HC Deb 15 April 1965 vol 710 cc1755-74

4.9 p.m.

Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

I am most grateful for the opportunity of raising the twin problems of road safety and traffic congestion and I should like to thank the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport for being present to reply to the various points of which I have given him notice.

Except at Question Time, this is the first occasion in this Parliament that these subjects have been discussed. It is particularly appropriate that we should discuss them at the beginning of an Easter holiday when, if the past is any guide, there will be, unfortunately a number of fatal accidents on our roads.

During the five days of the Easter holiday last year, 68 persons were killed on the roads. That was the lowest figure since 1957, when there were 4 million fewer vehicles. In the whole of 1964, over 7,800 people were killed, over 95,000 were seriously injured and 282,000 were slightly injured. The total number of casualties, including the slightly injured, was 8 per cent. higher than in 1963 but, as the volume of traffic is estimated to have been 11 per cent. higher, there seems to have been a slight improvement.

A great deal of effort is being devoted to the problem by the Ministry, and much valuable work is being done by the Road Research Laboratory in investigating the causes of accidents and ways to reduce them. I have just been reading the excellent book "Research on Road Traffic", recently published for the Road Research Laboratory by the Stationery Office. Although it is somewhat technical in places, it makes most encouraging reading for all who are interested in these problems, and I hope that it has a wide circulation.

One non-technical point made in the table on page 479 of this book is that the cost of road accidents in 1962 is estimated to have been no less than £175 million. That, of course, takes no account of the human suffering and bereavement which cannot be measured in money terms. I understand that the cost of traffic congestion is estimated at about £500 million a year, taking all the factors into account. Thus, apart from the appalling human tragedy, there is plenty of incentive, if incentive be needed, for the Treasury, above all, let alone the Ministry of Transport, to do something to solve these problems.

I have spoken of the twin problems of road safety and traffic congestion because, in many respects, they go hand in hand. Over the last 20 years, both at home and abroad, it has been proved that the building of motorways not only reduces traffic congestion, but cuts down accidents as compared with conditions on the roads which the motorways replace. Therefore, the more motorways we can build the better. I hope that the Government will press ahead with the programme which they inherited from the previous Government and, if possible, improve on it.

Yet there are still accidents on motorways themselves. According to an Answer given by the Minister of Transport to a Question of mine on 2nd April, during the year ended 28th February last there were 30 fatal accidents on the M.1 and its two spurs, M.10 and M.45, causing the death of 41 persons. The M.1 and the other motorways are almost perfect roads. There are no pedestrians, there are no cyclists, there is no cross-traffic, there is no danger of a head-on collision unless a car or lorry happens to cross the centre strip. There should be no accidents at all.

The only kinds of traffic which do not mix very well are slow-moving heavy lorries and fast cars. Even they can collide on a motorway only through bad driving on someone's part or, perhaps, through defects in the vehicles. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us some details of those 30 accidents on the M.1 and of any accidents which he thinks worthy of note on the M.6, if he has such details, and explain how they occurred. If any publicity can be given to them, it may, possibly, act as a deterrent to some dangerous drivers.

There are also the one-way systems, especially those introduced in various parts of Greater London in recent years. "Research on Road Traffic" shows that these systems reduce accidents by 30 per cent. In answer to another Question from me on 5th April, the Minister gave details of the effects of some of the one-way systems introduced in the London area during the past two years. All but one of those showed a reduction in total accidents compared with the period before the systems were introduced, and all but two showed reductions in accidents to pedestrians.

One of the two was in the Borough of Brent, in High Street, Harlesden. Apparently, there has there been a 75 per cent, increase in accidents to pedestrians in the first nine months. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) here; I am sure that it interests him as much as it does me. The other was at South Kensington Station, where there was a 14 per cent. increase in accidents to pedestrians and an 18 per cent. increase in total accidents.

I wonder why there should be increases at those two systems when of the other systems nine showed reductions in accidents to pedestrians, 10 showed reductions in total accidents, and the two or three others showed virtually no change. I hope that the Minister can give some reasons for these two black spots. All the systems apparently showed decreases in the journey time taken for vehicles to go round the circuits.

I hope that on the record of those systems and previous ones introduced we shall have more of them brought in, whenever it can be done without interfering too much with local amenities, not only in London but in many other places a well.

