HC Deb 22 July 1985 vol 83 cc714-5
13. Mr. David Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he is satisfied with the progress of the major repairs to the M1 south of Bedfordshire, which started on 2 July; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker

Yes, the critical phase of the work was completed on 11 July, five days ahead of schedule, and there was little disruption to traffic either on the motorway itself or in the surrounding area during the works.

Mr. Madel

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great appreciation in my constituency of the speed with which the employees of Balfour Beatty completed the work and the co-operation between her Department and the contractors? When further motorway repairs are necessary, will my hon. Friend ensure that there is another effective publicity campaign by her Department warning drivers of the need to take alternative routes, because that helped this time?

Mrs. Chalker

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said and for the excellent co-operation between all concerned in completing the work early.

We had to take special publicity measures in this case because of the very heavy loading of 120,000 vehicles per day on this stretch of the M1. Should repairs be needed on any other stretch of motorway that has such a heavy loading—only one is more heavily loaded—we shall consider such publicity measures. In general, if the public heed the lessons learnt from this example, I am sure that we shall be completing other schemes not only early, but without accident, which is important.

Mr. Stott

Will the Minister say whether it is normal practice for her Department to pay what can only be described as very large sums of public money to contractors who finish a job before time or on time?

Mrs. Chalker

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that we have started a system of lane rental, with the objective of saving costs to industry. That means that if contractors finish repair works early they get a bonus, but if they finish late they pay the Department a levy for each day over the target time. The company earned a substantial bonus, but industry is the net beneficiary by about £500,000 because that job was finished five days early. It was certainly worth the bonus which the company received.