HC Deb 23 July 1980 vol 989 cc484-5
11. Mr. Robert Atkins

asked the Minister of Transport if he will review the effectiveness of the present regulations relating to motorway safety.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The regulations are still effective, although a few minor revisions are being considered. If my hon. Friend has a particular safety point to put forward I should be happy to consider it.

Mr. Atkins

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the concern that exists about motorway coaches and their behaviour on motorways, particularly in view of recent accidents involving coaches with children on board, and particularly in respect of the fast driving of coaches in the fast lane?

Mr. Clarke

Coaches are subject to speed restrictions and regulations as are all other vehicles. I doubt whether any one category of vehicle is responsible for bad driving on motorways. I am most concerned about recent accidents. Rigorous standards of PSV driver licensing are enforced which should prevent a low standard of driving.

Mr. Sheerman

I recognise that priorities for transport safety lie in directions other than motorways, and that these roads are reasonably safe. Does the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that coaches should be prohibited from the fast lane? Is the Minister aware that the first indications of the inquest this morning into the tragic death of a boy over the weekend on the M62, on the borders of my constituency, indicated that a contraflow system may have contributed to the cause of the accident? I do not want to prejudge events, but it seems that the cause was not fast driving in the fast lane. Is the Minister aware that contraflow systems are dangerous?

Mr. Clarke

Motorways are the safest roads in our network, and coaches provide one of the safest forms of travel in the country. We are mainly concerned with improving the regulations on the structure and safety of coaches. I shall look at the suggestions that are being made, but the hon. Gentleman must realise that modern coaches can quite well be driven at 70 mph, and it would be an inconvenience to them to exclude them from the fast lane if they are being driven properly.

Mr. Iain Mills

Will my hon. and learned Friend consider holding detailed discussions with a firm in the Midlands—of which I know he is aware—that is putting forward alternatives to the barriers used for motorway contraflow systems? Having met that firm and examined its proposition, would he then consider introducing regulations to encourage innovations that would make contraflow systems more visible, safe and better for the motorway users?

Mr. Clarke

We are constantly considering ways to improve contraflow systems, and constantly looking at new devices, such as barriers. I am aware of the example that my hon. Friend has in mind. I shall continue to examine that, along with any other examples that may be put forward.

Mr. James Hamilton

Will the Minister give some thought and consideration to making crash barriers compulsory on all motorways, especially the M74 where there have been so many serious accidents? Docs the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that that would obviate many of the difficulties that affect that motorway?

Mr. Clarke

Once a road goes north of the border any questions relating to it are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is the practice in England to have crash barriers in the centre of motorways. We extend them to other trunk roads where that is justified.