A few years ago there was greater reluctance to bring in one-way systems, certainly in London. I remember the struggle that some of us had to persuade the authorities to make Jermyn Street, Westminster, one-way, although it was clearly absurd in that narrow street to allow traffic in both directions to meet head on as it had to do when cars were parked on each side of the road. However, as a result of the perseverance of several hon. Members on both sides of the House, eventually one-way working was introduced, and it has, of course, been made permanent. There is hardly an example of a street where one-way working has been introduced where it has been abolished and the street has returned to two-way working. I believe that there is one example in Oxford.

Whoever it was in the London traffic set-up—I do not know whether it was the Ministry, the L.C.C. or the police—who used to object to one-way systems seems now to have been well and truly converted, and I hope that it will remain so.

There is also the problem of roundabouts, which, on the whole, I do not like because they take up a great deal of space and are not always easy to drive round. I always think that Hyde Park Corner is one of the most nerve-wracking places to go round anywhere in the country. However, I understand that roundabouts reduce accidents compared with traffic lights and similar junctions. A few years ago the deputy surveyor of Middlesex County Council published some facts about 12 junctions with traffic lights and 12 similar junctions with roundabouts. The balance in regard to accidents came down in favour of the roundabouts. So, obviously, we must allow roundabouts.

The "Give way to traffic on the right experiment at certain roundabouts, notably the one at the end of Lambeth Bridge not far from here, seems to have been most successful. According to "Research on Road Traffic", this system has reduced accidents by 40 per cent., and apparently it has also eliminated the locking of traffic at roundabouts which we know occurs all too often and, indeed, is probably taking place in Parliament Square at this very moment if any normal afternoon is a guide. I hope that the "Give way to traffic on the right" system can be extended eventually to all roundabout systems.

I have a word to say about street naming and numbering. I am not sure whether this is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport or the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I think it was the Ministry of Housing and Local Government which, two or three years ago, sent out circulars drawing the attention of local authorities to this problem—unfortunately, with very little result. I suggest that, even if it has no responsibility at the moment, it is high time the Ministry of Transport took some responsibility for this because road safety enters into it a great deal.

After all, if a driver who has no passenger has to take his eyes off the road to look for the name of a street, or the number of a house, or shop, he is a danger to other road users. Naturally, he has to go slowly, and so blocks the traffic behind him. The naming of streets often leaves much to be desired. It should be absolutely perfect in that there should be signs on both sides of every street at every road junction.

The best system which I have ever seen is that in West Berlin where there are posts at corners with the names of both streets. The posts are at a height from which the names can be seen very clearly. I know that that means an increase in street furniture and is perhaps undesirable from that point of view, but, whether on posts or buildings, street names should be at a level and at a place at which they can be easily seen without being obstructed, possibly by parked vehicles. The fact that some local authorities have been slow about this is clear from the result of two surveys carried out by the A.A. This showed that one-third of the local authorities originally circularised have done nothing to make an improvement in street naming in the period between the two surveys.

Street numbering is often completely non-existent, especially on new shopping estates. Where there are these glossy new facia boards which are the fashion in modern shopping districts, there is often no number at all. This is disgraceful and absolutely inexcusable and I hope that the Ministry will do something to improve this standard.

I now turn to the subject of pedestrian crossings in St. James's Park. I know that this is the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Building and Works rather than the Ministry of Transport, because this is a Royal park. I am referring to the lack of these crossings, because there are no zebra crossings with beacons in the Royal parks. I know that there have been conversations between the hon. Gentleman's Ministry and the Ministry of Public Building and Works and I hope that he has found out why there are no crossings in St. James's Park. I have always wondered. It must be 30 years now since zebra crossings were originally introduced. I cannot help thinking that someone inside the Ministry of Public Building and Works does not like zebra crossings.

The police and park keepers help at some points in St. James's Park, but outside Buckingham Palace, where, in the summer months, there are always many visitors, even on what is called Spur Road, which leads from the Victoria Memorial down to Birdcage Walk, there are no fixed crossing places. Pedestrians trying to get across Spur Road or to the Victoria Memorial to watch activities in the Palace have to dash across whenever they think that they are most likely to be able to do so. The police are there to help at the busiest times, but they cannot always be on duty there and it is particularly difficult for foreign visitors, who may not understand our traffic system. I hope that something can be done to improve facilities for pedestrians at these places.

