HC Deb 11 May 1960 vol 623 cc406-8
35. Mr. Driberg

asked the Minister of Transport if he will take steps to ensure that the Park Lane improvement scheme will be completed in less than twenty-eight months.

Mr. Hay

The programme for the scheme has been worked out very carefully by the London County Council, which is responsible for carrying it out. Its plans have been prepared in consultation with my Department, my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Works, the Metropolitan police, the contractor and other bodies concerned.

Parts of the scheme will be open to traffic as they are finished, but I am satisfied that, if traffic is to be kept moving while work is in progress, twenty-eight months is the best possible time that can be achieved for the completion of the whole scheme.

Mr. Driberg

Since the hon. Member's Department clearly has some responsibility in this matter, cannot he look at this again? Presumably night working would be very expensive. Is there to be any of it? Will he bear in mind the enormous cost, in time and trade and temper, of this extraordinarily long-drawn-out dislocation?

Mr. Hay

I fully understand the hon. Member's views. They were the views which I held when I first heard about this. I have personally looked very closely into the plans. The difficulty is that we are dealing here with two of the busiest junctions in the country. Hyde Park Corner carries over 100,000 vehicles a day and Marble Arch is the third busiest junction in the country. We have to keep these traffic lanes open. As for the possibility of night work, we must remember that at Hyde Park Corner there is St. George's Hospital, and for that reason we have been obliged to ban any work between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. in the interests of the patients. I am afraid that there is nothing we can do to speed this scheme, much as we should like to do so.

Mr. Lindsay

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that a great part of this work is a long way from St. George's Hospital, for example that at the Marble Arch end? Even if there is no work near the St. George's Hospital end after 11 p.m.— which we can understand—will he at least assure us that at any rate work will be carried on during Saturdays and Sundays and at night where it is out of earshot of St. George's Hospital?

Mr. Hay

The difficulty is that the key to this scheme is the underpass along Piccadilly, and that is very close to St. George's Hospital. I will bring my hon. Friend's suggestion to the attention of the London County Council, which is responsible for this scheme, tout I am not very sure that it will be able to carry it through.

Mr. Mellish

Is the Minister aware that many people believe that such schemes as the Hyde Park Corner scheme are not the right things to do in this day and age? Is he aware that if we are to have road improvements of this character, they ought to be on a much wider and broader plan, not the sort of scheme which, although it might relieve traffic congestion at one point, does not solve the problem in the areas from which traffic comes and into which it goes from that point? Is the Minister aware that in America such schemes in the heart of a city have been abandoned?

Mr. Hay

There is a strange duality of view in the Labour Party on these matters. If that is the hon. Member's view, I must point out to him that some of his hon. Friends are always pressing us to do more of these road improvement schemes.