HC Deb 03 November 1986 vol 103 cc672-3
9. Mr. John Heddle

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what criteria his Department adopts for the provision of motorway service areas.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Michael Spicer)

The general policy is to provide service areas at intervals of about 30 miles.

Mr. Heddle

I hear what my hon. Friend says. Will he then explain to the House and to the many hundreds of thousands of those who use the M25 why that criterion was not adopted in the design of that orbital route?

Mr. Spicer

The proposal is that there should should be four or five MSAs on the M25. One must recognise, as the Government do, that the tendering, planning, and inquiry processes are very lengthy. We expect South Mimms to be fully operational in the spring of next year, and hope that Thurrock will be available in 1988. The other two — Clackett Lane and Iver— still subject to inquiry processes.

Mr. Cartwright

Given the sheer volume of traffic using the M25, why have we had to wait for the completion of the motorway before the Government have come forward with proposals for these essential facilities?

Mr. Spicer

That is a reasonable question. In many ways it would be better to begin the tendering process before the motorways are completed, but it is extremely difficult to get tenderers to come forward and get the process started before the motorways are completed.

Mr. Higgins

Does my hon. Friend accept that perhaps different criteria should apply in the case of a road such as the M25 — a circular road—compared with a road that goes in a straight line such as the M1? Given the present level of traffic on the M25 in the rush hour, is there not some danger that if there were motorway service areas people who got off would never get back on again?

Mr. Spicer

My right hon. Friend makes a good first point. I shall not comment on the second point, save to say that we have one MSA almost every 30 miles, but not quite.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that he has been besieged by questions from Tory Members who have not taken on board the Prime Minister's words last week'? She said that she wanted no criticism of the M25. What is going off? Only a few days have passed and senior Tory Members are stabbing the Prime Minister in the back. Will the hon. Gentleman assist us?

Mr. Spicer

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was making the perfectly sensible point, which I should have thought would be welcomed on all sides of the House, that the M25 has been extremely successful in a number of objectives—particularly, for example, in reducing the number of lorries going into the centre of London. But it is always capable of improvement. That is why we have now said that we shall consider the question of four lanes.

Mr. Roger King

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that when the northern link of the M40 is built from Oxford to Birmingham, the provision of motorway service areas will be catered for during the building programme and not some years after it has been opened?

Mr. Spicer

I have already said that that is a good objective, but when the tendering process is involved it is difficult to get the tenderers interested until they are clear as to the timing of the opening of the motorway concerned.

Mr. Chapman

To help the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), if not my own ministerial prospects, may I say how much my constituents appreciate the completion of the M25? As the whole of the M25 goes through the established green belt of the metropolis, however, may I have my hon. Friend's assurance that not more than four service stations will he built along this length of motorway and that wherever possible and practicable already developed land or derelict land will be used?

Mr. Spicer

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his first remarks. I cannot give him any assurance as to the number of motorway service stations, although I have already indicated that only four or five are planned at the moment along the entirety of the route. Therefore, the indications are that the stretch to which my hon. Friend referred will not have so many such stations as he fears.