I also informed the hon. Gentleman that I would ask about the controlled crossing experiments in Harrow Road and other places, but since doing so, I have found an Answer to a Question announcing that the experiment is to continue for a further period because of rather inconclusive results so far. I hope that the system will be extended, because something like that is needed in busy shopping areas.

Surely we have reached the point when we are entitled to expect rather more cooperation from pedestrians than we are now getting. They should not dash across the road in front of a stream of moving traffic, with the possible danger of slipping, particularly in high-heeled shoes, and being run over. Nor should they saunter across a light-controlled crossing when the lights are against them, as one often sees in many parts of London and other cities.

In West Berlin, I was once abruptly ticked off by a point-duty policeman for crossing against his signal, although there was absolutely nothing coming which was near enough for me to worry about. We know that in many other places there are penalties for infringing these regulations. Pedestrian crossing systems like that in Harrow Road with guard rails are a physical way of preventing people from doing that. One does not like inflicting penalties on people, but it might be necessary to do so in this case. I hope that the system will be brought into operation in many other places.

I wish to make four short points. On the question of traffic signals, I feel that the amber light should never show in both directions at once. I hope that this will be gradually altered all over the country. It creates danger because drivers are apt to start on the amber and red and drivers corning the other way fly across on the amber before it changes to red. I therefore hope that we shall eventually see an end of all amber phases.

I wonder what the position is about trafficators on vehicles. Is it the Ministry's intention, after a certain date, to make amber the compulsory colour? If my memory serves me right, about seven or eight years ago that was decided but never acted upon. I think that it has been shown that over the last 10 or 12 years amber is the best colour. It is certainly distinctive and I hope that eventually some regulation will be brought in to enforce that.

I hope that the box junction experiment has now ceased to be an experiment. It has been most successful in all the places where it has been introduced. I hope that it will be a permanent feature of busy crossroads all over the country. Two busy intersections divide the two parts of the new Borough of Brent. One is the junction of the North Circular Road with Harrow Road and the other the junction of the North Circular Road with Neasden Lane. I should like to ask when they will be improved. I know that there is an interim improvement scheme for the Harrow Road junction and a more permanent underpass scheme for Neasden Lane. At peak hours both junctions are very congested, specially with traffic from Wembley and further afield coming into the centre of the city, and, of course, going out again in the evening.

The long-term scheme for the underpass at Neasden has, to my mind, one appalling disadvantage. It means the removal of about 100 houses. I only wish that something less expensive in housing could be devised. I am wondering whether this is the Ministry's final word on this problem, because in the Brent area we are very short of housing.

On driving standards in general, I believe that they can best be improved with the help of the police in patrolling roads and by the very presence of the police acting as a deterrent to many careless drivers and by prosecution in the case of the flagrant examples of bad driving. I understand that the Americans have found that, as a result of introducing teenage driving instruction in schools and certain American States, there has been a reduction of 40 per cent. in the accident rate of drivers between 18 and 21.

I wonder whether the Minister has any information about accident proneness of young drivers in this country. My impression is that many drivers who ignore speed limits, or who are obviously driving too fast for the conditions, are youngsters in that age group, sometimes perhaps just showing off. There is a saying—of American origin, I think—that the greatest menaces on the road are those under 21 driving at over 65 and those over 65 driving at under 21. I do not know about the latter point, but I hope that the Ministry will take into account the American experience to see whether there is any possibility of imitating it over here.

It is only by methods such as these that we can hope to reduce the appalling toll of the road from which we all suffer and which we would all like to see greatly reduced.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) for choosing this subject for debate on the eve of a bank holiday. We were told this morning in, I think, every local national newspaper that a record Easter is expected and that all previous bank holiday records for traffic on the roads are likely to be broken. It is expected by the Automobile Association that 10 million vehicles will be on the road at the holiday peak and that 30 million people will he on the move throughout the country. Already, the normal procedure of a bank holiday is under way.

There is certainly nothing very holy about a system which will give us the casualty figures which we know we can expect on the radio and television and in the Press by Tuesday showing that a vast number of people have been killed or injured in road accidents. I hope that somewhere along the line, people will stop talking about road accidents and will refer to them as road incidents or crimes, caused in the main by impatience, incompetence and unselfishness.

