HC Deb 31 May 1963 vol 678 cc1787-805

2.11 p.m.

Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)

The matter which I wish to raise is, in my view, of growing national importance. If I illustrate what I have to say with examples from my own constituency, it is not because I take a parochial attitude, but because I am choosing as examples places which I know best. I have chosen to speak on the subject of pedestrian crossings cm trunk roads. I must, however, explain that I am using the trunk road in a slightly technical sense and I mean anything which might be called a main road.

It seems to me that as the full impact of the motor revolution hits us—literally, as well as metaphorically—we find ourselves grappling with a problem which we have not considered as fully as perhaps we should have done. We have the matter of new roads, but not nearly enough consideration has been given nationally to the effects of this revolution and these changes on the old roads or villages and towns through which they run.

My constituency is traversed by three main roads: the A.22, which is the London to Eastbourne road; the A.23, which is the London to Brighton road; and the A.25, which runs from Guildford to Westerham and is not actually a trunk road but is a classified road which is the responsibility of the county council. We all hope that sooner or later there will be a south orbital road which will relieve this last mentioned road of some of the traffic which now flows down it, although the county council and the Ministry often point out that the A.25 must be widened to cope wtih the increase in local traffic. I want to state categorically as a matter of policy, to which I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will lend a sympathetic ear, that all towns and villages should be by-passed. That, alas, is not the present policy of the county council in all cases.

We are faced with the growing problem of crossing the road. This is a problem for the pedestrian and particularly for the aged and infirm. It varies slightly from place to place. I take as an example the villages of Godstone and South Godstone, but what I propose to say applies equally to the villages of Blindley Heath, Felbridge, Bletchingley and Nut-field, in my constituency, all of which lie astride these main roads. I am dealing with one constituency, but one can parallel it with 20 constituencies around London.

This problem also exists in the towns, such as Redhill and Reigate, but these towns usually enjoy the privilege of having a few zebra crossings, although they are so few and far between that they have little relevance to reality. But usually there are no zebra crossings in the villages and smaller towns. I appreciate that the Minister's policy is to keep zebras as rare animals, so to speak, but I think that he rather overdoes it. He has refused at least one very reasonable application in Redhill of which I know.

My concern today, however, is much more with the villages and with the two which I have mentioned. Both Godstone and South Godstone are on the A.22. Godstone is also on the A.25. As far as I can ascertain, the accident record for these two villages over the last two years comprises three fatal accidents and 75 non-fatal accidents. Not all of these. of course, affected pedestrians. The God-stone Parish Council has been very active in raising this issue. It is supported in its attitude by all the organisations in the village and, indeed, by the whole population of about 3,000 people. They demand that some action should be taken to make it possible for the citizens to cross the road in safety.

Let me outline the circumstances for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. Godstone is at the crossroads of the A.22 and A.25 roads. But the matter is not as simple as that. The A.25 comes into the village and joins the A.22 for about 400 yards—I speak from memory—-before it branches off again eastwards. Thus, Godstone, which is a straggling village about three-quarters of a mile long, bears the A.22 traffic, which is very considerable, and for a short way the traffic of the A.25 as well. This also happens to be the heart of the village. There is at the north end a roundabout which slows the traffic down slightly, but only the southward bound traffic.

There is another point in the middle of the village where it is proposed to introduce one-way working round an island site, but many people hazard the guess that, although this will make it safer in theory, it may make matters worse, because in one direction the traffic will be one-way and able to go much faster.

I do not suggest that the Ministry has been idle in this matter. It has been active, but so far obdurate. It turned down a proposal for two pedestrian crossings on the ground of inadequate use. A census of pedestrians was taken which showed that the volume was not sufficient to keep a crossing in regular use throughout the day. It showed that 14 people an hour were crossing at one point and 52 an hour at another, and on this ground the proposals were rejected. I understand that the police are not on the Ministry's side and that they would support a signal-operated crossing. However, the Ministry will not agree to this.

