HC Deb 17 November 1954 vol 533 cc370-5
7. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in view of the increasing traffic congestion in London and most other large cities and towns, he will shortly be able to make a statement of his plans for dealing with this problem, before the continuing increase in the number of vehicles on the roads causes the situation to deteriorate still further.

12. Mr. Peter Freeman

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware of the growing congestion of traffic in all main towns, causing long queues, delay and other difficulties to the travelling public; and, in view of the fact that there are over 1,000 additional vehicles adding to the congestion every day as well as constantly growing traffic of other descriptions, what action he is taking to deal with the situation.

19. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will increase the number of streets in central London where the parking of cars will be totally prohibited.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I regard the London traffic problem as of immediate urgency. There is no simple answer. Increased road space, more parking off the highway and measures for the more orderly and sensible use of the existing roads are all necessary. But my immediate task is to put into effect a number of measures practicable within the existing financial and legislative framework. I propose to circulate an account of these interim measures, which is rather long and detailed, in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I am very much aware of the traffic congestion in our large cities and towns, and I am giving this full weight in allocating funds at my disposal for roadworks. The initiative in traffic regulations in towns and cities outside of London rests, of course, with the local authorities.

Brigadier Medlicott

In thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him continually to bear in mind the establishing of the basic principle that streets must be used primarily for the movement of traffic rather than for traffic being parked, whereas hitherto the reverse has been the case? Secondly, will he bear in mind that this is a problem which cannot be successfully solved by the democratic method of trying to please everybody, and that we would welcome a little dictatorship?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As far as the first part of that question is concerned, I am inclined to share my hon. and gallant Friend's general approach. I should hesitate, however, to adopt as my attitude the line which he indicated in his closing sentence. But I agree that this is a matter of the first importance which cannot be solved without hurting somebody.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my Question? Will he say whether he is limiting the number of streets in central London where parking is allowed? Unless he deals with the problem of private cars parked all day while their owners are at work, he will never get to the root of the problem.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be good enough to look at the rather long statement I am circulating, he will see what are my proposals in respect of restrictions on parking.

Mr. Vane

May I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind, when he considers the problem outside London, that it is not one of large cities and towns only? Many smaller country towns have just as bad parking problems because of very narrow streets, and on market days through traffic is almost brought to a standstill. Will he consider that, too?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I know that this problem exists in other parts of the country but my hon. Friend will see that I am answering Questions on the Paper which relate either to London or to other large cities.

Following is the detailed account:

1. The London traffic situation calls for a number of different steps.

2. More road space on a scale likely to provide a radical solution means considerable and extensive roadworks. These take time and their rate of progress is governed by the state of the national economy, the funds available, and the claims of other roads in other places. But we are making a start. The Cromwell Road extension scheme at a cost of £3 million from the Exchequer will start in the next two or three months. The recommencement of work on the Dartford—Purfleet Tunnel will be authorised a few weeks later in the early part of the next financial year. This will require £9 million from the Exchequer.

3. I also hope to approve soon the first instalment of the new route 11, planned by the City Corporation between Aldersgate Street and Moorgate. This will ultimately make a notable improvement in London roads and, if the corporation carries out its imaginative plan for incorporating an underground car park in it, will also help the parking problem in the City.

4. In addition there will be a number of smaller road schemes including the widening of Piccadilly near Swallow Street which is due to start early in the New Year, and the widening of 1½ miles of the Great Cambridge road from the North Circular Road to Bury Street, Edmonton.

5. Traffic signals make a most valuable contribution to the orderly flow of traffic. New vehicle-actuated lights of the sort which have done so well since they were recently installed at Swiss Cottage will be put in at the Monument, Vauxhall Cross and the Bridge Street and Embankment junction. A new and improved system is already nearly installed in Oxford Street in replacement of the former obsolete equipment there, and will be fully working before the end of the year. Two hundred thousand pounds of expenditure on traffic lights in the Metropolitan area has been authorised during the past two years, and £140,000 of this comes from the Exchequer.

