HL Deb 01 July 1925 vol 61 cc924-50

LORD RATHCREEDAN had given Notice to ask his Majesty's Government what steps, if any, have been taken, in accordance with the London Traffic Act, in order to comply with the Act and to enforce the regulations for traffic; what public authorities have been consulted on the subject; whether it is proposed to lay any Papers on the subject; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have raised this Question because, some time ago, when the subject was before your Lordships' House, there was considerable difference of opinion amongst noble Lords, more especially those who are acknowledged to be experts on this subject, and they expressed doubt as to whether the Bill, which was then before Committee, when it came into operation would prove successful. My noble friend Earl Buxton was of opinion that the area selected, twenty-five miles from the centre, was too large. He seemed to think that county councils and other public bodies, at that distance from the centre, would not be likely to take very deep interest in, or a friendly view of, the position as regards the pressure of traffic at the centre.

When the Bill was in Committee before your Lordships' House, I pointed out that the origin of this Bill was the great strike which occurred between the employees on the omnibuses and the tramways and the great syndicate which controlled the tubes, some of the underground railways, certain sections of the tramways and practically the whole of the omnibus traffic. At that time the number of omnibuses on the streets of London was 5,000 and the General Omnibus Company owned no fewer than 4,500, the other 500 being in the hands of some 200 private owners. I contended that the public would, in all probability, be placed at the mercy either of the syndicate on the one hand or of the strikers on the other.

It seems to me that under the Bill we are practically in the same position, inasmuch as too much power has been given on the Advisory Committee to trade interests. No fewer than three members are appointed to represent and watch over the interests of those who work on these great lines and no fewer than four members are allocated to those who control those lines. If a strike occurs we must be in the hands of a monopoly. I contend that since this monopoly has been given to a great body we ought, at least, to have for what we have given some financial value in return for this concession, as is the case in Paris and in New York, because your Lordships must admit that competition is now eliminated, seeing that the number of omnibuses on certain streets has been stabilised. I do not say whether that is right or wrong. Probably in the interests of traffic it is quite right, but it gives control to the monopoly and shuts out competition.

What is the cause of the congestion? The cause of the congestion is the development of motor traffic. Latterly motor traffic in this country has been increasing at the rate of 20 per cent. per annum; consequently, in five years we shall have that motor traffic doubled. But the probabilities are that it will be much more than doubled, for we know that it is computed that in the United States of America there is one car to every seven or eight of the population, whereas in this country at present it is only one car to from 35 to 45 of the population. Therefore, in view of the tremendous development of motor cars, the probability is that motor traffic will be doubled in two or three years. I contend that the surface of the ground, if I may so put it, has been allocated and if we are to do anything for the reduction of traffic we must seek a remedy by going underground.

I should like to say a word about the tramways. I have heard it said that tramways ought to be swept away. I concur that the tramways are very troublesome, to the omnibus and the omnibuses on the tramway routes ought to be stabilised. They are a great inconvenience to omnibuses and a positive nuisance to private motor cars. Again, it is said that tramways do not pay. It is true that during the past few years the tramways have not paid, but there are many reasons for that, into which I will not enter. Owing to physical considerations, however, the large proportion of men and women who work in the Metropolis are obliged to live in the outskirts, and they must be, conveyed to their work every morning and returned to their homes every night, and at the "peak" hours of the morning and the evening these tramways are an absolute necessity to the community at large. I naturally take a great interest in what are known as the "daily breaders" because I had the honour to represent a constituency for a quarter of a century in another place. The majority of my constituents were "daily breaders," and it is in a great measure owing to their confidence in me that I have the honour of speaking in your Lordships' House. But even if the tramways were swept away and replaced by motor omnibuses, these alone would not cure the present congestion of traffic. There are at the present time two or three points in the West End of London alone where the current of cross traffic is so great that it cannot be dealt with over-ground, and I suggest that tunnels should be made for the purpose of relieving that traffic.

I now come to the question of the breaking up of the streets. At the present time there are some half a dozen authorities who have what I may call access to the streets. There are the road contractor and the authorities for water, gas, electric light, telephones, and telegraphs, all of whom have power to break up the streets. I suggest to the Government that if it were possible to get these various authorities to co-operate in a friendly spirit—I am not speaking now of accidental breaking up of the streets, which must often occur, but I am speaking of their programmes—there is no reason why their programmes should not be forecast, not for weeks or months, but possibly for a year. If that were done the breaking up of the streets would be reduced by 50 percent. I hope the time is not far distant when three or four great underground thoroughfares, in the shape of tubes, will reach out from London into the furthest suburbs, and that will tend to diminish the difficulty of traffic. I was much struck by a remark made by a noble Earl opposite in our last debate, when he pointed out that it is not sufficient to deal with the traffic at the centre alone, but you must deal win it at its probable sources. It was for that reason that my noble friend Lord Buxton contended, more especially as this was acknowledged to be an experimental measure, that we should deal with the smaller or more confined areas. Of course, that is no longer possible owing to the Bill having become law.

I note with satisfaction that the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, is about to deal with one aspect of this question, which hitherto has been ignored in your Lordships' House, but which nevertheless is of supreme importance. The year before list there were some 600 fatal traffic accidents in London. Your Lordships will realise that London is worse in this respect than any town in the United Kingdom. Last year the number was 800, or an increase in one year of 200 fatal traffic accidents in the area of the County of London; and, whereas other accidents the year before last were 31,000, they reached 36,000 last year, or an increase of 5,000. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, will develop this point because it is a terrible thing to think of the sorrow, the suffering and the loss of labour that is due to these nearly 40,000 accidents which happen every year in the area of the County of London.

