§ 34. Mr. Popplewell
asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that the cost of road congestion amounts to an annual figure of about £500 million, and that it is increasing at the rate of £150 million a year; and if he will state the steps he is taking to reduce this drain on the nation's economy.
§ Mr. Hay
The road programme and the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill at present before the House are designed to combat congestion the consequences of which in both safety and cost I appreciate. I am bound to say I do not however necessarily accept the figures quoted by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Popplewell
Is the Minister aware that he is placing more confidence on the Road Traffic and Road Improvement Bill in this matter than is placed by most people concerned? Is he not aware that roads are becoming hopelessly overcrowded, particularly with long distance freightage traffic, while the railways are very well able to cater for that type of traffic? Would it not be in the national interest for more of that traffic to be diverted from road to rail 406 in the interests of motorists and everyone concerned? What does he think the picture will be in a few years' time if industry and he do not do something more drastic about the diversion of traffic from road to rail?
§ Mr. Hay
I regard that as a counsel of despair. What we have to do is to provide in this country an up-to-date network of road communications. We are doing our utmost to ensure that we press on with the road programme as quickly as possible. The Bill, about which we are far more optimistic than is the hon. Member, will put some valuable additional powers into my right hon. Friend's hands to deal with congestion in the towns. I think that this is far better than trying artificially to divert road traffic from road to rail.
§ Mr. Benn
What consultations have the hon. Gentleman and the Minister had with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders about the number of cars likely to come on to the roads in the next few years? Secondly, may we have a White Paper which sets out the Government's plans more than a few months ahead? At the moment, hon. Members who axe trying to follow this subject have to content themselves with a flood of individual Press releases from the Ministry of Transport.