HC Deb 02 February 1955 vol 536 cc1096-109
61. Mr. T. W. JONES

To ask the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will consult the Home Secretary with a view to ensuring that Wales receives its fair share of money to be allocated to the new programme of road construction.

63. Mr. TURNER

To ask the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is now in a position to make a statement regarding the North-West sector of the Oxford outer by-pass about which urgent representations have been made to him.

64. Mr. STOREY

To ask the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has considered the representations which have been made to him about the need for a high level bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal at Barton; and if he will include such a bridge and its approaches with the highest priority in the next instalment of major road developments.


To ask the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how much of the £64 million to be spent on new by-pass and major roads during the next five years is to be spent in Wales; whether it includes provision for the main by-pass road around Newport from London to West Wales; and what is the amount so allocated.

76. Mr. NEAVE

To ask the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement on the proposed Oxford Western by-pass.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

I am now in a position to make a statement on the first instalment of the Government's expanded road programme. There have been few major improvements and very little new construction in our road system since 1939, and the problem which now faces us is, therefore, an immense one.

Her Majesty's Government are working to plans which will take a good many years to complete, but which are intended to provide this country with an up-to-date road system. [HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Gentleman is going too fast."] I am sorry. The statement is rather long and I was trying to get through it quickly.

These plans include both entirely new motor roads of the most modern construction and an ordered series of major and minor works on existing through routes, the individual items of which are planned so as taken together to convert these routes into modern all-purpose highways. The construction of new roads is a process which takes some time to begin, because compliance with the statutory procedure designed for the protection of the interests likely to be affected means that a considerable period must elapse before the line of the road can be finally determined and the necessary land acquired. Consequently, the work done in the early years of the programme must necessarily be mainly in connection with the improvement of existing routes.

Items have been selected for an early place in the programme which, in the judgment of Her Majesty's Government, are of the greatest urgency for relieving congestion of traffic, particularly industrial traffic, and for promoting road safety. In this selection we have necessarily had regard to such essential preliminary considerations as the state of preparedness of schemes and the availability of land.

I propose to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of schemes which I hope to authorise during the financial year 1955–56. For trunk roads, for which I am the highway authority, this list includes schemes costing over £100,000 each; but in view of the need for further consultation with local highway authorities which is proceeding in respect of classified road schemes, I have included only two such schemes, each of which involves an Exchequer contribution of over £500,000. One, the Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel, was in the list announced by my predecessor, and the other has been inserted after consultation with the promoting authority.

The list does not, as the House will see, include the Hyde Park boulevard scheme. That is at present under consideration. I should mention another important London scheme which, I hope, to authorise before the end of this financial year. That is the first instalment of route 11, to which I referred in my statement on traffic congestion on 17th November last. I am also circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of schemes on trunk and classified roads likely to cost the Exchequer more than £500,000 each which I hope to authorise during the three years 1956–57, 1957–58 and 1958–59. I have not at present gone below the £500,000 mark in the list for these later years, because the final selection of a large number of the many schemes involved requires further consultation with highway authorities and others.

As regards Scotland, the House will be aware that it is proposed that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should take over my responsibility for roads in Scotland as from 1st April. 1956. I have, therefore, been in consultation with him in the selection of schemes for Scotland, and I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT lists corresponding to those for England and Wales. A number of these schemes are on the main Glasgow-Carlisle Road (A. 74) which carries a heavy volume of industrial traffic and which it is hoped progressively to convert into a first-class highway with dual carriageways throughout.

We shall, of course, complete the special Highland Roads Programme which the Secretary of State for Scotland announced on 14th July, 1953. In addition it is now proposed to make a substantial increase in the work being done on the Crofter Counties Programme, beginning with a commitment of £350,000 in 1955–56 and aiming, in the course of the next three years, at annual commitments of about £750,000. It is also intended to undertake other Highland schemes not at present in any of these programmes. Of these the most important is the Inverness river bridge, which it is hoped to commit in 1956–57.

Over and above schemes in particular localities, there are certain major projects of national importance which should be ready for commitments towards the end of this period. They will be projects of great magnitude and the cost will be formidable; indeed, to enable us to proceed as rapidly as we should like the Government have in mind that tolls should be charged in suitable cases. This will enable the Exchequer to get back something on the money put up and will, of course, include provision for sharing between the Exchequer and local authorities where the latter had also put up money.