This census was, I think, unofficial. It covered one day only instead of seven days and, to make the matter slightly ridiculous, it was taken on a Monday, and I would hazard a guess that it was a wet Monday into the bargain, when traffic is normally at its lowest level anyway. Nor was it taken at the point where the crossing is most difficult, because over a stretch like this one must add not only those crossing at these particular points but those crossing at other points, pedestrian traffic which should be canalised into one or more crossings along the main road. I have stood there myself and noticed that the pedestrians tend to cross at several different points.

There is a faint ray of hope. First, there seems to be a likelihood that the county council may agree to a traffic island at one point. It has also been suggested —I should like confirmation of this—that when the Minister has made up his mind about the panda crossings he might consider putting one here; but this I must say is only rumour. But all this takes a very long time, and, meanwhile feeling is bitter, and rightly so. Opinion thinks that "they" are not doing enough, and "they", in this context, means the authorities—the Ministry, the county council, police—all lumped together, probably unjustly but it is a matter which causes intense feeling. If it is of any relevance, I may say that my file on this subject, and on the other village of South Godstone, weighs 1 lb. 2oz.

I should like to turn to the other village of South Godstone. I do not know whether by hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary ever goes to Lingfield Races. Apparently not. If he did, as he drove southward after passing Godstone—where I hope that in due course he will be held up by a panda crossing—he would find himself on a very fast stretch of open road on his way to Lingfield. Two miles to the south, he would come to a 40 m.p.h. sign. Being, of course, a considerate and careful driver, he would slow down. If he did, he would find himself passed by every other car on the road. That 40 m.p.h. sign indicates the village of South Godstone, which, I must explain, in parenthesis, is an entirely separate entity to Godstone. It is a comparatively new community which has, unfortunately, developed on both sides of this very fast road.

But the problem is the same as in Godstone, and, I think, the same as in dozens of other villages in the country, with this difference. There are fewer residents, the road is straighter and the traffic is much faster. The battle on this issue of the speed limit began between the village and myself, on the one side, and the Ministry, on the other, in 1958, when it first proposed to raise the speed limit from 30 to 40 m.p.h. This proposal was for a time abandoned on a procedural point. The Ministry had failed to comply with the not unreasonable requirement that a proposal to increase the speed limit should be advertised locally.

Such was the ignorance displayed of local conditions, that it elected to advertise this proposal, not in the Surrey Mirror, which circulates everywhere round about, but in a Kent newspaper—a newspaper from the next county—and defended this on the ground that this newspaper happened to be on sale in Godstone, on the relevant day. Godstone is a separate village and Surrey is a separate county, and such a defence could only be paralleled by publishing the London Gazette in the New York Times on the ground that it could be bought at W. H. Smith's.

Fortunately, as a result of this slightly ridiculous incident this proposal was abandoned, but, eventually, officialdom had its way, and the speed limit was raised to 40 m.p.h. Even this is academic, because the 40 m.p.h. limit is exceeded as the 30 m.p.h. was also. A few days ago, I was approaching the village at 40 m.p.h. and I found myself passed. by a coach going at about 50 m.p.h.—so much is heed paid to the sign! The proposal that I have referred to to increase the speed limit was approved by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee without it, incidentally, ever inspecting the site as a committee, but relying on the fact that some of its members had driven along the Eastbourne road.

After the London Government Bill becomes law, we shall be able to deal with our own county council, and not with such a remote body. I wish that the Minister would instruct his representatives when these issues are put forward always to place themselves at the disposal of the local residents' association, or the parish council, or whoever it may be, to hear their views, and, if they disagree, to try to explain to them the reasons for the Minister's decision. Members of Parliament have to spend far too much of their time doing that job for the Ministry.

The problem of South Godstone is not dissimilar to that of Godstone. I have no doubt that many other hon. Members have similar problems in their constituencies. What I want the Minister to do is this: first, I think that he ought to look again at his policy of zebra crossings and relax it somewhat; not necessarily in built-up areas, but in the smaller villages and towns where the vehicle traffic is in excess of a certain amount.

We do not want a census only of pedestrians, but also of vehicles. This is a two-way problem. One may have only a few pedestrians an hour crossing, but if there is a lot of traffic it is almost impossible for them to cross. I could take my hon. Friend to many places where he would have to wait anything up to 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour to cross in reasonable safety, even if he is reasonably young, nimble and athletic. I do not want to seem to be exaggerating, but I doubt whether the Ministry understands the nature of the problem from the pedestrians' point of view. Zebras are as rare as diamonds—and about as useful.

