§ The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John MacGregor)
Repairs carried out under lane rental contracts are completed some 30 per cent. faster than works under conventional contracts. Our widespread use of that system means that maintenance is completed faster on average than anywhere else in the world, and it has saved about £100 million in the cost of delays to road users since its introduction.
§ Mr. Page
My right hon. Friend will be aware that a large part of my constituency is covered by the M25, so I am glad to hear of those improvements. What is he doing to promote the use of lane rentals? As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, may I ask him to tighten up on lane rental contracts, especially the extension of time? I am sure that my right hon. Friend realises that to have a lane rental contract and then to extend the time makes that contract worthless.
§ Mr. MacGregor
On my hon. Friend's first point, I am glad to say that 50 per cent. of all appropriate contracts for road maintenance are on the basis of lane rentals.. Next year, the figure will rise to two thirds, which is about the maximum. Progress in this matter is ahead of the commitments given in the citizens charter.
I am aware of the good report from the Public Accounts Committee and we support a large number of its recommendations. We are dealing with the points that it raised as vigorously as possible, including the one mentioned by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The reason for some of the delays is the need to repair and update motorways that were built some considerable time ago. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that the delays would be very much greater if we 564 did not carry out the necessary repairs. The important point is to get the repairs done as quickly as possible, and that is what lane rental contracts are doing.
§ Mr. Dykes
As the Secretary of State for the control of unnecessary cones, can my right hon. Friend give us an up-to-date report on the current position? Far too many motorways have long lanes of cones even when no work is being carried out, and that is especially true at weekends. Are cones to be the only growth industry, apart from security men? I hope that my hon. Friend can give us that up-to-date report.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I share my hon. Friend's view, but it not the only matter with which I have to deal. The amount of maintenance on motorways has risen by 30 per cent., which is why there are more cones about. The lane rental contracts speed up the time it takes to carry out repairs, which should considerably reduce the number of times that we see cones on motorways.
On my hon. Friend's other point, we insist that all contractors give information to drivers where cones are being used. In particular, they must give information about why cones are being used if it does not appear that any work is being carried out. If anyone sees a 4-mile stretch of cones where it appears that no work is being done and there is no information to tell people what is happening, I hope that they will let me know.