HC Deb 06 November 1973 vol 863 cc955-64

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)

I am grateful for this opportunity to raise a matter that is of increasing concern to my constituents. I refer to what is to happen to Chiswick when it is hit by the tidal wave of traffic from the new extension of the M3 motorway from Lightwater to Sunbury Cross due to open next spring. The great fear in Chiswick is that the A316-Burlington Lane and the Great Chertsey Road—will virtually become a motorway as so-called improvements are carried out during the next few years to accommodate the flow of traffic to and from the M3.

The subject of motorways has been the dominating issue in Chiswick in recent years. The case against Chiswick being ruined by motorways was effectively put to the panel of inquiry into the Greater London Development Plan by such groups as the Chiswick Motorways Liaison Committee, the Grove Park Group and Chiswick House Area Residents' Association. The aguments that they and others put forward were accepted by the Layfield Panel. The panel recommended that the southern section of Ringway 2 should be struck out of the plan, and on page 430 of its report the panel said: We cannot, however, endorse the Plan's proposals to carry the M3 on by means of the A305 and A316 to a junction with the M4 The evidence shows that this continuation would cause quite unacceptable environmental problems in the Chiswick areas which already receive a very heavy load of traffic. The introduction of yet another primary principal road into an area which is already severely affected by the M4/A4 and the North Circular Road would be insupportable. Those views of the Layfield Panel were accepted in turn by the Secretary of State for the Environment in the statement which he made shortly afterwards, but we now find that there still remains a great threat to Chiswick from the M3.

The subject of the M3 extension was raised in the House by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel)—who I am glad to see sitting in his place tonight—on 25th July. He was primarly concerned with the situation that would result in Twickenham rather than the situation that would result in Chiswick. In his reply to that debate the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment said: The traffic flow on the A316 in 1971 was 22,000 vehicles per 16-hour day. Our assessment of the maximum likely flow when the M3 has been opened is 37,000 vehicles per 16-hour day. The traffic management measures to which I have referred should reduce this volume, but to an extent which cannot yet be estimated. Completion of the A305 stage 2 improvement would increase the A316 flow to 45,000 vehicles per 16-hour day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July 1973; Vol. 860, c. 1703.] Frankly, those figures which the hon. Gentleman quoted on that occasion have been viewed with scepticism in Chiswick. The traffic capacity of the M3 and A305 is far higher and the A316 is the route that most traffic will take between central London and the M3. Even the British Road Federation, in a statement which it put out in connection with this debate tonight, concedes that The increased traffic resulting from M3 will intensify the use of rat runs and traffic management measures, such as one-way streets, prohibitions and blocking off street ends, to control this unsuitable use of roads and streets, may have to be considered. Then there is the additional factor that huge traffic jams will build up from the increased flow of traffic at Hogarth roundabout in Chiswick. At the moment there is a single-lane temporary flyover taking traffic from the A316 on to the A4 towards central London. The balance of traffic at Hogarth roundabout is very fine at present. The Chiswick Motorways Liaison Committee estimates that even as few as another 100 cars an hour could cause serious delays both for traffic using the flyover and for traffic circulating at ground level.

The problems that Chiswick faces from this M3 extension are different from those which Twickenham faces. The hon. Member for Twickenham in his debate was most concerned that the so-called improvements to the roundabouts on the A316, which the Greater London Council is planning, should go ahead as quickly as possible. I understand that these improvements would involve reducing the diameter of the roundabouts to make traffic flow more easily and speedily through that route. But the more the traffic is speeded up through Twickenham, inevitably the worse the situation will be in Chiswick at the Hogarth roundabout. To that extent there is an inevitable conflict of interest between Chiswick and Twickenham residents, but it is most important that both sets of objections from both areas should be met.

I believe that the Department of the Environment and the Greater London Council are taking too relaxed a view of the situation that will result in Chiswick when the M3 extension opens. The effects of this tidal wave of traffic can only be curbed if the Department of the Environment and the GLC between them embark on a drastic programme of traffic management.

In my view, the following measures are necessary. First, the tapering of the M3 from three lanes to two lanes at Sunbury Cross should be made a permanent and not a temporary feature, as the Under-Secretary has stated it should be at the moment.

Second, it is essential that the roundabouts on the A316 should be improved only if at the same time linked traffic lights are introduced along the A316 between Twickenham and Chiswick to control the increased flow of traffic and stop it building up at the Hogarth roundabout.