There is one other point I should like to place. before your Lordships and that is what I call the physical point—the fact that in certain parts of London there are currents of traffic which converge and impinge upon one another. I shall probably be told from the Front Bench opposite that such a question cannot be dealt with, that it is a matter of town planning and that to deal with it would mean an exorbitant expenditure. But I should like to direct attention to the fact that many years ago when civilisation had not advanced to the point it has now reached, and when the difficulties were correspondingly greater, under the rule of Napoleon III, in Paris Baron Hausmann carried out such a scheme and as a boy in Paris I saw the continuation of his policy. I was told recently by members of the Paris Municipality that, enormous as the expenditure was, they were glad to-day that it had been made because, directly nod indirectly, they had actually benefited by it.

I hope it will not be thought that my desire in raising this question is to embarrass the Government. It is the reverse. I am eager to do everything and anything in my humble capacity to assist them. I recognise that the time at the disposal of the Traffic Minister has been very short and that the difficulties have been tremendous. I would like to give him credit for what has already been done in the direction of parking motor cars and the institution of one-way streets. I suggest that it would be to the advantage of the Government if they could see their way to bringing those officials who are responsible for that great duty in this country into conference with those who are responsible for it in the City of New York, where they have had much greater difficulties to contend with and have managed it with signal success. I recognise all the difficulties which confront the Government and that if they could appoint an angel from Heaven as Traffic Minister, that angel would have all his work cut out for him. I beg to move.

LORD LAMINGTON had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether, following on the debate that took place last year, the London Traffic Advisory Committee have taken steps to try to reduce the number of street accidents in London. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it would be more convenient, I think, though the Motion which my noble friend opposite has made covers a far wider field than my Question, that I should ask my Question now and perhaps shorten the discussion by so doing. Last year I had a somewhat similar Question upon the Paper. It provoked a. considerable amount of discussion and many noble Lords recited their personal hair-breadth escapes. But one and all bore testimony to the danger there is to pedestrians and those who go about the streets of London from motor traffic.

Three main points emerged from that discussion, possibly the most important of them being the announcement of the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, who replied for the Government, that the London Traffic Advisory Committee was to be appointed and that when that Committee had got to work it was hoped there would be a considerable reduction in the number of street accidents. The figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Rathcreeden, show what has occurred during the last twelve months in comparison with what happened in 1923. In the latter year there were 668 fatal accidents in the Metropolitan area and 16 in the City. In the period ending December, 1924, those 668 fatal accidents in the Metropolitan area had gone up to 884 and the 16 in the City had increased to 22; an increase of about 33 per cent. In drawing a comparison last, year between 1922 and 1923 my noble friend pointed out that there had been an increase of something like 20 per cent. As there is now an increase of approximately 33 per cent. it is very desirable to know what has been done by this new Traffic Committee and whether they have any views about what they may be able to do in future to reduce this appalling daily slaughter that takes place in London.

That is the main point of my Question; but I should like to refer to two others which arose in the course of the debate last year. I asked the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, whether he could say in what part of the Metropolis these accidents chiefly occurred, whether it was in the congested parts of the West End, or in the more outlying and less busy thoroughfares. He rather declined to offer any definite opinion and said that it would cost a great deal of labour on the part of the police authorities to obtain any information on the point. But it came out in the course of discussion that the majority of these accidents occurred in the less busy streets. That is borne out by the fact that there were only sixteen fatal accidents in the City in 1923 as compared with 668 in the rest of the Metropolis in 1923, and twenty-two as compared with 884 in 1924. One deduction might therefore be made—that for the most part. these accidents occur owing to the extreme speed at which vehicles are driven in the Metropolis.

I understand that a speed limit of twenty miles an hour is supposed to be in force and it ought to be enforced more strictly. I should have thought it would have been possible, without any very great expenditure of money or labour, to prepare a chart showing where fatal accidents occurred in the different parts of the Metropolis, just as the Board of Trade produces a chart of the wrecks which take place at sea. It ought not, at any rate, to be a very expensive task. It is generally said, in regard to the matter of speed: "Do not let us have any speed limit throughout the country generally." On the other hand, there is no doubt, from what was said in the debate in your Lordships' House on the last occasion, that motor cars travel at a considerable speed. My noble friend Lord Banbury said that one can often see motor cars going not at thirty or forty miles an hour but at fifty miles an hour, when the drivers think the streets are not very crowded.

Another point which arose in the course of the debate was that the police have power now to stop anybody driving a motor car without regard to the exact number of miles per hour he may be travelling if they are of opinion that the driving is dangerous to the public, and that a policeman can exercise his own judgment in the matter. I asked the noble Earl who replied on that occasion, whether that fact could be stated publicly and a warning issued throughout the Metropolis to drivers, that if they knowingly or unwittingly drove to the public danger they were likely to be stopped by the police. I think that would have a great effect. The noble Earl declined to have this action taken. I do not know why it should not be taken, because I am certain it would he a deterrent to those who drive to the danger of the public. A rather new point was brought out when it was stated that the police have this power of acting on their own judgment.