My second point is that if he will not do what I have asked he might hurry up his review of the panda crossings. These might easily be the answer for the smaller communities. The third point is that I want him to instruct, as I have said, his officers that it is their job to make contact with those who are dissatisfied and hear their problems at first hand, bringing in the county councils and police where necessary.

People are not unreasonable, but they get angry and annoyed with authorities which are remote, impersonal and inaccessible. The Minister cannot cope with it all, and he cannot inspect and solve every problem. Not long ago I was asked to ask him to intervene. and the request was accompanied by an invitation to him to lunch of which he could not avail himself. But his staff might do more, even perhaps accepting an invitation to lunch.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important point of all. I should like to see an entirely new approach to the whole question of roads through villages. I know that where the classified roads are involved this is a matter for the county council as the county planning authority, and not the direct responsibility, or even the indirect responsibility, of the Ministry of Transport. But it ought to be Ministry policy, in conjunction, if necessary, with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, that all these communities lying on these important roads should be by-passed. whatever the cost may be.

It is no good tinkering with the problem, turning villages into speed tracks, dividing them into two with a flow of traffic, as Berlin is divided by a wall. Eventually, they will have to be bypassed, and the longer we delay, the greater the cost. Why not start now?

2.29 p.m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

Perhaps I might be allowed to intervene, in what has been up to now really a constituency discussion, to mention the whole question of pedestrian crossings on trunk roads and through roads.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us—I think I am right in believing that this is the policy of his right hon. Friend—that, first, where trunk and main through routes go through built-up communities, by-passing should be the final objective. I hope that until by-passing takes place he will seriously consider the fencing off of parts of roads used a great deal by pedestrians and insist on bridges and subways being erected or driven under. In this connection, I hope that the Minister will remember how important it is that these should

all have slopes rather than steps to enable people with perambulators, bath chairs and shopping baskets to make the journey over or under the road more easily.

A third plan, one of which I personally have seen a good deal, is that to be found on the roads passing through the trading estate in Slough, which has timed traffic lights. In that respect, again, I feel that if there is fencing, pedestrian crossings combined with timed traffic lights at the road intersections produce both an efficient answer to a problem and a comparatively cheap one. One could imagine that where there are a number of intersections one could have even a 50 m.p.h. timed traffic lights system, with the pedestrian being able to cross when the lights went red at the crossing. That is the ideal plan.

The Minister is causing a certain amount of concern in the constituencies by his very tough attitude towards the installation of new zebra crossings. In Pinner, opposite the library, and elsewhere in Harrow, we have been taking a census of the vehicles arid of the people crossing the roads, and we cannot get acceptance by the Minister of pedestrian crossings there.

This brings me to a point mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan)—panda crossings. I apologise to my right hon. Friend for not having been present when he began to speak, but it was because I was carrying out an on-the-spot investigation of the panda crossing outside Waterloo Station. I feel that the Minister would like to know about this investigation, which took place at 2.10 this afternoon, and I hope he will realise the utter bewilderment caused to both pedestrians and drivers using that stretch of road.

Frankly, I do not know what the rules are about those panda crossings. I believe that the drivers are encouraged to go across the crossing when the amber light is blinking. My previous experience with the police in connection with amber lights is that if they see one accelerating across a junction when the amber light comes on, either before the red or before the green, they take a very dim view of it. But in the case of the pandas it seems that the driver may go over the crossing when the amber light is blinking.

I would also draw the Minister's attention to the fact that at the Waterloo crossing not only does the amber light blink, but the red light and the "cross now" light are both throbbing all the time. Therefore, one has a red light going dim and strong and also a "cross now" light going dim and strong, which, I believe, adds to the confusion of all concerned. Also, if the panda experiment at Waterloo is to go on much longer, the panda zigzag must be repainted, because at the moment it is a mass of ordinary zebra stripes and panda dog tooth, which is very confusing.

