§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I beg to move,That this House welcomes the actions taken by the Government and by other bodies for research into and the practical application of traffic engineering and calls attention to the great potential in its increase use for the relief of traffic congestion.It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to move this Motion this morning. I have approached the problem from the point of view of the great and increasing growth of traffic we have experienced in this country since the end of the war. From 1954 until 1958 there was a 40 per cent. increase in the number of vehicles on our roads, the actual figure of increase being about 2 million. In addition, modern developments in the manufacture of the motor car have led to increased size and greatly increased speeds of travel. Today, we are approaching the 8 million mark for the number of motor vehicles on our roads.
I will give an interesting and graphic illustration—it is not my own—of the measure of the problem. If all the vehicles in this country were put upon the available roads, all at the same time —if one can visualise such a state of affairs—there would be no more than between 45 and 50 yards between each vehicle. I find that a very salutary thought and a graphic way of remembering the complexity of our present situation.
Turning to the sombre and sad side of the problem, the number of road accidents, we now have about 300,000 people injured on our roads every year, and of these about 6,000 are fatal cases. That is an appalling figure which must command our closest attention.
For some years past I have considered our traffic problems—I have 788 reason to believe that the Ministry has done the same—not in the light of the number of vehicles today, not even in the light of the present rapid increase, but looking to the time when we shall have 12 million or 15 million vehicles on our roads. Indeed, if our prosperity continues at its present rate, as I and, I am sure, every hon. Member trusts that it will, it is very likely that in due time there will be 15 million motor vehicles on the roads.
The size of the country will not increase and we shall be confronted with the necessity to deal with the progress and movement of that number of vehicles. It has always been my opinion that we have a special problem in this country. Britain is a small, important and well-developed land, with a large number of vehicles. It is a unique situation and demands unique, and, at times, unorthodox, methods to deal with it. We, perhaps more than any other country in the world, need to undertake further reseach into the science of traffic engineering.
The safe and easy flow of traffic can proceed from two means, first, by the construction of new roads—motorways, trunk roads, and the rest and the improvement of existing roads so that they may be made better and safer; and, secondly, by the orderly and proper regulation of traffic on the existing roads. Traffic engineering deals with both those aspects. It means the best possible use of an admixture of both. It is not a new science, except perhaps in respect of the name which has been applied to it in the last few years.
I feel that I should mention the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) who, with the good offices and financial support of business firms, has worked for the establishment at Birmingham University of a Chair of Traffic and Highway Engineering where is provided a twelvemonth course for those who wish to study this subject. That is a fine move in the right direction, and I wish to pay tribute to the assiduity of my hon. Friend.
Hon. Members, especially those using the Ml, and its ancillary, the M10— which I use frequently myself—are familiar with the pattern of the new roads that are being built—motorways, of which we hope to see more, trunk 789 roads, and the rest. However, we must face the fact that these roads will not solve the problem, especially those aspects relating to the 15 million vehicles to which I have referred. We must take an adult view of this matter and realise that the relief of traffic congestion will not necessarily be achieved by the provision of new roads or facilities of that kind because, among other reasons, we have reached a stage when not only is it financially impracticable, but it is not a right solution to rebuild or to replan our existing towns.
This brings me to the other aspect of traffic engineering which, to put it in the simple language of the nursery, is to make the best use of what we have. In more official language it is to ensure that the existing road space shall be used to the maximum advantage for the safe—I emphasise that word —and easy flow of traffic by means of traffic regulation and guidance. To some extent, this applies in the rural areas where there are problems of traffic congestion on certain roads, but, in particular, it applies to the urban areas.
A person using one of the new roads discovers, when he reaches a town, that the traffic problem there is still at the same stage as it was ten or twenty years ago. That is nobody's fault, it is because at the moment the problem is insoluble. So we are faced with the need to regulate the traffic to avoid congestion in urban areas.
We all know of the schemes for oneway streets, the gyratory systems, the prohibitions on parking in the streets, the provision of traffic lights, and so on. There are many other measures of a short-term and a long-term nature, including the overhaul of traffic signs, which I commend to my hon. Friend as a possibility. When one compares the clear, useful and, at times, life-saving signs on the new motorways with some of the rather antediluvian, old-fashioned and last-generation signs on some of the other roads, one hopes that eventually we shall have up-to-date signs on all roads. I suppose that I make as much use of the new motorway as any hon. Member, but I am aware that far more people travel on other roads.
Other measures which are taken include marking and widening of carriage- 790 ways, and the alteration of junctions, which assist in the control and regulation of traffic and enable us to make proper use of the roads and road ancillaries which we have. One great virtue about such measures is that they are a comparatively quick operation, and their beneficial results in easing the flow of traffic are out of all proportion to the time and expense involved. Often, by a minor improvement, if that be the right expression to use, it proves possible to produce a safe and valuable improvement in the flow of traffic.
Here I come to the special aspect of this science. In the past we in this country, in common with other countries, have tended to deal with traffic problems in a rather hit-and-miss fashion. Fortunately, we have often hit the target, but occasionally we have badly missed it. In the science of traffic engineering all measures which are proposed, whether involving the construction of a new motorway or a trunk road or a more minor operation, are carried out only after a proper study and survey has been made to find out exactly what are the needs of the situation.
Such a study would involve counting the vehicles, noting the type of vehicle and its size, its place of origin and destination, the speed at which it would be likely to travel and how it is being held up by present conditions and the number of parked vehicles on the existing road.
Last, but by no means least, there is the analysis of the cause of accidents if it is a dangerous spot. All these are prerequisites for solving the problems of traffic engineering. We have so much to do today, with the money we have and the effort we can put forward, that we cannot afford to waste anything, and we must have a proper survey beforehand if we are to produce the best results.
Following up that pre-study of the situation, it is necessary to have an after study. That has two virtues. First, it tells us whether we have hit the target, and how well, and, secondly, it shows whether anything is to be learned from the piece of traffic engineering that has been undertaken which will provide a valuable lesson for the future when we wish to carry out a similar plan elsewhere.
791 I now turn to a subject which is near to my heart. The matter of our traffic is a unique problem, which demands a unique remedy, and we must put no kind of harness or limitation upon the breadth of our thinking in our attempt to solve it, whether on the constructional or the regulatory side of traffic engineering. We must throw over some of the old ideas—I will not call them shibboleths —of the past. We must move away from the idea that the best way to travel from point A to point B is necessarily by the direct and traditional route, or even necessarily at the same level all the time. That idea will have to go. It has been made out-of-date by the growth of traffic. We must realise that, in traffic engineering, contrary to all the geometrical axioms, the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a direct line.
The efforts that we would have made and the means that we would have adopted to solve a traffic problem fifty years ago are entirely different from those which we must use today. The difference is as great as that between the multiplication table and the electronic brain. We must be prepared to be unorthodox. I hope that the Minister and his advisers will be unorthodox—sometimes extremely so. I do not wish to try to coin an aphorism, but we must remember that, in this changing and complicated world, what is unorthodox today may well be the accepted pattern of tomorrow.
Under the auspices of the Roads Campaign Council, and in other ways, hon. Members on both sides of the House and I have been privileged to visit many countries in Europe where unorthodox developments have been carried out to deal with unique problems. Many of us have seen the three-tier road in Brussels—a road at the ordinary level with one above and one below it. This is an imaginative development, which has proved very satisfactory in meeting the special problem which arose.
In another country we saw something which was known colloquially and locally as the "bear pit." This unorthodox solution took the form of providing separate levels and separate means of movement for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, respectively. With the wonderful sense of humour which is a 792 virtue of the human race, this development quickly received the title of the "bear pit." Nevertheless, it has done a very good job of work and has greatly facilitated traffic flow. In Rotterdam, I was privileged to see a system by which a vehicle leaving the road was enabled to rise above the ground floor of the building at which it was calling.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has recently visited the United States. He has been examining the advantages of tidal flow, which we are introducing in London, with other traffic developments. I know that he and the Parliamentary Secretary and their advisers at the Ministry are aware of all these developments and ideas which are being introduced abroad. It is right that tribute should be paid to the assiduity of my right hon. Friend in setting up the London Traffic Management Unit, with Dr. Charlesworth as its director. That is a good move in our effort to solve the special problem of London's traffic.
There is one thing which far and away transcends in importance the question of the easy flow and the economical use of our vehicles, and I would not like to conclude without placing this fact on record. It is a matter on which I have preached loudly and long, and which is very near to my heart. We must keep our eyes on the right horizon in these matters, and I want to emphasise that, side by side with all the problems of traffic, we must consider the rights of the individual to a fair share of the available road space. Everybody who wishes and has the resources to do so must have the right to acquire a vehicle and to use the roads for the progress of that vehicle.
In short, with our increasing prosperity and the development of people's minds and habits, more and more cars will pour on to our roads, bringing with them more and different problems. But I would not stop a single motor vehicle from coming on to our roads. That may seem self-evident, but it is right that it should be said. I believe that it was Voltaire who said:I disagree with every word you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.While realising that the more vehicles that come upon our roads the greater will be the problems we have to solve, I would regard it as no solution at all if we 793 restricted the inalienable right of the in-individual, side by side with the weal and welfare of the community, to acquire his own means of transport and pleasure if he so desires.
We have shown by practical example that we are second to none in the building of roads. I am quite confident that our experts in the Ministry of Transport, and in our civil engineering profession, both inside and outside local government, have the brains and imagination to produce schemes and provide remedies which can stand comparison with those of any other country. I believe that as time goes on, and traffic problems get even more complex, the quality of that skill, those brains and that imagination will be more and more shown in the continuing and wider use of the science of traffic engineering. If my belief is right, and I am sure that it is, we shall have a safer and easier flow of the ever increasing amount of traffic which, both industrially and individually, is the very lifeblood of our community.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) is to be congratulated on selecting this subject, having been fortunate in the Ballot, because, as he has reminded us, we have a terrible prospect in the next few years of a large increase in the number of vehicles on our inadequate roads. Sometimes I think that there are too many unnecessary vehicles on the roads. We have the railways and our canals which are not being used to the full extent, and much of the traffic now on the roads could well be carried by these alternative means, thereby relieving some of the congestion.
I notice every morning, as I walk to my local tube station, car after car passing me in a long procession with one person in each. I do not know why these people take their cars into London. I suppose that the reason is partly one of prestige. There are certain people in certain jobs who feel that they must have a car. They are cars provided for certain jobs—I think sometimes unnecessarily—but it is a fact which anyone can witness that hundreds, if not thousands, of cars pour into London every morning with one driver in each and no one else, thereby cluttering up the streets in an unnecessary way.
794 It is still the case, as the hon. Member reminded us, that the roads are inadequate and we must face a big programme of new road construction. One thing which the hon. Member said with which I found myself in slight disagreement was that in this country we were second to none in road construction That sounds very patriotic but after various visits which he himself described to us a few minutes ago to other countries, is he certain that we are the best road builders in the world? Has he seen Brussels?
§ Mr. Hynd
I must say, having seen some of the roads in other countries—I do not want to detail them—that it is rather hard to hold to the patriotic boast that we are the best road builders in the world, not only in the quality but in the speed with which those jobs are done. It amazes me sometimes to see how long it takes to build a road or bridge in this country compared with the speed with which it is done elsewhere. I know that Brussels was a special case because there jobs were rushed for the Exhibition, and probably there was more night work and Sunday work in those jobs than the Ministry of Transport would favour in this country.
Nevertheless, I think that if we could borrow some ideas from the engineers who built those roads in Brussels we might do better here. I wonder whether we use our existing facilities sufficiently. Only a few minutes ago I passed in a bus the entrance to the old Kingsway Tunnel, now closed. How many years has the Kingsway Tunnel been closed? Why cannot it be used to divert some of the traffic down the busy streets in the Strand and away from Kingsway? It seems terrible that we should be so slow in some of these respects.
I do not intend to make a long speech, but I want to follow up two points which I have endeavoured to put at Question Time. One is in regard to road signs. The hon. Member touched on this, but he did not deal with the point in which I am particularly interested. That is whether we cannot 795 have a little more standardisation between road traffic signs in this country and those in the rest of Europe. Throughout Europe we see standardised road signs. They are self-explanatory and seem to me to be quite clear. We seem to prefer a different lot altogether and some of them are quite different signs.
We are getting each year more and more traffic from the Continent. We want to encourage tourists to come here with their cars and people to go from this country with their cars to the mainland of Europe. Surely, it is adding to the dangers of driving in other countries when there is not a complete set of standardised road traffic signs. I urge the Minister to have another look at this to see if we can make some progress in that direction.