I trust the noble Viscount who is to reply will be able to give us some information to show that it may be possible in the future to prevent this frightful amount of slaughtering that goes On day by day. It is a psychological curiosity that if a railway accident occurs and three or four people are killed the papers are filled with columns of detail, an inquiry is held and a report is issued, but if four or five persons are killed in an omnibus accident there is a paragraph in the papers and practically no notice is taken. We have got into a state of things in which an average of two and a half persons are killed daily in our streets.

I have not put down a question on the matter, but I hope the noble Viscount in reply will be able to give us the number of pedestrians included in the total number of killed. In the year 1923, out of 668 fatal accidents 455 were to pedestrians. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr referred unsympathetically to that fact. He said that many of these fatal accidents to pedestrians were caused by the pedestrians' own negligence. The late lamented Marquess Curzon of Kedleston criticised that statement as rather unfeeling. After all, pedestrians have to cross the streets at times. These accidents do not take place chiefly in the congested areas where policemen supervise the traffic, but in the outer districts. It is all very fine to say that it is the pedestrians' fault, but if you are crossing a street which is about fifteen yards wide and there is nothing in sight you are surely entitled to do so, although while you are crossing a car may come down upon you travelling at ten or twelve times the speed at which you are walking. The statement that people are careless I deny altogether. It is quite legitimate for you to cross the street and to think that you can do so safely when you can see nothing coming from either side. Some of these very fast cars undoubtedly do cause terrible accidents. I should like to know how many of the unfortunate people who have to go on foot are sufferers from this state of affairs. I beg to ask my Question.


My Lords, the subject which the two noble Lords have brought up this afternoon is one which has been debated fairly often in this House and was discussed at great length last year when the London Traffic Bill was before your Lordships. That Bill was intended to deal with what the noble Lord who spoke first referred to as the congestion of London traffic. A traffic Advisory Committee, consisting of nineteen people and a Chairman, was set up. When it was proposed that that Committee should be appointed I stated in this House, as did other noble Lords, that we must not expect too much from a Committee of that size, especially as it was really not representative of the various interests involved and that there was likely to be a division in the Committee itself. That is exactly what has happened. Within a few months of the Committee being set up the representative of the independent omnibus owners resigned on account of grievances he thought he had at the decisions of the Committee, and the Committee to-day is practically only representative of the bigger omnibus interests—what is known as the "Combine"—with a certain number of officials appointed by the Ministry of Transport and other Government Departments, who, naturally, will take the official view—a view which very often is quite correct, but is not always very practicable.

I have always thought that you cannot cure the congestion of London traffic by Acts of Parliament or by regulations, however good they may be. The fact is in London we are always trying to put a quart into a pint pot. There is too much traffic for the streets which are main thoroughfares, and in my view the congestion will become worse as years go on, no matter what regulations you make. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Rathcreedan) suggested that underground roads should be made to carry through traffic across London; at least, I understood him to make that suggestion. I entirely agree with him. I have always held that to take the through traffic from the centre of London to the outskirts where the new arterial roads commence was the best thing to do, and that we must build viaducts over the traffic and over the houses to do that, or create underground roads. That is the only method of solving the problem, because the cost of widening existing thoroughfares would be so prohibitive that it would he practically impossible to carry out improvement on those lines. I once made a calculation, which I published in The Times, of the cost of widening Oxford Street from the Marble Arch to the Mansion House. It came out, if my memory is correct, in the neighbourhood of £15,000,000 for one side of Oxford Street only. That is obviously a figure from which we must all shrink.

The congestion of London traffic, had as it is to-day, is certain to become worse. In this country we only have now one motor vehicle for every 34 or 35 persons. whereas in the United States there are over 17,000,000 motor vehicles, in other words, a motor vehicle for every six people; while in some States this has been exceeded very largely. I am told that in the State of California there is one vehicle for every four people. I do not say that we shall come to an average of that kind, but I say definitely—and here I agree with the noble Lord—that every year you will have an addition of between 200,000 and 300,000 vehicles in this country, a considerable proportion of which will use the streets of London. In my opinion, it is no good tinkering with this subject much longer. We have to do something definite and drastic, and the only solution that I can think of at the moment is to increase the facilities for the flow of traffic by the construction of overhead or underground roads to take that traffic.

In regard to the Advisory Committee, I have already said, in common with other noble Lords, that I never expected that Committee to produce very satisfactory results, at any rate for some time, but there are certain points which do not appear to me to have received sufficient attention. We all know, for instance, that a serious amount of congestion is produced in our streets by the nonobservance of the rule of the road. How often have we all been stopped, whether in motor omnibuses or in taxicabs, by a horse-drawn vehicle which, instead of being near the kerb, is wandering about in the middle of the road, or, at any rate, in a position to prevent the free flow of traffic down the centre. Then there is another form of obstruction which leads to congestion in streets which are too narrow for the traffic, and this is caused by slow-moving horse vehicles. Any one who has tried to drive into the City during the crush hours in the morning, or out again in the evening, knows that in Queen Victoria Street, for instance, you are more often than not stopped by a horse-drawn vehicle moving at three or four miles an hour which holds up hundreds of vehicles. That is something which has not yet received the attention that it deserves.

Another cause of congestion is the frequent breaking-up of the streets. When I spoke in this House last August I told your Lordships that I went out and counted a number of street works going on, and found that between Hyde Park Corner and Hammersmith Broadway, on the main line of traffic to the West of England, there were no fewer than thirty-three breaks in the roadway. To-day you see these breaks all over London, and I am inclined to agree with the definition of the school-boy who, when asked to define a street, said "It is a place where pipes are laid." There is a great deal of truth in that answer. There is, however, one feature of the situation which I think we must all admit to be satisfactory. The police, as a whole, manage the traffic very well. Here and there there may be criticisms, but on the whole they manage the traffic of London exceedingly well, at least that is my opinion. If you compare the way the traffic is managed in, say, Paris and Vienna, you must admire the way in which it is managed in. London, with the minimum of friction to the people involved. I think Scotland Yard should receive a meed of praise for the way they manage the traffic.

