provide some police protection for the children rather than a normal crossing patrol at the Carlisle Street crossing point.

None of these proposals will, unfortunately, undo the tragic results of the recent accidents, but I hope that what I say will show that we recognise the need for drastic improvement in the interests of pedestrians. We shall take the urgently necessary measures as quickly as they are physically possible and can be arranged administratively.

I conclude by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East on his persistence in representations on behalf of his constituents who have undoubtedly suffered over many years since the opening of the Felling bypass. We trust that we shall be able to initiate a much better record of safety on this bypass in the near future.