§ 3.2 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the apparent difficulty in proceeding with the plan for the construction of the Severn Bridge and its approaches at the present time, consideration can be given to adaptation of the Sharpness railway bridge to carry both road and rail traffic, on a toll basis if necessary; and whether the cost of this scheme would amount to £250,000 with an estimated saving to road traffic of £500,000 per annum, and whether a moderate toll would convert the annual loss on the existing bridge to a profit.]
My Lords, conversion of the railway bridge at Sharpness, to enable it to carry road as well as rail traffic, has been considered carefully, in consultation with the British Transport Commission. The cost of conversion, including road approaches, is estimated at £400,000, exclusive of compensation to the British Transport Commission for interference with services, but as only an extremely restricted road use would be possible this very considerable expenditure would not be justified.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that it has been estimated that, if this conversion of the bridge were approved, it would lead to an economy of about £500,000 a year in the running of motor vehicles which go in that direction and which would use the bridge? Is the noble Lord also aware that only about three or four trains a day use this bridge, and that it could be converted for the sum of £70,000? Having regard to the fact that the Severn Road Bridge is as 963 far away, apparently, as the Greek Kalends, and the amount of steel involved in its construction, would not this scheme afford a cheap and easy way of providing for traffic that must go in that direction?
My Lords, I am afraid that we have no figures on which we can either confirm or deny the noble Earl's estimate of the saving in traffic expenses, and the data on which such an estimate could be made we regard as so nebulous as to make any estimate extremely speculative. As regards the rail traffic over the bridge, there are twelve passenger trains using it Mondays to Fridays, fourteen on Saturdays, and, in addition, eight goods trains. The question of a cheap alternative to the Severn Bridge would have to be considered in the light of the many engineering handicaps connected with this scheme. I can assure the noble Earl that I have looked into the details most carefully, and I am thoroughly convinced, as my honourable friend is, that this is not a very practicable scheme.
My Lords, if the noble Earl can produce precision where we can only find nebulousity, we will certainly be willing to consider the matter.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, is the noble Lord in a position to refute the allegation made by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that there is no possibility of the Severn Bridge being proceeded with in the near future?
I gave an Answer on that Question some weeks ago, and I am afraid that I am unable to add anything to that Answer.
My Lords, I am afraid that I have not the Answer with me now. It was a different Question.