I believe that the panda is a most undesirable new animal to have on the roads. I am sure that motorists are now used to the green, amber and red lights, and I cannot see at all the advantage of the panda crossing over the ordinary hand-operated pedestrian traffic light. With the ordinary crossing light one can have the light on green, and one can give warning beforehand that traffic lights are to come, and the motorist and the pedestrian are fully aware of the responsibilities which the signals place on them.

Also, I believe that it is unwise that hand-operated lights, either panda or otherwise, should be operated merely by means of one press on the button on the standard. The individual who wishes to cross should have to keep his finger firmly on the button until the light changes. Otherwise—this has constantly been the experience in Slough—a pedestrian presses the button, sees a gap in the traffic and dodges across the road, and then, after the light has changed, the traffic is held up, but no pedestrians are crossing.

I hope that the Minister will go ahead with his splendid by-passing plan. I should like to tell him that because of the Maidenhead and Slough by-pass it now takes me 10 to 15 minutes less time to get from my home to the House. I congratulate him on that excellent, well-laid-out and attractive road. I hope that my right hon. Friend will continue with this by-passing of major towns.

I also hope that my right hon. Friend will consider the fencing of the roads and the provision of over or under crossings, and timed traffic lights, and if he feels that hand-operated pedestrian lights are an advantage, I hope he will go for them and make an announcement soon that the panda will be discontinued, because I believe that many decisions are being held up in regard to the erection of traffic lights and the provision of traffic crossings while the Minister is thinking about the panda. I hope that my right hon. Friend will forget about the panda altogether.

2.37 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir I. Vaughan-Morgan) spoke mainly about pedestrian crossings and other matters in his own constituency, he raised some general points on which I should like to support him most warmly.

One, in particular, was his suggestion that the approach of the Ministry towards the installation of pedestrian crossings needs looking at and that consideration should be given to the amount of traffic on the roads as well as the number of pedestrians who wish to cross it. Surely my right hon. Friend would agree that even if there are only two or three pedestrians who wish to cross, but there is a stream of traffic, the only way in which they can enforce their authority is to take the risk of stepping out into the road —and that is a risk to take sometimes, for they do not know whether the driver is going to stop or not. Consequently, I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the number of vehicles using the roads, particularly during peak hours, because it makes it very difficult.

There is a place in Harrow Road, Sudbury, in my constituency, where there has been a desire to have a pedestrian crossing. It is opposite the entrance to the station. It has been refused on the ground that the number of people who would use it is not adequate. But the traffic there is very bad, certainly during the peak hours, and that is when people want to cross the road to go to the station.

I support what my right hon. Friend said about the speed limit in general. He said that he was passed not only by a coach but, I think, by a lorry. I myself have been passed in 30 m.p.h. areas by lorries exceeding that limit. Frankly, I think that the worst offenders against the speed limits are the drivers of minicars, who go all over the place without worrying about any speed limit. In the London area in recent months the

speed limit, whether 30 m.p.h. or 40 m.p.h., has been abused more than at any time I can remember. The Ministry will have to make up its mind whether it will try to enforce the speed limit, or what is to be done about it.

Mr. John Page

Would my hon. Friend really say that the drivers of minicars are the worst offenders? Does he put them above gravel lorry drivers? I think that they are an absolute menace, and always feel that they should have special treatment.

Mr. Russell

I have not noticed particularly whether they were gravel lorries or not, but I agree that plenty of lorry drivers do abuse the speed limits, even the 30 m.p.h. limit.

To come back to pedestrian crossings, the last thing I want to say, although it is not quite within the Minister's responsibility, is that there are no crossings in the Royal Parks in London. I have often wondered why. I know that the parks come within the responsibility of the Minister of Public Building and Works, but as traffic regulations are the prerogative of the Minister of Transport, I should have thought that he would have some control over the regulation of traffic in the Royal Parks.

2.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith)

I think that we have had an interesting debate on this problem of pedestrians crossing busy roads. My right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan), in introducing it, as well as making particular points regarding his own constituency, made some general remarks on the subject, and I think that it may be helpful to the House if I preface my reply with some observations on the broad principles which guide my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in the decisions that he has to make. That may also help my hon. Friends the Members for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) and Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), who have intervened in the debate.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate said, the situation on the roads has, of course, changed dramatically in recent years. Not long ago it used to be possible for people to cross the roads more or less whenever they wanted and wherever they wanted. Now it is becoming increasingly difficult with the rapid growth of motor traffic.

