HC Deb 30 July 1984 vol 65 cc8-9
6. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will issue a general warning to the public concerning the hazards of motorway driving during the summer holiday period.

Mrs. Chalker

I advised motorists in May that they could cut the risk of accidents and major delays on motorways this summer by looking out for advance warnings of road works, slowing to a safe speed and keeping their distance behind the vehicles in front. In addition, leaflets about lane discipline are being issued with every car licence renewal reminder.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware that that good advice has been ignored by probably the majority of motorway drivers, who keep close behind the vehicles in front of them, cut in and out of lanes and take no notice of pamphlets of the type being sent out when licenses are issued? Will she now do something other than thundering in the Chamber, perhaps by passing out notices at motoway service stations so that people will recognise the dire danger that they cause to themselves and to others by their behaviour?

Mrs. Chalker

I am well aware of and share the hon. and learned Gentleman's concern about the lack of lane discipline and the mad driving in which some drivers indulge. The police will patrol those areas of the motorway as much as possible, and they will prosecute cases of careless driving where they occur. It is in everyone's interests to observe the rules of the road. It is not special advice; it is advice in the "Highway Code". We shall take whatever measures can effectively be taken by having pamphlets made available at motorway service areas. However, those who go through the cross-over sections at too fast a speed or who drive badly are rarely those who stop at motorway service areas, even when they ought to.

Mr. Wiggin

Is my hon. Friend aware that her advice will fall on deaf ears in my constituency where, last Saturday week, there was a 15 to 20-mile traffic jam from dawn till dusk on the M5? One of the reasons is the misuse of the right-hand lane, which is not used just for overtaking, and the lunatic decision of the Government not to abolish the 70 mile speed limit.

Mrs. Chalker

Traffic jams occur when all motorists choose to travel at the same time. If they would vary their journeys considerably and follow the advice in the west country holiday routes leaflets, which are available, their journeys would be much easier. However, it is not just in this country that people choose to travel at the same time. Fortunately, we are a long way from the situation which occurred near Munich last weekend.

Sir Dudley Smith

Is my hon. Friend aware that at present there are no fewer than five sets of road works on the M1, most of them major, in the 100-mile stretch between London and Coventry? Would it not be a useful contribution to road safety if at any time on the busiest section of our busiest road there were no more than three sets of road works?

Mrs. Chalker

If during the 1970s the then Government had undertaken the road works necessary on our motorways, we would not now be having to make up for lost time and making sure that we put in the necessary investment to preserve our motorways for the future. If we do not do that now, we shall have even more severe problems in future.

Mr. Snape

Does the Minister accept that had not the Government twice taken the decision during the lifetime of this Administration to increase heavy lorry weights it might not be necessary to cone off so many miles of motorway? Why is it necessary to cone off so many miles of motorway at weekends, when no work is taking place and the plant used for that work is put together in a comparatively small area of motorway? If a private firm is responsible for coning off Britain's motorways, is it paid so much per cone? Will the Minister consider launching a campaign to urge people to drive on the left on motorways rather than as so many motorists do, driving in the centre lane, to the fury and frustration of heavy goods vehicle drivers?

Mrs. Chalker

It is, of course, right that drivers should always move into the left when they can. Yesterday work took place on the M1, M40, M4 and a number of other major roads because companies are seeking to carry out that work as quickly as possible. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt have read of my right hon. Friend's decision to ensure that companies undertaking these major roadworks know what it costs to keep a lane closed, so that they are aware of the necessity to keep cones to the minimum, consistent with the safe move-over to a restricted area. If traffic is too suddenly taken into a restricted area, we can have accidents, which cause even more delay. However, we must get on with this work, and this year it is proceeding even faster than in the previous two years.

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