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Strategic Road Network: Congestion

Volume 629: debated on Thursday 19 October 2017

Tackling congestion, as you will know, Mr Speaker, is at the forefront of the Government’s plans to provide a modern strategic road network that supports our growing economy. The Government are investing in the largest programme of improvements on our national roads that we have seen for many decades, as the Secretary of State said—£15 billion between 2015 and 2021 alone. In addition to providing extra capacity on the busiest motorways by making them smart motorways, the Government will improve specific parts of the network where investment can tackle congestion, improve journeys and support economic growth.

I thank the Minister for that answer, and I welcome the Government’s investment in a feasibility study into finally building junction 18A on the M4. However, one of the options under consideration is to build that new junction at Pucklechurch, which would devastate the local green belt and divide two extremely historic communities. With the decision expected early next year, residents are being left under a cloud of uncertainty, so will the Minister speak to Highways England to ensure that this undeliverable and unsupportable proposal is ruled out as early as possible?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting Highways England’s work to develop proposals that would improve access to the M4. The scheme will be vital to unlocking the potential for housing developments in that area. As he will know, the Secretary of State has seen the site for himself, and he and I are taking the issue very seriously. I will be discussing it, among other things, with Highways England when I see its chief executive next week.

Is not the real answer to cutting road congestion, and for that matter roadside emissions, to invest in expanding rail freight capacity? For example, Peel at the port of Liverpool is investing £750 million, including in rail freight. Why are the Government not stepping up and playing their part?

I thoroughly dispute the idea that the Government are not playing their part, not least because we are heavily investing in HS2, which will run very close to that port and support it.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many Harlow motorists face significant problems from ever-increasing congestion and the ever-increasing number of terrible accidents on the M11? Will he investigate that to see what can be done?

We are absolutely aware of these issues and officials focus on them, as they do on issues on other strategic parts of the road network, but I would be delighted to meet my right hon. Friend to look at the issue further.

As has been said, reducing congestion on our roads requires serious investment in our rail infrastructure, so when will the Government give the north our fair share of rail investment and, in particular, agree to a Crossrail of the north that is fully integrated with HS2 at Piccadilly station?

As the hon. Lady will know, the Secretary of State made clear—[Interruption]—and reminds the House again that the north is seeing the biggest single investment in rail for many decades.