The first of these projects will be the first section of a London-Yorkshire motor road; that is, a road confined to motor traffic with severely restricted access and with fly-over crossings and junctions. The first section will extend from the north end of the proposed St. Albans By-pass to a point near Rugby, with a spur for Birmingham traffic connecting with the existing trunk road A.45 to Birmingham, which road is itself to have dual carriageways and by-passes at Dunchurch and Meriden. Following on the first section of the London-Yorkshire motor road the Government would wish to put in hand, not only the remainder of that motor road, but also the North-South motor road through Lancashire from Preston to Birmingham.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, for his part, intends that in the course of the four-year period a start will be made with a crossing of the Firth of Forth. A scheme for the construction of a tube on the bed of the Firth of Forth has recently been submitted to my right hon. Friend by consultants of high standing as a less expensive alternative to a bridge. It is being referred to the local authorities concerned with whom we are ready to discuss how its merits in relation to a bridge can best be assessed. Once this has been done, decisions can be taken as to the starting date for the selected alternative.

The effect of the proposals now put forward is that the work authorised in the financial year 1955–56 will represent an ultimate expenditure from the Exchequer of approximately £27 million and the total to be authorised during the following three years will involve an ultimate Government expenditure of about £120 million. This excludes expenditure on the very large projects of national importance to which I have just referred. There will also be the substantial complementary expenditure of local highway authorities on classified road schemes.

The House will realise that on a programme of this sort it takes some time for payments to reach the level of authorisations, the actual expenditure on most schemes being spread over a number of years like the constructional work itself, and falling for the most part two or three years after authorisation. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to forecast now the precise scale of the programme in years farther into the future. The actual amount of work to be authorised must clearly depend on the resources available and on the economic and financial condition of the country at the time. But it is the Government's firm intention to continue with a substantial programme of road construction and improvement—at least on the scale I have indicated—until the roads of this country are adequate for the traffic they have to bear.

Mr. Callaghan

The Opposition welcomes an expanded road programme, but we shall have to examine the right hon. Gentleman's statement very carefully. The House and the country will be able to determine how significant this programme is only when they have an idea over what period it is spread. What is the Minister's estimate, therefore, of the period during which the £120 million programme will be completed? If we can be told that, we shall have an idea of the importance and significance of this programme.

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the balance of this scheme will be devoted to relieving congestion in towns, apart from the motor roads, which sound very fine, but which, if they do not start anywhere and do not lead anywhere, do not relieve congestion very much? Has he given adequate weight to relieving congestion in the towns and cities?

Further, has he considered the plan in relation to the railway programme and can he assure the House that no duplication of traffic facilities is envisaged? Have the Government decided what steps they will be taking to ensure there is no duplication? I notice that most of the expenditure will fall during the period of the next Labour Government.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I doubt whether, in that eventuality, there would be the resources to meet the programme. I appreciate that when a long statement is read out it is difficult to follow the figures involved, but the £120 million, which, as I pointed out, does not allow anything for the major schemes of national importance, is proposed to be the cost of work authorised in the second, third and fourth years of the programme, that is, the three years after the first year.

I can give the hon. Gentleman a perfectly straight assurance that the programme includes a very large number of schemes, large and small, for relieving congestion in London and other big cities. This scheme has, of course, been carefully considered in the light of the British Transport Commission's modernisation plan. It is certainly far from inconsistent with it; it is, on the contrary, an indication of the need for investment in both forms of transport.

Mr. Callaghan

I apologise to the House for intervening once again, but it is important to get an answer to my first question. Has the Minister estimated the length of time over which this programme is to be in operation? When does he expect it to be completed? I understand that it is to be started over the second, third and fourth years, but how long will it be before it is finished?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am not able to give particulars of the timing of the work beyond four years ahead. The House will appreciate that to lay down detailed programmes beyond that date is not very wise, as conditions and times themselves change. The hon. Member will find the real answer to what he asked in the last words of my statement—our intention to proceed until we have a proper road system.

Mr. Maclay

is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that part of his statement which deals with matters north of the Border will be received with immense satisfaction throughout Scotland, particularly that part of the statement which dealt with the starting of a Forth crossing within the next four years? Our sole regret is that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not here to hear the warmth of our appreciation of the work he has undoubtedly done to achieve such a remarkable result for Scotland. Finally, will there be any delay in proceeding to an estimation of the relative merits of the tube and the bridge for the Forth crossing?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I thank my right hon. Friend for his courteous reference to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. As I have already said, the Scottish part of this programme was prepared in the closest consultation with my right hon. Friend. In answer to the second part of my right hon. Friend's supplementary question, there will be no avoidable delay.

