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Motor Traffic

Volume 742: debated on Thursday 14 December 2023

This Government recognise that most journeys in this country are made by car, and that is why we are providing comprehensive support for motorists through our plan for drivers, which includes a package of measures to improve traffic flow, and also through the £8.3 billion investment in road resurfacing. That historic investment in road condition will benefit all road users, as we have set out in earlier answers.

Despite the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister saying that the war against the motorist is over, is he aware that many Labour local authorities have not got the message, with unwanted low-traffic neighbourhoods in place, unjustified 20 mph speed limits being proposed and traffic lights phased deliberately to delay traffic flows, causing added pollution? Will he consider giving advice to local authorities that they should do all they can to improve traffic flows and not disrupt them because of some misguided dogma against the motorist?

My right hon. Friend is right: we are pro-driver, but also pro- public transport and pro-active travel, and those things are about giving people better choices and making sure that councils do not deliver anti-driver traffic management measures. The network management duty requires local authorities to manage their roads as efficiently as possible for the benefit of all road users, including drivers, which some of them forget from time to time. We have also announced new funding totalling £40 million specifically for improvements to traffic lights to keep local roads moving, including deploying machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimise traffic flow to get cars moving.

The plan for drivers clearly shows that this Government are on the side of Britain’s motorists, but there is one missing link, which is rural roads. When a rural road is closed by a utility company or others, the diversion is not just a quick five minutes, but often half an hour or 40 minutes. Buckinghamshire Council tells me that the current fines system is just too low and the utility companies shrug it off. Can my right hon. Friend take real action to ensure that councils can properly fine utility companies when they disrupt rural communities?

My hon. Friend makes a good point that I am well aware of, representing a rural constituency myself. Some of the benefits of investment in infrastructure such as broadband do bring with them traffic disruption. One of the things we have put in place, as I mentioned in an earlier answer, is the change to make sure that good utility companies will have much less inspection and much less cost involved in delivery. Those utility companies that leave behind a mess, and therefore cause that disruption over and over again, will face more inspections and more costs, incentivising them to do a better job for his and my constituents.

I welcome my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) to his place on the Front Bench. For the past two years, part of the guided busway in Cambridge has been closed due to a complex legal wrangle with the Health and Safety Executive. It has meant that buses are snarled up and motorists and bus users have had thousands and thousands of hours of wasted time. Will the Minister meet me to try to find a way to resolve this issue speedily and get Cambridge moving?

I am not familiar with the specific situation that the hon. Gentleman raises about a dispute with the Health and Safety Executive. I will of course make sure that the relevant Minister meets him to deal with this issue. I have to say that my previous experience of Cambridge City Council was that it was tending to implement policies such as its congestion charging scheme, which it has now had to drop because it was so unpopular. It was not focused on getting traffic moving, but being against the interests of road users. I am glad that he welcomes that change.

Leeds is one of the most congested cities in the country, mainly because it is the largest city in Europe without a rail-based public transport system. Why do the Government have such contempt for the citizens of Leeds? When will we see a decent public transport system in our city?

That is an extraordinary question, given that the Government have, in the Network North announcement that the Prime Minister made, put aside £2.5 billion for a mass transit system in Leeds so that Leeds no longer remains one of the largest cities in Europe without one. I have to say that that investment in Leeds to benefit his constituents is possible only because of the choice that this Government made to cancel the second phase of HS2 and to spend the money on that mass transit system in Leeds. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not welcome that significant investment for his constituents.