HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc742-3
9. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Transport how many miles of dual three-lane motorway were in the course of construction at the latest available date.

Mrs. Chalker

About 44 miles are at present under construction in England.

Mr. Wainwright

Is the hon. Lady satisfied that we have sufficient road mileage to meet the country's needs? Is she aware that there are many unemployed road construction workers? Will she look into the quality of roads? Are we to have more roads, such as the M1, on which every day many miles are being repaired and motorists have to use the hard shoulder because there are only two lanes open, and sometimes only one?

Mrs. Chalker

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety, but the House and the country must recognise that the M1 and other early motorways were built over 20 years ago with a life expectancy of 20 years. The greater volumes of traffic now mean that those motorways must be resurfaced in a structural way so that they will last longer. We are strengthening the motorways that are being repaired to give them another 20 years of life.

Repairing motorways cannot be avoided. Every country has to face the problem. We must make sure that, as the hon. Gentleman said, we have good quality roads that will last longer and cause less disruption. I am devoted to doing that.

Mr. Hal Miller

Is my hon. Friend aware of the need to connect the Midlands with the ports to give our industries a chance to compete? What is being done to bring forward the construction of new connecting motorways?

Mrs. Chalker

I believe my hon. Friend knows that we had hoped to start work on the important M42 Bromsgrove section before the end of this year. This now depends on the successful outcome of a legal challenge on the side road orders. I assure my hon. Friend that, whether it is his section of the M42 or any of the other sections that connect Birmingham with the ports, we shall move as quickly as we can. However, the public consultation and inquiry system is a safeguard in road building that we should not lightly give up.

Mr. Dormand

Will the Minister tell the House how many miles of cycleway are under construction? Does the fact that she recently gave me £1 to join the all-party friends of cycling demonstrate the importance of this subject? Will she transfer some of the considerable resources from three-lane motorways to cycleways in view of their great importance to cycling in this country?

Mrs. Chalker

I fully accept the importance of cycleways. Some very imaginative new schemes have come from the consultation paper issued by my predecessor some months ago. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the exact mileage, for which I apologise, but I can assure him that, where local authorities share my acceptance of the importance of cycleways and forward sensible recommendations in their transport policies and programmes, we shall do our best to assist them in the building of cycleways.