§ 2.47 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware that the Drive Bridge, Hove, is in an unsafe condition; that this bridge carries a large volume of traffic over the main electrified railway, and that considerable doubt exists as to who is responsible for its upkeep and repair: and whether they will take immediate steps to promote a solution of this question and 274 any other action whereby the possibility of a serious accident may be averted.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRE-TARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT(LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH)
My Lords, this bridge is situated on the Class I road A.2023 which links trunk road A.27 with the sea front. The bridge was built by the old London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company at the expense of the Stanford Estate. This estate has been broken up and the land sold to a number of people, and none of the conveyances contains any obligation to maintain the bridge. It has thus not proved possible to establish that anyone is now legally liable to maintain the bridge, although, in the interests of safety, it has in fact been repaired on occasion by the Railway Executive. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport is aware of the importance of the bridge and that it is unsuitable for heavy traffic. The bridge at present bears a notice that it is insufficient to carry any vehicle the weight of any axle of which exceeds two tons. In view of the condition of the structure, my right honourable friend has agreed to confirm an Order made by the Hove Town Council restricting the use of the bridge to vehicles weighing not more than three tons, whether laden or unladen. A scheme is being prepared by the East Sussex County Council in co-operation with the Hove Town Council and the Railway Executive for the reconstruction of the bridge. I hope that equitable arrangements can be agreed for sharing the cost among the interested authorities, and provided that the County Council are satisfied that the work should be accorded priority my right honorable friend will be prepared to consider the possibility of making a grant towards the cost.
My Lords, whilst expressing a moderate amount of gratitude for that reply, may I ask one supplementary question? The noble Lord is well aware that local authorities can do nothing of a capital nature with-out some Ministerial consent. If the East Sussex County Council and other interested parties do manage to make a satisfactory scheme, can the noble Lord say whether the permits for the use of materials and labour will be forthcoming so that the work may be done in the comparatively near future?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
In the event of a grant being made, the steel allocation will come out of the steel allocation of the Ministry of Transport. As regards other materials, they being the responsibility of other Government Departments, the question must be addressed to them.
THE MARQUESS OF WILLINGDON
My Lords, as the bridge is so frequently used, is the noble Lord perfectly satisfied that the notice drawing attention to the danger is large enough? In my humble opinion, I do not believe that it is.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My advice is that it is, but, in view of the noble Marquess's question. I will have it re-examined.