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Roads (Improvement)

Volume 961: debated on Wednesday 24 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve or replace roads with an exceedingly bad record of accidents.

We already take account of accident records in selecting schemes for the road programme, and we always attach special importance to schemes which are likely to save a large number of accidents.

Has the Minister seen the horror story of the latest statistics for death and injury on the Winchester bypass? Now that people such as Mr. John Tyme have been discredited, will he take more notice of not only the accident statistics but, for example, the Transport and General Workers Union, which for a long time has been pressing for the urgent completion of the link between the M3 and the M27, of which the Winchester bypass is a vital part?

The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that Hampshire county council, as agent of the Department is investigating various short-term remedies for the Winchester bypass, pending the completion of the M3. It will be reporting to the Department soon on its proposals.

Has my hon. Friend recently driven all the way round the South Circular Road in London, particularly through Forest Hill and Catford in my constituency, a section with an appalling congestion and accident record? Is he aware that the speedy completion of the M25 would take a tremendous load off the South Circular Road, which should nor have the load of jugger-nauts and industrial traffic that it has at present?

I have not driven round the South Circular recently. [HON. MEMBERS: "Very wise."] It may well be wise, especially if I had tried yesterday. I take my hon. Friend's point. The Greater London Council has major plans for improvements to the South circular Road. I also take my hon. Friend's point about the M25.

Does the Minister realize that the Winchester bypass is extremely dangerous and extremely outmoded, and that the two protracted public inquiries will have enormously increased the cost of any scheme that is decided? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do his best to make an early decision, so that work can start as soon as possible?

That is reasonable, except that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is slightly ahead of events. We have not yet received the inspector's report on the last inquiry. I understand that it is still being typed, but I think that we shall receive it in the next week or two. I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we shall then take as speedy a decision as possible.

In that context, will my hon. Friend define "speedy"? In some other cases we have had a wait of up to a year between the inspector's report going to the Minister and the ministerial decision. Can we be assured that that will not happen in this case?

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend can be assured that that will not happen on this occasion.

Does the Minister realise that the Government's present policy of punishing by reductions in the transport supplementary grant those local authorities that have been successful in restraining the level of subsidies to public transport can only mean that essential road improvements, particularly by local authorities, are being delayed, with consequent danger to life and limb? Therefore, will the hon. Gentleman please stop confusing transport subsidies with essential road expenditure?

The hon. Gentleman is completely mistaken. In this year's settlement more money was made available not only for bus subsidies, which we have made known is a clear priority of the Government, but for maintenance and new schemes in the counties.