With regard to the future I can only suggest one or two ways by which the congestion may be removed. Much congestion is caused by cab ranks and the way parking of cars is carried on at present. We must have proper parking spaces. In the United States already there are many devices for the parking of cars by business people and shopping people. They have great buildings as high as twenty and twenty-four floors, each floor holding from thirty to forty cars, where motor cars can be parked. I do not want to see sky-scrapers introduced in London; but that is the way they do it in America. Then there are, in some of the parks of London, many empty roads very little used by the people between the hours of ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, where cars could be parked. I think a good many cars could be accommodated on these little used roads in our parks.

The question of parking is bound up closely with that of the congestion on the streets, and I would suggest that we might use some of our quite unused London squares. I know there will be protests from many people that these squares are of great value for recreation purposes to those residents who live around them, but if your Lordships will observe some of these squares you will find that it is very rarely anything is seen, say, in a square like St. James' Square, except cats. There are other squares which could be used for this purpose as the use made of them by the residents around is practically infinitesimal. If you threw down the railings and gave access to them, you might park hundreds of cars away from the streets, and thus relieve the congestion; and to do this it is, of course, not necessary to cut down the trees in the squares. No one would think of doing that at his own place. We sometimes leave our car under a tree. But whether the Government like it or not, whatever course the Minister of Transport takes, I am certain that the situation and public opinion will before long compel the authorities to adopt some such solution as is suggested by the noble Lord, either underground or overhead routes from the centre of London to the points at which the new arterial roads have been cut. That is the only way in which I think you can get rid of the through traffic congestion on our streets.

It is quite true that cars are driven on the outskirts of London at an excessive speed, and we are all in favour of the rate of speed laid down being observed. But statistics show that it is not only speed which causes accidents. The greater number of accidents are caused by lorries and trade vans which run at a comparatively slow speed. What we shall have to do is to build escalators, such as you see in railway stations, which will take you from one side of the street to the other and thus avoid the risk of crossing the street. As one who has driven a motor car in London for some time and who has hitherto had no accident—perhaps I had better touch wood—I can testify to the extreme carelessness of the average pedestrian. I am relating only my own personal experience. People will step off the pavement looking the wrong way to the traffic or not looking at all. I was driving in a taxicab to the City the other day, and the car nearly collided with a clerk, who was crossing the road and reading a book at the same time. I do not object to his reading a book, but he should not read a hook in the middle of the road. This is one of the most difficult things to deal with, and it is the opinion of the police of almost every great city that many pedestrians hardly look to see, when stepping off the kerb, whether any traffic is coming or not.

In regard to the aggregate number of accidents your Lordships must realise that you are dealing with huge figures. I gave the number of millions of miles that were run last year. They ran into thousands of millions, and there are 7,000,000 people in London at the present time. If the death rate is high—and no one regrets it more than myself—I think it is quite small in proportion to the number of people using the streets and the number of cars of all kinds that are on the streets. But many of these accidents are caused by things which have nothing whatever to do with any carelessness on the part of the driver of the motor cars. Tramcars kill a certain number of people every year; so also do big lorries and even horse vehicles. Many of the fatal accidents on the streets are not attributable to motor vehicles, and certainly they cannot always be attributable to speed. There is nothing more dangerous than the best kind of motor-car because it is silent. If any of your Lordships have driven in France you will know that the people there will scowl at you when you pass them by because of the very silence of your car. They have become so accustomed to the noise of the exhaust pipe that they think themselves injured because they have not heard you come up.

Of course accidents are to be deplored, but I am doubtful whether you can do much in that matter by reducing speed, if speed is really a cause of many of the accidents. I doubt whether you can do it for this reason: You cannot have police traps in all the streets of Outer London, and I question whether a magistrate will convict on the evidence of a single constable. I have heard many constables give evidence and it is difficult very often to convict on the evidence of one constable. What actually constitutes driving to the danger of the public is in many cases largely a matter of opinion. I do not stand here, as your Lordships probably know, to defend the reckless driver. We are all against him and we all want him suppressed. I am not here to defend taking any risk even. Although you may not be a dangerous driver you should always remember that the pedestrian has an equal, though not a superior right, to pass and re-pass on the road just as you have. But I honestly do not think that you will get over the question of accidents in central London until you get escalators built under or over the street and tell people that there, and there only, can they cross in safety. Of course they ought to be at very frequent intervals, but in my opinion they are the only cure. I have tried, in putting forward my views, to give your Lordships the benefit of my experience on the subject. I know that this is a very thorny question, but I would ask your Lordships always to remember that, considering the millions of motor vehicles and the millions who use the streets, the total number of accidents is not really half as great as the figures would suggest.


