HL Deb 01 February 1967 vol 279 cc955-7

2.28 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, following the decision to widen Connel Bridge so that it can eventually be used by two lanes of road traffic—

  1. (a) whether any interruption to traffic or restriction in vehicle width is anticipated, while the reconstruction work is in progress;
  2. (b) if the bridge has to be closed for any periods during daylight hours, what alternative arrangements will be made for essential traffic;
  3. (c) whether the Argyll County Council have been consulted as yet on these matters.]


My Lords, Connel Bridge is not wide enough for us to be able to reconstruct it satisfactorily for use by two lanes of road traffic. Within the limitations of the basic structure, we intend to provide an adequate single lane and a footpath. During reconstruction we hope to avoid any of the inconvenience to users to which the noble Lord refers, but I cannot at this stage give an assurance that this will be possible. This is a narrow bridge, complex in structure, which presents difficult problems to the engineers. As soon as they have devised a solution, this, and its implications, will be discussed with Argyll County Council.


My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his very full reply and for his allaying a great many local worries. As I understand it, the bridge will not be reconstructed for two-way traffic, but for one lane only, with a footpath. I also understood the noble Lord to say that there will be some restrictions on traffic passing during the reconstruction. Would the noble Lord bear in mind during the reconstruction process two things—quite apart from forestry traffic, tourist and other essential traffic, such as getting children to school: first, that the distance between the North side and the South side by any other route is over 100 miles; and, second that (to name but one firm) the bridge is used something like thirty times a day for the delivery of chemicals to Alginate Industries Ltd., at Barcaldine, and for the delivery of alginates to the South? Would he give an assurance that the vehicle widths will not be reduced below the existing vehicle width of 7' 6"?


My Lords, it would be wrong to assume that limitations will in fact be necessary, but if there should have to be interruptions to traffic, the times will be selected to cause the minimum interference, and care will be taken to ensure that essential vehicles are not held up by the works.


My Lords, if I may, I would ask one further question. If more interruptions than are envisaged at the moment have to occur, would he consider—bearing in mind that the Bonawe ferry is non-operational—reinstituting the old Connel Ferry, using the old hards on either side, by engaging a landing craft to make that crossing for essential traffic?


My Lords, we will bear that suggestion in mind.


My Lords, would the noble Lord be good enough to bear in mind that the alginates factories at Barcaldine, to which my noble friend referred, and which would have to close down if traffic in day-light hours were interrupted, besides employing 200 people locally produces—1 million worth of exports annually and also gives part-time employment to about 600 people in the Outer Isles who collect the raw material for the factories? Will he assure us that he will bear that in mind? I am sure there is some good explanation; but is the noble Lord aware that until yesterday, so far as we know, nobody on the Argyll County Council had been consulted about this scheme?


My Lords, I think the first point referred to by the noble Earl was covered by the answer I gave to the noble Earl, Lord Dundonald. We shall certainly have the importance of this industry very much in mind, and I should be surprised if its vehicles do not come under the category of essential vehicles to which I have already referred. There have not been consultations with the Argyll County Council up to the present because we have nothing to discuss with them until we see what proposals are coming forward. These proposals are being worked out at the present time with the consulting engineers, and as soon as there is something specific, consultations will take place with the county council.