HL Deb 13 December 1932 vol 86 cc359-76

LORD KILMAINE rose to call attention to the congestion of traffic in the London streets; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is with considerable diffidence that I venture to bring this subject before you, but, having been absent from London for over three years, when I returned to it a few months ago I was at once most unfavourably struck by the terrible way in which the congestion of traffic had increased in that period. I dare say many of your Lord- ships have experienced the same sort of thing as I have in coming up for a day's shopping or business from a South Coast resort, and having about two hours to do it in. One could not go by Underground, one had to take a taxicab. My experience was that at intervals I was held up for five minutes, ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour. By the time one had got one's business done one was run in for a bill of 20s. or 30s., and it was nearly three o'clock. Having experienced this several times I thought I had better try to see, if I possibly could, what was the cause of all this.

As far as I can see, one of the chief causes is the very slow-moving horse-drawn traffic, heavy motor lorries with goods, and numerous omnibuses in the busiest hours of the day, proceeding along some of the narrowest and busiest streets more than half empty, with perhaps five or six or ten people in them. I do not know whether any of my suggestions will be of any use, but I will venture to suggest the entire prohibition of all horse-drawn vehicles in the main streets between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. Limit the number of omnibuses except those running to parts of London not served by an Underground railway, such as Chelsea, and stop their circulation entirely in the busiest and most frequented streets between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. It has been represented to me also that the circulation of omnibuses in Bond Street is most extraordinarily unpopular. It is unpopular with the shopkeepers and it is unpopular with other people who use the street. It is one of the busiest and narrowest streets of this City, and it is not a street for vehicles the size of omnibuses. I am told that it would be a most popular move with the shopkeepers and everybody else if these vehicles could be stopped.

I know the omnibus is a very popular vehicle. But surely it is not necessary to have omnibuses in such numbers as they are. They are the cause of all this congestion. I have been in the Haymarket sometimes and seen ten or twelve omnibuses, all held up, with hardly anybody in them. I know that one of the sights of London is the policeman directing traffic, but surely he would be better employed trying to detect crime. We have also got a beautiful broad river. I cannot see why it should not be possible to have fast-moving motor launches or vedettes, as they have in some parts of France, to convey passengers quickly up and down the river. Now that there are no steamers there is nothing on the river. You could have motor launches, and to anybody living in Chelsea it would be extremely nice on a summer day to be able to take a launch at Westminster and go down to Chelsea. Then, is not it possible to institute some service of goods traffic on all the Underground Railways? I do not say you could run goods trains in the day time. Probably not, it is too busy. But why not run them at night? You would have a cheap and swift way by which merchandise could be taken from one part of London to another.

I have been told that another thing is that long distance omnibuses coming from other parts of the country ought to have their termini on the outskirts near some Underground station, and not be allowed in the centre of the City. I suggest it with all diffidence, but would it not be possible to allow the omnibuses to circulate to the public parks? If you could allow the omnibuses to go inside St. James's Park it -would relieve the traffic enormously. If it is held that it might be annoying to Ms Majesty the King, I think some compromise might he possible, for example, when the Royal Family are not in residence. If taxicabs are allowed to go through the public parks, why not omnibuses? I think it would be extraordinarily popular with people if they could drive through the parks of London in omnibuses and see Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial. Of course, if His Majesty objects to it, that is another matter.