My Lords, we have had, as has been remarked, a good many discussions on this subject and nobody can say at all events that we have not had a fresh suggestion put before us to-night. My noble friend who has just sat down apparently desires to turn the squares of the Metropolis into garage yards, equipped, I presume, with pumps and other appliances, and he seems to think that this would meet the difficulty. My noble friend's speech confirmed me in an impression which I have held for a long time. My noble friend is, no doubt; of a benevolent disposition, but obviously to my mind, if he were to say what he really thought, he looks upon the pedestrian as an aggressive character who is a permanent danger to the peaceable motor scorcher. So far as that goes, I am entirely in sympathy with my noble friend who sits beside me, Lord Lamington. We hear a great deal in these discussions about the way in which the motorist is held up by inconsiderate pedestrians and grievances of that kind, but very little is said about the grievances of pedestrians. I am in sympathy with my noble friend Why are the regulations with regard to speed not more carefully enforced in London? Take the Mall. The Mall has become almost an imitation of Brook-lands and is little better than a racing track. I shall be told by my noble friend that when I come down here, if I am unlucky enough to ho run over it is entirely my own fault, owing to my aggressive behaviour in venturing to cross the road.

I have been led into these remarks by my noble friend's unprovoked attack upon the unfortunate pedestrian, but I really rose to make a suggestion that I have constantly made in this House before. Anybody who has studied this question knows perfectly well that a, vast proportion—I cannot give the exact figure—of the accidents which occur to pedestrians are due to our imbecile custom of having two rules of the road, one for vehicular traffic and one for pedestrians. If this authority could be persuaded to look at the question in a common sense manner, and if they would study the proposal that everybody should move in the same direction—that is to say, that everybody should walk on the left—then these accidents would he largely diminished. I have discussed this thing ad nauseam in this House, and I have received no support, but, as a matter of fact, whenever the proposal is put before any public body it has invariably been agreed to, and the only person who offered any resistance to it at all was a rigid obstructionist, a City Commissioner of Police, who, I am thankful to say, has now resigned his office. Now that this obstructionist has gone it seems to me that there is some chance of this change being adopted, or at all events considered, and I am absolutely certain in my own mind—I do not care what my noble friend says or anybody else—that, if this rule were adopted it would enormously diminish the number of accidents to pedestrians.


My Lords, I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Lamington has raised this subject, because there can be no doubt whatever that the increase in the accidents caused by motor lorries and motor cars is appalling, and this not only in the Metropolitan area. Only yesterday I saw in the paper that a motor car driven by a clergyman ran through a railing and found sitting on the other side of the railing a man on the bank of a river. It threw the man into the river, drowned him and went into the river itself. The clergyman was dragged out without being hurt, but the man whom he had knocked into the river and who was sitting on the other side of a railing, where one might have thought that he was entitled to consider, having a railing between himself and the road, that he was in a more or less safe position, was unfortunately drowned because the clergyman driving the motor car went through the railing instead of continuing along the road.

My noble friend Lord Lamington has pointed out that the greater number of accidents to pedestrians in the Metropolis occur in districts where there is no congestion, and I believe, if I may say so, that he is absolutely right. My noble friend Lord Montagu has given the reason. In the My, as my noble friend Lord Lamington pointed out, there are fewer accidents because there are slow-moving vehicles which prevent the motorist driving at break-neck speed. Consequently, you are able to cross the road with some knowledge that the motor car which is near you is not going at a very great rate and that, if it does touch you, it will be going so slowly that the force will be comparatively small. That is the reason why there are fewer accidents in the City than in districts where, there not being a very great mass of traffic, motor cars are able to go at anything from forty to fifty miles an hour. Only the other day I was motoring with my daughter, who was driving, and a car passed us and it seemed as if I had been driving along the road and an express train had passed me. I asked my daughter to look at the speedometer and see what speed we were going. We were going at twenty-nine miles an hour. That is too fast, but what must the car have been doing which passed us like a flash then we were going at twenty-nine miles an hour? It must have been going at anything between fifty and sixty miles an hour.

No doubt my noble friend will say—and if he does not, I have heard other motorists say it often enough—that the driver has four brakes and the car can be pulled up within three or four yards. No doubt that is true, provided, first, that the brakes act; secondly, that the person driving knows that he has got to pull up; and thirdly, that he does not lose his head and put his foot on the wrong pedal or pull the wrong handle at his side. But if either of those things happen or if, in passing another motor car, somebody appears suddenly in front of him, he has no time to pull up at the pace at which he is going, and the force with which he strikes anything is so great that a very serious accident is bound to result. The fact of the matter is that the roads were never intended for vehicles travelling at the rate of express trains, and until we say that the roads are to be used by everybody—pedestrians and horses as well as motor cars—there will be no improvement. If a man cares to drive a horse, why should he not drive a horse, even if he gets in front of my noble friend and makes him go at twenty miles an hour for a hundred yards instead of going at forty miles an hour for the whole of his journey? Until motorists understand that other people have a right to the road, and that they must not drive at these excessive speeds, we shall have these accidents.

My noble friend Lord Lamington tells me that there were in 1909, in the Metropolitan area, only 287 accidents, as against 880—I think that was the figure—to-day. That shows that all these accidents, or at any rate the great majority of them, must have been caused by the excessive speed at which motor cars are driven. My noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu talks about "congestion." Unfortunately, I am getting an old man, but I have lived in London for fifty years and I never remember the time when there was not congestion. The reason for congestion is the cross-traffic alone. The noble Lord suggested that you should either have something overhead or something underground. I think it would be very difficult to arrange that there should be a tunnel at every cross-street, and I do not know how people would enter or come out of it, and, of course, there would be danger when you were in the tunnel.