Because of this some restrictions on what we can do on the roads and when we can do it are inevitable, for the motor vehicle has become a fact of life which has to be lived with; and to live with it easily what is wanted is understanding by the pedestrian and courtesy by the driver. The pedestrian must realise that he can no longer expect to cross busy roads whenever he wants to, and the driver must learn to respect the pedestrian and give way whenever facilities for the pedestrian require him to do this. The need for both these attitudes is obvious.

The figures for accidents show that last year 2,681 pedestrians were killed and nearly 69,560 more were injured. Although these figures are about the same as they were in 1961, casualties to pedestrians have increased by an average rate of about 3 per cent. a year over the last ten years. These increasing totals of pedestrian casualties show the very great need to secure better safety regulations for pedestrians, and I can assure the House that, in spite of the apparent opinion of my hon. Friends, this matter is of the very greatest concern to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

There are two ways in which, I think, he. as Minister of Transport, can help to secure greater safety, first, by physical methods, and secondly, by organisational methods. By physical methods I mean the building of by-passes, subways, footbridges—which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West—and refuges. As my right hon. Friend said in opening the debate, bypasses are one of the best solutions for villages and small towns which have busy roads going through them. A good many of these have been built and others are in course of building, and still more are being planned, but by-passes are expensive, and, unfortunately, we cannot concentrate ail our funds on this solution when new motorways and urban traffic congestion make increasingly heavy demands on our finances. I am sure that the House will understand that.

Another effective measure—

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

I do not think that my hon. Friend has seized my point.

It may be that a by-pass is expensive now, but if the volume of traffic increases we shall have to have by-passes eventually and what I was asking was that he should instruct county councils that they should consider the provision of by-passes before widening roads through villages.

Mr. Galbraith

I am coming on to something which may go some way to meet my right hon. Friend—to a suggestion which may help.

I was saying that another effective measure is the construction of subways and bridges, but these require a considerable amount of space because of ramps, so they are really impracticable in crowded shopping centres. Where complete segregation like this is not possible, a refuge in the centre of the road is a help since it permits pedestrians to cross the road in two stages. Refuges are also of assistance to motorists when they are turning against oncoming traffic. A great many of these refuges have been provided throughout the country, but sometimes the condition of the road makes even this solution impossible, if the road is too narrow to allow it.

I am coming later on to the points raised by my right hon. Friend about his constituency. So much, in general terms, for the physical means which are available. I should now like to turn to the organisational methods of helping pedestrians. These comprise alterations of traffic flow, signal-controlled pedestrian crossings, zebra crossings and panda crossings. One method of traffic control is to make streets one-way. This halves the volume of traffic, and, since pedestrians have only to look in one direction, this, I think, is a help to them. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend that there may be certain places where it is not a help, but there are places where obviously it does help.

As for the pedestrian crossings, these take four forms, depending on the volume of motor and pedestrian traffic. Where these are very great, police-controlled crossings are the answer. Next come signal-controlled crossings. These are of two types, the pedestrian-operated traffic lights and automatic signals with an all-red period for pedestrians to cross in.

Lastly, there are the uncontrolled zebra crossings, which I must discuss in some detail because, obviously, there is a good deal of pressure from local people for these, as my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends have shown this afternoon. Indeed, I was a little hurt when my right hon. Friend said that he thought our policy had little relevance to reality. I hope that I shall be able to show him that it has great relevance to reality. The assumption seems to be that my right hon. Friend the Minister refuses permission to erect zebra crossings because he is not sufficiently concerned with the safety of pedestrians. I cannot emphasise too strongly that this belief is utterly wrong, and I shall try to convince my hon. Friends of this.

