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M40 (Oxford To Birmingham)

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to make a statement about proposals to extend the M40 from Oxford to Birmingham.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the road forms a vital part of the export route that links the industrial Midlands to the South Coast? Will he ensure that every effort is made to press ahead with the extension of the M40 to Birmingham as soon as possible?

I accept entirely my hon. Friend's description of the importance of that route. I said "Very shortly" and we are on the point of making a definite announcement about the status of the complete length of road involved.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he has renumbered the M42 Bromsgrove section of the M40? For the avoidance of false hopes or fears, will he indicate clearly the Government's intention regarding the construction of that Bromsgrove section once the inquiries have been concluded?

I am not sure about the numbering of the motorway, but we certainly intend to resume statutory inquiries now that the legal problems have been removed. We hope to complete the statutory procedures for the M42 Bromsgrove section and the Warwick-Umberslade section of the M40. When the White Paper on roads is produced later this year it will contain details of the dates of construction and the planning for the future of both routes.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the present stretch of the M40 from London to Oxford is not particularly busy and that many of us who travel on that road every day consider that, instead of having the motorway continued from Oxford to Birmingham, it might be better and cheaper, and save much agricultural land, if the present main road were improved?

The improvement of parts of the present road is one of the possibilities that we have been looking at, but the present M40 is already quite busy and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Cadbury) said, an extension to Birmingham could be a valuable industrial link and provide a great deal of relief for the M1 which, as I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, is desperately overcrowded between the industrial Midlands and London.

Has not the hon. Gentleman considered the potential of the Oxford-Birmingham railway line? Does he not agree that it might be better to spend money on upgrading that line instead of wasting millions of pounds on a motorway when, by all accounts, there will be no energy for any cars to use in 20 years' time?

It is artificial to try to set up a conflict between the needs for investment on the London to Oxford railway line and the needs of industrial road traffic between the West Midlands and London. We have to look at investment projects for both in the light of transport needs and judge our priorities accordingly.