My noble friend suggested, as I gathered, that there should be long tunnels or long overhead roads. Who is going to pay all this expense? It is another instance of what we had yesterday. Everybody is in favour of economy, including my noble friend, but if he can have a road on which he can travel at fifty miles an hour at other people's expense then he is in favour of making such a road. Then it is suggested that roads should be widened. Widening will do no good at all, because it is not the fact that the roads are too narrow which causes congestion; it is the cross-traffic, and the cross-traffic alone. I am very glad we have had this debate because I think the number of accidents are so serious, not only in the Metropolis but all over the country. that something has got to be done in order that the roads of the country may be as safe for all classes of people as they were thirty years ago.


My Lords, may I say one word before the noble Lord replies? I should like to refer to the Question which Lord Lamington raised. This question of the safety of foot-passengers in London is a serious matter. May I give one instance of what occurred to me quite a short time ago? I live in Belgrave Square, which has recently, so far as I can make out, become one of the most dangerous places in London for anybody to walk about in. I take as much care in cross- ing the street as most people, but it became so bad and other residents in the Square complained so much about the danger which pedestrians ran through reckless driving in and round the Square, that I wrote to the Commissioner of Police. I wrote a polite letter and told him that, owing to the reckless and uncontrolled driving in the Square, it was extremely dangerous and that unless you were very active you ran a chance of being rur over whenever you crossed the Square.

The Commissioner of Police replied, acknowledged my letter, and said the matter had been referred to the Westminster Council. Then I got another letter in which it was said that the Westminster Council proposed to erect more refuges in the Square. I replied that I could not see that any extra refuges would stop reckless driving. As a matter of fact, the last person killed in the Square was standing on a refuge when killed. It was not my duty to propose what measures should be taken, but as they apparently had no idea, and could put forward no hope, of relieving this danger, I proposed that they should employ one of the mounted police, who wander about the crowded streets in London, to interfere with the road traffic in. Belgrave Square. That has not been done and dangerous driving is just as bad and as reckless as ever it was. Lord Newton referred to the Mall just now, but Belgrave Square is much worse, and I think it is monstrous that no steps should be taken by the recognised authority—namely, the Commissioner of Police in London—to relieve the distress of the unfortunate foot-passengers who happen to live there.

So far as the danger to foot passengers is concerned, I think that a lot of it conies from the fact that some motor-car drivers imagine that all they have to do if they see a foot-passenger is to blow their horn and it is "up to the pedestrian" to get out of the way. You walk the streets of London and as often as not have almost to break your neck in trying to get out of the way of these drivers who merely blow their horns and do not appear to care whether you are killed or not. Up to the present the law of the land has been that it is the duty of the drivers of motor ears and other vehicles to keep out of the way of foot-passengers, and I think it would not be a bad thing to forbid the use of horns in some districts of London; then the drivers would have to take a bit more care.

Then I should like to say a word or two with regard to traffic in general, dealt with in the Question of Lord Rathcreedan. That Question as raised to-day can possibly he divided into two or three' There is the larger question of how we are going to deal with traffic in the future and how we are going to carry the largely increasing number of people who are coming into London. Then there is the question of what you might almost call the ordinary traffic control within the City of London. So far as the larger question is concerned, I have not altered the view which I think I stated on the Third Reading of the Traffic Bill, when I said that I believed that it would be advisable to appoint a committee to consider ways and means. So far as my own opinion goes. I still believe that to cope with the traffic in the future you wilt have to double the underground routes. I think you must aim at eliminating not only the tramways but the omnibuses within certain portions of London.

I quite agree with Lord Rathereedan when he said that tramways are a necessity in certain districts on the outskirts of London, where the traffic is not very congested, and where you have broader roads, but in the congested parts of London, such as Westminster Bridge, the presence of tramways is to my mind a crime. Then, so far as the motor omnibuses are concerned, I would like to see them gradually eliminated from a point such as the Houses of Parliament up to and beyond the Mansion House, where the streets are narrow and where the traffic is very congested. Before you do that, however, you must devise some means of carrying your people who have to come into the City of London every day, and I believe you will have to do that by doubling the underground routes, which will take years before it can be clone, and by that time the traffic will be even greater.

So far as the actual control of traffic in London is concerned, I must say I cannot agree with the noble Lord who said that the police manage the traffic very well. I have had a certain amount of practice and experience in traffic, and as I go about the streets of London it is astounding to see the ignorance which is displayed. The day of the Trooping of the Colour I had to go back to Charing Cross. There was a fearful congestion of traffic, and after I had done my business in the bank I stood there for ten minutes and watched the method of controlling the traffic. It was childish, it was ludicrous; I never saw such a thing. If you had taken half a dozen children and put them down in place of the police, they would not have done worse. They had not the vaguest idea what to do. And the same thing happens on other occasions.

I said during the last debate that, one of the things that were necessary to-day was a school where you could train men in the control of traffic. Every day I walk about London I am convinced of that. If you do not teach men how to control the traffic, how can you send them out on the streets to do it? I regret to say I have seen no improvement at all in the method of controlling the traffic by the authorities. The other day I saw a horse and cart in a very crowded street, King William Street, in the City. I saw the man stop the cart, put on the horse's nosebag and chain up the wheel. Fancy chaining up the wheel in King William Street, one of the most crowded thoroughfares in the afternoon! I was aghast. I met a policeman and told him what had happened. He said: "What am I to do?" I said: "I cannot tell you what to do." He said: "What do you think I ought to do?" I replied: "If it were my job I should go and move him on." He said: "Well, I ought not to leave this place." I said: "Well, it has nothing to do with me," and so I went on. I came back half an hour afterwards. The policeman recognised me and said: "Oh, I'm sorry to say I could not do it." I said: "What do you mean—could not do it." He said: "According to the law that man is allowed to stand there for twenty minutes." Well, imagine a horse and cart standing in a crowded street for twenty solid minutes. Either the law is a "hass" which allows such a thing as that, or the policeman was entirely wrong, I do not know which. But that ought not to be possible. What is this Traffic Committee thinking of if it does not stop a thing like that?