As the hon. Member for Wembley, South has said, pedestrians must bear a fair share of the blame. We all know about jay walkers. What frightens me to death many times at a busy road junction is the mother with a pram who starts to cross the road and then looks to the left and to the right to see whether any traffic is coming. It is not entirely the fault of the motorist.

Our present system of national bank holidays carries some of the responsibility. We incite murder and mayhem by the way we go about it. I wonder whether discussion could take place between local and national organisations about ways of avoiding everyone taking their holidays at the some date. We might take the example of Lancashire and the cotton towns, where our national wakes weeks are staggered. Surely it would be possible to devise a system by which annual bank holidays were staggered. In Lancashire again, bank holidays vary from town to town. Some take Whit Monday and others Trinity Monday. When some take August bank holiday, others take the September weekend. I wonder whether this arrangement could be taken up by people elsewhere.

I should like to make a point about the work of local road safety committees. Until 1960, a local authority of which I have details received a 50 per cent. grant towards the cost of the work of a local road safety committee. Voluntary work can do tremendous good by bringing down the national figures, which sometimes can be so large that they have no particular bearing to what happens in one's own locality. Since 1960, however, the grant which the local authority received for this work through either the general grant or the rate deficiency grant has been only 40 per cent. Ten per cent. may not be very much when a small amount of money is involved, but it is important to a local authority. If there is a way in which extra money could be made available to local authorities for this work, it would be money well spent.

I should like to say a word on driving tests. I am grateful for the trouble which my hon. Friend the Minister has taken to give me detailed information in reply to some Questions which I asked on 2nd April. In reply to my Question asking how many driving tests had been taken in the past 10 or 11 years, the figures were extremely illuminating. In 1955, the total was roughly 1 million; in 1960, 1½ million; and in 1964, almost 2 million. This is a remarkable increase over the last ten years. At the same time, the figures show that the keenness or the severity of the driving test is being gradually increased. In 1955, the percentage of passes was 54; in 1960, 51; and in 1964, 48. There is at least a certain severity and restriction here.

The figures given by my right hon. Friend the Minister indicate that it is easier to pass a driving test in some parts of the country than others. My right hon. Friend gave me figures for a wide range of testing stations. In certain industrial areas the average for a pass at the first or second attempt is 47 or 48 per cent.; there is no real difference between those areas.

I find it hard to understand why the testing place in Salisbury should average 52 per cent. of passes. One has a 50–50 chance of passing, but in Lincoln only one in three has a chance of passing the driving test. The Autocar of 9th April asks whether consideration should be given to a standard national test. Ideally one would require disused aerodromes and other large open spaces where drivers were kept apart from the traffic. There could then be an identical test for every part of the country. I hope that some consideration will be given to that point.

In answer to another question, the Minister of Transport said that techniques for future developments in regard to the test were being considered. I ask him to bear in mind two points. The hon. Gentleman referred to direction indicators. It seems strange that when one takes a driving test in a fairly modern car, even one 10 years old, which has direction indicators, one is not allowed to use them, but has to go through the town flapping like an albatross, yet, as soon as one has passed the test, one forgets about flapping and uses the direction indicators. We should allow drivers taking a test to use equipment which, after all, is sanctioned by the Minister of Transport.

Part of the test should be to drive between two points, perhaps five miles apart, to test the driver's anticipation of road conditions and traffic. If he is asked to drive for 100 yards, and does not know whether to turn left, or to turn right, it is hardly a fair test. Indeed, when I took my test on a motor cycle I was asked to drive along a little street. to turn left, to turn right, to turn the other side, and back again, and I failed because I lost the examiner. It all be-became so complicated that I did not know where to turn. I am sure that if a driver was asked to drive, say, five miles from one point to another, whatever the traffic conditions, it would be accepted as fair.

Those are only partial remedies for dealing with a big problem. We want better roads and better cars. The car is a lethal weapon. We in this House should encourage the proper use of cars, and impose the severest penalties on those who misuse them.

4.37 p.m.

Mr. Clive Bossom (Leominster)

I shall probably have to break all speed limits because other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

Whenever one talks of road safety, one is reminded of the old and simple rule of the three Es—education, enforcement and engineering, which are all more applicable today than ever before. First, education. We must not let up on improving driving tuition. Education has been mentioned in schools, especially for teenagers on leaving. This must be improved. Another need is the re-education of the elderly. This should be looked into as a long-term policy.