The other point which I have raised at Question Time, and which I take this opportunity to follow up, concerns the statistics of motor accidents on the roads. We get many sets of statistics, but one set which I have asked for and have never been able to get is that showing the type of cars involved in accidents. It may be that there is a private book kept at the Ministry of Transport with these statistics, and I can well understand that there is perhaps hesitation on the part of the Ministry to publish them because it would upset certain motor manufacturers. I have, however, some reason to believe that, if this information were made known, it would be useful in preventing accidents. Let me put the direct question: are certain makes of cars more accident-prone than others? I believe that the Minister would find a fruitful source of research in that direction.
Those are the only two points which I want to make. I support the Motion, and I could just as easily support the Amendment which is on the Order Paper. What we are concerned about this morning is to rub into the Ministry of Transport the inadequacy of our road system and the necessity for the Ministry to give the Treasury no rest until it gets more money from it to build better roads.
§ 11.39 a.m.
§ Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)
I should like to add my congratulations to 796 those already extended to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) on raising this very interesting topic today.
I was able, about eighteen months ago, to make a contribution in this field after visiting the United States, which has a very long experience of traffic engineering. Such information as I was able to give to the Ministry of Transport is to the credit of the Ministry and its officials, who proceeded to put my ideas into operation. I think that my hon. Friend is perfectly right in his comments on the present state of the congestion on the roads and the steadily increasing accident rate.
As all of us who take part in these debates and are interested in them know, the majority of the accidents, about 75 per cent. of them, take place in the urban areas. My hon. Friend says that the number of motor cars and other vehicles is likely to double or more in the next ten years. One thing is absolutely certain, that the capacity of the streets in the middle of our towns cannot be doubled in the next ten years. We could not double that capacity without pulling down all the houses.
It is, therefore, against this background that we are now considering this science of traffic engineering, which is primarily concerned with controlling and disciplining the movement of traffic. I would think that it is in this atmosphere that people generally would be prepared to accept the disciplines that traffic engineering implies. It is only when we are feeling desperate because of loss of life and of limb, and, indeed, loss of time, from which we all suffer, that we are prepared to accept the disciplines, which apparently will have some interference with our personal convenience.
Traffic engineering means essentially just that—that we are prepared, in, a system of traffic engineering, to accept patterns of movement worked out by the experts, whose results will bring about smoother and safer movement, and eliminate the conflicts Which at present are causing congestion and, indeed, causing accidents. So I would think that now is the time when there is a very fair wind behind the Minister to press ahead with this development.
Traffic engineering is basically the application of the science of engineering to the movement of traffic on the roads. 797 as distinct from highway engineering, which is the application of engineering to the construction of roads. The two are complementary, of course; they should run together, and that will result in the right kind of roads being built, and traffic engineering will then ensure that the right use is made of them once we have built them.
Of course, one of the things that we as a community have to understand and to accept is that the idea that one gets into one's car and goes for a spin, using one's car as, so to speak, the wings of a dove giving one flight, is really finished. We really must understand that when we go on the roads today, whether in the towns or in the country, we are going only from A to B, and we really must accept the disciplines of the road, if we are to do it safely both to ourselves and to everybody else. The wings of a dove cannot be used till we have arrived at our destination. Then we can get out into the country, go for a walk, or go to the seaside and have a swim. On the roads our wings must be clipped.
§ Sir R. Nugent
All too often, but the wings I am speaking of I am speaking of metaphorically.
We did, my colleagues and I, in the Report of the Committee on London Roads, in Appendix II, produce a definition of traffic engineering, and it is there set out fully for those who are particularly interested in traffic engineering.
Traffic engineering is not new in this country. That needs saying. Most of our highway engineers have been practising it for many years and particularly in connection with new construction, but its application to traffic movement here, as my hon. Friend said, has been rather sporadic, intersection by intersection. There are some very fine pieces of traffic engineering. Not very far from here, Trafalgar Square is an admirable piece of traffic engineering which achieves coordinated movement there.
What is needed now is the comprehensive application of traffic engineering to whole cities and whole towns so that the whole movement is co-ordinated and planned from the centre, and that could have a dramatic effect in improving 798 traffic movement, in achieving both a smoother flow and a safer flow and the elimination of traffic conflicts.
In speaking of traffic conflicts, I am speaking not only of cars and bicycles, but also of pedestrians. Traffic engineering is just as much concerned with them, too, so that their movement does not conflict with vehicular movement, and so that vehicles and pedestrians can move in safety. I think it would be no exaggeration to say that we might well improve movement by more than 25 per cent. and even up to 50 per cent. in London if we could establish comprehensive traffic engineering throughout the whole movement in the City.
The broad effect is to change the present movement of what may almost be called the free-for-all. Although intersections are controlled, still one can go almost where one likes in one's car. Of course, one must keep to the left of the road, and so on, but still one can go almost where one likes. There must be a change of that philosophy, which comes to us from the past, from the days when the roads were scarcely occupied at all. compared with how they are used today, with our present very heavy congestion.
We shall have to change that situation to one where there are patterns of movement which have been designed by the experts to give free and safe movement, something much more comparable to the movement of trains in the railway system, where operating engineers in the central control room have designed patterns of movement so that trains can move safely, without danger of collision. Indeed, they watch them all the time as they move, and thus they get safe, smooth working. They are always watching and planning from the central control room.
It is that to which we have to move in our cities. I have stood in the control rooms in both Chicago and Baltimore, and in Baltimore particularly one can see on the dials there the volume of traffic flowing along the main arteries, and there are various measures which can be taken—for example, reversible lanes, which we already know about, too, and the off-set of traffic lanes, with which we are not so familiar. It is that concept of traffic engineering which can give us great benefits in this country.
The techniques, as my hon. Friend has rightly said, are really familiar to us. 799 We have traffic lanes, one-way streets, no-parking regulations, reversible lanes, and so on—and, indeed, parking meters, which have an essential part to play. What is not familiar to us is this idea of the comprehensive application of traffic engineering to a whole city.
And here is the point which comes with it: 100 per cent. enforcement of the regulations once they are made. The more precise and the more ingenious the traffic engineering arrangements which are made, the more essential it is that there should be 100 per cent. enforcement, because if we do not have that, then the more ingenious the arrangements which are made the more likely they are to lead to danger rather than safety.
There are, therefore, three things which have to be followed up by my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend. First, the training of traffic engineers so that we have a supply of the experts; secondly, getting the traffic authorities working in the cities; thirdly, enforcement. Those are the three pillars on which the working of smooth and safe traffic rests.
Some measure of training is going on in the post-graduate courses. I hope that my hon. Friend can tell me what is happening in the one in which I was particularly interested in Birmingham, where we managed to get a Chair of Traffic and Highway Engineering established, with the help of those interested in the roads; and very generous help it was. I should like to hear what is happening also in the two other postgraduate courses. We must get these men trained so that we can get a supply of trained traffic engineers so that we can have trained traffic engineering units available in all our cities.
Secondly, there are the traffic authorities. There is no one traffic authority in the whole of the country other than London, but there are the city and town councils, and they have the necessary authority in their areas. They are the highway authorities and they are also the police authorities. They can get ahead now if they wish to. They can get traffic engineering units going in their cities. The same may be said of the county councils.
The problem really is in London. The Minister has responsibility for traffic in 800 London, but there are 28 Metropolitan boroughs which are highway authorities. Obviously, if we were to have 28 traffic authorities in London the situation would be even worse than it is now. Therefore, somehow my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has to find means of making his authority effective, welded into one traffic authority which can deal with the whole London picture.
I stress the matter of enforcement. I know that hon. and right hon. Members who have studied the matter here have seen the necessity for 100 per cent. enforcement, but outside the House I am sure that it is not really understood yet. The traditional system of enforcement by the police force is a so-called token enforcement, on the principle that if an occasional offender is picked up and prosecuted it will be sufficient to ensure that others observe the regulations. But all experience shows that this is simply not good enough.
There must be a sufficient number of enforcement personnel to make sure that every offender is picked up, because the offender who goes against the traffic lights or a reversible lane, or parks in the wrong place, is extremely dangerous and he also seriously affects the flow of traffic. My right hon. Friend must consider the question of providing for traffic wardens who will extend the present enforcement and a ticket system which will speed up prosecution. It is not a criminal offence to leave a car in a wrong place, but there must be adequate machinery to pick up every single offender. Then, being a law-abiding community, we shall accept the regulations, knowing that we cannot get away with it. We shall thus have the benefits of these new techniques.
As we get these traffic engineering units and traffic engineers going to work, they must not only work out the right patterns of movement and the right regulations. It is equally important that they should have the ability to sell these ideas to the community and to convince road users, whether they are car drivers or pedestrians, that these regulations, which, in themselves, may appear to some extent to be interfering with their convenience and to be preventing their doing something which they were doing 801 before, taken over all, will benefit the community by making traffic movement safer and smoother.
It is essential that the traffic engineer should learn the techniques of propaganda. In American cities traffic engineers go to an infinity of trouble and take anything from six to twelve months to put over even one regulation and to obtain the co-operation of the public before the regulation is finally enforced. This matter of propaganda should be attended to just as much as the actual traffic engineering techniques that will be involved.
I would say to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport that, due to the desperate situation on our roads today, especially in the towns, there is a very fair wind behind him and the Minister. Now is the time to press on. There are many difficulties, legislative and otherwise, which will have to be dealt with, but great benefits will be got from all this and I am certain that support will come from both sides of the House. I urge my hon. Friend to press on and make this traffic engineering technique something from which we can all benefit.
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I am glad of the opportunity of following in the debate the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), to whom we always listen with respect, particularly on this subject, in which he has had so much experience. I believe that the mood of the British people is such that if the Government showed initiative they would have all the support that they require. The time when people can expect absolute liberty to take their cars where they like and when they like is coming to an end. The sheer fact of numbers makes it imperative for Her Majesty's Government to issue new directives concerning the rights of people on the road.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), to whom I listened with great care. I apologise that I was not here at the beginning of the debate. I congratulate the hon. Member on having selected for debate today a subject which, I believe, is the greatest single social problem, with the exception of housing—to put myself right for next week—that we are likely to face during the 1960s.
802 If we fail to solve this problem within the next decade, we shall lose our place among the major Powers, because this cluttering up and slowing down of the nation's transport has a profound economic effect. But, unlike the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South, I would be absolutely ruthless with the heavy traffic on our roads. I would force the heavy stuff on to British Railways. I believe that the time is coming when, if we are to have freedom for ordinary transport and the ordinary motorist, the heavy lorries which slow us down and nearly suffocate us with their fumes, which are a major cause of road accidents, will have to have their claws clipped very much indeed. I am sorry if I have mixed my metaphor, but I have the advantage of having done it in a place where that is a common complaint.
We require a national plan to be undertaken with all the enterprise and initiative that we associate with a military action, because if we are to solve this problem it is no good saying that the local authorities have their powers. Even the hon. Member for Guildford seemed a little too complacent about the fact that the road authorities have the powers. He said that they could do this work tomorrow. But that is just not good enough. They have had the powers for a long time and they have not done the work.
There is a very good reason for their failure. Who will pay for all this traffic engineering, for the new flyovers and the crawl-unders? Quite clearly, the Government must tell the local authorities that we accept this as a national problem and that it is not right that certain local areas should bear heavier burdens than others in solving the problem.
Newport, for instance, is a terrible bottleneck in South Wales. It takes all the traffic travelling from the Midlands and the London area to South Wales. Why should Newport have to bear the main burden, or at least a heavy burden?
§ The Joint Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
It is about a quarter of the burden, at the most.
§ Mr. Thomas
Why should it have to bear a quarter of the burden? All the traffic of South Wales passes through 803 Newport. This is a national problem, not Newport's problem.
Then there is Cardiff. It is the rush hour in Cardiff from seven o'clock in the morning—well soon after, I had better be careful if this speech is reported there; but it seems like the rush hour all day.
We all know that another factor which has aggravated this problem is that the motor companies are imitating the Americans in making ever bigger and bigger motor cars. We all like nice cars. I have a Ford Consul. It is a very good car—if I may be "commercial" for a moment.
§ Mr. Thomas
Well, "Barkis is willin'."
It is strange that while the roads are getting more and more congested cars are getting bigger and bigger. I should have thought the Ministry of Transport would be in touch with the large motor firms over their car designs, because the U.S.A. is beginning to turn back to smaller cars—ours, I am pleased to say. So there is a pointer in that fact.
When the Minister replies to his hon. Friend, I hope that he will be able to say that the Ministry has plans for financing the endeavours of local authorities. Secondly, what plans has he got for training skilled personnel in the control of traffic? If the policemen do any more of it, they will not be able to do anything else. So what plans has the Ministry for providing us with a skilled cadre of transport officers throughout the country? Further, is the Minister willing to give the local authorities greater financial support over publicity?
It is not the job of the engineer to educate the public, for he does not know much about publicity. We want the experts to attend to this, and I would suggest having a separate department for it. In my opinion, the transport committees of local authorities are moving into a leading position. I want to see publicity developing side by side with a new traffic warden system and side by side with new freedom given to traffic engineers.