Then there is the very simple cause of endless traffic blocks—motor cars turning round in the streets. Why should a motor car be allowed to turn round in a crowded street? It ought to be sent round the nearest square or the nearest by-road, but you see motor cars turning round in Piccadilly or Oxford Street in the most crowded portions of the day, stopping two lines of traffic. Why is not that stopped by the Committee? They have all the powers in the world which have been granted to them by Parliament. Why do they not, at certain places like Charing Cross, erect towers to control the traffic—places at which no human being in this world could control traffic standing on the ground? Unless you can see traffic coming you have not the least idea of how to control it. If you had a small tower near King Charles's Statue, with a man at the top who knows, he could tell where the greatest traffic is coming from. That is a point on which half a dozen roads centre. These are a few things. There are many more which could be done, but the hour is too late for me to go on now. What I complain of is that nothing seems to be done. Parliament has given tremendous powers in the last Traffic Act and yet nothing seems to be done. With a stroke of the pen half a dozen improvements could be made which would relieve the traffic immensely.


My Lords, I will endeavour very briefly to answer some of the points which have been made by the noble Lord opposite and by Lord Lamington. I hope some of the noble Lords who made a series of brilliant suggestions as to how they would manage the traffic will be content if I do not go very fully into those methods. I regret also that the Department is not under me, or I could no doubt profit more directly than I can by passing the suggestions on to the Minister concerned, but I shall be very glad to do so. The first criticism made on the Traffic Board I think was offered by the noble Lord opposite, who asked if that Traffic Board was a complete success. I think I can hardly answer until the Board has completed its labours, but I should like to point out that the Traffic Board, in my opinion, was a good deal hampered by the fact that it was only appointed for three years and that, for various reasons, it took six months before it was set up. I tried to persuade your Lordships that it would be far better to give six years so that there might be some continuity. I was defeated and therefore if the Traffic Board has suffered it, is not the fault of the noble Lord who is at present addressing your Lordships.

The next point was the question of the breaking up of streets. On that a good deal has been done. Road repairs and other street work have been controlled and alternative routes have been provided, so that there is as little inconvenience as possible. Some works have also been speeded up by working day and night, and by using quick drying cement, and other methods. I think the noble Lord has probably observed already that there has been a very great improvement in the streets as regards breaking up, which used to trouble us so much in the past. I am now dealing with what has happened on the advice of the Traffic Advisory Committee, because that was the point that the noble Lord particularly wanted information about. Further, 673 streets have been declared to be restricted streets, and no additional omnibuses have been allowed on them. I will comment later on, when I come to Lord Lamington's Question, on the effect of that on safety and security. Then, as regards regulations for traffic, the Committee have submitted reports which are now being considered by the Ministry of Transport. They are on various subjects—parking places (and I think the activities of the Ministry of Transport in that respect have received the commendation of one of the noble Lords who spoke) the lighting and guarding of street works, broken down vehicles, sandwich-men and advertisement vehicles.

Perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not at present go into the difficult questions of underground or over ground roads, though I have had a good deal of experience myself of the widening of streets in London, and I know very well indeed of the great cost involved in widening streets. We did make one street wider, and that was Kingsway, and it is difficult for the local authority in London to make more than one of these great efforts in fifteen or twenty years. But some schemes have been considered for the improvement of traffic facilities in the more congested areas, including the Victoria Dock Road scheme, which would relieve the congested routes leading to the docks, and also improvements in the Whitechapel High Street. A number of other proposals for traffic regulations are also being considered. Among those are the opening up of routes alternative to certain of the more congested thoroughfares, one-way traffic streets, regulations as to unattended vehicles, vehicles turning round in the more congested streets, slow-moving and stationary vehicles loading and unloading, and vehicles collecting refuse. In fact, I think I should be almost exhausted if I were to enumerate all the activities of the Traffic Advisory Board during the last six months, and I am sure your Lordships would find it rather tedious. I repeat that they have only been at work for six months, because the first six months after the passing of the Act were taken up in constituting the Board.

The next point which the noble Lord raised was as to what public authorities had been consulted. On the Advisory Board itself, of course, a great many of them are represented—the London County Council, the Metropolitan Boroughs, the County Boroughs of Croydon, East Ham and West Ham, the Counties of Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, Essex, Hertford and Buckingham; so those authorities are easily kept in touch with what is done by the Board. I am not now speaking of such authorities as the Home Office, the Commissioners of Police and the City of London. Any authorities affected by these regulations are consulted and any changes are made as the result of consultation which may seem desirable.

I should like make one point in reply to the criticism of the noble Lord that possibly some of the proceedings of the Traffic Committee have been slow. I want to remind your Lordships that besides the fact that the questions they have to deal with—as has, indeed, been displayed by the differences of opinion exhibited to-night by noble Lords—are very intricate and that a great many interests have to be consulted, the Committed is not an Executive Committee but an Advisory Committee, and many of the proposals they make require the assistance of local authorities and there must be inevitable delay when so many local authorities have to be consulted.