Enforcement is badly needed. The only way in which we can achieve road safety and road discipline is continually to patrol roads. London has created a Central Traffic Division. Every county should follow suit and have a special mobile section of courtesy cops, or whatever one likes to call them.

Lane discipline does not begin to be understood in this country compared with Europe and America. It must be rigidly enforced. I should like to see a fine of l0s. or more imposed on drivers who disregard the white line.

Speed limits must be reviewed. Many must be made more reasonable and more realistic, and then they must be enforced by traffic police. Speed limits on motorways may one day have to be introduced, especially for commercial vehicles and even motor cycles. In the meantime, for safety, commercial vehicles should be banned from going on the "overtaking lane" or call it the "third lane" on motorways

Better lighting of highways is essential. If the Government want to reduce fatal accidents by 50 per cent. at night, they must give local authorities higher grants. I want to see more holiday makers drive at night. Better and more lighting on trunk roads, other roads and danger spots will encourage them to do so. Highway engineers must site many more bus lay-bys, and there must be a better siting of double white lines.

I make a plea that we should not construct any more three-lane roads; they are murder. I ask the Minister whether there are any of these roads in the pipeline, in the classified schemes. I hope not. There is another matter concerning motorways to which I want to refer. We need more research into making a combined crash barrier and anti-dazzle screen. I like the idea of the fishnet which will absorb motor cars and stop them bouncing back.

Reflectorised edge lining is still not universally accepted for use in fog. In my opinion red cat's eyes should be placed on the central lane reservations as a warning to drivers, with alternate white and amber ones at road junctions. A recent survey by the Automobile Association has shown that 38 per cent. of vehicles checked had lighting defects. I hope that we shall look into new standards, new designs and new degrees of brightness for rear lights, especially for commercial vehicles. In America large trucks have lights festooned all over them, but I would like to see lights on the top corners of the loads of every commercial vehicle. We must do more about the braking standards of commercial vehicles. As soon as possible we should make vehicle testing schemes compulsory for commercial vehicles.

Industry, with the help of the Government, must soon devise an anti-pollution device for all exhausts. Smoking exhausts help to cause accidents, because people in desperation try to pass trucks which are belching forth black and evil-smelling fumes.

I want to give a word of praise and thanks to the R.A.C. and A.A. organisations for the way in which they help road safety with their patrols and their signs, and the propaganda that they send to their members—I also praise the Red Cross and St. John organisation for the way in which it mans its first-aid posts and, finally, I have a word of praise for Sir William Glanville, the retiring Director of the Road Research Laboratory, who has done so much for road safety.

4.42 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

I am sorry to intervene at this point, but this subject has attracted the interest of many hon. Members. I am pleased that that is so, but since we lost a little time at the beginning of the debate, and because of the multiplicity of topics raised—of which I have received due notice from the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell)—I have a considerable amount to say.

That is one reason for haste. Another, which may be shared by all of us, is the fact that we look forward to a brief respite from our labours. That feeling may not be shared by all hon. Members, but it is a point which must be taken into account.

As far as I can I want to take seriatim the points of which the hon. Member gave me notice. During the course of my remarks I shall refer to some of the other points which have been raised by hon. Members who have intervened. I say now, however, that if I fail to cover any of their points those points will be noted in my Department and all hon. Members will receive replies in due course.

Fortunately, in spite of the fact that there are not so many full-dress debates on the subject of transport there are many opportunities in Adjournment debates for discussing transport matters. We are to have four out of the five Adjournment debates in the week when we return after Easter. Other hon. Members may have a chance to intervene then.

One of the main themes of the speech of the hon. Member for Wembley, South was that of accidents—a subject which continues to present an appalling problem.

I am glad that so many Members are concerned to probe both the causes and possible cures of accidents. I hope that I can give adequate answers to several of the points made by the hon. Member. He referred to the work of the Road Research Laboratory. We are very pleased to have that Laboratory to assist us in the Ministry.

I turn, first, to the question of motorway accidents. The Road Research Laboratory has shown that the number of personal injury accidents per million vehicle miles travelled, for example, on the M.1, is lower than the number on any all-purpose road of comparable traffic density in Britain. During the first 12 months after the opening of the M.1 the number of casualties on the roads in the nine counties which surround it fell by 1,397. During that period there were 411 casualties on the M.1, which meant a net reduction in the number of casualties, in the first period after the opening of the motorway, of 986. It seems, however, that on roads of a traffic density comparable to a motorway like the M.1 there is hardly any difference in the rate of fatal accidents to drivers.