I venture to say that the state of congestion and chaos in the London streets is an absolute disgrace to a City of the importance and wealth of London. You do not find it in any other capital city, and it is a source of perpetual danger, annoyance, and expense to His Majesty's loyal and very over-taxed subjects. If something could be done it would also provide employment, for we need to find work for our unemployed people, and it could be done in a making stations and things of that sort. If work is not available for the unemployed at present, it simply has to be provided for them somehow. In this connection I may say that the other day I was driving from Bexhill to Eastbourne along a new arterial road, and about every quarter of a mile there were two men working. Why are there only two men working? Why are there not hundreds of them. Surely it is better to have them working rather than just giving them the "dole," which breeds ever-increasing discontent? I see that in another country—I think it was in America—a town had a large street paved with wood blocks. An advertisement was inserted in the local Press inviting the poor people to come and remove the blocks for fuel, and the result was that the street was cleared in record time and everybody was satisfied. I suppose if we did a thing like that we should have the trade unions against us. "What are you doing?" it would be said, "taking the bread out of workmen's mouths." But who is governing this country? is it Parliament or the trade unions? I do not profess to be any expert on traffic. I only wish to bring this subject forward as it is one which I think certainly does require some attention. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, I think we shall all be agreed that we are much indebted to the noble Lord for his speech and for the various suggestions he has made. I should not have risen if he had not condemned the state of London traffic, and said London was the worst city in the world for traffic. I do not think, if I may say so, that the noble Lord is a very good judge on this matter, because he has been away for three years, and he tells us that his method, when he is for a short time in London, is to go about in taxicabs. I am sorry Lord Ashfield is not here to-day, because he. would tell your Lordships that the quickest way to go about London is by Underground. If you go by Underground you know that you will travel more quickly and for longer distances than you would in any other city.


Will the noble Lord excuse my interrupting him? I beg to inform him that I always go by Underground whenever I can, but there are some parts that cannot be reached by Underground.


I think the parts that the noble Lord wants to go to when he comes from the country are the parts lie can go to by Underground. We should not have heard so much about that "ticking-up," which seemed to be the great complaint of the noble Lord, if he went by Underground. I do not want to delay your Lordships at undue length because the noble Lord who represents the Minister of Transport will, I am sure, answer the complaint of the noble Lord who moved for Papers. I am sure he is going to say: "If you only pass the London Passenger Traffic Bill into law all will be well." I do not agree. At the same time I was sorry to hear the attack that was made on the horse. I have always been very interested in horses, and it seems to me rather ridiculous to say you can exclude the horse from the whole of London. It has been done in certain streets with success, but you really cannot, in view of the commercial value of the horse as a means of transport, exclude horses altogether from London.

Another point made by the noble Lord was about the use of the Thames. Your Lordships will remember—the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, knows as well as I do—that years ago the London County Council ran steamboats, which unfortunately were a failure because of our climate. They could not be made to pay, and were therefore discontinued. The same objection applies to-day. A gentleman who is interested in a well-known coal firm tried recently to run some steamboats on the river, but they had to be given up. The real truth of the matter is that except for a few days in the summer it does not pay to run them, and that is why steamboats and motor boats cannot be used on the Thames.

There is one other point I should like to touch upon, and that is the congestion arising from the omnibuses. Part of the trouble comes from the long-distance omnibuses that are allowed to come into the centre of London. In the City of Westminster, of the council of which I am a member, we brought up a case before Lord Amulree's Committee last summer in which we asked that these omnibuses should not be allowed to add to the congestion by going through the heart of the City of Westminster, which, as your Lordships know, comprises the principal shopping centres. There are two very interesting documents on traffic. One is the final Report of the Committee of Inquiry upon London Motor Coach Services which was presided over by Lord Amulree. That Report was issued in August of last year. Unfortunately no conclusion has been come to about it; at least no action has been taken. I should be glad to know from the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, who is to reply, what is the reason for that. It always seems to me that that is one of our troubles. It was recommended in that Report that the long-distance omnibuses should not land their passengers or go through the centre of the City, but that they should, like the railways, have stations outside the centre Where people visiting London could be set clown, and from there take the ordinary omnibus. I do not wish to discuss these things further now because there will be many opportunities of doing so. I am glad the noble Lord brought forward his Motion, because it does give us an opportunity of knowing what we are anxious to learn in regard to this question of congestion in our streets by vast numbers of omnibuses, green and red and of all sorts of colours.


