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Volume 983: debated on Thursday 24 April 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport (1) how long he anticipates that major sections of the Ml motorway between London and Coventry and Birmingham intersections will remain subjected to road repairs and other maintenance; why it is necessary to undertake all such work at the same time; and when he anticipates the Ml, which has been subjected to intensive repair work for the past three years, will be restored to its normal condition; (2) how long it has been since the main part of the Ml motorway between London and the Coventry and Birmingham turn-offs were free from major road and crash-barrier repairs.

Major carriageway repairs on one or more lengths of the Ml south of Birmingham have been in progress at some time during each of the last 10 years. Further essential work will continue well into the 1980s.The Ml is the oldest and most heavily trafficked highway in the country. It has succeeded in attracting a greater volume of traffic—particularly heavy lorries which contribute most to road wear—than was forecast when designed. The result has been the need to strengthen some sections of the carriageway earlier than originally planned in order to extend its life. Far from undertaking such renovations simultaneously, works have been deliberately phased over time to avoid excessive traffic disruption.Damage to crash barriers cannot be anticipated and in some cases, in the interests of safety, must be tackled immediately. Wherever possible the repair of less serious accident damage is delayed until an optimum length of barrier requires replacement.

asked the Minister of Transport why repeated sections of the Ml motorway were under repair from London to the Birmingham turn-off on Saturday 12 April, when it should have been known there would be exceptionally heavy traffic in connection with the two Football Association Cup semi-finals at Birmingham and Sheffield.

On the Ml in particular we encourage night time and weekend working in an effort to finish work quickly in the hours when traffic flows are lightest. It is costly to suspend at short notice a maintenance contract which includes such conditions: many hours of working time are lost and the contract has to be extended at great expense to the Department. In any case, because traffic has to be protected from machinery and from the dangers of any uncompleted repairs, stopping work rarely frees the whole carriageway, so the benefits to drivers are limited.Where it is appropriate, we include in contracts plans for stoppage on bank holiday weekends and for major fixtures such as the Motor Show. Unfortunately, in the case of the FA Cup semi-final we cannot anticipate either the venue of the games or the participating teams, so it is not possible to plan for them in the same way and to avoid work on the routes under pressure.