HC Deb 03 February 1960 vol 616 cc974-5
16. Mr. Boyden

asked the Minister of Transport if he will, as a matter of urgency, consult with industrial and other organisations concerned, with a view to making plans for greater coordination of road and rail transport so that traffic could be diverted from the most dangerous roads.

Mr. Marples

Trade and industry already know well the services offered by rail and road. Moreover, the British Transport Commission has also closely consulted them about the railway modernisation plan. The best way to help with the problem which I think the hon. Member has in mind is to improve both road and rail facilities, and this is what is being done.

Mr. Boyden

Would not the Minister agree that if he is ultimately to solve this problem, he will have to consider very seriously a national plan for the coordination of transport; that, as a first step towards relieving the accident problem, he might very well consider the origination of heavy loads in the great conurbations and try to avoid some congestion; and that, if he showed more determination, he might eliminate some of the accidents?

Mr. Marples

I do not wish to be controversial—it is not in my nature to be so—but the party opposite had a chance of co-ordinating transport, and we saw the results in 1947 and 1948.

Mr. Burden

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of employing train lorry ferries, comparable to the car ferries now used at certain periods of the year? Will he give serious consideration to this, as it might help to take some of the heavy lorry traffic off the roads?

Mr. Marples

The British Transport Commission is looking into this. It has adequate facilities for doing it, but is looking into it to see what it can do to get heavy goods off the roads and back on the railways.

Mr. Mellish

Is the Minister aware that the whole question of co-ordination is no longer a political football? We cannot kick it around any longer. Something must be done on a national basis. Is he aware that in the last four years, even traffic on the River Thames has been one-third less than it was, because of traffic going on to the roads? Does not he agree that something must be done to put the traffic back both on the river and the railways?

Mr. Marples

This is a phenomenon which is happening all over the world. It is exactly the same all over the United States, where, even in Denver, the Denver-Chicago Trucking Company can take goods by road from Chicago to Los Angeles, which is an enormous distance, more cheaply than they can go by rail. They are taking goods away from the railways. The real point is that this is a convenient way of taking goods from door to door, which is the attraction, rather than a question of the cost