My Lords, I should not have ventured to intervene if it had not been for the speech of the noble Lord. It does seem to me that everybody who deals with London traffic is far too drastic in their recommendations. I expected the noble Lord in his speech every minute to say that London should be completely burned down and given into the hands of Sir Reginald Blomfield to rebuild. It does seem to me that there are several suggestions that could be made on moderate lines which would make a great difference to the traffic in London. One is this. London is the only city in the world in which a motor car is allowed to draw up facing the traffic on the wrong side of the road. In every other city a motor car is obliged to make a turn and go to the place where it is going to set down in the same way as the traffic is proceeding. It is obvious that it is much easier for a motor car to turn in the middle of the road than it is for it ultimately to turn when it goes away from the side of the road. If that was made a law of this country, and every motor ear was compelled when it draws up to do so in the way that the traffic is going, I think that would make a great difference to the congestion. It would be a good thing if such a law were made universal not only in the town but in the country also. Everybody knows that a motor car drawing up at night on the wrong side facing the traffic is a cause of innumerable accidents in the country owing to other cars misjudging the lights.

There is another alteration that might be made in the law. The police have got into a bad habit which I think the authorities should try to cure. When there is a block at a street point they allow the block to get so long that it overlaps a side street. The police ought always to leave a. hole in the block so that traffic coming from the side streets can pass across during the times that the block is continuing. Most of your Lordships will have seen what happens in places like Curzon Street, Bruton Street and Bond Street. The police will allow a line of traffic to accumulate and it blocks not only Conduit Street but side streets and Grosvenor Street and Brook Street beyond. The police ought to be instructed always. to leave a space so that traffic from side streets may cross.

A further thought which occurs to the ordinary person in London is that the machine in Oxford Street has turned out to be more intelligent than the human beings who regulate traffic in Piccadilly. I think if the police were given instructions by the authority to make the time during which they hold up traffic of exactly the same length as in the case of the lights in Oxford Street, the police would be as efficient as the lights in Oxford Street. There is no doubt the police allow much too long lines of traffic to accumulate before they change. At Bruton Street and Bond Street I have seen the police allow traffic to accumulate down Bruton. Street until it reaches Berkeley Square before the change is made. It is obvious that the efficiency of the lights arises from the fact that they move quickly and. do not allow traffic to accumulate.

The other thing I have to say to your Lordships is that I think the authorities ought to keep an eye on that dangerous being, the pedestrian. The London pedestrian is one of the wildest and most uncontrolled creatures who has ever been known in the whole world. In every other city the traffic dominates the pedestrian. In London alone the pedestrian dominates the traffic. At this moment there is no doubt that the lights system in Oxford Street, which is obviously going to be the thing of the future, is being endangered by the way the public are behaving. The Government have never been able to control the public. They tried to snake them walk on the left, but the public refused. Of course, as a Liberal occupying a seat on these Benches, I am very glad to see that spirit of independence, but I should have thought that noble Lords opposite, and especially noble Lords to the Left who consider it their mission to tyrannise over the public, would have taken sonic steps to deal with the pedestrian.

It is clear that he is endangering the system of lights in Oxford Street by paying no attention to the lights whatever. The time allowed for traffic from the side streets to cross is very short indeed. That is quite right. The traffic along Oxford Street is allowed a long time and the traffic from side streets only a short time, but the time is so short that the public, who never look at the lights, are all the time crossing the entrances from the side streets and the traffic has no chance of moving until the lights are beginning to change and they have lost the opportunity. If the public are going to behave like that the whole system of lights is going to fail. The Government ought to consider the question of either educating the public or else putting up some notice which will prevent them from behaving in this way. The suggestions I have made could be carried out by the Government without anything so drastic as that proposed by the noble Lord who introduced this subject.


My Lords, if apology is needed, as I often think it is, for addressing your Lordships once in an afternoon, the need for it must be doubled when one has to trespass on your patience by speaking twice. The subject raised by the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmaine, is one in which I am deeply interested, but I thought it would be difficult indeed to find somebody who, as I thought, shared my views expressing so many opinions with which I profoundly disagree. There is no doubt that the traffic of London is not as well regulated as is possible. Very few people will doubt that. First of all it has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, and said rightly, that the institution of lights in Oxford Street has enormously facilitated traffic along that street. It certainly has, and I want to know why those lights are not universal. Why are there not these lights in Piccadilly, and why do they not extend all down the Bayswater Road?