Third, it is important that the A316 should not be designated as a heavy goods vehicle route. Heavy goods vehicles bound for central London should come off the M3 at Lightwater and use the A30 and the A4, and similarly in the other direction going from central London to the M3.

Fourth, Burlington Lane should not be made into a clearway. There is great alarm in that part of Chiswick at the moment at the proposal that it should be made into a clearway, of which the GLC recently gave notice in local newspapers. If it is made into a clearway it will become virtually a motorway. There will be an increased flow of traffic as a result of its being made into a clearway and this would make the traffic jams at the Hogarth roundabout even worse.

The parking of cars on one side of Burlington Lane where the houses are opposite Chiswick House grounds provides some sort of protection barrier to the people living there, and those houses are very close to the road. Therefore, I urge the GLC to drop that proposal for Burlington Lane.

Of the points I have mentioned, some are for the Department of the Environment, some are for the GLC, and others are for both of them. I hope that what I have said will be studied very carefully by all concerned with the decisions that have to be taken.

The damage to Chiswick that would follow from a Y-junction of two primary roads coming into being at the Hogarth roundabout—damage that was fully understood by the Layfield panel of inquiry and accepted by the Government as well—is a matter that the people of Chiswick are not prepared to sit back and see happen just because the Department of the Environment and the GLC fail to introduce sufficiently effective schemes of traffic management.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

I am grateful for the opportunity to say something on this matter. The hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes) felt that improvements to the roundabouts along the Great Chertsey Road in the Twickenham stretch should be contingent on being accompanied by traffic lights. One can appreciate his concern about the effects of this traffic on Chiswick, with which we in Twickenham sympathise, but I would ask him equally to sympathise with our problems. I cannot see the reason for his contention, whatever the merits of traffic lights. Twickenham people would be placed at a serious disadvantage if the roundabouts were improved, regardless of whether or not they were accompanied by traffic lights.

If the motorway traffic comes in and the roundabouts are not enlarged to cope with it, there will be serious traffic jams, the motorway traffic will not be able to get through and it will be likely to spill over into residential side roads in order to avoid those jams.

Mr. Barnes

But cannot the hon. Gentleman also see that, if there is not some system of control of the flow of that traffic, once the roundabouts have been improved there will be very serious jams and pile-ups at the Hogarth roundabout because of the single-lane temporary flyover which exists there at the moment?

Mr. Jessel

I accept that, but I suggest that the control of the flow of traffic should be at the exit from the motorway. The hon. Member has already spoken of the tapering of the exit from the motorway, which has been agreed, from three lanes to two. I see no compelling reason why this should not be reduced to one lane if it were found that two lanes led to impossible traffic congestion.

It is right to use the exit of the motorway to control the traffic and ensure that the flow is not colossal further in towards the centre of London, so causing major traffic jams in my constituency, which will tend not only to cause the motorway traffic to spill over into residential side roads but to make local journeys difficult for local drivers. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will bear these points in mind.

11.3 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Keith Speed)

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes) on his success in gaining time for tonight's debate. I welcome the opportunity to emphasise, as I have done before, how conscious we are in the Department of the need to smooth the flow of traffic from the M3 into London. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) for joining in this debate and re-emphasising some of the important points which he raised in the debate he initiated in July.

My hon. Friend made it clear on that occasion that a great deal had already been done and planned for the time that the M3 opened as far as Sunbury, but the subject of tonight's debate is of special interest not only to the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick and my hon. Friend but to other hon. Members for neighbouring constituencies. I hope that I can give all concerned some further reassurance. My hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) has been in correspondence and conversation with me on more than one occasion to let me know the very strong feeling which exists among those living near the A316. He tells me that an increased flow of traffic would be much resented by the local community, and he left me in no doubt about this and their deep-rooted feelings about this matter. I appreciate that very much.

The Greater London Council, of course, is the highway authority for both the A316 and the A305. I know that hon. Members will understand if I have to say that this area is a matter for the council. Local govenment being what it is, it would not be right for me to try to tell it what to do with its roads. But I can assure the hon. Members that the suggestions made tonight, like those which my hon. Friend made in July, will be drawn to the attention of the GLC.

The extension of the M3 to Sunbury is due for completion next May. At the same time the GLC is expected to complete improvements to nearly two miles of the A305 which links the M3 with the A316 at the Hope and Anchor roundabout. The A305 will initially be to dual two-lane standard, becoming probably in the autumn of 1975, a dual three-lane all-purpose road.