Who deals chiefly with the problem today? The city engineer or the sur- 804 veyors' department. The city engineer is concerned with nearly everything from sewerage to the great problem of road traffic. To think that this is good enough for the 1960s is to ask for defeat. I believe that the officials are "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd," and that it is the job of the Ministry to set those people free and to show that this is regarded as a major problem which must have high priority.
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
Like previous speakers I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) has chosen this important subject today because traffic is rapidly becoming one of our most important problems and we cannot debate it too often.
My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) was chairman of the London Roads Committee, which produced an excellent Report last year. He said that there are many local authorities concerned, especially in the London area where there is the greatest trouble in dealing with traffic. There is another aspect of the problem, namely, that in any given place a number of different authorities have to be consulted before anything can be done.
For example, am I not right in thinking that if a one-way street is to be made anywhere in your constituency, Mr. Speaker, not only does the Westminster City Council and the City of London have to be consulted, but also the London County Council, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Transport, the London Chamber of Commerce and the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, on which all those bodies are represented, and possibly also the Residents' Association?
I hope that the London Traffic Management Committee, which I understand my hon. Friend has set up or is setting up, will be given by legislation almost dictatorial powers for the regulation of traffic on existing roads. Naturally, we cannot give such a body dictatorial powers for making new roads or acquiring property. I cannot help feeling that there is a great delay in carrying out fairly obvious recommendations for one-way traffic schemes, no-parking regulations, and so on.
805 Most of the previous speakers have dealt with the application of traffic engineering in general terms. I shall refer to one or two special points which will show that there has been appalling delay over the years due to the lack of power. One of the applications of traffic engineering, according to the definition laid down by my hon. Friend in his Report, is one-way streets. Yet there seems to be tremendous delay in getting these schemes put into operation in London.
Looking back over the years in which I have been pressing for one-way streets, I cannot help feeling that there is somewhere in the machinery somebody with an almost pathological hatred of them. I once received a letter from my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance on the subject of one-way streets in reply to one in which I had quoted the excellent system operating in Birmingham. My right hon. Friend replied, "You quote Birmingham at me; I quote Oxford at you". He then quoted the Cornmarket, where one-way working had been abolished and there had been a return to two-way traffic. The quotation was made in triumph, rather as a victory for two-way working. That is the wrong way of looking at the problem today. We should be considering the triumph of one-way working in a place where there has been two-way working.
As an example, I cite the long struggle over Jermyn Street. Everybody knows that it is wide enough for three lines of traffic, but at one time, before there were regulations about no waiting, both sides were taken up by parked cars, leaving room for only one line of traffic between them. For three years there was often complete chaos, which was sometimes caused when two vehicles approached from opposite directions and both had to stop. Finally, after what seemed to be terrible reluctance, one-way working was introduced on an experimental basis in 1956. After the experiment had been going for nine months, an order was made in 1957 introducing permanent one-way working.
The same tiling happened over Queen Anne's Gate, where there is room for only one line of traffic. Hon. Members may also know Strutton Ground, which is off Victoria Street. I was told in 1952 806 that there was very little traffic there and that anyway it was all local. It is not a question of the volume of traffic but of the fact that two vehicles travelling in opposite directions cannot pass where there is room for only one. If British Railways tried to run two trains travelling in opposite directions on the same line, the result would be chaos. Yet that is what we are trying to do in London in so many of our narrow streets.
I will take the time of the House to quote one other example, Seymour Place in St. Marylebone, the southern end of which is like Queen Anne's Gate, and where there is just room for two vehicles abreast. One Sunday evening last summer, when one side of the street was choked with parked cars, I had to back out across the traffic lights into Upper Berkeley Street to make room for a car coming in the opposite direction. This is highly dangerous and I should say that it contravenes the Highway Code.
In the Answer to a Question which I put in the House, I was told that oneway working is one of the factors which are being taken into consideration in regulating traffic in the street. The other was the introduction of no-waiting regulations. No-waiting regulations never apply in the evenings, when the streets can be choked with cars. Any car that enters that street is apt to come up radiator to radiator with another car coming from the opposite direction. I should like to know whether a stop will be put to this sort of thing.
What is the objection to one-way working? Why was it not introduced ages ago? Will my hon. Friend seriously consider that point? This is only a small instance in a huge area where consideration should be given to the possibility of one-way working in many other streets. I cannot understand the delay over a trivial point like this, and I hope that the London Traffic Management Unit will be given great powers to deal with it.
The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) mentioned the Kingsway Tunnel. I should like to support what he said. It is ages since that tunnel ceased to be used for trams. We were told that we might as well choke it up with cement for what good it is. We were then told that possibly it could be used for traffic in one direction. When will this come about, because it would be very useful 807 for carrying traffic from the Embankment into Kingsway?
The way in which streets in every city and town are cluttered up with parked cars all day every day of the week, except possibly Sunday, is appalling. A certain amount of progress has been made, particularly in Westminster and St. Marylebone, by the provision of parking meters, but we have a long way to go before we clear off the streets all the cars in places where there are not and probably never will be parking meters.
I should like to refer to the provision of off-street parking in multi-storey garages or car parks. We are always told that this is a matter for local authorities or private enterprise, but I suggest that the Ministry must give stimulus to both local authorities and private enterprise to do something about it. Selfridge's set a good example, and I hope that other firms and organisations will do the same. If they do not, however, I feel that the Ministry must provide some impetus if the problem is to be solved. It is no good leaving the matter in the hope that something will happen.
In his statement before Christmas, my right hon. Friend said that he proposed to try to reduce the number of right-hand turns. This is tied up with the problem of one-way streets. The more one-way streets that can be introduced in suitable areas—I admit that all areas are not suitable—the more can right-hand turns be prohibited. This will also help to solve the problem of congestion, and, I hope, contribute to road safety. Here I should like to say that I agree with the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). It is vitally important that we should consider the safety angle as well.
I should now like to refer to some points about parking which I have often mentioned before. One of them is particularly topical. There is a lot in the papers this morning about the possibility of the railways selling off land for which they have no use. Is any progress being made with the possibility of using for car parks land which is now occupied, although not used, by the railways, particularly in the semi-outer areas like Hampstead, Kentish Town, Clapham Junction and places like that? Would it 808 not be possible for people to park their cars in places like this and then come into the centre of London by train? Has any progress been made about the problem of building car parks or garages over railways, which I do not think is impossible? It may be costly, but there must be an enormous amount of railway land in the London area—I do not say that it is all waste land; obviously much of it is not—which might be available for use in dealing with this appalling parking problem.
The hon. Member for Accrington wondered why so many people come into London every day by car, often only one person in a car. They do it for comfort, presumably because they prefer that to strap-hanging on British Railways or the Underground. I have always supported the policy of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence of trying to persuade people to park their cars outside London or at stations in the suburban area and then come into London by train. I hope that that policy will be pursued by my right hon. Friend. That is why I say that we must provide parking space or multi-storey garages in the outer areas.
My own Borough of Wembley has tried to find parking space for people who use Wembley Park Station, which is a very suitable station for people who wish to travel on the Bakerloo Line or the Metropolitan Line and thus complete their journeys by train. However, there has been difficulty in finding ground quite close to the station. In another part of Wembley it has been suggested that a car park should be built over a railway cutting on the British Railways line which goes past Wembley Stadium and Wembley Hill Station towards Beaconsfield. It has been calculated that at a cost of about £60,000 a car park could be built over the cutting to provide for about 300 cars. Money is required for this project. It is obviously too much of a burden to put on the local authority. That will help the parking problem in the Borough of Wembley itself, although it will not help the commuters so much.
Coventry has shown that progress can be made. I understand that two large car parks have been built in Coventry, one to provide parking for 1,500 cars at a cost of only 6d. a day. I know that the authorities there have found it easier to deal with the matter, because Coventry 809 was heavily bombed, but surely, with a little ingenuity, plenty of land in London and other places which is now being put to little purpose could toe used to solve this problem.
There are many other points which I could make, but I will not do so because many other hon. Members want to speak. I repeat that we must give almost dictatorial powers to the London Traffic Management Unit if we are to solve the problem. We must cut out the enormous amount of consultation which takes place between the Ministry, the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, the police, the L.C.C. and the Metropolitan Boroughs, because this causes months of delay. As I have said, I hope that the unit will be given dictatorial powers and will be able to use the principles of traffic engineering, in which, no doubt, all its members will be trained, to help solve this problem.
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
I should like to add my thanks to those expressed to the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) for introducing this Motion. Traffic engineering and traffic conditions constitute one of the great problems we face today. I am pleased that Members on both sides who are here today have given great attention to this problem. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent). I remember that when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport he took great interest in road safety. He gave me great help in my constituency in getting pedestrian subways built. I am therefore pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to him.
This is a big problem, because it is a hangover from past centuries. We have a really beautiful countryside; indeed, when I see our English and Welsh villages and our Scottish small towns, I think we have some of the most beautiful places in the world; but our roads and lanes were not built for the millions of cars now coming on the roads. The problem is an urgent one, and I hope that, when it is tackled by the Ministry, those responsible will do all they can to preserve the British countryside, although we do need these main roads and new by-passes, which are very important in order to avoid traffic congestion in our towns and cities.
810 I want to give my support also to the points put forward about parking. Barking takes place in London not only in the day, but at night. One can go round Central London at night and see the cars parked not only on the roads, but often on the pavements as well. In all these schemes, therefore, there must be provision for proper parking places and car parks. In relieving traffic congestion on the roads, the greatest social problem— even greater than parking places, though these may help—is how to reduce death on the roads. When in the corridor in the House last night I saw the casualty figures for January on the tape machine, and they shocked me.
In January, more than 500 people were killed on the roads and more than 22,000 were injured. That makes a tragic average for the year of 6,000 dead and more than 250,000 injured. Of all these problems—parking, roads, and garages —the greatest is how to reduce these sad casualties and tragic deaths, and I urge and plead with the Government to give urgent attention to save the lives of our people.
If there were a great tragedy in a town, such as the terrible earthquake abroad recently, and 6,000 people were killed and a quarter of a million injured, the whole nation would be shocked—and in sorrow—
§ Mr. Hunter
—yet these are the casualty figures on our roads in one year. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will break up these figures for us. I understand that quite a number of deaths occur among elderly and middle-aged people. If the Ministry does not keep a record—
§ Mr. Hunter
I am very pleased to hear that, because this is a matter of great importance and it will assist research into this problem.
I support the plea for pedestrian subways. I believe that in the Hyde Park underpass, which we welcome, there will be pedestrian subways leading to Hyde Park. I hope that in all the urban areas these subways will be built. Recently I put a Question to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I think he said 811 that there were forty-two subways now being constructed in various places. I do not think any hon. Member on either side of the House will begrudge the cost of those subways. They are 100 per cent. safe; old people, children and mothers with their prams can use them. Whatever the cost, I urge the Government to build subways, because I am sure they will lead to greater safety for the pedestrians. I hope that, as far as possible, the Government will try to keep pedestrians off the main roads—indeed, I believe that is the policy on our main motorways.
I hope that we shall press on with new schemes like the Hyde Park underpass. I support the plea by the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) about the Kingsway Tunnel. I remember when the trams went under Kingsway to the Embankment. The tunnel is still not used and should be given urgent attention. Is it possible for it to be used as an underpass, in order to relieve traffic congestion?
I should also like the Parliamentary Secretary to make sure that attention is paid to urban areas. We think of London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Coventry, but in the outer parts of Middlesex, in places like Wembley, Feltham and Hounslow, some attention should be paid to traffic congestion. In my constituency, Feltham, there is a High Street which was once a village high street, and, indeed, still is in width. The traffic congestion there is enormous. We have been waiting many years for a new shopping centre and a new development plan, although the war has been over for fifteen years. The population of Feltham has grown to 50,000 and it should have a proper high street, so that traffic congestion could be relieved, and a proper shopping centre, for the people of the town.
I support the Motion and also the Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). I again urge the Parliamentary Secretary to give urgent attention to the question of road safety. If we cannot entirely and at once wipe out these tragic casualties, at least let us reduce them and also get rid of these terrible deaths on the roads. Let us provide proper 812 roads for traffic and make our highways and byways safe for the British people, both for the motorist and the pedestrian.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
I agree with the apposite reference of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) that the road situation is a hangover. It certainly has all the symptoms, producing many ghastly headaches for planning engineers. I also sympathise with and support him when he refers to the tragic toll of accidents. The great part which traffic engineering can play in preventing accidents, and the congestion they can cause to our traffic, is a major factor in tackling the situation.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), first on his luck in the draw, and secondly, on his excellent judgment in bringing forward a topic of such great importance. At a time when Parliament is pressing for greater expenditure for new roads and for improvements, it is absolutely vital that we should learn "know-how" by which the roads can be improved and the existing facilities used to the maximum effect.