The Bayswater Road is an extraordinarily good illustration of where they ought to be. I know of no more dangerous road in the whole of London. As the roads that enter it do not run through, the motor traffic appears to think that it has an entirely unimpeded line along which it can go at any pace it pleases, and everything does go at any pace it can. Motor lorries, omnibuses, motor vans, pour along the road, and the result is that when people come in from the side streets they are in grave danger of being destroyed. So grave is that danger that police have now been placed at nearly every one of these entrances in order that they may let traffic in. The whole of that could be stopped by merely putting up lights. I cannot understand why it is not done. Then the police could do what they ought to do—not stand at points where the traffic is held up, but walk down the street and see where the traffic is exceeding the already lax regulations by which it is controlled. It is really ridiculous to put police at these places, sometimes two at a time, when what they do could be done much better by automatic lights. I am unable to understand why it is that the Ministry of Transport has not adopted that system.

The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, pointed out something, with which I entirely agree. It, really is ridiculous to allow fleets of omnibuses to come into London that do not facilitate the London traffic in the least. They do not take up passengers in London but they tear down the streets as fast as they possibly can, generally in the middle, and then leave their cars to litter our squares and public places. It is an astonishing thing to me that it should 'be permitted. I see no reason why they should not be obliged to stop at convenient spots on the outskirts where London omnibuses and trains can pick up the passengers and convey them to their destinations. It is absurd to suppose that these alien omnibuses deposit people exactly where they want to go. There is far greater elasticity of movement in the London omnibuses and passengers could get London omnibuses which would take them much nearer their final destination.

I am inclined to think that in the end that is what they will have to do.

The noble Lord said he was disappointed with the Ministry of Transport. I would respectfully suggest to him that he had better consider when he is dealing with the Ministry of Transport. the great beatitude: "Blessed is the man who expecteth nothing for he shall not be disappointed." I must say I am amazed at the apathy of the Ministry of Transport. I cannot find a single thing that they have done except set up these lights in Oxford Street and there stop. Although there have been impressive expressions of opinion from your Lordships' House and although there have been reports by competent people, you find that nothing is done. The last Report was in regard to heavy traffic, and it seems to me a most astounding thing that a Report which they asked should be presented as quickly as possible and which they received in July, should be something which they are still incubating. So far as I can see, if they do introduce it into the next Budget, which they say is the appropriate time, it cannot be made operative for another year and so the Report which they asked for quickly, which they received in July, will remain a dead letter if it is ever acted upon at all. I must confess that I am not fond of any Ministries but the one that least attracts my affection is the Ministry of Transport.

I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmaine, who has his views about omnibuses, that the London General omnibus driver is by far the most skilful, the most careful and considerate driver of any motor vehicle of which I have experience. He has no reason to fear the London General Omnibus Company's vehicles. As for their going down Bond Street, the noble Lord must remember that Bond Street was not created merely for shop keepers. It is one of the few thoroughfares from the north to the south. You cannot get direct from Oxford Street to Piccadilly except by going clown Bond Street or Park Lane. To suggest that this street should be closed to people who cannot afford to ride in taxi-cabs or who do not own motor cars is to interfere with the rights of the people who use omnibuses, which I think quite wrong. At the same time I view with some considerable alarm the proposal that omnibuses should invade the parks. There is still one little spot left in London where you can for a few short moments be free from the incessant din arid aggravation of motor traffic, and that is in the parks. His suggestion is that even that small spot of respite from our annoyances should be taken from us I certainly hope the Ministry will not adopt that suggestion of the noble Lord.