The GLC appreciated the possible effect on the A316 and on routes crossing it. The council accordingly asked that the preparation list of metropolitan road schemes be adjusted to include schemes to improve the A316 roundabout junctions where congestion occurs at peak times and to provide improved facilities for pedestrians crossing the route.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will consider these schemes for grant, and I understand that the GLC is considering the proposals with the London boroughs affected. As far as the Department of the Environment is concerned, in these schemes there will be no unnecessary delays. The adjusted preparation list was publicly announced of 18th September. The GLC intends to complete the schemes as quickly as it can.

Other traffic management schemes are being implemented before the M3 extension is opened. Their purpose is to reduce the impact of the additional traffic. The measures were the result of recommendations made earlier this year by a working party consisting of representatives of my Department, the GLC, Surrey County Council, the London borough of Hounslow and Staines Urban District Council. Among such measures are the improvement of the roundabout at Feltham Hill Road and the provision of direction signs on the M3 to encourage North London, Heathrow and M1 traffic to use the A30.

Additionally, as the hon. Member and my hon. Friend mentioned, the proposed tapering of the M3 from three lanes to two lanes west of Sunbury Cross will continue only as long as necessary. My hon. Friend even asked me to consider tapering to one lane. I cannot give such assurances tonight. However, the whole situation at the end of the M3 will be examined on the completion of each stage of the A305 and A316 roadworks. I cannot go further than that now.

As to the possibility of the A316 becoming a motorway, the report of the panel of inquiry into the Greater London Development Plan, under the chairmanship of Mr. Frank Layfield, QC, was published earlier this year. In it the panel proposed that a new major route be provided to relieve the northern end of the A316. This route would remain south of the river and join the A3. My right hon. and learned Friend is considering the plan and the panel's proposals. Meanwhile, the A316 will continue to be the most likely route from the M3 for traffic travelling to or from central London.

My right hon. and learned Friend has no plan to upgrade the A316 to motorway standards. I have given that assurance before. Any such suggestion could come only from the GLC, whose responsibility the road is. I am not aware of any such proposal from the GLC. My Department has no such proposal; it is not even for us to propose. In fact, I understand that the present council is proposing to eliminate urban motorways from its plans entirely.

There are about eight miles of A305 and A316 between Sunbury Cross and the Hogarth roundabout which will themselves act as a traffic filter. I know that the GLC will be keeping under continuous review the effects of the improvements to these roads, with the object of taking any further measures that may prove necessary.

The hon. Gentleman raised the matter of the installation of linked traffic signals, which seemed to be questioned by my hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of the designation of the A316 as a clearway and made a very strong plea that the A316 should not become a designated lorry route. I understand his fears and problems on the clearway and the designated lorry route. All these matters, including linked traffic lights, are best directed to the GLC, whose responsibility they are.

Roadworks will be continuing along the A305 until at least the autumn of 1975. These will act as a throttle on traffic between the M3 and Chiswick.

The hon. Gentleman should put his suggestions for specific traffic management schemes to the GLC. If it brings forward schemes we will consider them and evaluate them in co-operation with the GLC and, if there is agreement, they may qualify for appropriate grant. But it must be a matter for the GLC in the first place.

The Hogarth flyover is not the critical factor in causing congestion at the Hogarth junction. The limit is the capacity of the roundabout itself. Unless further works are carried out on the A4 east of the roundabout as far as Hammersmith, further improvements to Hogarth roundabout will have minimal effect.

The Department will be adding temporary directions to existing signs on the outward-bound lane of the A4 approaching the Hogarth roundabout to direct M3 traffic along the A4 and the A30 rather than along the A316 to the M3. The GLC is considering in detail the problems of signpostir[...] from London to the M3, with the intention of implementing its proposals before the M3 extension opens.

Many of the questions which the hon. Gentleman has put to me, which rightly concern his constituents, are properly matters for the GLC. I assure the hon. Gentleman that both the council and my Department have taken fully on board the possible difficulties caused by the opening of the M3 extension. But I believe that the remedial measures largely proposed by the GLC, with which we are co-operating, will go a long way towards solving the problems.

Of course, in many cases we do not know exactly how the problems will turn out, as I made clear in the debate in July. Everything said in tonight's debate will be brought to the attention of the GLC and we will examine it in the Department. We and the GLC, in co-operation with other local authorities concerned, will keep a close watch on what is happening and what happens after the M3 is opened.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that my Department will not unnecessarily delay any procedures or proposals put by the GLC to us. In a difficult situation for all the constituencies in the western part of London, they can rest assured that my Department and the GLC will do all they can to make life as reasonable and as civilised as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at seventeen minutes past Eleven o'clock.