I welcome the Report produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent). He sets out three aspects of traffic engineering: a study of the flow of traffic—probably the first fundamental—the creation of a maximum capacity for traffic to travel through the roads; and the safety factor. In setting out the fact that that applies both to new roads and, as we often forget, to existing roads, he also referred to car parks. Every car that travels into a town every day has to go somewhere, and if it is not put in a car park it will clutter up the roads.
I had something to say on this subject at Question Time the other day. It is essential that not only should the good lead of Selfridge's, in providing car-parking facilities, be followed, but that Government Departments should also play their part. I regret that at the new Air Ministry building, in Whitehall Gardens, there should be set up what will no doubt be attractive rose gardens for the air marshals to look at. The Ministry of Works should be pressing for some of those gardens to be used as car parks, so that some of that traffic 813 can be taken off the roads. I have nothing against the Air Ministry, because I was myself a member of the Royal Air Force.
Another aspect of the problem is pedestrians. In his excellent Report, Mr. J. T. Duff, a senior engineer in the Ministry, has referred to fences or barriers around pavements providing a 10 per cent. reduction in pedestrian casualties. Bearing in mind that very old people form a high proportion of the casualties and, even more tragically, so do very young people, those barriers should be provided wherever possible.
This is a matter which has to be studied by finding out the facts for each road in isolation, when one is considering the setting up of a one-way street, and also in correlation to other roads in that part of the town, and the effect on traffic. I welcome the resounding success with which the new Chair of Traffic and Highway Engineering at Birmingham University has been set up. The first course in traffic engineering began in October, last year, and I hope that it is the precursor of many more successful courses.
I regret that local authorities are unable to send their own traffic engineers to those courses. I know that great expenditure is involved, but it is said in my hon. Friend's Report that London alone will require the expenditure of between £50,000 and £100,000 on traffic engineering and I should have thought that local authorities could have assisted by sending traffic engineers to study the subject scientifically. If local authorities cannot meet all the cost out of the rates, I should have thought that my right hon. Friend could have assisted them with a Ministry grant.
This problem starts with the least spectacular thing, the use of changing of signs and the abolition—I hope universally within a few years—of the right-hand turn, which causes so many accidents and so much distress, and what are called in Mr. Duff's Report, "points of conflict", which is a very apposite way of saying that, and the one-way street. Mr. Duff estimates that when two two-way streets cross each other there are 16 points of conflict, 16 accident points. He says that if one of those streets becomes a one-way street, the number of points of conflict is reduced from 16 to seven.
814 That is a major reason why we should insist on the scientific investigation of these matters and getting more one-way streets. Even better, if there are two one-way streets in junction, the number of points of conflict is reduced to four, which is a great improvement. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) has said about this subject.
On the more ambitious aspect, when I visited Germany last year I saw the great effects of their excellent studies in what the Report of my hon. Friend calls "destination and origin research". It was found that in the city of Düssel-dorf, one of the bigger cities in Germany, only 16 per cent. of the traffic was through traffic which went in one side and out the other. That is a revolutionary factor in setting up motorways and co-relating motorways in existing cities.
In the old days, the Germans had through motorways which went past a city, with one road going into the city, and all the traffic jammed on that road. Today, the motorways run closer to cities and traffic engineering is causing motorways to become urban motorways, coming closer to and altogether changing the structure of a city. Although this is not a new science, as a nation we are not traffic-engineering-minded and we are thirty years behind Germany and the United States. We should press for more use of this science and for the education of the people in these matters.
The whole concept of a city is in a state of change, probably the most crucial change which has occurred in city life since Roman days. I know that many hon. Members will say that with the setting up of conurbations in the last century, there were great increases in the size of cities, but we still had roads converging on the centre of a city, like a colossal spider's web, as they did in Roman days. I do not suppose that the Romans had many traffic jams with chariots, and probably in those days they were unenlightened about social aspects and cleared people out of the way, if they were in the way, so that there were no points of conflict.
Today, I think that it is recognised that the whole concept is changing. No longer does all traffic have to go to the centre of a city and no longer do all the roads have to converge on the city 815 centre. Cities were often built around a bridge across a river and in those days, all the roads converged on the bridge. In the rebuilding of Cologne and Düsseldorf, which, like Coventry, were blitzed and shattered—an assistance to them in their planning of these matters—the bridges are being built round the outside, round the periphery, and take much traffic from the centre.
Those are only a few aspects of this great problem. All those who have spoken support my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend in their tremendous work to meet the challenge of the motor car. If used properly, the motor car can be a boon and a blessing to all and can bring new horizons to all. It is a challenge before the House and before the country to make sure that the boon is realised and that the motor car does not become something which will strangle the life of all our great cities.
§ 12.38 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The House recognises that the problems of traffic, both immediate and future, are tremendous. My hon. Friends and I are only too glad to take every opportunity to discuss these important matters. We are therefore, indebted to the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) and congratulate him on his success in the Ballot and on moving this Motion.
Having been entrusted with the great honour of speaking from this Front Bench, I have had to do a great deal of work, which has meant much research of my own. I set out, first, to find out what a traffic engineer was. I am very glad that I took the trouble to do a lot of research, because I found that "traffic engineer" is something of a misnomer. I believe that we might some time think of a different title.
There can be no denying the traffic engineer's importance in this problem. I have found that the definition of his job is to see that new roads are planned to provide effective traffic flow, combined with safety, and to do so at the lowest cost to the community. He also has to consider existing roads and road systems with a view to ensuring that they are used to the best advantage. That is his primary task.
I also found that the efforts made by this country in this matter disclose a 816 sorry story. I want it to be clearly understood that anything I say is not in any sense a personal attack on the ex-Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent). I know him very well, I have a great regard for him, and I know how hard he worked. He was Parliamentary Secretary throughout the period of our economic crisis, and any ideas that he may have had had to remain as ideas because he was always told that they were very fine but that there was no money for them. That is what he would like to be able to say, but as an ordinary member of his party he cannot do so. If he were on this side of the House he would have said it long ago.
Looking back on the problem, and the need for traffic engineers, and having delved into the record of the activities of the Ministry of Transport, I can only express alarm that it is only now that we are trying to face the obvious problems that lie ahead of us. We have been told about the traffic potential of tomorrow. One does not have to do much research to find out about that. The figures are available for everyone to see. It has been said that today there are 9 million vehicles on the roads. In 1964, in case anyone wants to have a bit of fun, there will be 16 million vehicles. If one wants to go further, at the present rate of increase there will be 21 million vehicles on the roads in 1970. It is a lot of fun to think of what it will be like in 1970 when today, when there are about 9 million vehicles on the road, the situation is already appalling.
It cannot be denied that traffic engineers are badly needed for research and to deal with safety on the roads. In 1946, a Traffic and Safety Division of the Road Research Laboratory was formed. The Labour Party was in power at that time, but I take no credit for that. This is not a party argument. Traffic problems are very serious and one cannot get much fun out of saying what we did or what somebody else did not do.
In 1951, the Director of the Road Research Laboratory called a conference of highway engineers, the police, university teachers, and other people to discuss traffic engineering. The House will be delighted to know that since then short courses have been held at the Road Research Laboratory. Only Britain could do this. It is typically British that 817 we have held short courses and given some instruction in traffic engineering to a few people. These short courses are very short. They last one week during which certain people are brought together and given some instruction in traffic engineering.
Some effort has been made to deal with the problem, and I think that the former Parliamentary Secretary can take full credit for this. Recognising the need for traffic engineering experts, it was decided to do something about it at university level, and there are now three universities which have post-graduate courses in traffic engineering—Durham, Birmingham, and University College. I understand that Manchester is also thinking of introducing a course in highway engineering. One thing which I discovered which caused me some amusement is that the London County Council is thinking of providing evening classes to instruct people in traffic engineering.
It is almost frightening that we tackle the problem in this way. We get up and make speeches about the immensity of the problem, but the thing that alarms me is that some of the most important men in the country who have to tackle these problems on a day-to-day basis— I am not talking about traffic engineers, but about highway engineers—have not been invited to attend the courses run by the Road Research Laboratory.
Reference is often made to what goes on in America. Our gallant Minister of Transport—I am sorry that he is not here; I expect he is opening a bridge or road somewhere and making a great speech about what is to happen tomorrow—dashed off to America, and one was led to believe that until he took office there were no transport problems. Suddenly, he discovered them all. I gather that he enjoyed himself in America. He made speeches about what we were proposing to do in Britain. I wish that he would make those speeches here, so that we could find out what is to happen.
I hope that while the right hon. Gentleman was in America he discovered some of the ordinary things that go on there. In America, they take traffic engineering seriously. I understand that Yale has been teaching this subject since 1936, and that there are over 20 American universities which regard the teaching of 818 traffic engineering as an essential part of the curriculum.
Some time ago, Mr. Burton Marsh, the Director of the American Automobile Association's Traffic Engineering and Safety Department, visited Britain. I do not usually support what "foreigners" say, but I will read his comments on our traffic situation, because he was talking about a technical subject on which he was qualified to express an opinion. He said that he was impressed by the great majority of our officials and experts to whom he spoke, and continued:We have no advantages over you here, save in numbers working full time on traffic operational problems, in the status of the top traffic engineering official in our large cities, and in our traffic engineering training programme …. Some of the traffic data which I was shown were not well organised. I saw dog-eared plans and projects in old ledgers or in books which hardly held together. Sometimes there were even bits pinned on to original drafts.Mr. Marsh was critical of what he called the lack of adequate staff in the traffic engineering departments which, he said, had been proved to be essential, and without which they could not manage, in America.
The crisis that we face today and which will grow worse tomorrow is one we could have foreseen. The need for traffic engineers is obvious, and I hope to show that this shortage of traffic engineers is not something which the Ministry of Transport has suddenly discovered. As the House knows only too well, we have Select Committees to consider these matters and go into them thoroughly. I told the House that I had done some research, and that leads me to the next part of my speech, which consists of quoting what some of our Select Committees have said on this subject.
The Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, dealing with our trunk roads, said:If the trunk roads themselves are to be built to the most satisfactory standards, research into materials and methods should be well advanced before actual construction gets under way. Your Committee's first concern, therefore, is to see whether the present programme has been adequately prepared. They are not satisfied that it has.The Report goes on to say:When the Director"—819 that is, the Director of the Road Research Laboratory—was asked, however, whether the Road Research Laboratory had yet begun any research into earth moving, he replied that he did not think so, and his deputy confirmed this. The Sub-Committee asked for figures of expenditure on Road Research since the war, and Your Committee consider that despite the recommendation of the Select Committee on Estimates in 1952–53 that the work of the Laboratory should be expanded, the figures reveal that expenditure on research was not significantly increased until after the beginning of the trunk road programme, instead of in anticipation of it.I then found that one of the Select Committees dealt with the question of roads in general and the building of roads. This is an example of the inefficiency due to a lack of research and traffic engineering knowledge. Dealing with the Preston by-pass, the Committee said:The original trial boreholes had indicated the presence of considerable quantities of clay suitable for embankments, but in the event much of the excavated material proved to be unsuitable for the purpose. Moreover, the boreholes had not revealed an extensive pocket of peat which had to be excavated and made good with imported material. In response to a Treasury inquiry on these matters the Ministry stated that if in dealing with any similar large project they found that early boreholes indicated exceptional difficulties they would seek authority for additional expenditure.On this road alone, as a result of no research, no real planning and not having the "know-how" at the beginning, the cost went up from an estimated £2.5 million to £3.7 million, largely due to the fact that in the construction of the road the research and planning were not done in the proper way, to such an extent that the Ministry did not have the trained people with the necessary "know-how".
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)
Was that the unanimous view of the Report? I do not believe that it was.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am quoting from the Report. In my research, I found that these criticisms were made.
I merely make the simple, straight point, which, I hope, the hon. Member will accept from me on a non-party basis, that we cannot have any road building or planning without research or traffic engineering. It is shown conclusively by these Reports that whatever may happen in the future, we have badly let ourselves down in the past by insufficient research.
820 I shall proceed to point out one or two other examples which have occurred as a result of this typically British way of dealing with these matters. There is not one hon. Member who would deny that the Road Research Laboratory is an integral part of any planning of today and tomorrow. The Select Committee considered the Laboratory and its relations with other Government Departments. I quote from the 1958–59 Report:Evidence was received on the drawing up of the Laboratory's programme, and Your Committee note that the Laboratory was from time to time obliged to decline to undertake work for the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, owing to lack of staff. Your Committee believe that the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation are in a better position to judge priorities in work affecting their own Department than is the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and conversely they believe that if the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation had control of the Laboratory, they would know in advance what staff and facilities would be available, and would be better able to avoid drawing up schemes for research which could not be undertaken.It is incredible that a Department such as this has been handicapped for lack of money for a considerable number of years. It has even asked for the rebuilding of its offices, some of which are four miles away from the others.
