HC Deb 21 October 2003 vol 411 cc495-6
6. Mr. David Cameron (Witney)

What recent representations he has received about congestion on the A34 and A40 in Oxfordshire; and if he will make a statement. [132965]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Kim Howells)

The Highways Agency and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), who is responsible for roads, have received a number of representations about congestion on the A34 in Oxfordshire, including letters from the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) about the junction of the A34 with the M40.The A40 in Oxfordshire is, as the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) knows, the responsibility of Oxfordshire county council.

Mr. Cameron

I thank the Minister for that reply, but is he aware that although there will not be a full multi-modal study of the A34, a review is going ahead? Can he assure me that that review will also consider the A40 between Whitney and Oxford? It has some of the worst congestion in south-east England and it takes many of my constituents who travel to work in Oxford more than an hour to cover 12 miles. It is a foot on the windpipe of the local economy. Does he share my view that the longterm answer is dualling that road?

Dr. Howells

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that I will speak to the Highways Agency to find out if its remit extends that far. I understand that there were long-standing proposals to dual that part of the A40, but for some reason—I certainly do not know the details—they were cancelled by the Conservative Government in 1994.

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) is concerned about road congestion in Oxfordshire, he would be well advised to put pressure on his Conservative colleagues on the county council to cooperate more fully with councillors in Reading and Berkshire to advance plans for a third Thames bridge linking the two counties?

Dr. Howells

I am sure that that is excellent advice from my hon. Friend. I am sure that the hon. Member for Witney will do everything that he can to bring that pressure to bear on his Conservative colleagues.

Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)

The Minister is right to say that the A40 problem has been going on for 20 years. For a short time, I had ministerial responsibility for roads—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, perhaps I should have spent longer as Minister for roads. However, it is now 20 years on and the Minister has been in government for a long time. What is he going to do? He really must do something about that piece of road in Oxfordshire, which is a desperately serious problem for travellers.

Dr. Howells

As I said, I will certainly ask the Highways Agency if its study on the A34 includes that road. I quite agree that it has been an appalling stretch of road for as long as I can remember. It is one of my routes home from London, so I can fully imagine the frustration felt by the hon. Gentleman.