I do not think he pressed for them in his speech, and, if so, I will not say much about the matter, but the noble Lord moved for Papers. I was going to suggest to him that under the Act a Report has to be made once a year and laid on the Table of Parliament. Possibly, if the noble Lord would not press for Papers now, but waited for that Report, he would he more fully satisfied.

Then I come to the very serious question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, and other members of your Lordships' House regarding accidents. Before I deal with the precise figures I should like to say that the London Traffic Advisory Committee are considering the question of these street accidents in order to ascertain whether any measure can be usefully taken which would have the effect of reducing their number. With regard to the point mentioned by my noble friend Lord Newton, the Committee are also considering whether any alteration of the rule of the pavement would really add to the safety of pedestrians.


Hear, hear!


I am glad that has brought balm to the soul of my noble friend.

In regard to the number of street accidents a certain increase was no doubt due, as noble Lords have said, to the very large increase of motor vehicles and of the number of persons who have been conveyed by public service vehicles crossing the London streets. I think there is some comfort, though the figures are very serious, in the fact that the number of street accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, are not increasing in the same proportion as the increase in the number of motor vehicles. One noble Lord bore testimony to the great efficiency of the police in New York and said that we ought to go and take lessons there in the way to manage our traffic. I should like to point out that, though the figures are more general than those of New York, this experience of the relative increase in the accidents as compared with the number of motors is entirely different to the experience in the United States, where the two curves very nearly approximate. I do not say that this proves very much, but it at least suggests that our methods in regard to control are probably quite as good as theirs.

The noble Lord referred to some of the figures, and I should like to dwell upon them for the moment. The number of fatal accidents in the Metropolitan Police District, caused by vehicles of all classes, in the year 1915 was 851. That was the highest on record. There possibly may have been special circumstances about that year 1915. Anyhow, in 1922 they were 675. They were less in 1923, 668. Unfortunately, in 1924 the numbers had risen to 844.




The figures I have been given are 844, and 140 of those were riders of pedal bicycles. The noble Lord asked whether it was possible to give a return of the places where these accidents had taken place, and I will certainly ask whether that can be done. The suggestion is also made that, perhaps, a little map might be prepared showing where these fatal accidents happened. I think that the noble Earl opposite, in replying to this question last year, found himself unable to give those figures, but I will certainly ask whether the question has become more practicable to-day.

The number of accidents for 1924 is less than the number for 1915, in spite of the very large increase in the number of motor vehicles. The Ministry of Transport realise the very serious nature and the number of these casualties, and they have asked the London Traffic Advisory Committee to advise them on the subject. Again, inquiries are being made into the causes of street accidents to see whether they are due to a defect in the nature and character of the road or defects in the vehicles themselves. These inquiries have resulted in many very useful improvements being made in the way of cutting off dangerous corners, improving the road surface, and so on. The London Traffic Advisory Committee are further considering what they can do to reduce the congestion in the London streets, and regulations for the control of traffic are continually being considered by the Ministry.

Let me say one word now on the question of the accidents due to the care- lessness of pedestrians. I think I am fairly impartial on this subject because I am both a pedestrian and a motorist. I am not so exclusively a motorist as my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu; but I cannot help saying that I think a certain number of accidents are due, perhaps, to the boldness and rashness of pedestrians. The carelessness of pedestrians is, of course, another matter. As a pedestrian I claim to have a certain amount of carelessness allowed me. I may be crossing the streets and reflecting upon the best way to reform your Lordships' House, and I do not think I need be always tuned up to the extreme accuracy of observation and activity which is necessary, perhaps, to those who are crossing streets. At the same time, there is no doubt that a great deal is due also to the drivers themselves, and this question is being very carefully considered by the Ministry of Transport. They are considering whether severer penalties are not necessary for dangerous driving, and they hope, as soon as the pressure of Parliamentary business allows us, that they may be able to introduce a comprehensive Roads Vehicles Bill which will result in improvement, and will contain some provisions of this character.

The last point I would mention is this. The question of sub-ways has been discussed; in fact, it has been extended into tunnels out of London. So far as there are existing sub-ways already, I understand that the public show a curious reluctance to make use of them, so that if these subterranean ways are extended it will be necessary to educate the public to some extent in order to persuade them to make use of the tunnels. On the general question of risks and dangers, I can assure noble Lords that these matters are being very carefully looked into by the Ministry. The Ministry are fully alive to the difficulties, and they are by no means disposed, in the rather lighthearted way of my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, to attribute this number of accidents merely to the carelessness of pedestrians.


Has the noble Viscount got the number of pedestrians Killed?


I have asked for that figure, but have not got the figures as to pedestrians separately.


My Lords, may I say that I am much gratified by the very full and ample reply that the noble Viscount has given to my Question? He has given us ample information of all that the Advisory Board and the Ministry of Transport are doing, and I think we have reason to congratulate the Ministry upon what they have accomplished. What they have done in connection with the parking of motor cars and of one-way streets, if further developed, will help materially to minimise the traffic difficulties. I would like to make one correction. One noble Lord seemed to think that I Is as in favour of a large number of overhead and underground roads. I merely suggested that there were one or two, possibly three, places in the West End of London where there was a tremendous cross-current of traffic, and that it would pay if one or two tunnels were made for the purpose of relieving that traffic at those particular points. In conclusion, I desire to say that I thank the noble Viscount for having given us such a full account of what the Advisory Board are doing, and I beg to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.