HC Deb 04 November 1959 vol 612 cc1018-20
20. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Transport if he was satisfied with the rate of completion of the Chiswick flyover; to what extent he is satisfied that the design is commensurate with modern engineering and architectural requirements; and if he will make a statement concerning criticisms made recently by the constructing contractor.

Mr. Marples

I welcome the opportunity to make a statement about the Chiswick flyover. The rate of progress was determined by the overriding necessity of interfering as little as possible with the traffic flow of over 40,000 vehicles a day at this junction.

The design, which was approved by the Royal Fine Art Commission, makes full use of modern engineering techniques, particularly in the bridge which is certainly one of the largest pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete structures in the world. Concrete retaining walls were used for the approach roads and the bridge abutments to economise in the use of steel which was relatively scarce when the design was prepared.

As regards the criciticisms made by the contractors, the independent consultants advised that the design was economical and I must reject the assertion that the flyover could have been completed in half the time at half the cost. Of course it could have been built more cheaply and more quickly if the traffic problem had been ignored, but that was out of the question.

As for the contractors' particular allegations of delay, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further because they form the basis of various claims made by the contractors, which I have suggested should be referred to arbitration.

Mr. Snow

In view of that not uninteresting Answer, which I think many people would like to study carefully, may I restrict myself at this point to saying that I wish to support what the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) said just now? When the right hon. Gentleman carries out an examination of domestic and foreign design for bridges, will he consider the viewpoints of architects as opposed to engineers, because of the appearance of bridges, which is of very general interest to the public?

Mr. Marples

Yes. I agree with both the hon. Gentlemen and my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull. At this stage in our constructional programme for roads and bridges we have to take both the civil engineers and architects with us.

Mr. Grimond

Are we to understand from the Minister's Answer that he is wholly satisfied with what happened, in spite of the criticisms both as to cost and delay, and that, in his researches into bridge building, he contemplates once again building a filled bridge of this sort with hand-finished bricks and at a cost twice as much as it need be?

Mr. Marples

I did not say that I was satisfied. I said that the allegations of the contractors had been referred to arbitration, which is independent from the Ministry. As the contractors have placed a monetary assessment on their allegations, it is far better that the Ministry itself should not be a judge in its own cause. I would rather somebody from outside decided the issue.