To give the figures for which the hon. Member asked, in 1964 there were 1,630 casualties on all motorways in Britain arising from 955 accidents. On the M.6, there were 230 personal injury accidents and, unfortunately, 24 of them were fatal. We find that there is no one predominating cause for these accidents. This is one of the great difficulties in tackling the problem. About 11 per cent. of accidents occurred while a vehicle was overtaking and in 26 of the cases which I have mentioned a goods vehicle was overtaking.

When one compares this with other roads it shows no great differentiation between motorways and other roads with a comparable density. I am afraid, therefore, we have to say that we have no really reliable evidence to show who or what was responsible for the majority of these accidents. Nor can we say how many of them were due to excessive speed. Obviously, in very many cases speed was a contributory cause.

Hon. Members will know that the Highway Code and my Department's special leaflet, entitled "Motorway Manners", emphasises the need for all drivers to check very carefully before overtaking that the lane it is proposed to join is clear for a long distance behind and to signal well in advance. We are aware of the importance of lane discipline. I must emphasise that, comparatively, the motorways are proven to be sale roads. They could, of course, be made safer still if all drivers ensured that their vehicles were in good condition and if they drove within the capabilities of themselves and their vehicles. It is, I think, within the experience of all hon. Members that it is quite possible to drive at a high average speed without indulging in excess. On the whole, experience has been that the motorways have safety standards built into them, but in the last resort it is the drivers who determine how safe the roads will be.

The point was raised regarding particular categories of drivers and their responsibility for accidents, and the hon. Gentleman referred particularly to teenagers and youths. I have studied the figures and I cannot give an answer which is by any means conclusive. The Road Research Laboratory has done work which tends to show—I put it no higher—that misjudging clearance or speed is more prevalent in the lowest and the highest age groups of drivers, but it is a tentative conclusion. The figures show that in 1963 drivers under 20 were involved in about one-thirteenth of accidents causing fatal or serious injury. I leave it to hon. Members to draw their own conclusions.

The hon. Gentleman and others raised a number of short points on the subject of safety measures. Perhaps I can deal with these rapidly. First of all, the question of trafficators and their colour. It has already been decided that direction indicators on vehicles first registered in this country on or after 1st September this year must be amber in colour. The Regulations were made in 1963 in order to give effect to this and bring it into force this year. The most modern vehicles, therefore, are already being fitted, in accordance with these regulations, with amber indicators. Incidentally, we are following a recommendation from the Inland Transport Committee of the Economic Commission for Europe. As soon as we have gained experience of the new type of indicator, standardised and in general use, we shall consider, as I said in reply to a Question earlier, making this compulsory for all vehicles on the road.

The hon. Member raised another question in relation to the colour amber, the amber phase at traffic signals. The only traffic signal controllers which allow red and amber on one road and amber on another to appear concurrently for as long as three seconds were installed before 1955. The more recent type of traffic controller reduces this concurrence to one second and provides a minimum separation of two seconds between the end of the green on one approach and the start of the red and amber on the other. It therefore reduces the risk of drivers missing the red and amber signals and at many awkward sites cuts down the delay and frustration, with the attendant risk of accidents. There is some possibility of danger in the concurrent amber signals in the older type of equipment, but we have to face the fact that it would be a very considerable cost immediately and in a wholesale fashion to replace these old signals, but in due course this is something which will come about.

The hon. Member also referred to street naming, and numbering, something which has no doubt bothered many hon. Members. I certainly agree entirely with him that there is room for improvement here. He stated the position. My Department has some responsibility and in January, 1963, sent a circular to all local authorities, which recommended standards in the design and use of name plates. These were subsequently endorsed by the Worboys Committee on Traffic Signs. We are now considering whether the deficiencies should again be drawn to the attention of the local authority associations. The hon. Gentleman quoted certain figures from a survey by the A.A., showing that there were some deficiencies. We shall certainly take into account the representations which have been made by the hon. Member and others in this respect.

Reference was made to the question of giving way at roundabouts. The hon. Gentleman will know that on 10th March, in answer to a Question from the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Dudley Smith), my right hon. Friend said that we should have to await the results of the current experiment before taking a decision. We think that a year is needed to assess the results of this experiment with the "Give Way" signal. It will be June of this year before the controls on the 80 selected roundabouts have been in operation for this period. We shall then consider whether to adopt the give-way rule generally.