This is a story of blunder. There has been no planning, not even with the planners, mainly because of a lack of finance. Against that background, we talk about the need for traffic engineers. We can all get up and say that we need them. It is pitiful to be told that some evening classes are to be got going. It is a sombre thought that with luck, at the end of the day another university might produce one or two more graduates who have taken up the course.
I turn now to other general aspects and will deal with them at the local level. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary dealt with the question of local councils and their problems and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) also mentioned this. We all know the way in which these matters are handled. Because something happened years ago and has been going on in the same way throughout the years, it seems that we must put up with it for ever. I understand that for major improvement schemes on Class I roads, local authorities receive a 75 per cent. grant 821 from the Ministry and a 60 per cent. grant for Class II roads. It was a fair point for my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West to say that the remaining 25 or 40 per cent. is a tremendous burden to a small authority.
Because of the lack of money—again, it could happen only in Britain—we do not have any overtime or weekend working. Have any hon. Members seen anybody working on the roads of Britain at weekends, except, of course, for the Ml, on which there might have been some weekend working. As soon as five o'clock comes, the red lamps go up and that is the lot. Congestion occurs and thousands of pounds are lost. When twelve midday comes on a Saturday, we are lucky if any red lamps are put up around the hole for a Saturday night.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
The hon. Member said that no work was done at weekends. If he had had the misfortune to live and work in London over the weekend, he would know that, unfortunately, that was far from true. The peace of Sunday morning and afternoon is disturbed by the loudest of pneumatic drills.
§ Mr. Mellish
I have lived in London since I was born. To the best of my knowledge, there is no work on major schemes on the roads of London at weekends, largely because local authorities cannot afford their share of the cost. Indeed, they have to get sanction from the Ministry before overtime grant is paid.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I can only suppose that Westminster has special preference. Certainly, it is far from silent on a Sunday.
§ Mr. Mellish
A 1d. rate in Westminster would yield about ten times as much as in my borough. Therefore, it can afford to be generous. We might have realised that the hon. and gallant Member was talking about Westminster, which, obviously, has the money to do the things which the other Metropolitan boroughs cannot do.
How long are we to continue with the existing set-up concerning major improvements on roads, for which local authorities have to bear their share of the burden? The length of time involved to do the work is conditioned by the amount of 822 money available to the local authorities. I can speak only for my own area in saying that if there is a question of an extra £300 or £400, the local authority shudders at the thought of paying it. A 1d. rate in my constituency brings in only £2,000.
If a big transport scheme costs such a local authority even, say, £4,000 to £5,000, that is the equivalent of a 2d. rate. Consequently, there is no overtime and there are plenty of red lamps all round the little holes. The Tower Bridge is a typical area. There, thousands of cars flow in each direction, but there is no weekend working. The men would love to work overtime, but they are not given the opportunity.
This debate, therefore, is one that we welcome, but the Government are responsible for the position in which we find ourselves today as a result of lack of planning, lack of research, lack of cooperation with the various authorities and not having a determination to build for the future. That is one of the reasons why I feel sorry for the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who, when he follows me, will try to defend what has happened. I hope that he may tell us that there will be an extension of evening classes throughout the country. He may even say that, with a bit of luck, we might produce even a dozen traffic engineers by the end of 1960. At least, I hope that he will tell us that at long last the Government are determined to take the problem seriously and that we will try not only to equal what has been done in America, but to do even better.
I am certain that the British people are prepared to follow the lead of a progressive Government on a matter of this kind. Given the chance and opportunity, many people in Britain could do this job, and do it well. Those who have been trying to do it, handicapped as they have been by lack of finance, deserve as much credit as we can give them.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to The Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
I intervene at this stage, not to bring the debate prematurely to an end, but so that I can comment upon some of the points made, not only by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), but by other hon. Members who have spoken. Since 823 the hon. Member asked me what had happened to my right hon. Friend the Minister and why he was not here today to listen to and answer the debate, and since, at the same time, he was somewhat critical of the way in which local authorities are starved of money by my Ministry, the hon. Member may care to know that at this moment my right hon. Friend is opening the first section of the new Inner Ring Road in Birmingham. This is a large local authority project, very greatly helped by my (Ministry, and it has been built to to the very highest traffic engineering standards. So we have not done too badly. The fact that my right hon. Friend is not here at the moment is perhaps an indication of the earnest that he gives to this matter.
§ Mr. Mellish
All I can say in reply to that is that I hope that the Minister of Transport will not take credit for having built the road personally.
§ Mr. Hay
I am quite confident of that, because my right hon. Friend comes from that part of the country, and I know that if he tried it, somebody would be very cross with him.
The Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) is one which the Government warmly welcome, and I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend on the speech which he has made this morning. It was a very good speech indeed. It covered an enormous amount of ground, and very ably introduced the subject to the attention of the House. As my hon. Friend said in opening, there is no doubt whatever that at the moment there is very great public interest in and awareness of traffic problems and road accident problems.
Without overdrawing the picture, I think that perhaps we could say that these two things together constitute one of the major economic and social questions which this country has to face at the moment. Traffic is news. Whatever happens in regard to traffic and road accidents is almost inevitably reflected in the Press, and there is every reason, therefore, for me to agree with the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), who pointed out that the tide is with 824 the Government at the moment, and that the public is expecting action to be taken. I can assure the House and the public that action is going to be taken.
There is no doubt also that we are faced with a mounting volume of traffic on our roads. Several hon. Members have quoted figures, and I think the hon. Member for Bermondsey rather overstated the position, though quite inadvertently, I am sure. The position is that between 1954 and 1959, the number of licensed motor vehicles on our roads went up by about 50 per cent.— from 5.3 million to 7.9 million. If this rate continues—that is, an annual rate of increase of half a million new vehicles a year—the probability is that by 1965 we shall have not 7.9 million but 10½ million vehicles on the roads. Going on a further ten years, by 1975, we shall have 15½ million vehicles on the roads. These are the figures which my Department provides.
A further factor, as the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) quite rightly reminded us, is the appalling toll of road accidents. In 1959, 333,000 of our fellow citizens were either killed or injured on the roads, and of these 6,500 were killed. Both the volume of traffic and the number of road accidents are most acute in the urban areas.
It is frequently said both by people in public life and by the Press that we must somehow learn to live with the motor-car. This is the phrase which we are hearing on all sides. As the Motion and the debate which we have had this morning make clear, if we are to live with the motor car, we need to plan our traffic; and to plan traffic includes an assessment of the functions of public transport. It includes the various methods open to us to improve existing roads and the measures necessary to provide new roads. It is in all these three fields in particular that the traffic engineer can help.
It is also important to understand what traffic engineering is, and it is equally important to understand what it is not. There is a classic definition which I should like to read to the House. It comes from what I suppose is the standard United States textbook, known as "Traffic Engineering," by three authors. 825 Matson, Smith and Hurd, which defines traffic engineering in these terms:That branch of engineering which is devoted to the study and improvement of the traffic performance of roads and terminals. Its purpose is to achieve efficient, free and rapid flow of traffic, yet at the same time to reduce traffic accidents and casualties. Its procedures are based on scientific and engineering disciplines. Its methods include regulation and control on one hand and planning and geometric design on the other.That, I understand, is the locus classicus of definitions of traffic engineering, and, despite that, every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate has given his own definition of what traffic engineering means.
I will not be left out of this. I will give my own definition, roughly like this. Traffic engineering consists of the application to road and traffic problems of common-sense, based on accurate analyses of traffic movement and on a knowledge of proper highway engineering. In short, what the traffic engineer really does is, by observation and collection of data, to analyse a given traffic situation. Having done that, he makes use of that knowledge and experience to provide the remedy. Let us face the fact; a lot of that knowledge and experience consists in the use of commonsense.
I think that that is what traffic engineering is, but what it is not is the next subject about which I should like to speak. There is growing up in this country a temptation to assume that traffic engineering is some kind of general panacea, a sort of cure-all for our traffic problems. It is not. It is a very useful applied science, and a very useful art, which we can bring to the solution of our traffic problems; but, by itself, traffic engineering as a subject, and vast numbers of traffic engineers as individuals, will not, solely and on their own, solve our problems.
Similarly, there is no black magic in the idea of traffic engineering. It is an approach of applied science, and I think that anyone who has even the remotest connection with the subject—and I am quite new to this, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey, and I sympathise with him having to do the research, because I have had to do the same—realises that traffic engineering does not pretend or claim to have any special advantages. A traffic engineer is almost invariably a 826 highway engineer who has this special training and extra speciality which is of the greatest value to us at the moment.
The scope of traffic engineering, as I understand it, consists in the study of five main groups of subjects. The first is the planning and traffic designing of new roads. The second is the physical improvement of existing roads. The third is the improvement of traffic movement by means of regulation and control of the traffic itself. The fourth is the planning and traffic design of what one might call the ancillaries to roads, arrangements for parking, access to premises the building of garages, and things of that kind. The final group of subjects to be dealt with is that of provision for pedestrians. I think it was the hon. Member for Feltham who mentioned pedestrians in particular, and the subject of guard rails. This is preeminently a matter for the traffic engineer because, as another of my hon. Friends said, traffic consists not just of cars, but of everything that uses the roads, both wheeled traffic and traffic on foot.
The proud aim of the traffic engineer in each of these groups of subjects is to reduce delay and congestion, increase the capacity of our roads and increase road safety. Common to all of them is the need to acquire information of traffic movement and accidents and then to analyse it. The acquisition of the information can be in respect of a whole area, perhaps a whole town or even a whole city, or it might relate to one particular traffic situation at one point. A good deal of detailed work is already being done on these subjects in this country, as overseas. So far as the planning of new roads is concerned, here an early traffic appraisal is necessary, based on origin and destination, as several hon. Members have mentioned earlier in the debate. When that has been done, an economic assessment of the proposed roads can be reached. The best location can be decided upon and the detailed design, particularly of junctions and other features can be carried out.
We make a good deal of use, despite the criticisms of the hon. Gentleman, of traffic engineers in the planning of new roads, and a good deal of the complaint that we get from local authorities, in particular for delay in carrying out some of the schemes which they would like 827 to carry out, is due to the fact that we want to get the best type of road. Sometimes when they complain to us, we have to tell them that the reason we cannot authorise approval of the scheme is simply because we must have proper traffic engineering plans and proposals before we finally decide the line of the road. I think this is right. I do not think that this country can afford to build roads haphazardly. They are extremely expensive things and things that will have to endure for a good many years to come. Therefore, we must get them right.
The second part of the scope of traffic engineering that I have been discussing is the physical improvement of existing roads. Here there has to be a coordinated plan, based again on the survey of the traffic needs. When the plan has been drawn up then the traffic engineer can go into action and make the necessary improvements. As I understand it, he does so in four principal ways—first, by the comparatively quick, cheap and simple measures such as the provision of traffic signs, the provision of lane or other road markings, matters which are comparatively easy to institute and which can be done without delay.
Sometimes the situation requires a rather bigger operation and here various types of mandatory measures may be called for. For example, the institution of one-way streets, the abolition of right-hand turns, the installation of traffic lights or the imposition of waiting restrictions.
May I say a word to my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) who was most anxious that we should speed up our decisions about oneway streets and also about the banning of right-hand turns? We in the Ministry have no objection to one-way streets. There is no settled policy in the Ministry which would make us refuse the use of one-way streets. We believe that they have a very definite use, and I hope that in the next year or so there will be a considerable extension of one-way streets, particularly in London. We are working towards that, but we have to plan it first.
On the question of right-hand turns and their abolition, I think that my hon. Friend should appreciate that it is not going to be quite so easy to ban right- 828 hand turns in London as it is in some American cities. Those cities are built on what I believe is known as the "gridiron pattern" where roads intersect almost invariably at right angles, whereas in this country, and particularly in London, roads are not on lines of uniform or geometric pattern at all. Therefore, the abolition of the right-hand turn may create many problems for traffic. That is why we must make use of the traffic engineer in order to do the job in the right way.
§ Mr. Hay
That may well be the case, but it must be done as a result of planning based on the appraisal of traffic needs and what is safe.
Next, of course, come the more complicated measures to deal with the situation. These may involve the substantial alteration of the layout of junctions, the provision of flyovers, flyunders or as I think the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said "crawl abouts" —roundabouts. These things really need a long-term programme and a good deal of money to carry into effect and they emerge further into the more complicated and much bigger physical improvements such as the enormous scheme now starting on the Hyde Park Corner junctions. I come back to the first point. Before any or' this can be done, a thorough analysis of traffic has to be carried out, and this is where the traffic engineer can help.