Mr. Bottomley

Is the Minister aware that absence of comment about the proposed introduction of a toll system does not mean that there is universal approval, and that for my own part I consider it a retrograde step?

Mr. Renton

May I ask my right hon. Friend what steps he has taken to ensure that his own excellent intentions are not frustrated by administrative delay by his own Department and the highway authorities? Secondly, may I ask—because I did not quite understand from the statement—whether he contemplates that the Great North Road will be made into a first-class highway throughout its length from London to Doncaster, and, if so, within what period of time?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If my hon. Friend looks at the particulars of the schemes which I promised to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that they include a large number of schemes which, taken together, will greatly improve the existing Great North Road. The London-Yorkshire motor road will take a great deal of the traffic which otherwise would use the Great North Road. That point has been taken into account in drawing up the plan in respect of the Great North Road itself.

Concerning administrative delay, as my hon. Friend knows, the starting of a programme of this sort after a number of years during which such programmes have not been undertaken, puts a great strain on the administrative machinery both of my Department and of the highway authorities. It is in that light that these particular proposals have been worked out, and I commend them to the House as realistic.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that everyone will endorse the satisfaction felt at the fixing of a date for the start of the Forth Crossing? A great deal of preparatory work was done by the previous Government, and probably continued by his own Government, for the carrying out of this work on a certain site. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the tube crossing, if adopted, will be on the same site, or will an entirely new survey be required?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I would rather not enter into the details of the tube plan, which has yet to be considered by the bridge committee's engineers. The purpose is to provide a crossing serving the same main roads as the proposed bridge but, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will understand, I should not like to be drawn into details of the precise route of a crossing which would be at the bottom of the Forth as compared with one above it.

Mr. P. Williams

My right hon. Friend may secure the satisfaction of those living north of the Border, west of the Pennines and south of Doncaster, but can he give an assurance that in the full programme there is something affecting the North-East Coast? If so, is there a timetable for the work?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

So far as individual schemes are concerned, I think it would probably be more convenient if my hon. Friend would look at the details of the schemes which are being circulated.

Mr. Holt

While welcoming the fact that at last a start is to be made on motorways, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that it is very difficult to assess the merits or otherwise of his programme without knowing the speed at which he intends to carry it out? Can the right hon. Gentleman help us by saying how long he expects that the London-Yorkshire motor road will take to finish, and at what time there will be a start on the Birmingham-Preston North Road, from Lancashire?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

For the reasons which I explained in my statement, in the case of completely new roads I would rather not be drawn into discussing the question of precise dates. The House has laid down the procedure to be observed in the case of such roads to protect the interests of landowners and others concerned. It depends to some extent on how quickly that procedure can be worked and the work started, and, therefore, when it can finish. Consequently I would rather not go beyond what I have said in my statement.

Sir G. Braithwaite

While I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon his success with the Treasury in obtaining approval for the schemes, may I ask whether he can tell the House if it is intended to finance them in instalments solely out of revenue? Or are the Government prepared to go below the line?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that questions of finance should more properly be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Bowles

May I ask the Minister whether his last answer but one means that there may be a good deal of Private Bill legislation and opposition, and that he has not really got complete powers to carry this through until after a great deal of opposed Private Bill legislation?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The procedure is that laid down in the Special Roads Act, which was passed shortly after the war. I do not wish to weary the House by going into the provisions, but among the most important are provisions which are not so much Private Bill procedure as public inquiry.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Do the figures for the first three years, as given by my right hon. Friend, absorb the £15 million improvement programme announced last year, or are they in excess of that?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The figures I have announced, both in respect of the first year and the second, third and fourth years, absorb the figures announced in the statement made a little time ago.

Mr. Rankin

Can the Minister say whether, out of this programme, Glasgow will get the second half of the tunnel promised in the last programme?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

So far as the first four years are concerned, I think that it would be best if the hon. Gentleman looked at the information which I am circulating in HANSARD.