Zebra crossings were first introduced in 1935. They spread rapidly, and everyone thought they were a panacea for all pedestrian troubles, but by the late 1940s there were so many of them that drivers scarcely paid any attention to them and they became a danger instead of a help. Because of this, in 1951 the number was cut deliberately by two-thirds, and since then observance of them has been good. This shows that too many zebra crossings actually endanger safety. It is this fact which has made my right hon. Friend the Minister examine most carefully all sites proposed for zebra crossings to make sure that they are provided only where they are really justified, because if they are provided where they are not really justified they tend to devalue the currency—the value of them.

That completes the picture of measures at present operating to help pedestrians, but, as the House knows, we are not stopping there. Other possibilities are under examination. There is the panda experiment. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West for the facts which he produced and his personal interest in the matter. The results of the panda experiments which were carried out on 50 sites in the United Kingdom are being analysed now, and the conclusions of this analysis will be reported to my right hon. Friend later in the summer. I must decline the invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West. I do not want to say anything now in advance that might prejudice the decision about them. It is much better to wait until the experiment has been fully analysed.

I can, however, say something to my hon. Friend which he may be pleased to know. That is, that we hope to start a new experiment to help pedestrians before the end of the year. This will necessitate the regulation of both motorists and pedestrians in the interests of safety. On three busy shopping streets in London, crossing places with traffic lights will be provided about every ND yards. The traffic lights will ensure complete safety, but pedestrians will be required to cross only at the established crossing place and only when the pedestrian signal is in their favour. This, however, is clearly a system that is workable only where there is the heaviest flow of both traffic and pedestrians and I do not regard it as suitable for areas such as those to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate referred.

So much for the general picture. I turn now to some of the particular problems raised by my right hon. Friend concerning his constituency and I will try to answer them. I have not weighed the minutes in the Department, but I am sure that they are at least as heavy as the papers which my right hon. Friend has. His main concern, as he explained persuasively, is with the difficulties in crossing the High Street in Godstone. My right hon. Friend has been in fairly constant touch with the Department on this problem and, as a result, traffic conditions have been thoroughly investigated, both by our traffic engineers and by the highway authority, which is the Surrey County Council.

I agree that there is a lot of traffic on the A.22 in the High Street, especially where it also carries traffic from the A.25. It may well be, as my right hon. Friend suggested, that the long-term solution for Godstone lies in a by-pass, but, for the reasons which I have explained earlier, any such solution must inevitably be some way ahead. I am sure that if my right hon. Friend adds up the number of all the villages which are in much the same position as his own, he will agree to that.

Neither a subway nor a footbridge is a practical solution, nor, indeed, do the numbers of pedestrians wishing to cross the High Street justify either of these measures. The county engineer has, however, been looking into other possible solutions. One of these is the widening of A.22 near the "Old Surrey Hounds" public house to accommodate a central refuge. Another possibility is a realignment of the A.25 on the Western side of A.22 so that it crosses straight over the A.22. This would Dot exactly be a by-pass, but it would take a great deal of the traffic off the A.22. Because of its cost, however, even this, if practicable, is bound to be a fairly long-term project. So much for the physical methods of helping Godstone.

I turn now to the organisational methods. As my right hon. Friend knows, we are introducing one-way working on Godstone Green when the road has been widened. I understand that the county council expects to start work on this next week. The one-way system will, we believe, mean that there will be less traffic on this part of the High Street and this should make things easier for pedestrians. At least, we can see what happens after the one-way working starts to operate.

I am sorry to say that I do not think that pedestrian-operated signals would be suitable in the High Street. As my right hon. Friend has said, the Chief Constable of Surrey favours this solution, but in our view there is too much vehicular traffic and too little pedestrian traffic for this form of crossing. In spite of this difference of opinion on the matter, however, both the police and our engineers agree on one thing, and that is that a zebra crossing should not be provided.

The results of a pedestrian census taken last September showed that the number of people wishing to cross the High Street is not sufficient to keep a pedestrian crossing in regular use throughout the day. Counts were taken at what we regarded as the most popular crossing points. If my right hon. Friend suggests that this was unofficial—which I cannot understand, since it was carried out by the Surrey County Council—f would be quite willing to arrange for a similar inquiry to be carried out again to make certain that our figures are accurate.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

I am grateful for that suggestion from my hon. Friend. The point is that, to be relevant, the census must be taken over a week.