With regard to Lord Esher, I fail to recognise myself as wild—I have forgotten the other epithet, but it was something far removed from my nature which, he said, was the quality of pedestrians in London. If I had been asked to reason backwards when I heard that speech I should have said that that is a man who always goes about in a motor car; it seemed to me he knew little of the difficulties of and dangers for pedestrians. I am one of those who, I should think, walk about London more than anybody else because, of all forms of transport yet devised, walking is the one I like best and when I have time I like, at the risk of my life, to walk. Then I am told that I dominate the motor traffic. If domination means that I am in peril of losing my life, which is sometimes nearly realised, then I suppose I do, but I understand that what was meant was that "these pedestrians get into our way and we have either to run over them or to slacken speed." What I want to-know is why they should not slacken speed and why it is that directly there is a pedestrian in the road they say: "Here is a nuisance, get him out of the way"? I wish motorists would remember that pedestrians are on the road by right and the whole of the motor traffic is there by licence, and that the people there by licence have no tight to interfere with and attempt to destroy, as they do, the rights of people who were there before motor cars were thought of. I do not for a moment suppose that anything said this afternoon will have the least effect on the Ministry of Transport. I am sure it will riot. But it will do something to enable us to hear once more one of the pleasant and attractive speeches that Lord Plymouth invariably makes on behalf of the Ministry he does not represent.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has once again taken an opportunity of chastising the Ministry of Transport. He has said he has no great affection for any Ministry and least of all for the Ministry of Transport. I can assure him I gathered that a very long time ago. But curiously enough there are one or two matters with which I entirely agree with him in what he said this afternoon, and that does not very often occur. I entirely agree that it would be most undesirable that we should have omnibuses running up and down the Royal Parks. I also agree that it would be quite impossible in the present circumstances and conditions to attempt to remove the omnibuses from Bond Street. As he rightly pointed out, Bond Street forms one of the few thoroughfares from north to south in London, and if you were to order omnibuses off Bond Street it would only have, apart from other reactions, the result of still further crowding the other north and south thoroughfares such as Regent Street and Park Lane.

I refuse to be lured once again into the controversy of the motorist and the pedestrian. I really do not think it is appropriate on this occasion. After all, we ought to view these problems from the point of view of all users of the roads and not of any particular kind of user. I need hardly say that this question of the congestion of our streets in London has naturally been food for thought for the Ministry, and for all those others who are interested in the subject, for a considerable number of years, but I think it is quite unnecessary for me to go into the history of this question. I need only refer quite shortly to recent developments in regard to it. Your Lordships are aware that in 1924 the London Traffic Act did impose upon the Minister of Transport considerable measures of responsibility with regard to the control and regulation of traffic in London. There was set up by that Act the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee which advises the Minister on all questions connected with London traffic. The Minister is bound by that Act to consult that Committee before making any orders or regulations under the Act. Although he is not in fact bound to accept its advice, at the same time in practice he almost invariably does. This Committee has given a great deal of careful thought to this general question and has made a large number of sugges- tions and recommendations which are designed to facilitate the movement of traffic in the streets and to provide conditions of greater safety.

As I see it, the congestion of the streets is due mainly to three causes: (1) Standing and slow-moving vehicles which hamper the free movement of other vehicles; (2) cross traffic at road junctions; (3) inadequate road facilities. The noble Lord who introduced this Motion made several suggestions. His first was that horse traffic should be removed entirely from the main thoroughfares of Central London. The Committee have naturally examined the possibility of that, but on the evidence before them they have definitely come to the conclusion that it would not be fair to prohibit the use of horse traffic altogether in Central London. They take the view that the requirements of certain traders can only be met by the use of horse transport. A point which I think is often lost sight of is that in a narrow street or a congested area what may be termed the manoeuvring capacity of a horse-drawn vehicle is considerably greater than that of a motor vehicle. This is the view that has also been taken by the Minister. The Minister recognises that there are still many large haulage contractors and certain other traders, as well as the railway companies, who make use of horse-drawn vehicles particularly for short journeys because they have proved to be the most economical form of traffic they can employ.

