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Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has had regarding the proposal to increase lorry axle weights to 44 tonnes, with particular reference to pressing for such vehicles to be confined to the motorway network only; and if he will make a statement.

The proposal on which we issued a consultation document in March was an increase in the maximum gross weight to 44 tonnes for six-axle articulated lorries and drawbar trailer combinations carrying containers and swap-bodies to and from railheads in combined road/rail operations. No change was proposed to the maximum axle weight. We received a number of representations that careful consideration should be given to the routeing of 44-tonne vehicles, particularly in urban areas, but none that they should be confined to the motorway network, which would be impractical. In fact, the 44-tonne, six-axle vehicle would be no larger and cause no more road wear than present vehicles. We hope to be able to announce our conclusions on the consultation soon.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is his estimate of the amounts planned to be spent on strengthening road bridges to take heavier lorries, in each of the years in the current public spending round; and if he will make a statement.

In 1988–89, the Department of Transport started a 15-year programme for the rehabilitation of bridges on national roads in England. The programme involves assessing the condition of bridges, and strengthening them where necessary. This year the Department plans to spend £150 million.The Department also provides support to English local authorities for the maintenance of their bridges by way of transport supplementary grant and credit approvals. This year, this support will total £137 million. The exact amount spent will depend on local authorities' priorities.The national and local bridge programmes are intended to cater for the increasing volume of traffic as well as to provide for heavier lorries.Expenditure in the next three years will depend on the need for strengthening identified by the assessment programme and the outcome of the current public spending round.