Mr. C. Williams

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on what he has said, may I ask whether he is aware that there is one grave omission? He has mentioned minor bridges but surely he has ignored the most important bridge, the Tamar Bridge. Can he assure the House that that bridge will come before any other?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I should not like—particularly on the Floor of the House—to be drawn into an argument about which is the most important bridge.

Mr. Wilkins

It may well be that the part of the Minister's statement referring to Scotland will be well received in that part of the country, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the absence of the West of England and South Wales from his statement will be received with dismay? Has he no proposals at all for the Severn Bridge, which surely is a vital link between London and the West of England and South Wales? I could tell him of a few other places as well, such as at Bridgwater and Taunton, where there are bottlenecks in the road to the West.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman, and most other hon. Members, could make a number of helpful suggestions, but I think that before anyone indulges in dismay he had better read tomorrow morning's HANSARD.

Mr. H. Morrison

Could not the right hon. Gentleman say a little more about the Severn Bridge and Tunnel? It has been under consideration for a long time, and I gather that there will not be much about it in tomorrow morning's HANSARD. Could not he give a little more indication of the Government view on that matter?

The right hon. Gentleman says that Hyde Park Corner is to be subject to further consideration. He will be aware that it is almost the worst traffic-congested spot in London; that conditions there are utterly chaotic and that one cannot be sure what road will be taken by any vehicle. Could not he say something more helpful about it, especially as I do not think that any property acquisition is involved?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I share the concern of the right hon. Gentleman over Hyde Park Corner and the Hyde Park boulevard scheme. Traffic there is heavier than in any other part of London, and possibly any other city in the United Kingdom, but it is absolutely essential that when we move on that particular part of London the proposals we put forward shall be right. It is necessary to get them absolutely right before any question of authorisation can arise.

So far as other schemes in or outside London—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Severn Bridge."]—I said, so far as other schemes in or outside London are concerned, I think that I should be allowed to circulate the schemes proposed for the first four years. At least, that will make the position clear about any scheme whether in or out of London. The question of later years may be discussed later.

Mr. Morrison

As I understand, and if the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, I do not anticipate that the Severn Bridge will be mentioned in HANSARD. If that be so, surely, in justice to hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent constituencies in the West of England and in Wales, the right hon. Gentleman should say why it is not mentioned.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The right hon. Gentleman shares with me an advantage which other hon. Members have not. He knows what may or may not be in the schedules. Though, at this stage, I do not wish to be led into answering questions by a "Yes" or a "No," I would say that it is not in the proposals for the first four years. I should be happy to deploy arguments on that on an appropriate occasion, but I do not think that I can be expected to debate it now.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, before he prepared his statement, he consulted the Minister for Welsh Affairs? Does he realise that his reply about the Severn Bridge will cause intense disappointment in South Wales, the south-west of England and the Midlands, and that one million industrialists consider that connecting South Wales with the Midlands is of the utmost importance? There will be not only dismay but a great deal of resentment all over the Principality and south of England.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that when the right hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD tomorrow he will have no reason to think other than that the Principality has been well and properly treated in the proposals that are put forward. I cannot go into further details of them now. So far as the Home Secretary is concerned in his capacity as Minister for Welsh Affairs, I have been in the closest touch with him over this programme.

Mr. Jay

Surely the Minister knows that both the Severn Bridge and the Tyne Tunnel were included as first priorities by his Department several years ago.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The drawing up of priorities of any programme for the first two years was, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, one of a number of factors which I mentioned in my statement. We went into this most carefully.

Dr. Summerskill

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a minor question? Has he been using the expression boulevard seriously? If so, does he intend to inject it into our London vocabulary?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am not a boulevardier.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members should look at the list published in HANSARD tomorrow, and then we may perhaps return to the matter on a future occasion.

Following are the lists of schemes referred to in the statement, including certain schemes previously announced:

A. Schemes in England and Wales proposed to be authorised in 1955–56 on trunk roads (each costing over £100,000) and on classified roads (each costing the Exchequer over £500,000).