Mr. Galbraith

The census is normally done on single days, but I will look into my right hon. Friend's suggestion. I cannot bind myself any more than that.

The census was carried out in September. It is curious how, whenever a census is taken and produces the wrong answer, it is said to have been done at the wrong time. Near the "Old Surrey Hounds" public house, the maximum number of pedestrians crossing the road was 94 per hour, and at Salisbury Road 24 per hour. At other times of the day the numbers were considerably less, reducing to a minimum of 23 at the "Old Surrey Hounds" and five at Salisbury Road. This was in the middle of the day.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who has been very fair in this matter, will agree that those are fairly low figures. They indicate that a pedestrian crossing at this site would be used only very little; and although little-used crossings might bring benefit to a few pedestrians locally they are bound ultimately to reduce the safety value of better-used crossings elsewhere. in the same way as they did before 1951. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister has to be so strict before authorising zebra crossings.

Indeed, even when there are a good many more pedestrians than there are in Godstone, my right hon. Friend has had to refuse permission—for example, in the High Road at Chadwell Heath. where in peak periods 250 people an hour cross the road, with an average of 122 per hour during the day. This is a busy road with traffic volumes of about 1,500 vehicles per hour. But, even so, my right hon. Friend was not able to agree to a pedestrian crossing being provided. I hope that it may be some consolation to the constituents of my right hon. Friend to learn that they have not been singled out for particularly harsh treatment and that other towns are in a worse position than Godstone.

We have not yet completed our examination of the results of the panda experiment, to which both my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West referred. All I can say at this stage, therefore. is that I will undertake to consider the possibility of, perhaps, introducing one later, but I certainly cannot give any sort of promise or undertaking.

My right hon. Friend spoke also about South Godstone. The county council is widening the road here and it intends to provide a central refuge at the northern end of the village. If the speed limit is being exceeded, this, it seems to me, is really a matter for enforcement by the police, not something for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

In passing, my right hon. Friend mentioned Bletchingley. Perhaps I should say a few words about this. The question is: what should be done with the A.25 here? At present, the county council is considering improving the road. Originally, the council proposed to make it a three-lane carriageway, but it is now having second thoughts. The key question really is: what effect will the South Orbital Road have when it is built? I emphasise the word "when" because, as my right hon. Friend knows, this is still in the planning stage.

Also, even if it were built tomorrow, this would not of itself turn the A.25 into a pleasant country road. I do not think that the road could be left as it is. Whatever happened to the South Orbital Road, it would have to be improved. The only question is to what standard, and this is a question which the Surrey County Council as highway authority and the Ministry of Transport are trying to determine together.

I emphasise the word "together", because my right hon. Friend made the very interesting suggestion that the Department should play a rather more active part in helping to solve local road problems. I was interested in this, because the line usually taken is that local people know best and that, if anything, the Minister interferes too much. Indeed, I thought that, at an earlier stage in his speech, my right hon. Friend was suggesting that we were not, perhaps, paying sufficient attention to local matters.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

I am sorry if my words were not quite clear. I was speaking of two different things. There are the trunk roads and there is the A.25, which is a classified road. I realise that the county council is the town planning authority and the highway authority in this connection, and I certainly did not wish to give any impression to the contrary.

Mr. Galbraith

Yes. Perhaps I began by misunderstanding my right hon. Friend, but I think that I got on the same wavelength later on. I shall certainly consider what he has said, but we must be careful to preserve the proper relationship between central and local government, ensuring that the gentleman from Whitehall does not interfere too much.

As it is, the Minister's divisional road engineers, who are his eyes and ears, have a close, harmonious and, I believe, fruitful relationship with their counterparts in the local authorities. I believe that the relationship is probably the right one. However, as I have said, I shall consider carefully what my right hon. Friend has said and discuss it with the Minister of Transport.

I think that I have covered most of the points raised by my right hon. Friend and my two hon. Friends. I hope that this short review of the principles which guide the Minister of Transport and of their interpretation in regard to the two particular roads in my right hon. Friend's constituency of Reigate will show the House that we in the Department are by no means complacent and that, all the time, we strive to find new solutions which will secure greater safety for the pedestrian and also steady progress along the road for the motorist.