HC Deb 28 November 1962 vol 668 cc383-5
25. Mr. J. Wells

asked the Minister of Transport what percentage of road accidents on trunk roads took place on three-lane highways in the last 12 months.

Mr. Hay

During the 12 months ending 30th September, 1962, 3 per cent. of the fatal and serious accidents on A class roads were on roads with three-lane markings. I regret that it is not possible to give the figures for trunk roads alone.

Mr. Wells

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information, but can he make a further statement about his intentions to reduce accidents on three-lane roads?

Mr. Hay

Not in answer to this Question. There is a further Question on the Paper in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver). Perhaps my hon. Friend will pursue the matter when that Question is answered.

Mr. Manuel

Is the Minister aware that there is a growing volume of opinion among transport engineers that three-lane highways are a great danger? Will he institute some investigation to consider whether the present three-lane highways should revert to two-lane highways? It would appear that this would be much safer.

Mr. Hay

I know that there are many opinions on this matter, but we must work on the facts as established by experiment and experience rather than on opinion. The facts are that the Road Research Laboratory has carried out a number of investigations into accidents on stretches of three-lane highway, and has found that only 2½ per cent. of all the accidents that took place on that type of highway involved overtaking in opposite directions. Moreover, the Laboratory also found that, comparing rural three-lane highways with rural dual carriageways, the same accident rate was observed on both. The facts, as found by research, are at variance with the generally held opinion, which I do not believe to be altogether right.

29. Mr. Oliver

asked the Minister of Transport whether, having regard to the added danger in the use of three-lane roads, he will ensure that no more of these will be built and that existing ones will be converted into dual highways.

Mr. Hay

No, Sir. Accident statistics and other available evidence do not support the view that three-lane roads are fundamentally more dangerous than other roads. Within the traffic capacity for which it is designed, that is approximately 7,500 vehicles a day, a three-lane road is a safe and economic form of construction. In practice, however, it is unlikely that many miles of new three-lane trunk road will be built because, with the increase in traffic, most of the roads now being constructed will need to have dual carriageways.

Mr. Oliver

Has the hon. Member seen the statement made in the other place by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who introduced the question of road accidents, that he himself had investigated 104 cases on the Oxford by-pass and had found that 20 per cent. were due to head-on collisions in the middle lane?

Mr. Hay

I saw the statement that was made and reported in another place. I have already told the House about the results of an investigation by the Road Research Laboratory on this matter —results based on careful research. I can only suggest that there seems to be some divergence of opinion between these two sources.

Mr. Gower

Despite what my hon. Friends says, does he not think that it is absurd, when his Department is embarking on the building of ambitious new roads, including the Heads of Valley Road, to continue the construction of three-lane roads. Is this really building for the new age of increasing motor traffic, or is it merely playing with the problem?

Mr. Hay

No, Sir. We are building three-lane roads where the traffic conditions are such that anything more ambitious is not needed. Thereby we save a good deal of money and a good deal of land. However, I must tell my hon. Friend and the House that of 112 schemes in our major trunk road programme for 1962–66, only seven include the construction of three-lane roads, covering about 13½ miles in all. That gives a slightly different picture from the one put forward by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Strauss

Does the hon. Member admit the folly of building a three-lane road by Gatwick Airport—a very heavily trafficked road—when the road was being built over green fields and there would have been no additional expense? Does not he agree that many accidents have occurred on that road? Will he undertake to see that in these conditions no more three-lane roads will be built? Is he aware that there were protests at the time from myself and other people about constructing that type of road partly as a three-lane highway and partly as a dual carriagway?

Mr. Hay

The right hon. Member knows that that road is being improved. We do not commit ourselves to three-lane roads unless we are satisfied that the traffic volume is unlikely to be such as to need something better. This problem is always under review as traffic volumes change.

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