It is interesting to note that the volume of horse-drawn traffic in London has decreased continually and regularly for many years past. I have a table here—I will not read all the figures out to your Lordships—which shows that the number of horse-drawn vehicles which passed 98 selected points in London on the same day in each of the years from 1924 to 1931 decreased from 210,000 in 1924 to 105,000 in 1931. That decrease is almost exactly 50 per cent. Similarly there was a decrease between 1913 and 1924 of something like 60 per cent. This shows that there is a regular and almost continual decrease in horse-drawn vehicles which should go some way towards the object desired by the noble Lord. In connection with this question of the prohibition of horse-drawn traffic it is only fair for me to point out that the Traffic Advisory Committee have expressed the opinion that any restriction would have to be applied not only to horse-drawn vehicles but to motor vehicles which are slow moving. It would be clearly unfair to apply a restriction of that sort solely to horse-drawn vehicles.

In connection with the scheme referred to this afternoon, the Oxford Street scheme, the Minister accepted the advice then put forward by that Committee to the effect that slow-moving vehicles, including horse-drawn vehicles and motor vehicles restricted to a speed of eight miles an hour, should be prohibited from using Oxford Street between the hours of twelve and seven, unless they were proceeding to a destination in Oxford Street or to a destination which could not be reached without making use of Oxford Street. That regulation, of course, has the effect of further reducing the volume of horse-drawn vehicles which use Oxford Street now, and whereas, as I have told your Lordships, the reduction throughout the area had been 50 per cent. since 1924, in Oxford Street, as a result of this further restriction, the reduction is about 72 per cent. The reason why this restriction or regulation was made, so far as Oxford Street is concerned, was that the traffic light system which has been instituted there was installed and synchronised on the basis that the traffic using Oxford Street would be going at sixteen miles an hour. It was done on that special basis, and therefore it is clear that if you still have a number of vehicles going at a slower rate than sixteen miles an hour it would have a serious effect and do a great deal to minimise the advantages which have been derived from the installation of this system.

These restrictions were naturally opposed by interests concerned, but I understand that since the regulations have been in force there has been no serious complaint up to now. I can quite understand that the question will be asked why, if you can do that kind of thing in Oxford Street, cannot you do it more generally throughout London. The answer is comparatively simple. It must be realised that restriction on the entry to a single street which has good alternative routes is an entirely different thing from a general application of a restriction of that kind. It is per- fectly obvious that if you were to make a general restriction throughout the centre of London, prohibiting horse-drawn vehicles from using the main thoroughfares in that part of London, the effect would be to make in practice a general prohibition. It would make it impossible for horse-drawn vehicles to get from one point to another within that area. We do feel that the entire prohibition of horse-drawn traffic within the central part of London would create a great deal of hardship in certain cases. As I have pointed out, the reduction in the number of horse-drawn vehicles using the streets is progressive and regular, and taking all things into consideration it does not seem to me that there is sufficient reason for departing from the policy pursued up to now, by taking the more drastic action suggested by the noble Lord who moved this Resolution, which is to prohibit entirely the use of horse-drawn traffic in London.

There are a considerable number of other matters to which I might refer. Efforts have been made in various ways to minimise the congestion in the streets. For instance, there is a regulation in force which prohibits taxicabs from proceeding at a speed below that of the general run of traffic. This restriction has been applied in many of the congested streets in London. There is also a regulation made in connection with the Oxford Street traffic scheme, prohibiting passenger-carrying vehicles from waiting during certain hours for a longer period than is necessary to pick up or set down their passengers. Also goods vehicles are not allowed to stand for a longer period than ten minutes. Similar regulations apply in the Piccadilly Circus area. One could go on; but I want to refer to other questions which have been referred to this afternoon. Clearly the capacity of important main roads in London is materially reduced by the large number of cross-roads, many of which themselves carry large volumes of traffic, and we feel that the most effective method of dealing with these is by the provision of roundabouts, wherever possible, such as have been instituted in Trafalgar Square, Sloane Square, and the western approach to Lambeth Bridge. The difficulty is that owing to the lay-out of the streets they are extremely difficult to institute, and one cannot adopt them at all widely because the cost of acquiring the land, which is often a necessity, is so heavy as to be almost prohibitive at the present moment.

