HC Deb 13 May 1964 vol 695 cc410-2
21. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Transport what was the total spent, in the last 10 years, on new road construction, and on road repairs and improvements, respectively.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

The total amounts spent on roads in England and Wales by central and local government in the last 10 years are £550 million approximately on new construction and major improvements and £760 million approximately on maintenance and minor improvements. These totals include provisional figures for 1963–64.

Mr. Ridley

While congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend on these very impressive totals, may I ask whether he would not agree that we have tended to spend too much on repairs and not enough on new construction? Would he not agree that there are a very large number of desirable by-passes and other projects which have not got into the programme, and would he consider giving more emphasis to new road construction at the expense of maintenance and finishing off repairs?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

It is important to make the best use of the existing road system, and day-to-day repairs are, therefore, essential. Minor improvements are also good value because they bring big returns in improved traffic flow and safety for quite inexpensive schemes. Having said that, the balance is changing, because the present road programme provides during the next four years for an expenditure of about £890 million on new roads and major improvements to motorways, trunk roads and classified roads and about £470 million on maintenance and minor improvements.

Mr. Fernyhough

As to the £550 million spent on new road construction, could the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us how much of that represented the cost of land and what it worked out at per acre?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

No, Sir; I cannot answer that question without notice. As to the cost of the land, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that in rural districts at any rate it is a very small fraction of the total cost of the road. It is not until one approaches a city centre that the acquisition of the land and properties which may have to be demolished begins to approach the same order as the cost of the construction.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Although the £550 million for new roads is an impressive figure, is it not doubtful whether it is keeping pace with the increase in the number of road vehicles? Will my hon. and gallant Friend examine a leading article in The Times today suggesting that it might be necessary to look at the possibility of having toll roads—although I appreciate that he might not like the principle—as a method of getting more new roads quickly?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I thought that toll roads were rather unpopular. We are satisfied that the existing programme for roads between towns will keep pace with the forecasted rise in the number of vehicles. The real problem, as has often been said by my right hon. Friend, is the traffic inside urban districts.