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Road Schemes

Volume 114: debated on Monday 6 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received about the changes he proposes to make in the system whereby the economic benefit of road schemes is assessed.

One. We invited a number of experts and others to let us have their comments. I hope that those who intend to comment will do so by 21 April.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the new formula means that the added weight that road users attach to their leisure time means that more road schemes will be justified economically in the future? Does this not demonstrate that the additional boost that the Government have already given to the roads programme to ease congestion is justified?

My hon. Friend will recognise that the change in the value of non-work time does not automatically increase the budget for the Department of Transport. It is true that the proposed changes will strengthen the economic case for most planned road schemes and heighten the urgency of building them.

Will these proposals prevent decisions such as that which resulted in the building of the Humber bridge? What will be done about the debt on that bridge? It is running at £250 million with the capital debt increasing by £22 million per annum. What will happen? Will the Government write off the debt?

In view of the possible election some time in the next year, my hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the most expensive by-election promise in history — the 1966 Humber bridge proposal. I look forward to hearing the proposals of the Humber bridge board. As the Government acknowledged in their response to the Select Committee report, there is perhaps a different case with the Humber bridge than with other estuarial crossings.