HC Deb 03 April 1957 vol 568 cc376-8
10. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has received the report on the effects of petrol rationing on traffic in London which he requested from the Road Research Laboratory; and what action he proposes to take in regard thereto.

Mr. Watkinson

Yes, Sir, and I am arranging for the summary of the report to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Davies

In thanking the Minister for the speed with which this has been prepared and looking forward to seeing his comments, may I ask whether he is fully aware that the traffic is already beginning to deteriorate to some extent as more vehicles seem to be coming back on to the London streets and that the public will be very disappointed if they find that traffic congestion returns to the conditions which they experienced before rationing? Will the Minister do everything he can to stop this busman's dream becoming the passenger's nightmare?

Mr. Watkinson

I certainly will. It is fair to say that we have learned a good deal in the last few months. The police, London Transport and all concerned have learned a lot and will now gradually start to apply it as the traffic, as the hon. Member rightly says, begins to come back. Therefore, I hope we shall not return to quite the state of congestion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Chaos."]—that we had before.

Following is the summary:





In the first ten months of 1956, traffic in inner London averaged about 3½ per cent. above that in the corresponding period the year before. When the fuel shortage started in November, 1956, the traffic began to decline steadily, and at the beginning of January, 1957, was about 18 per cent. below the previous year's figure, and 21 per cent. below the figure to be expected if the earlier trend had continued. Since the beginning of February, 1957, there has been a marked rise relative to 1956, but this was probably partly due to the effect of snow in February of that year. The effect was about the same between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, in the evening peak period (5 to 7 p.m.) and at other times.

Measurements of speed and flow on a route between Knightsbridge and the Bank in January, 1957, were compared with similar measurements made during the previous September-October. Between 9.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. the total traffic was reduced by 11 per cent., but the reduction was not the same for all classes of vehicles. Private cars were 36 per cent. fewer, goods vehicles only slightly reduced in number. and there was an increase of 15 per cent. in the total of buses and taxis. The average journey speed along the route during the same hours was 12 m.p.h. in January, 1957, about 2½ m.p.h. taster than in the previous autumn. The amount of time spent waiting at controlled intersections fell by about 45 per cent. Although these changes were partly due to normal seasonal variation in traffic, the fuel shortage accounted for a large part of the improvement.

There were 22 per cent, fewer vehicles (28 per cent. fewer cars) parked in the streets in selected areas of inner London in January, 1957, than in September, 1955, but the number was still 27 per cent. higher than in September, 1951.

The total casualties in the Metropolitan Police District in the two months December, 1956, and January, 1957, fell by about 17 per cent. compared with the previous year.