I next turn to the provision of waiting space for vehicles at the end of their journeys. Traffic engineering must include measures to control parking on the streets and the traffic design of car parks and garages off the street. All these things are needed to form part of a comprehensive plan for an urban area based on a survey of parking habits, desires and possibilities.
I think we may well find in the years immediately ahead, particularly in London and in other big cities, that this aspect of the traffic engineer's work will be found to be more important than it has been 829 in the past because, as many hon. Members have said and as many people outside are saying—I am glad this is being said—the parked car in our streets is the major cause of traffic congestion today. It is not the sheer volume of traffic on the roads, heavy though that is; it is the fact that our streets are being misused. They are being used as temporary depositories for people's cars and not for the purpose of moving traffic for which they were instituted. That is why with the help of traffic engineers we are bound to do something to clear the streets of parked cars.
I think that what I have said makes it clear that traffic problems are very different to highway constructional problems and therefore require a much more analytical approach. The traffic engineer must collect data on the movement of traffic and on accidents, and, having done that, he must analyse them. A good deal of his work consists quite simply of standing at the corner of streets with a clipboard and a stop watch timing the flow of traffic, filling in cards or providing for the punching of cards, so that subsequently he can analyse all the data.
The traffic engineer must also understand lay-out and apply his experience to ascertain the nature and extent of the particular problem with which he is dealing. Only when he has done that can he select the solution. The traffic engineer must be a trained observer. He must be something of a statistician and something of a town planner, and he must have a good knowledge of highway design and construction. In addition, he must have common-sense and an understanding of human nature.
§ Mr. Hay
The hon. Gentleman asks if there is such a man. There are quite a lot of such men, though not sufficient of them, of course, but I am coming to that. It is not surprising that, because of all these necessary qualifications, traffic engineers are hard to find.
I come next to the present state of development in engineering in this country. As several hon. Members have said, since 1925 specialist engineers have been employed by the Ministry. It is only in quite recent years that the name "traffic engineer" or the term "traffic 830 engineering" have come to be used. The terms came probably from America, but a knowledge of these techniques and an ability to analyse the traffic situation and to produce an appropriate remedy have been part of the curriculum of the highway and civil engineer for a good many years.
In the Ministry we have sixteen professional traffic engineers in all. They are in what we call our traffic engineering branch. In addition to those we have a staff of five traffic engineers who were attached only very recently to the Traffic Sub-Committee of the London Travel Committee, and they have now been transferred to the new London Traffic Management Unit which is being directed by Dr. Charlesworth, who was seconded to us by the Road Research Laboratory. The intention is to expand this unit as quickly as possible from its present nucleus of five. That is inside the Ministry.
I would remind the House that it is very important to get the matter into perspective. The Minister, as my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford reminded us, is only the traffic authority in respect of London—the Metropolitan Traffic Area. The rest of the country comes under the county councils and county borough councils as the highway authorities for their respective districts. It is here far more than in Berkeley Square House that the need for traffic-engineers arises.
I am told that at present something in the region of twenty-two full-time traffic engineers and sixteen part-time traffic engineers are employed by the county councils and county borough councils. From time to time, they go to other consultants to obtain specialised information and advice. The county councils include the London County Council, Lancashire and East Sussex County Councils, and, I am glad to say, the council of the county part of which I represent in the House, namely, Oxfordshire.
§ Mr. Hay
Yes, indeed, that is so. We are not at all complacent about it. I accept the criticisms of the hon. Member for Bermondsey very much in the spirit in which they were made. Frankly, this is something we are not satisfied about and we want to do better. However, I do not think that the answer is really for the Ministry of Transport to acquire to itself a vast staff of traffic engineers. We want them in the regions, in the service of the highway authorities.
I come now to training. This is extremely important, and here we find the major bottleneck which impedes what we should like to do. Again, to put the matter in perspective, I must remind the House that traffic engineering is not in itself a profession; it is a branch of the much wider profession known as highway engineering. Traffic engineering is concerned with a specialised type of knowledge and skill. Many ordinary highway engineers, of course, already have experience and knowledge of traffic engineering techniques, and far more are acquiring such knowledge and skill.
As the hon. Member for Bermondsey said, the Road Research Laboratory began the post-war expansion of traffic engineering interest in this country when, in 1952, it started the annual traffic and safety course, which lasts eight days. It is important to realise that this is not intended and never was intended as a course in traffic engineering. It is a course held for senior police officials and senior highway engineers of highway authorities to bring them up to date with the latest results of research conducted by the Laboratory. It is a kind of refresher course in all the things which are being done and worked out at the Laboratory. Inevitably, of course, a good deal of traffic engineering pure and simple comes into it but, to keep the record straight, I wanted to explain the nature of this course held at the Road Research Laboratory.
There are several university postgraduate courses in highway engineering which include traffic engineering. 832 The Imperial College in London, King's College in Newcastle and the University of Birmingham have these post-graduate courses. Birmingham University has been mentioned several times today. I am very grateful, as we all should be, to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, my predecessor in office, for the enormous interest he took in this subject and the work he did to institute the Chair of Traffic and Highway Engineering at Birmingham University. I am told by the officials of my Department, and I can say publicly, that my hon. Friend almost unaided managed to obtain extremely generous donations from a wide range of trades, businesses and organisations to institute this Chair. I have no doubt that it will produce very valuable results.
My hon. Friend asked me what the latest position is. He may like to know that, at the end of the autumn, the one-year post-graduate course in highway engineering and traffic engineering is starting and applications are being received. I will try to keep him acquainted with further developments as we go on.
§ Mr. Mellish
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary is quite right to pay a tribute to the hon. Member for Guildford— indeed, I tried to do the same—but is it not pathetic that he had to go to those lengths to obtain moneys and grants from outside bodies for something which we as a nation badly need?
§ Mr. Hay
That is, perhaps, where the hon. Member for Bermondsey and I part company. If there is shown to be a need, it is always the attitude of the Opposition that the Government, which means the taxpayer, must produce all the money to meet it. Why, in heaven's name, was it not equally good for this Chair to be established with the assistance of private industry, which has a good deal of money available, rather than the assistance of the taxpayer? Why should it automatically be a Government responsibility?
We must remember that what is involved here is training in a profession. Where should we stop if we always assumed that, when any profession needed to be developed and more of a particular type of professional man had to be produced, it must automatically 833 and always be the Government's business to find the money?
§ Mr. Mellish
First of all, the Government receive £537 million odd from the taxpayers of this country for road uses alone. I should have thought that they could use some of that. In any event, is it not absolutely shocking that there should be such delays and that we should have to wait while we ask for private charity for something like that? At least, the hon. Gentleman should have his priorities right.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Before the hon. Gentleman answers, may I ask him another question? Perhaps he would care to answer the two together. Shall we have to wait for an extension of this training until donations come in, or may we look to him to encourage such a Chair in the University of Wales? Surely, he will encourage it there, too.
§ Sir R. Nugent
Before my hon. Friend replies, may I give an explanation? There is machinery, through the University Grants Committee, for grants to universities from public funds on a very generous scale. These matters are settled on a quinquennial basis and, once the programme is set, there it stays for five years. Therefore, if a course is wanted in a hurry, there is no way to get it started quickly except with the aid of voluntary funds from outside. That is the reason I followed that procedure.
§ Mr. Hay
This is a jolly good way to make a speech. I hope that the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford who, I frankly admit, knows far more about this subject than I do, will have satisfied the two hon. Members opposite. Anyhow, I hope that I may get on. There is a good deal more to say about training.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey was a little critical of the week-end courses. Bristol University, which is not so far away from the area represented by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, and the Institution of Municipal Engineers are instituting these courses and they are proving highly successful and popular. Evening courses—we must remember that this is branch of highway engineering and not full professional training— are being conducted at Northampton 834 College in London and are about to start at the Westminster Technical College. A further development is that a body known as the Rees-Jeffreys Trust is providing £500 a year for three years for a Fellowship in traffic engineering at King's College, Newcastle. The Institution of Highway Engineers has recently instituted a diploma in traffic engineering, and the first examination is to be held next month.
Perhaps one of the most interesting developments during the last few months has been the setting up by the Institution of Civil Engineers of a traffic engineering study group, which is not so much a training organisation, of course, as a body to enable traffic engineers and those interested to keep in touch and learn the latest developments.
Overseas, we take advantage of facilities which are available for the training of traffic engineers. In particular, there are the courses at Yale University in the United States, to which reference has already been made. Four British civil engineers are at present attending the 1959–60 course in traffic engineering, sponsored by this wicked Ministry of Transport which is just not interested in the subject generally.
§ Mr. Hay
Perhaps my hon. Friend could not get the money at the time. I do not know. Anyhow, we must see how we get on.
I hope I have said enough to make it clear that the problem we face is twofold—first, to have enough people trained quickly and, second, when we have them trained, to persuade the county councils and the county borough councils, the highway authorities, to accept them and to set up or to expand traffic engineering branches. Not the least value to be obtained from this debate may well be that what has been said during the course of it will be read, marked and inwardly digested by some of the chairmen of highway committees of county councils and county borough councils. We have been trying to persuade the organisations of local authorities about traffic engineering for some time. It is a somewhat slow 835 process, but I hope that it will get a little better after the House has expressed its view in the terms of this Motion.
Despite all this, traffic engineering in this country is still in its infancy. We are gaining experience, however. For example, a Traffic Sub-Committee of the London Travel Committee was started a year ago and it is applying traffic engineering techniques to certain congested sites in London. It is taking five as experimental sites, producing traffic engineering remedies for the problems which arise there and putting them into effect. The latest is the scheme for a modified form of tidal flow traffic during certain hours in Putney High Street, which received extensive publicity in the Press a few weeks ago and which I am told is improving traffic conditions there, particularly in the morning.
At present more sites are under study in connection with this series of experiments and, in addition to this, and conducted under the auspices of the Traffic Sub-Committee, the police carry out a good many experiments based on advice from the traffic engineering branch of the Ministry of Transport. At present thirty-four are in operation throughout London, the latest being a scheme for Shoreditch High Street which is again a modified form of tidal flow for traffic. This also received extensive Press notice recently. The most recent development has been the setting up on 25th February by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport of the London Traffic Management Unit under Dr. Charlesworth.
Since hon. Members will not expect me to speak for too long, I will not go into great detail about what the unit proposes to do and its programme. It is intended to provide for a sort of traffic engineer attack group on a large scale for the whole of the central area of London. It will be staffed by highly competent and highly trained people. If we can provide them, the unit will have powers and money to carry out its duties. It will maintain the closest liaison with other authorities, such as the police and the London Transport Executive, and it will have individual teams to make on-the-spot studies of different problems in different parts of the road system in London.
836 This is the first part of the plan of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to deal with the problem of London traffic. The House will remember that in the debate on 10th December my right hon. Friend forecast the setting up of this unit. He also forecast that it might well be that we should have to seek further powers, further legislation. I can now tell the House that the drafting of this legislation is at an advanced stage and, if all goes well, we hope to introduce our new Road Traffic Bill before Easter.
In addition to this, we shall need much more use to be made of the various technical devices, some of which have been mentioned today. We must become much more used, on the advice of traffic engineers, to roadway markings which pay a high dividend in traffic safety and flow. We must be much more imaginative about our signs.
The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) asked about the standardisation of European road signs and when that would be applied in this country. This is an idea to which I am greatly attracted. The present position is that we have a committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Colin Anderson, which is advising on motorway signs. It is nearly at the end of its task and we have it in mind to refer the subject of the ratification of the Protocol, and European signs, to that committee for advice and report. I shall give a great deal of attention to this because, with the hon. Gentleman, I believe that our road signs need to be looked at again, figuratively speaking as well as factually, and perhaps made a little more imaginative and clearer.
We must also make use of things like phased traffic lights on a greater scale and, perhaps, electronic control, as in Baltimore. My right hon. Friend came back from his American tour full of what he had seen and particularly what he had seen in Baltimore. Of all the things which he saw, probably the electronically-controlled system of traffic lights in Baltimore impressed him most.
We must be ready wherever possible to eliminate dangerous or traffic-congesting movement, like right-hand turns. Last, but not least, if we are to have any success in the whole of this matter, as was said so rightly by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, we must have 837 better enforcement. The legislation to which I referred, and which we hope to introduce shortly, will include certain provisions prompted by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, dealing with traffic wardens and a ticket system of standard penalties. These ideas were canvassed for some time and were warmly welcomed in the debate on 10th October.
Although, naturally, the House would reserve its right to examine these matters with a necessarily critical eye, I have no doubt that we shall obtain a similarly warm welcome for these proposals when they come forward. This will give us an extension of the arm of the traffic engineer. It is not the slightest good having highly-trained men able to carry out projects and analyse and propound remedies for dealing with a traffic situation, and for the Minister or the authority, whichever it may be, to lay down the law to ensure that those remedies are carried into effect, if, at the end of the day, there is not the proper and full enforcement of them. This point was made by several hon. Members in the debate today and it is one of which we are most aware.
