HC Deb 26 October 1999 vol 336 c797
5. Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)

How much money his Department is making available to install a bus lane on the New London road in Chelmsford as part of the integrated transport policy. [R][94215]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill)

The Chelmsford transport package was accepted for the first time, and by this Government, in 1999–2000, with an allocation of £575,000. It is for Essex county council to decide which scheme to carry out, but positive measures to improve bus services are at the core of the package.

Mr. Burns

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. The people of Old Moulsham in Chelmsford, however, will not thank him for his Government's largesse in introducing a scheme such as that proposed by the local authority.

Is the Minister aware that there has, in effect, been a referendum on the matter? In a by-election last month, the Conservatives captured that part of Chelmsford, fighting the by-election on the basis of opposition to the scheme. Given that the opposition is not to encouraging more people to use public transport, but is based on a belief that, in that part of Chelmsford, the scheme will not bring a single person into the public transport system, would it not be common sense for the Government to look again at value for money, and consider whether it is worth spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a scheme that will not in any way enhance use of public transport?

Mr. Hill

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's congratulations, and I hear what he says about the proposed New London road bus scheme. It is clear, however, that both his own town of Chelmsford and Essex county council have identified improved bus services as the best solution to the problem of the town's rapid growth. My Department is simply responding to local judgment. If he still has problems with the proposal, it is for him to exercise his well-known powers of persuasion with the local transport authorities.