HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc736-7
5. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will study the efficiency of motorway repair arrangements with the aim of reducing the length of motorway lane not in use and the associated accidents.

Mrs. Chalker

We are constantly reviewing repair techniques and methods of traffic management during motorway maintenance work to minimise the risks and delays to road users and to obtain the best possible value for money.

For example, we have recently changed the crossovers so as to improve safety and reduce delay at those points.

Mr. Roberts

I welcome the steps that the Minister is taking, but does she realise that the road transport industry, while accepting the need for repairs and for the safety of those involved in the repair work, feels genuine concern about some of the costs and accidents that may arise from our complex repair system?

Mrs. Chalker

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's facts, but it is important that we take those steps by lengthening the coning and the crossover—measures that bring safety. The hon. Gentleman is right, in that the cost of accidents is one of the heavy costs that would otherwise have to be borne.

I am looking further at the speed limits that are deployed at the approach to coned-off areas during motorway maintenance work. I hope that we can reach a more appropriate solution than we have. We have always at the forefront of our minds the need to try to protect, and to have the greatest safety at these changing points.

Mr. Higgins

Is my hon. Friend aware that problems arise not only on motorways? On Monday 2 May, al the junction of the A20 and the A222, hundreds of cars and thousands of people were held up by a dozen or so cones. They reduced the traffic from two lanes to one, although there was no need for them, and they could have been removed and replaced in a matter of two minutes. Will my hon. Friend hold a full investigation into the case, and in particular into why Sidcup police station did nothing? Will she treat this as a typical example of the unnecessary delays that occur?

Mrs. Chalker

I shall look into the incident that my right hon. Friend has described, but of which I did not have notice. There are obviously occasions when something stupid happens, as in the incident described by my right hon. Friend. I shall make sure that all steps are taken to reduce human error, whether it is the failure to indicate use of the hard shoulder, or something else.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that drivers between London and Leicestershire gloomily contemplate one long stretch of roadworks as they drive along the M1? Will my hon. Friend particularly consider the occasional occurrence when long stretches of road are coned off although no work is going on, no plant or materials are stored and there is no indication of any intended activity?

Mrs. Chalker

There are probably two reasons for the frustration that every motorist feels, as I do, on driving up the M1. First, we are extending the two-lane section to three-lanes, and the work on that is proceeding on target. Secondly, lanes appear to be, but are not, coned off unnecessarily. Often when no work seems to be going on on the motorway the carriageway is drying out after repairs. It would be a waste of taxpayers' money if we were prematurely to allow traffic back on to it. It would simply mean further repairs to those sections well in advance of when they should be necessary.