Alconbury Hill to Woolpack Cross Roads (second carriageway) A.1
Allerton Station (Hopperton) by-pass A.1
Browney Bridge to Farewell Hall, widening A.1
Borrowash by-pass A.52
Catterick by-pass A.1
*Dartford—Purfleet Tunnel
East Retford by-pass (Elkersley bypass to Five Lane Ends) A.57
*Elephant and Castle improvement (Part I) A.3
Handcross by-pass A.23
Lichfield—Burton Road (part), second carriageway A.38
Longton by-pass A.59
Neath by-pass (Part II) A.48
Newcastle boundary to Chapel House, Throckley (widening) A.69
Oxford boundary to Islip Turn (widening) A.40
Page Street to Mill Hill (second carriageway) A.41/A.1
Potter Street diversion, Harlow A.11
Ryton-on-Dunsmore to Coventry (second carriageway) A.45

B. Schemes in Scotland proposed to be authorised in 1955–56 (each costing the Exchequer over £100,000).

Bridge of Allan A.9
Dumbuck to south-east of Barloan Crescent A.82
Linlithgow Bridge A.9
Trunk and Classified
Bridge of Don, Aberdeen A.92

C. Schemes in England and Wales proposed to be authorised in 1956–57, 1957–58, and 1958–59 (each costing the Exchequer over £500,000).

(i) London-Yorkshire Motor Road The programme provides for the construction of the London-Dunchurch (for Birmingham) section of the London-Yorkshire Motor Road. It will be built to modern engineering standards and restricted, under the powers given by the special Roads Act, 1949, to motor traffic only. No frontage access will be permitted and the motor road will be carried over or under all roads by means of fly-overs, connections being provided with the principal main roads, designed so as to keep the different streams of traffic in continuous movement. This section starts at the northern end of the proposed St. Albans by-pass, which itself will be constructed to motor roads standards, and passes to the west of Luton in Bedfordshire, thence through the eastern end of Buckinghamshire, entering Northamptonshire near Hanslope. It crosses the trunk road A.45 about half-way between Weedon and Northampton and reaches trunk road A.5 about 1½ miles north of Ashby St. Ledgers. At this point a spur for the Birmingham traffic runs westwards crossing the Northamptonshire/Warwickshire boundary about 2½ miles south of Rugby and terminating at the eastern end of the Dunchurch by-pass. Beyond this point the Birmingham traffic will use the existing trunk road A.45, which will have dual carriageways together with bypasses at Dunchurch and Meriden. The programme also includes the provisions of dual carriageways from the Hampstead Borough boundary at Finchley Road to the commencement of the St. Albans bypass, as well as the construction of a by-pass to Doncaster which forms the terminal point of the complete motor road.

(ii) Trunk Roads

Angel Road Bridge, Edmonton A.406
Brynmawr—Abergavenny A.465
Doncaster by-pass A.1
Gateshead—Felling by-pass (part classified) A. 184
Grantham by-pass A.1
Harlow by-pass A.11
Hirwaun-Brynmawr A.465
Kingston by-pass, second carriageway between Robin Hood Gate and Burlington Road A.3
Lancaster by-pass A.6
Maidenhead by-pass A.4
Maidstone by-pass A.20
Northwich by-pass (completion) A.556
Oxford Ring Road (Botley to Wolvercot) A.34
Port Talbot by-pass A.48
Preston by-pass A.6
Ross Spur
St. Albans by-pass A.5 and A.6
Sandiacre—Stapleford by - pass (Derby) A.52
Stafford—Stoke road widening A.34
Staines by-pass A.30
Tilbury Docks approach road A.13
Western Avenue—Hanger Lane flyover A.40

(iii) Classified Roads

Albert Bridge, reconstruction B.304
Barton Bridge, Lancashire A.575
Black wall Tunnel, Northern approach road A. 102
City of London redevelopment—various schemes
Elephant and Castle improvement (part II) A.3
Holborn—Kingsway junction improvement (part I) A.40 and A.4200
Huddersfield Central Ring Road (southern section)
Laira Bridge, Plymouth A.379
London Road—Chester Road, Manchester (East—West link road) A.57
Manchester Outer Ring Road A.575
Notting Hill Gate improvement A.40
Strand widening A.4
St. Giles' Circus (Part I, S.E. corner) A.40

D. Schemes in Scotland proposed to be authorised in 1956–57, 1957–58, and 1958–59 (each costing the Exchequer over £500,000).

(i) Trunk Roads

Abington and Crawford diversions (including intervening lengths) A.74
Auldton Heights to 1.7 miles south of Millbank A.74
Beattock to Johnstone Bridge A.74
Dalmakether to North end of Lockerbie diversion A.74
Glasgow—Stirling Road A.80
Improvement from Malletsheugh to Eastwood Toll A.77

(ii) Classified Roads

Whiteinch Second Tunnel