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Motorways

Volume 227: debated on Monday 28 June 1993

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6.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of drivers (a) regularly use motorways and (b) never use motorways.

Surveys indicate that about half of drivers never or rarely use motorways.

That interesting statistic illustrates why it is important that the 50 per cent. of drivers who use the motorways regularly should be asked to contribute more so that those roads can be improved. Our experience of the success of the Dartford crossing, where private venture capital was used, shows that private finance in motorway construction can play a great role in ensuring that we get the roads that people want and that traffic moves properly and does not go on to the side roads.

As my hon. Friend knows, I am canvassing those issues in relation to the Green Paper on better motorways and the possibility of charging a toll. My hon. Friend is right in the sense that no decision has been taken, but one of the issues put forward is whether we can accelerate the improvement in motorways. That is not least because, in this country as in others, we run the risk of greater congestion with an increase in traffic. Therefore, we wish to accelerate the improvement by widening motorways and improving the services on them through additional finance raised by a modest charge.

My hon. Friend is right to say that the charge needs to be modest to avoid diversion on to local roads. One of the arguments for that is the fact that about half of all motorists hardly ever or never use the motorways.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that his absurd policy of cutting the investment level for both British Rail and underground services by nearly£1 billion, and the reinvestment of that money on the M25, will result in that road being widened to 14 or even 20 lanes to cope with the extra cars created by that stupid transport policy?

The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong to describe the policy as stupid. Presumably he means that he wants to restrict people's use of cars and heavy goods vehicles by fiat from Whitehall. That does not make any sense. Otherwise, what does a centralised transport policy mean?

The hon. Gentleman is also wrong about the balance of Government expenditure. Although 90 per cent. of all inland passenger and freight traffic goes by road, we are spending about 56 per cent. of Government expenditure on roads and 44 per cent. on public transport—including rail—this year. That is a clear indication that Government expenditure is, if anything, skewed heavily towards public transport and rail.