HC Deb 03 April 1951 vol 486 cc33-8
The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)

With permission, I will briefly indicate my views on the Report of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee on London traffic congestion and will circulate a fuller statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I accept in principle the recommendations of the Committee for further restricting waiting vehicles and slow-moving traffic and will consider, in consultation with them, the introduction of the necessary regulations, which may sometimes be experimental.

I also accept in principle a number of recommendations which can be, and some of which are already being dealt with administratively, such as those relating to education and propaganda, to co-ordination of undertakers' street works, and to direction signs and street name-plates. In some of these matters I have not the primary responsibility. I am discussing with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the important question of strengthening mobile police patrols.

The Committee rightly attached great importance to the problem of car parking. I cannot commit the Government to financial assistance in this matter, but subject to this I propose to invite representatives of the various Departments and interests mainly concerned to formulate proposals on the basis of the Committee's recommendations.

I will consider the street improvements recommended by the Committee in consultation with the London County Council, although in present circumstances early execution of expensive schemes cannot be expected.

Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe

With regard to such administrative matters as street works, direction signs and name-plates, and also with regard to car parking, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether he can hold out any hope of improvements for this summer in view of the special amount of traffic which is expected?

Mr. Barnes

With regard to street direction signs, a good deal is already being undertaken in that direction and on this experiment in connection with the Festival of Britain we hope to build a permanent direction-sign system at least for the main routes in London. With regard to car parking, those parts of the Committee's recommendations which deal with no waiting or unilateral waiting or the special provision of car parks in side streets will be pursued vigorously but, as I have indicated, I cannot undertake any immediate provision for the more ambitious schemes which involve the investment of capital. I have followed this procedure of publishing in the OFFICIAL REPORT the details of the recommendations which I have accepted and I think that if hon. Members refer to the Report itself it will give them a good indication of the steps which are being taken.

Professor Savory

Is it with the right hon. Gentleman's approval that Green Street and all the surrounding streets are to become a permanent car park, so that I have the utmost difficulty in obtaining access to my home?

Sir Harold Webbe

Will the Minister say whether the authorities to be consulted by him in connection with car parks and street improvements will include the city and borough councils?

Mr. Barnes

Most certainly. I shall take steps to consult all the interests concerned and in the instance of the City of Westminster, which represents the area with the most acute car parking problem, the City of Westminster Council will be consulted.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Does my right hon. Friend's reference to car parks mean that he contemplates arranging some uniformity in car park charges in the London area which at present are a source of abuse and complaint?

Mr. Barnes

I have indicated that some of these matters are not primarily my responsibility and require consultations with the authorities concerned which, as I have said, I shall carry out.

Mr. Shepherd

Is this not a fair summary of the Minister's statement in regard to car parking: that he intends to put further restrictions on waiting without making any provision whatsoever for additional car parking facilities? Is it not unreasonable for him to come to the House and say that he wants to deal with the problem and also to indicate at the same time that no grant will be given to local authorities for this purpose?

Mr. Barnes

I do not think so. After all, this Committee have done a very valuable piece of work. They recognised that some of the long-term solutions cannot be put into operation at the moment, but the Committee advanced some immediate measures and those will be put in hand as quickly as possible.

Miss Irene Ward

Does the right hon. Gentleman really intend to take the advice of the local authorities concerned or does his view supersede the advice of the local authorities?

Mr. Barnes

I always consider very fully the advice of the local authorities.

Following is the statement:

In my answer of 5th March I divided the Committee's recommendations into four main categories and I will now indicate my views with reference to the same categories and to the numbers prefixed to the recommendations in the summary given on pages 7 to 10 of the report.

(1) Recommendations requiring new regulations or legislation

I accept in principle Nos. 9, 10, 15, 16, 19 and 20. This means that I will consider in consultation with the Committee the introduction of regulations, which may sometimes be experimental in the first instance, to prohibit loading and unloading in short lengths of certain main thoroughfares during specified hours; to extend the restrictions on horse-drawn and other slow traffic; to prohibit at certain times all forms of waiting for a distance of 45 ft. from the more important controlled intersections; to prohibit right-hand turns at some further intersections; and to establish a system of unilateral waiting in certain additional streets.

I am consulting the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee on Recommendation No. 17, which suggests that legislation should be considered to give further control over street trading in order to prevent congestion.

As regards Recommendations Nos. 3 and 4, I regret that I am not prepared to propose legislation to enable assistance to be given from central funds towards the extra cost of double-shift and week-end working on street repairs.

(2) Recommendations which can be dealt with by administrative action

I accept in principle Recommendations Nos. 1, 5, 21, 22, 23, 24, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55 and 56. This means that I will consider the possibilities of arcading in consultation with those of my colleagues and with the local authorities who are concerned; that I will arrange for the further co-ordination of street works to be discussed with the statutory undertakers; that I will bring to the notice of those who issue the Directory of Road Transport Cafes the suggestion that it should contain a route map for London; that I will arrange for suitable education and propaganda on the general problem of traffic congestion and on particular points to which the Committee call attention; and that I will do what I can to help the operators, whose responsibility it is, to find a permanent site for a coach station in North London.

In some matters touched on by the Committee administrative action is already proceeding. Thus as regards Recommendation No. 49, working parties are already working out a scheme for permanent direction signs and a good deal has already been done in the way of temporary signposting. As regards Recommendation No. 50, I am about to issue a circular about street name plates. As regards Recommendations Nos. 53 and 54, it is already the policy to introduce "cross-now" or "all-red" phases in traffic signals where practicable and to encourage pedestrians to cross the road at specified points, using subways when they are provided.

In view of the present restrictions on expenditure I do not feel able to accept Recommendation No. 52 in regard to subway escalators for pedestrians.

As regards Recommendation No. 56, I am already discussing with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary as a general question the possibility of employing additional mobile police patrols both in London and elsewhere to assist in relieving congestion as well as in the interests of safety and, while the existing police manpower position renders any large increases out of the question in London at the moment, I hope that some strengthening of the patrols may be found possible.

The recommendations on traffic signals (Recommendations Nos. 43 to 48) do not, I think, call for any specific action on my part. I have no doubt that the local authorities concerned will consider those designed to secure that traffic signals are well maintained and kept reasonably up to date. I am not in favour of advance warning signs for intersections in built-up areas as proposed in Recommendations Nos. 48 and 51. Recommendation No. 51 also suggests the marking of traffic lanes with white lines at intersections. Such lines help to sort traffic and, subject to limitations imposed by scarcity of funds and materials, I commend this suggestion to the consideration of highway authorities.

(3) The problem of parking (Recommendations Nos. 25 to 42)

I accept Recommendation No. 26 and am arranging for a survey of demand and available off-street sites to be put in hand. I further propose to invite representatives of the various Departments and interests mainly concerned to confer with my officers with a view to formulating proposals within the general framework of the Committee's recommendations, subject to the caveat that the Government cannot commit themselves on the question of financial assistance.

(4) Street Improvements (Recommendation No. 2)

I am inviting the views of the London County Council, as improvement authority, so far as they are not already known to me, on the schemes recommended in the report. With the present limitation of funds and need for strict control over capital investment, it would be wrong of me to be very optimistic in regard to the early execution of the more expensive schemes.

Recommendations Nos. 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 18 do not call for any immediate action on my part.