6. The system of through route sign-posting in central London is also being improved and a special grant has been made for this. Signs on several routes are already up and there are more to follow in the next few months.

7. All this will help the flow of traffic. But the parked vehicle, with its use of road space otherwise available for moving traffic, is a serious cause of difficulty. I do not think it is either just or practicable to prohibit the entry of private cars into the central area but I am satisfied that in order to keep traffic moving the present unilateral and "No Waiting" restrictions must be substantially extended. After consultation with my right hon. and gallant Friend, the Home Secretary, and with the Commissioner of Police, and after considering representations on behalf of trading interests, I have decided that:

  1. (a) the existing unilateral waiting experiments in 17 streets in Westminster should be made permanent.
  2. (b) The present maximum waiting period of 20 minutes in unilateral waiting streets should be extended to 30 minutes.
  3. (c) Unilateral waiting restrictions should be imposed on 21 additional streets in the London suburbs.

I have still to complete discussion of the proposals for the Westminster streets with the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee and the Westminster City Council, but I have today made Regulations to cover the other points.

(d) At about the beginning of December, the police will, with my approval, introduce a new series of unilateral and no-waiting experiments in some 70 further streets in inner and outer London, the final details of which remain to be settled with the local authorities.

(e) The police will also at an early date introduce a further experiment, postponed from September, banning for certain periods all loading and unloading at five important intersections and at five busy stretches of road in inner London.

8. I have received the reports of the consultants appointed last June to prepare plans and estimates for underground car parks in Grosvenor, Cavendish and Finsbury Squares. These reports are now under intensive study. I am also in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works as regards the special problems of parking cars in the Royal Parks.

9. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and I are also consulting together to see whether planning requirements for the provision of garage space in new office blocks could, in appropriate places, be discharged by the erection of a separate multi-storey garage to serve a number of such office blocks.

10. In view of the increasing congestion of the streets, mainly caused by the parking of private cars in the central area, London Transport has put in hand a preliminary survey of space at or near other stations on its railways, particularly those near the main road traffic arteries. As part of this survey the practicability of developing additional car parking facilities nearer the inner central area, as well as in the suburban zone, will be brought under review, and a report made to the British Transport Commission accordingly.

11. A source of annoyance to motorists has been the requirement for all cars left on the streets at night to have all their obligatory lights illuminated, except in some authorised parking places. This requirement is very largely ignored in London and I do not believe it is any longer necessary. I have, therefore, decided to exercise the powers conferred on me by the Road Transport Lighting (No. 2) Act, 1953, to legalise the use of parking lights and the parking of vehicles on the road unlit in built-up areas. I shall shortly circulate to representative organisations proposals to this effect both as regards London and, subject to police consent, elsewhere.

12. Right-hand turns in crowded streets cause serious obstruction. Hitherto restrictions have only been applied to right-hand turns of lesser importance in inner London, but I now propose to examine those places, such as Oxford Circus, where a large stream of traffic turns right, to see whether at the cost of a small detour greater use could not be made of the surrounding streets.

13. A great improvement could be made in traffic conditions in inner London, if it were possible to arrange for the staggering of office hours. I have referred this to the Central Transport Consultative Committee, which has agreed that it should be considered in the first instance by the London Transport Users Consultative Committee.

14. In the past the enforcement of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit in built-up areas has been made more difficult because of obvious inconsistencies between the characteristics of the roads to which it is applied. I have now asked the Chairman of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee to undertake a complete review of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit as it applies to roads of traffic importance in the London traffic area. I have also asked him to consider more generally whether the present law on the speed limit meets modern conditions in London, for instance, whether on some arterial roads now free from any speed restriction, there is a case for a higher limit than 30 m.p.h.

15. These are the preliminary measures which I can at present announce for improving the flow of London traffic; I do not claim that they will solve all its problems. Further measures are being worked out and will be announced when they are ready.