HC Deb 27 January 1960 vol 616 cc160-1
22. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Transport what consideration has been given to the need to change the giving of priority to ships by the opening of Tower Bridge, in view of the increase in road transport in recent years and the traffic congestion that results from the opening of the bridge, particularly during peak road travel periods.

23. Mrs. Butler

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the increasingly serious traffic hold-ups resulting from the frequent opening of Tower Bridge to allow ships to pass, what representations he has made, or proposes to make, to the appropriate authorities, designed to give greater consideration to road users than is now the case.

24. Mr. Ledger

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the interference with the flow of traffic by the opening of the Tower Bridge to allow ships to pass, how often Tower Bridge was opened for this purpose since 1st January, 1959, up to the last convenient date.

Mr. Marples

Tower Bridge was opened, 2,057 times between 1st January and 31st December, 1959. My Department has held discussions with the authorities and interests concerned, and we are satisfied that they are aware that it is a grave problem and that they will do all they can to reduce interference to road traffic. I shall continue to explore various possible means of improving the situation which were raised in our discussions with the interests concerned, but the problem is not susceptible of any easy or quick solution.

Mr. Dodds

Why was not something done before I put the Question down? Is it not ludicrous that in 1960 the law governing the opening of the bridge is one which was introduced in 1885, the Corporation of London (Tower Bridge) Act? Is it not also clear from that law that any flipping little ship that wants to get through and has a mast which is too tall has to have precedence over all the traffic and that, after 75 years, traffic for miles around is paralysed because the bridge is opened in this way? What is the use of the Minister going to America if he cannot settle a problem like that?

Mr. Marples

The hon. Member will no doubt be astonished to learn that action had been taken in some respects before even his weighty Question was put down. A great deal of action has been taken by the Port of London Authority, and because a law is old it is not necessarily a bad law. Discussions have taken place between the police, the London Transport Executive, the Road Haulage Association, British Road Services, the Corporation of London, and the Port of London Authority, and many suggestions have been made. Every single suggestion is now being examined closely and was being examined before the Question was put down.