There is another method of dealing with cross streets, and that is by installing the system of traffic signals as in Oxford Street. No doubt there is a great deal to be said for the system which in Oxford Street has been a great success, and the noble and learned Lord has asked why similar systems have not been installed in many other parts of London, to deal with the difficulties which exist there. I quite agree that it would be a very good thing if we could get on faster with the installation of these systems. The matter is one for the local authorities primarily, and the Minister of Transport has urged them to proceed as quickly as possible with the installation of these traffic signals at other places. We have offered them 50 per cent. both of the capital cost of installation and also, I think, of maintenance as well, but I am not certain on that latter point. We have had one or two debates, at which the noble and learned Lord has not been present, when these matters have been thoroughly discussed, and it is quite definitely the. policy of the Minister to help and to urge the local authorities to instal these traffic signal lights wherever they would be of use and would be practicable. We quite realise the value of them. We have had the experience and now know the results of their installation in Oxford Street, and I entirely agree that it would be of great assistance if a great many more could be installed wherever they might prove useful.

A number of other schemes have already been passed, and I believe we shall progress a great deal more quickly in respect of them in the future than we have done in the past. I understand there is a scheme for Piccadilly which has received general assent, and I believe it will not be long before some system of traffic lights will be installed in Piccadilly. The difficulties created by inadequate road facilities are, of course, another great factor in the congestion of London traffic. Quite a number of improvement schemes have been formulated by the London County Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport which arc calculated to assist. There is the Victoria Dock road scheme which will give greatly improved access to the dock area and which, I am glad to say, is making satisfactory progress. But there are other large schemes which, owing to economic pressure, have had to be shelved, for the moment at any rate, and it is clearly, owing to the great expenditure involved, difficult to proceed very quickly on those lines.

The noble Lord who introduced this Motion suggested that the congestion of the streets might be considerably relieved by making use of the Metropolitan and the Underground Railways for goods traffic at night. I can assure the noble Lord that this question has been put both to the Metropolitan Railway Company and to the Underground Railway Company, and they have both assured us that this suggestion is an impracticable one. To begin with, the number of trains that use the system in the daytime is far too great to make it possible for them to put goods trains on at the same time, and I am told that, as far as the night is concerned, the limited hours which are available for the proper inspection and renewal of railway equipment preclude these lines from being further used for goods traffic. It is quite clear that both companies are of one mind in the view that it. would be impossible to put further goods trains on their systems. Of course, the Metropolitan system at night time is, to a limited extent, used for goods trains.

My noble friend Lord Jessel and the noble and learned Lord have referred to the question of motor coaches coming into the centre of London. This was a question which was examined very carefully by the Committee over which the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, presided. The reason why no action has been taken upon the two Reports of that Committee is a simple one. It is that at the moment there is an application for an injunction on the Minister of Transport in the High Court restraining him from giving any decision as the result of the findings of the Amulree Committee. But it is a matter which was examined very fully, and we believe that this difficulty will be cleared away before very long. I quite agree that we ought to explore every means of trying to minimise this very great evil in London. The noble Viscount, Lord Esher, has made one or two suggestions. I feel certain that they have been examined already, but I do not know exactly what the position is in regard to them. I will certainly draw the attention of the Minister once again to the suggestions that have been made, but I honestly do not think that any substantial progress can be made on the lines suggested by Lord Kilmaine.

In my view there are three main ways in which you can grapple with this problem. The first is by installing more roundabouts throughout London wherever practicable. The second is by the extension of the traffic control signals, and I have told your Lordships that we are urging the local authorities to get on with these and to instal further ones as quickly as possible. The third is by street improvements generally. So far as street improvements are concerned, I am afraid the present economic and financial situation makes it very difficult indeed to enter upon schemes of that kind, because in most cases they entail the expenditure of very large sums of money. I have tried to deal with the various points that have been raised, and, although I dare say I have not succeeded in giving a satisfactory answer to every question that has been asked, I hope at any rate that what I have said will go some way towards satisfying those who are interested in this subject.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.