I apologise for having spoken for so long. I end as I began. It seems to us that traffic and road safety pose major economic and social problems which we must face. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South said that we must make use of unorthodox remedies. I can assure the House that my right hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Hay
—that may be—my right hon. Friend does not rule out unorthodox or unusual remedies to deal with this acute problem. I am sure that traffic engineering can help to solve some of the problems. This debate will help to focus attention on this important subject and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South and to other hon. Members for their thoughtful and helpful speeches, and for the encouragement which they have given us in the task to which we have set our hands.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Department will look again at the question of financing local government enterprise, 838 because all his great schemes will come to nought if the local authorities cannot afford them?
§ Mr. Hay
I remember the hon. Gentleman making the point about finance in a forceful way. I think he has forgotten one or two things. First of all, where the remedy for traffic problems consists of the building either of new roads or the major improvement of existing roads, we already make very substantial ad hoc grants for that purpose. If the improvement is required on a trunk road, we pay 100 per cent. Where it is a Class 1 road—and most of the major roads in our towns and cities are Class 1 roads—we pay 75 per cent.
The hon. Gentleman thought that a payment of 25 per cent. by the local authority was too much. I would not think it was necessarily too much because, after all, although it is true that in individual places a lot of the traffic using the road may be through traffic— the hon. Gentleman rightly quoted Newport as an example—a good deal of it is local traffic. It may be rough justice to say that local authorities must find 25 per cent. but in some cases no doubt the amount of local traffic is more than 25 per cent. of the traffic. In other cases it may be less, though I should not have thought there were many such cases. We think that the 25 per cent. grant is about right. For many years local authorities have acted on this basis without making very loud noises to the effect that the whole system must be revised.
Under the new local government legislation the general grant includes elements for various forms of traffic improvement, and for road safety in particular. In addition, all highway authorities receive grants, at the rate applicable to the status of the road, in respect of things like traffic-light signals and pedestrian crossings which may be suggested by traffic-engineering techniques. Many types of traffic sign also qualify for different types of grant. On the whole, we do fairly by local authorities.
There is no case for a large expansion of direct Government assistance to local authorities to enable them to bring into effect traffic-engineering remedies because, in practice, either those 839 remedies are carried out by their own people, who are trained in traffic engineering or have some knowledge of it, or they come to us or even to the Road Research Laboratory for detailed advice, which we are always ready to give.
§ 1.41 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said that in his opinion transport was the greatest social and economic problem of the day, although, shortly afterwards he told us he classed the problem of housing as being equal. I was very glad to hear those observations, because they are precisely what I have been saying ever since the General Election, except that I would quite firmly put transport in the lead.
During the First World War it was said that Lord Jellicoe was the one man who could lose the war for the Allies in one afternoon. Today, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport—and I am not saying this in a personal sense— is the one Minister who could lose the next election for the Tories. In spite of the assertion by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) that this is a non-party matter, the Government will be judged by the way in which they try to solve this problem.
I am glad to have followed my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, because his speech contained much factual information, most of which calls for careful study. In the course of his speech he made one very important statement, when he told us that a new Road Traffic Bill would be introduced before Easter. I am not quite certain what now becomes of all the arguments he raised against my little motor-cycling Bill, when he said that it would clash with the consolidation Measure, but I am glad to hear that we are to have new legislation.
§ Mr. Hay
So that my hon. and gallant Friend should not be under misapprehension, I would remind him that the Road Traffic (Consolidation) Bill is to have its Second Reading on Monday next, and its Committee and remaining stages on the Tuesday. It should be well out of the way by the time any future legislation from the Department comes along.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
It is bound to be out of the way before my Bill gets on to the Statute Book. I hope that the Government Measure will have a Long Title which is sufficiently widely drawn to enable me to insert the provisions of my Measure in the form of new Clauses.
When I read my hon. Friend's Motion I thought that its terms were a little narrow, and it was for that reason that, in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), I ventured to table an Amendment, to leave out from "to" to the end and to add:its potential contribution towards road safety and the relief of traffic congestion, and to the importance of ensuring that new techniques can be implemented without delay and subsequently be effectively enforced".However, I learned at the beginning of the debate that in the view of the Chair it would be possible to discuss the terms of my Amendment and still remain in order on the original Motion.
That has proved to be the case. Had I been moving my Amendment I could not have spoken more comprehensively or effectively than did my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent). Furthermore, much of what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said was appropriate to the Amendment rather than to the Motion. However, I must admit that my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) made a speech which kept strictly within the limits of the original Motion, and which I found quite fascinating.
I do not intend to detain the House for very long, or to elaborate upon that part of my Amendment which refers to the question of road safety. One reason is that every speaker so far has referred to it. It was a pity that the wording of the original Motion did not couple the question of road safety with that of the smooth flow of traffic, because we cannot emphasise too often that the two things should go hand in hand.
Like my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, I agree that there are limitations to what can be done by traffic engineers or any other engineers in isolation. In these days we all have a tendency to get hold of a new catch-phrase or idea and to regard it as a 841 panacea for all our evils. Once or twice in earlier debates on road traffic I have become conscious of the fact that traffic engineering is being represented as the magic solution to the whole problem, but it is not. Between the wars we had Vita-glass, which was intended to save us all from getting colds in the head. Millions of pounds must have been spent on Vita-glass, but we still get colds. This applies not only to gadgets; between the wars Sir Thomas Inskip was going to eliminate all overlapping between the Services, and get perfect co-ordination —but things did not turn out that way; not that good work was not done. This consideration applies equally to traffic engineering. We must see it in its true proportions.
The great weakness of the system into that which these new and enthusiastic engineers find themselves injected when they are trained lies in the fact that years of argument can take place before a new idea is applied. I had the good fortune to be able to raise an Adjournment debate in connection with a dispute in my constituency on a matter relating to traffic engineering. The question arose whether a certain dangerous road intersection should have a roundabout or should be controlled by traffic lights. My local authority, supported by men who may not have been trained as traffic engineers—and I do not go entirely as far as does the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who made some rather disparaging remarks about the advice which local authorities receive from the borough engineers' department—
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I did not mean to be too unkind to them. I was saying that it is not their job to be experts in this sphere of operation.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am glad to hear the hon. Member say that. Nevertheless, some of them are experts, having become so faute de mieux because they have been consulted for so long.
In the case which I raised in the Adjournment debate, the traffic engineers responsible to the local authority recommended one solution and the divisional road engineers available to the Ministry recommended another, and six years of sterile argument continued before anything was done. That was rather dis- 842 heartening, and if such a thing continues we shall not be able to attract the best type of young man into the traffic engineering profession.
I may have misunderstood my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, but I was rather concerned when he seemed clearly to tell us that, while a certain number of new traffic engineers would be located in his Ministry, more would be located in local authorities. This system of dualism will, in the future, rob us of the value of such expert knowledge as these men may have.
Some people go as far as to advocate that all the important roads should be under the control of one central authority. There is a lot to be said for that, but this is not the time to argue it. I would say that we shall not get first-class traffic engineers—and it would not help us if we did get them—unless their ideas can be implemented without undue delay. Even that is very far from being enough. It is no use painting nice coloured lines on the roads to indicate traffic lanes unless people are obliged to keep to those lanes.
To give a better example, the idea of a double white line, one continuous and the other dotted, which gives certain priority for overtaking to one stream of traffic as against the other was the idea of a traffic engineer. To my way of thinking, it was a brilliant idea, but unless it is strictly observed it is not only useless, but highly dangerous.
I defy my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to say that any serious attempt is being made to enforce this rule on the roads where it is employed. Of course, he would not reply to this, because the paradox is that he is not responsible for the enforcement side. What is so ridiculous about the situation which confronts us is that the Minister, who is responsible —in so far as anyone is responsible— for getting the ideas of these men carried out, has no control whatsoever over the body of men who try to enforce them.
I listened with interest to my hon. Friend's statement that the new Bill will contain provision for traffic wardens, with particular duties in relation to parking, and so forth. But that only scratches the fringe of the problem. If we are to run the roads with the same 843 precision as the railways—a point made by several hon. Members—we need a force of traffic police on the roads to carry out the orders of the highway authority. This system of dual control is just not good enough. It was this thought that inspired my Amendment.
§ Mr. Hay
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend for the second time, but he will remember—and it is important to understand this—that almost invariably the highway authority is the same as the police authority. Where we have a county council as the highway authority it is also the police authority. The same position applies in the county boroughs, but it is not the same in the boroughs.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am well aware of that fact, but it gets us no further. Although the local authority may be the police authority it is perfectly clear that it has no authority to tell the police what they should do. The local authority may be very concerned about the idea of police recruiting and how the police are paid, but it certainly has no direction over their activities as police.
We had an interesting speech in the House not long ago from the Home Secretary, and a Royal Commission is now investigating the position of the police. It may be only a Departmental Committee—I cannot remember—but an inquiry is going on into this matter. I suggest that we do not want to wait for the result of any inquiry before we agree, at any rate, upon one principle, namely, that the position of whatever police are employed on the roads must be perfectly clear. It must be the same as that of the police, who work on the railway system, or inside any self-contained organisation. They must do exactly what they are told by the authority in charge of the organisation— in this case by the highway authority. Even if they think that the regulations and the laws are out of date, none the less it is their duty to apply them until they are changed. That, I submit, is the only condition under which full advantage will be taken of the expertise of the traffic engineers and such innovations as they may introduce to produce a safer and smoother flow of traffic.
844 There is one other aspect of the enforcement law which I would like to bring to the Minister's attention. It has always seemed to me very curious that no detailed specific guidance is issued as to the best use of particular roads and routes. Having myself been accustomed to the profession of the sea, I have always been accustomed to what are known as Sailing Directions put out by the Admiralty. They are not mandatory, but if one wants to go from A to B in a ship one turns to the set of Directions and finds a lot of advice about the best route to follow.
At some times of the year one is advised to go one way and another time of the year another way. If there is likely to be delay owing to certain shipping conditions in certain areas, one may find that although one route is the quicker it is better to take the longer route. This applies in exactly the same way to the roads.
I should have thought that the Ministry of Transport could arrange for some kind of planning guidance or road instructions to be issued for the benefit of people using the roads. I am sure, for instance, that if I had to drive to Birmingham there are times of the day when one route into the city would be better, from the point of view of everyone, than another. One does not know that without local knowledge, so why should not it be put on paper? I give that just as an idea.
To sum up, traffic engineers, like other experts, are really of value only to the extent that they can gain the ear of someone in authority and with power to make decisions and act. Secondly, improved methods of control of traffic even when they are introduced will avail very little unless we keep in step with improved methods for their enforcement.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)
I intervene in the debate at this late stage— and I apologise for doing so—only because, as every speaker in the House today has said, this is a vital, essential and most necessary topic for not only full discussion, but much greater understanding by hon. Members and by the public.
As most of the speeches today have been on a broad canvas, dealing with many large and sweeping principles of road engineering and road safety, I 845 should like to turn to one or two specific matters. These, I think, are particularly important, because it should be possible for them to be done without further legislation; indeed, powers exist for them to be done at the moment. It is for those reasons that I take as my thesis the need for much greater and more efficient use of the roads that exist in the country today.
I believe that the flow of traffic could be much more speedy if, in fact, the macadam surface were used properly. What do I mean by that? We have heard this afternoon a great deal about line discipline, but it is quite amazing, when driving around London or anywhere in the country, to see how very few people keep to one side or other of the road when they are driving. So many people seem to think that the road is made only for their cars and take up all their section of it. This is something which we have continually to drive home to all those people who are driving cars.
It cannot be stated frequently enough, and I make no apology for bringing it again to the attention of the House, but with the channelling of traffic I believe that the Ministry ought very quickly to use white lines to direct many of the drivers to where and how they should be using the road. This is particularly necessary at busy intersections. Here is one of the problems, that although it is possible to get two cars abreast, some of the quieter, perhaps less efficient and certainly less adventurous drivers consider themselves in danger if they use two lanes of traffic. Therefore, it seems to me that the Ministry ought to be showing people how they can best use the roads.
I want also to mention the reversible lane and the tidal flow, as it has been mentioned by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. He talked about the experiments in Putney and in other places which have had great publicity in the past few months, but I remember seeing tidal flow used in the United States of America in 1939, twenty years ago, and yet today we pat ourselves on the back because we are suddenly experimenting with it. That is really crazy.