I come, very swiftly, to the London issues. First, pedestrians in and around St. James's Park. We have no responsibility directly in this matter. Our only locus is that we advise the Minister of Public Building and Works when approached by his Department. Already, as a result of our advice, a manned crossing is in operation at peak hours on most week days by the Duke of York's Steps. We have recently been approached again by my right hon. Friend and we are arranging censuses at certain points. We shall look specifically at the position outside Buckingham Palace. There has been a very strong view about amenity and its possible destruction by the introduction of crossings. We shall look at this matter very carefully and we hope to be able to give advice to the responsible Department in about four or five weeks' time.

The box junction experiment has recently been extended to a further 15 intersections in London. So far, it seems that delays, particularly on the side roads, have been reduced by the boxes, especially at the busier junctions. But we need to assess results properly before we can give advice to other local authorities about this type of traffic management measure. The Greater London Council, now the traffic authority for London, will be reviewing the experiment, and we can then decide what to say to other traffic authorities outside London. It may well be that we shall come to the same conclusion as the hon. Member.

I was asked about controlled crossings in other places. We have not yet decided whether to extend the experimental "matchstick men" crossings in Harrow Road, Green Lanes and Ealing. As my right hon. Friend said on 25th March, the results so far do not point to any firm conclusion about the value of the experiment. Public reaction on the whole has been favourable. The principle of a secure crossing for pedestrians seems to have been welcome.

We welcome my hon. Friend's remarks, which emphasise the need for self-discipline on the part of pedestrians as well as the provision of safety measures for them. On the other hand, vehicle journey speeds through the controlled streets have dropped on average by about 23 per cent. In consultation with the G.L.C. and the local authorities, we are considering possible modifications aimed at reducing traffic delays, and it would be for the G.L.C. to introduce any such modifications.

I was asked about accidents on London roundabout systems. All the personal injury accidents during the first six months of the Harlesden experiment and during a comparable period of the previous year involved only slight injury. My hon. Friend mentioned a 75 per cent. increase. In fact, at Harlesden before the experiment there were 15 accidents, four of them involving pedestrians, afterwards there were 14, seven of them involving pedestrians. It is, therefore, true that the increase in pedestrian accidents was 75 per cent. But this figure can be very misleading, in view of the very small numbers involved.

The accidents in the period before the scheme were concentrated at the three signalled junctions and those after the scheme started were very scattered. The accident position here runs counter to our usual experience, and there is no fundamental reason why the later figures should not show an improvement. We certainly hope that they will.

I must refer rapidly to the important question of the North Circular Road and its junctions with Neasden Lane and Harrow Road. Improvements to these two junctions have to be looked at in relation to our plans for the comprehensive improvement of the North Circular. We intend eventually to provide dual three-lane carriageways all along this road, with limited access and grade separation at major junctions. Neasden Lane is a particularly urgent problem. Piecemeal improvement is not enough. We want to find a radical solution and we have made provision for that in the current trunk road programme. But the difficulties will be apparent when I say that 11 different proposals for this junction have been examined since 1962 and most of them have proved completely inadequate.

The most promising scheme—mentioned by my hon. Friend—would involve a half-mile diversion of Neasden Lane, passing under the North Circular, with provision for pedestrians by subway, but this would involve the demolition of about 100 houses and would cost over £1¼ million. My hon. Friend will understand from this why we are still discussing the whole question and have not yet been able to publish any proposals. We hope to be able to do so soon.

At the Harrow Road, we feel that there is scope for improvement. Work has already started on a traffic management scheme to come into operation in July or August of this year. This will give consi0020derable relief. We hope in 1967–68 to be able to start major improvements by widening Harrow Road to provide a spacious junction controlled by lights. When these measures are complete we expect to be able to provide for a 50 per cent. increase in capacity at this junction.

Finally, may I quickly say a word about Easter accidents. The hon. Member mentioned the figures for last year. I hope that all drivers will take the utmost care on the roads this Easter because we are very worried about the accident figures. The Department will issue the provisional figures for deaths on the road day by day. My hope is that those who are on duty for this job will have an easy task.

It being Five o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, till Monday, 26th April, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of 13th April.