HL Deb 14 December 1965 vol 271 cc598-601

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there is any limit to the length, breadth and weight of loads permitted to be transported by road in the United Kingdom.]


My Lords, there are no absolute limits, but road transport of the larger and heavier loads is controlled. For example, movement by road of loads more than 90 feet long, 14 feet wide or 150 tons gross weight can be made only if expressly authorised by my right honourable friend.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. But I refer in my Question to the description and photograph in The Times a week or two ago of a 170 ft. long distillation column (whatever that may mean), weighing 62 tons, which was being taken by road from Barry Docks to Sully. Am I correct in believing that that is only a short distance, but that it is the biggest load, according to this report—or thought to be the biggest load—ever carried by road in the United Kingdom? I am wondering whether the noble Lord can comment on that.


Yes, my Lords, it is an excellent example of what the Ministry do, in conjunction with both the manufacturers and transport organisations. This was a load manufactured in West Scotland, brought round the coast by ship to Barry Docks, and carted by road from Barry Docks to a site some two and a half to three miles away, where it was to be installed as a piece of machinery. Therefore the actual road haulage of this load was a matter of two and a half to three miles and it took about three-quarters of an hour. It was, of course, supervised by the Glamorgan police.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us at what time of day this journey took place?


The road journey started at 2.25 p.m., and the load arrived on the site at 3.20 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is not the case that some previous Government extended the permissible breadth of road vehicles, and whether the result has not been gravely to impair and also endanger road transport on the narrow roads of the Highlands? And if that is so, will the Government consider whether they are going to do anything about it, because it is a material disadvantage to the Highlands?


My Lords, as the noble Lord said, some years ago the permitted maximum width of vehicles was extended by law. I think it is correct to say that not only on some narrow roads in Scotland but also in English country lanes this causes a handicap to following or approaching traffic, and I will submit the noble Lord's comments for appropriate action.


My Lords, may I ask whether if in this particular case it had been a longer haul the Government would have had the power to prohibit it, and would they in fact have prohibited it?


My Lords, one has to take the national economy into account. It is obvious that it was necessary to transport this load by road. In the light of the national economy one has to undertake certain duties which may in fact handicap other people. There is a special division within the Ministry which has engineers, and, with the full co-operation of manufacturers and hauliers wherever possible, a load is broken down to proportions of a reasonable size. I cannot say definitely, but most probably if this load had had to go a further distance than two or three miles it would have been broken down to smaller proportions.


My Lords, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether they regard it as a legitimate use of the transport facilities in this country to bring by road, from an area near the Port of Glasgow, agricultural machinery like the combine harvesters for export from East Anglian ports? Would the Government look into this problem, since this is one of the main reasons for the obstruction of transport streams, particularly during the summer months?


My Lords, most certainly we will look into it.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that, if loads of 150 tons are permitted on the roads, there is no reason why agricultural machinery should not be moved by road?


My Lords, bearing in mind the inconvenience to hundreds of other road users that happens every time one of these so-called awkward and indivisible loads is allowed on the main roads, can the noble Lord give an assurance that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government that all such loads should go by sea as far as possible? Further, will he consult with chief constables, who are extremely dissatisfied with the present situation, to see whether it cannot be improved?


My Lords, I had intended to convey in answer to a previous supplementary that we have a special division within the Ministry dealing with these "out of gauge" loads. Wherever possible a load is taken by sea, but if the point of manufacture is well inland less inconvenience may be caused by its going direct by road than to a port by road and then by sea. Equally there is the problem of coastwise shipping. Sometimes we are handicapped by the fact that ships to take "out of gauge" loads are not available.


My Lords, might I ask if there is any regulation to say that the overall width shall not be so great as to forbid any traffic in the opposite direction at all?


There is no such regulation so far as I know, but of course it is within the discretion of the Minister to prohibit any load which in fact would be of the type to which the noble Lord refers.


My Lords, would Her Majesty's Government not consider that it really is essential to restrict the weight of lorries in certain cases, particularly on our narrow Highland roads? Apart from the danger, there is the question of damage. On the A.9, which is our only main road North of Inverness, some ten years ago the Telford Bridge was destroyed—




Would Her Majesty's Government consider the possibility of restricting the weight of lorries where they are going to do great damage, as they have done in certain cases in the Highlands?


My Lords, for every "out of gauge" load the haulier has to sign to indemnify bridge authorities and highway authorities against damage to road or bridge.