It seems to me that there are many instances in which even a little common sense can show where tidal flow 846 must be of major use at this very moment. Most hon. Members will be familiar with the exit from Hyde Park at Hyde Park Corner. There are three gates, two into the Park and one out of the Park. I do not know how many hon. Members have ever tried to get out of that gate of the Park between a quarter to nine and ten o'clock in the morning, and have had to wait in a five to seven minute queue so to do—with one gate standing absolutely useless. This is a matter of common sense. This does not require engineering skill. It is a matter of just using the powers which exist at the moment and using them immediately.
I believe—I say it with all respect; nobody in the House today is trying to attack anybody—that a great deal more adventurous action is necessary, and will be encouraged by the British public When it comes from the Ministry of Transport.
I turn for just a moment or two to one-way streets. I do this particularly because this is a matter which is now hotly disputed in Reading, my constituency. I believe that it is necessary for the Ministry and for all people who are interested in road safety and traffic flow to convince traders that they will not lose business by the existence of a one-way street in front of their shops. There is a great resentment, wrong resentment in my view, by certain business people and traders against one-way streets. They think that if there should be one-way traffic in front of their businesses they will financially suffer.
The fact is that that is not the case, and that when one-way traffic comes into being, frequently it will do something to improve their business, because more people are able to drive in when they know they can get into an area or a town more simply and without trouble.
I want to make a specific point which I am sure the Minister ought to have well in mind. That is that when we introduce one-way streets it is no good doing so and then allowing two-way side parking. We have seen it in London, and I have seen it in Reading, that where we introduce a one-way street motorists believe they can park, and we thus still only have one lane of traffic. That is killing the very use we are trying to make of one-way streets.
It seems that this is an opportune moment to talk about parking. I would 847 go further than the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in his statements about the disastrous effects which parked cars have in the streets today. Let us for a moment consider a person who is parking a car. He knows, particularly in London, that he is running a risk by leaving his car in a certain street. He realises that he may be fined. He realises that his car may be towed away. I believe that many people are not concerned about a two guinea or three guinea fine which they may have to pay if they are found out. They do not like it. They do not want it, but they are willing to run that risk.
The inconvenience of towing a car away may be considerable, but the police are delightful about it. I know. I speak, I am sorry to say, with personal knowledge of it.
§ Mr. Emery
One goes to a depot, to get one's car. There is much good humour, a great joke made of it, and if one takes a taxi to the depot the whole business can be accomplished in ten minutes. There is nothing by way of punishment to deter somebody from parking where he probably knows—as I did when it happened to me—that he ought not to be parking.
I put this to the Minister as something Which I believe would have a vast effect on people parking cars. What would happen if, when a man's car were towed away, it was 14 days before he could pick it up again? That, perhaps, would be drastic, but drastic action is necessary. There would be no impounding, but just 14 days before one could collect one's car. If people had the knowledge that this could happen to them, if they left their cars where they were dubious about leaving them, I believe they would be deterred, completely deterred, from leaving their cars in such a place.
The whole of what I have been say-ing is bound up with enforcement, and 848 on the matter of enforcement I should like to follow what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) was saying about the duality of the enforcement procedure. I am concerned that frequently, in my view, the right form of enforcement is not carried out.
We all know of the great effort which has been made against speeding, but I believe that it is the dangerous and careless driver who is the worst offender. A safe driver may drive at speed and not necessarily be dangerous, but the careless driver and the dangerous driver at any speed is a danger on the road. Therefore, I wonder whether the authorities could put greater emphasis on prosecuting and trying to catch the dangerous and the careless driver around the towns and around the countryside. That action alone might do a very great deal in lowering the accident rates, which are so great.
The last thing that I wish to say about traffic engineering is something which has not been mentioned so far in the debate, namely, the need for traffic engineers to apply themselves to the human element, to the person who is driving the car. It terrifies me that many of the most moderate people when they get behind the driving wheel of a car become competitive and spiteful drivers. Heaven alone knows why, but one has only to spend any length of time driving in the town or in the country to realise how many hundreds and thousands of people hate to be overtaken. Why?
People will stay in the centre of the road rather than let somebody else get by. Why? People will swing out from one lane to the other in order to nip round just one other car. Why? This is an amazing pathological approach to the driving of a car and it is an aspect of this whole problem which we shall have to thrust on the shoulders of our traffic engineers. It is another of the ever-growing burden of problems which they must consider when dealing with traffic.
I know how strange this characteristic is in drivers. I have a specific example of one constituent of mine who was so infuriated by the way a car was being driven that he reported the matter to the police. The police made inquiries 849 and they found that it was a hired car. The inquiries went further and an absolutely crestfallen man found that the driver was his future father-in-law, who had hired the car. This did not create a very good impression, but I am glad to say that the couple concerned are now married.
I would say to the spokesman for the Ministry that it is no use saying, "We understand these new methods." We must press on with them faster now than ever before. We have heard Ministry spokesmen saying many times before that they understand these problems, but there is greater urgency than ever now in the need to tackle them.
My last point is that publicity must be given to the new methods of dealing with this problem. It is no use just throwing a decision on a new use of white lines or on new lane discipline without giving it national publicity. Here I would congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which publicity was given to the dotted and continuous white lines before they were adopted. I believe that they are proving effective, and mainly because of the publicity that was given to them.
I believe that the powers which local authorities already possess will not be used unless a greater lead comes from the Ministry. I believe that local authorities turn to Whitehall on this matter and want to be helped in dealing with their own local problems. However drastic the action that is necessary, I believe that the public today will back the Minister in taking it, because to lessen fatalities on the roads, to bring greater safety and a better flow of traffic are exactly the things which the British public want. They will give all support in bringing them about.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I approach this problem as a civil engineer. I have not been reading the data which hon. Members have been producing in the debate, because I did not come prepared to make a long speech. There are, however, one or two paints which have been mentioned in the debate on which I should like to comment.
The civil engineering industry welcomes the introduction of this new 850 brother—the traffic engineer. Many of us in the industry have carried out ourselves much of the research work which has been mentioned today. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) referred to the fact that the Road Research Laboratory was not carrying out research into excavating. Any practical person knows that one cannot carry out research into what is known as "muck shifting" in a small laboratory. That is a matter which must be done in the industry itself.
One has only to see the vast work carried out on opencast mining to realise that this country is far ahead of others in "muck shifting" and excavating techniques. The knowledge of soil mechanics in this country also bears comparison with that of any country in the world. Research into it is carried out in the laboratories, and my own firm sends engineers to all parts of the world to recommend the application of soil mechanics to road works. We in the industry have the ability and the opportunities to carry out this work and we are doing it.
I am delighted to follow in the debate my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery). He made a number of points which I had proposed to make, and he referred for the first time in the debate to the need for good manners on the road. The good manners which we used to see in the earlier days of motoring are essential today to traffic enginering itself. Good manners are created by road engineers by clearing up bottlenecks which make people bad-tempered and make them drive recklessly.
A great deal can be done by simple road widening to overcome bottlenecks. As a practical engineer, I suggest that road development and road widening should be concentrated particularly on steep hills, because by widening a short length of a hill one allows lorries to pull in to the side. I disagree with hon. Members opposite. I consider that lorry drivers are the best drivers in the country. By giving them an opportunity of pulling in to the side on a short length of road we can deal more effectively with these bottlenecks. If a lorry being driven at 10 miles an hour uphill is enabled to pull in to the side it will allow a motor car being driven at 30 miles an hour to overtake more easily.
851 I believe that more use could be made of bridges over the Thames as flyovers. An evening paper suggested a year or two ago that a road should be constructed along the whole length of the Embankment, but I do not think that that is a practical proposition. But at Lambeth and Vauxhall one could build a road which would allow the use of Thames bridges as a flyover. Vauxhall is a particularly good example. The Minister should deal with the "gimcracks" and get things moving.
In Folkestone, there are areas which we want to prepare for making trunk roads. We had layouts for this as far back as 1900. They are well adapted to further extension, but before development goes too far the Minister should do some long-term planning. It may be necessary for the Ministry to have a separate department for long-term planning. Goodness knows, the Minister has enough problems already with the roads and railways, but a small department at the Ministry could be thinking in terms of ten years ahead. These are some of the small points and suggestions which I wish to make and which I hope the Minister will accept.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
We have all appreciated hearing from the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) practical points arising from his own experience, and I am sure that the Minister will read what he said with considerable attention. Before we leave the debate, I want to make two or three short points in connection with the Amendment in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) and myself relating to road safety.
My hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary is not here at the moment but perhaps the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will pass on to him the points I shall emphasise. There are many instances of traffic engineering not only ensuring road safety but also resulting in an economic gain to the country. Here is a practical example. Some years ago, I was concerned about the number of accidents taking place on the Bath Road at the corner just west of Newbury, known as Speen Corner. In one summer there were eleven accidents 852 at a narrow bend just below a slope and I suggested to the county surveyor and to the road highway engineer of the Ministry of Transport that the corner should receive attention because it was cambered the wrong way and was too narrow. Attention was given to it at a cost of about £3,000.
The following summer, after the road had been recambered and slightly altered, there were only four accidents. We had prevented seven accidents, and as we know that each accident costs the country around £600, I calculate that we saved over £4,000 in national terms in one year, which was more than the amount paid for the engineering improvement.
There are many dangerous bottlenecks and bad points throughout the country. I once calculated that there were 20,000. If Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones wishes to motor from the far end of Pimlico Road to Buckingham Palace, he passes two dangerous points. The first is in the Pimlico Road, which is wide and then suddenly narrows, and the second is in the Buckingham Palace Road, outside Buckingham Palace itself, where traffic which is travelling smoothly in two streams is suddenly thrown into one because there is a wide curve of pavement outside the Palace. This is quite unnecessary and it throws the traffic into a single stream.
I see that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary has returned, and so I ask him if he will get into a car and motor from Putney Bridge to Westminster up the King's Road, because a more loathsome mess of pinchpoints and narrow places and bad engineering layouts I cannot conceive. When the Traffic Bill is introduced I hope that the powers of the twenty-eight local authorities will be taken over and that the Minister will be able to concentrate on much needed simple traffic engineering. We do not need a great deal of research to eleminate our black spots. All that is needed is the power and the money—
§ Mr. Mellish
Surely what we must do is to streamline the form of consultation in order to cut out unnecessary dalay? The hon. Gentleman is a local government man and it would be a sad day if he said that the local authorities should not come into that. He did not mean that, did he?
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I do not know what is in the Traffic Bill but I imagine that there will be a supra-authority to make the decision when all the local authorities have been consulted.
Now I want to draw attention to one or two excellent sentences in the learned paper submitted by Mr. Duff, the Senior Engineer in the Traffic Engineering Branch of the Ministry of Transport. He pointed out how easy it is in police reports for a misleading impression of accident prevention to be given and added that there may be many accidents at a halt sign, and naturally the police will say that is the fault of the driver in not observing it. But when a traffic engineer looks at the place where the halt sign is sited, he may easily find that resisting it may prevent accidents.
Mr. Duff drew attention to the following figures given by the Road Research Laboratory. He said that the average reduction in accidents by the adoption of traffic engineering improvements might be—slippery roads, 80 per cent.; improved alignment at bends on rural roads, 70 per cent.; improved visibility at junctions, 30 per cent.; provision of roundabouts 60 per cent. So there is factual evidence of possible improvements.
Recently I saw a demonstration of the new reflective white strip which can be laid on roads for marking lines. It is made up of little glass balls which reflect light, and to my mind these are superior to cat's eyes because they can be laid easily and do not cause danger to motor cyclists. I would like to see such strips laid on the roads in our big cities.
I will make a small criticism of the length of the double white lines. I am not sure that on bends in the rural trunk roads they are long enough, because although motorists will keep to them for a hundred yards or so, the double white 854 line soon comes to and end and then automatically there is a tendency to overtake the car ahead. I suggest, therefore, that these might be lengthened.
We have heard often that the way to road safety is through the three Es— education, enforcement and engineering. I think we need a double E at the end, that is, enforcement of our traffic engineering improvements. In London, we sometimes find a right-hand lane marked by arrows, demonstrating that anyone who wants to turn right at the next junction, should be in that lane. How often do we see a motorist getting into the left-hand lane fifty yards from the junction and then jinking from one lane to the other, which is a most dangerous practice. To my mind, that is a far greater offence than parking a car in a side street. I know it is difficult for static police to attend to this, but mobile police should be able to give attention to such bad driving by probably ignorant motorists. Again, if double white lines are crossed by motorists, that is a serious offence which should be taken up by the police.
I welcome the Motion, because we have had an extremely interesting debate. I hope that the Minister and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be able to absorb all that has been put before them today. Even if they absorb only a small amount, and put into practice a small percentage, we shall have achieved a great step forward in road safety in this country.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House welcomes the actions taken by the Government and by other bodies for research into and the practical application of traffic engineering and calls attention to the great potential in its increased use for the relief of traffic congestion.