§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Lord Ferrier rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action can be taken to ensure that the Edinburgh outer city by-pass, of which roughly half has been constructed, is completed in time to the Commonwealth Games in 1986.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I tabled this Question on 31st March and it went on the Paper for 29th April, just after the Easter Recess, but on that day it was crowded out by other business. It then went on the Paper for 17th June, but again it was crowded out. Today we have better luck, but still on a tight schedule. I am all the more grateful to noble Lords who have put their names down to speak after so many setbacks. I think it important that this saga should go on the record to illustrate how difficult it is, with the current pressure of legislative business, for a Back-Bencher to get a fair crack of the whip (if that is the right phrase to use) for a serious subject which, like the one I am raising, has an element of urgency about it. The alternative course to putting down a motion for a short debate ballot is no real alternative beause it may not come out of the hat at all; so I have prepared a speech for the third time, and brevity is now the watchword, although nearly three months have gone by since the Question was put down.1223
§ The background is known to the House, since it is 20 years or more since I first raised the matter in Parliament, so I shall only skim over and sketch in the history before coming to today's real issue. A by-pass round Edinburgh to the south was part of the Abercrombie Plan of 1947, but when the Forth Road Bridge, which was part of the plan, came to be built, the southern approach road was led round into the centre of the city for various reasons, in my view based to some extent on the census of 1960, which I consider was misleading.
In this House on 16th February 1961 I moved—and it was resolved by the House—that it was necessary
to expedite measures to facilitate the movement of long-distance traffic round the city…".—[Official Report, col. 908.]
That was 20 years ago. Incidentally, in the course of that debate the Minister wondered whether the estimated future traffic justified the building of the new road at an expenditure of between £2 million and £4 million.
§ Although the physical difficulties were not insuperable, the big problem was to obtain the approval of the number of different local authorities which were concerned with the route. But this ceased to be a complication on the creation of the Lothian Region in, f think, 1975. Meanwhile, very large sums had been spent, wastefully in my view, by Edinburgh on a variety of plans to relieve congestion within the city by complex road construction. These deliberations also brought about a planning blight in a large part of the city, the concealed cost of which cannot ever be estimated. However, Edinburgh was saved by the staggering nature of the proposals made by all the consultants and by the doughty resistance of the Cockburn Association.
The planners failed to appreciate the fact—and this I emphasise—that in the absence of
measures to facilitate the movement of long-distance traffic round the city
the internal plans had to be based entirely on conjecture. It did not take long for the Lothian Regional Council, with its skilful and dynamic planning authority, to accept this basic principle, to set aside as much internal construction as possible and to concentrate upon the by-pass. This the council has done so far as its finances permit, and at a cost of £19 million covering about six miles at the western end of the by-pass the council has constructed a great part of that half of the by-pass, but there are problems in the Sighthill area which have still to be ironed out and which might be costly. They involve a difficulty in crossing the railway. There is a question of whether there should be an underpass or an overpass.
§ The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, told me that he found himself on the by-pass from the A.702 (the Biggar road) the other day. He motored gaily in the direction of Turnhouse, but then he could not get off the road. However, the work has to be done, even though it will be difficult and costly.
§ Now we are coming to the crux of the matter—cost. Knowing as I do of the differences which exist between the Secretary of State and the spending regions, like Agag I realise that it is necessary to walk delicately. The facts remain that Edinburgh desperately needs its 1224 by-pass and that the resources of the region are such that, with the best will in the world, it cannot be expected to be completed before 1990.
§ Lest any noble Lord has wondered about the date of the Commonwealth Games, I was this morning told by the Chamber of Commerce in Edinburgh that the Lord Provost's office definitely confirms that Edinburgh is to host the Commonwealth Games in 1986. So what is to be done? There seems to me to be only one solution, and I take the liberty of suggesting that the whole by-pass might now be treated as a trunk road as soon as may be, and thus come under the Secretary of State, even to the extent of taking over from the region the work already done. Am I right in saying that the road is bound to be classed as a trunk road as soon as the final section by the Musselburgh by-pass is connected with the famous A.1 to London?
Of course there are many problems to be overcome, such as the National Coal Board's opencast proposals in the Inveresk-Wallyford area; that is where the trunk road from the south will connect with the proposed by-pass. However, the urgency of the situation was clearly established by an adjournment debate in the other place on 6th February 1978, when the Shadow Secretary of State said about the by-pass:
It must be agreed by us all that this is long overdue".— [Official Report, Commons, col. 1202.]
Could he perhaps match promise with performance now that he is the Secretary of State?
§ It is well to remember that the Armitage Report spotlights in a general way the importance to our economy of orbital highways. In this respect the by-pass is a money spinner in terms of savings in fuel and time and vehicle wear and tear; in access to the Edinburgh airport; in serving the Ingleston show and motor racing complex; and in contributing to the usefulness of the numerous radial roads which go southward and often seek interconnection.
By the way, the British Road Federation informed me today:
Four thousand five hundred vehicles per day now passing through Edinburgh city centre would be expected to use the outer by-pass".
One of the largest and most efficient transport operators in the country, and in Edinburgh, too, set the savings that would accrue from the by-pass at £1,200 per annum per vehicle—and this organisation has 40 vehicles. They are big ones, but they are superb. You see, my Lords, there are 37 sets of traffic lights to negotiate if one wants to motor through Edinburgh on the A.1 route.
Has not the time come for the injection of such capital works into the country's economy?—especially when they are so cost effective. As the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said in this House only a couple of days ago, as reported at col. 872 of the Official Report:
I am sure that the Government do not believe that we are never going to get out of the recession".
Are we not sure, too? And is that time not coming soon?
§ What about shifting the economy into a higher gear by investment of this sort? It amounts to something like £50 million spent over five years. The outline plan is there; the skills are there; the machines are there; the men are there. They all want work, 1225 and Edinburgh wants a by-pass so that progress can be made in improving public transport, which would follow internally, if only for that reason. One large transport organisation maintains that what is needed is better roads within Edinburgh. Of course, of course! But has this not been tried and found wanting? Has it not failed, what with the 4,500 vehicles per day superimposed upon the city's own traffic?
§ I have detained your Lordships long enough without even mentioning the environmental claims of this jewel of a city; or the need to safeguard and embellish its historical associations, its festival and its architecture. I thank the other noble Lords who have put their names down to speak, as I shall not have a chance at the end to say any more, and I look forward to hearing their contributions. By the way, Lord Wilson of Langside asked me to say that he would have liked to speak but could not stay.
§ I think it can be safely said that there are a number of other Peers who would have taken part if the whole thing had not been such a lang whang (if I may use an Edinburgh expression). Can I look forward with a measure of confidence to the reply of my noble friend Lord Lyell? I hope so. My Lords, I beg to ask my Question.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Lord Balerno
My Lords, I must start what I have to say by congratulating my noble friend upon his great persistence. He has shown it in many ways in dealing with the traffic problems of the Lothian region. I especially remember his presistence in getting the second runway for Edinburgh. But before going further I must myself declare an interest in the subject, as I think I live nearer to this problem than any other Member of your Lordships' House.
This outer ring road has been a very long time in coming—coming on the instalments system. A start was made over 40 years ago, and it helped the raffle getting to the then Turnhouse. It was a broad road, and it was named Maybury—ominously, after a Minister of Transport. Then came the Forth Road Bridge, which, as my noble friend Lord Ferrier has said, pourted the traffic into Princes Street, and especially the heavy lorries. It is difficult for an Edinburgh person to believe that lots of traffic just does not want to go into Edinburgh; nor, may I say, does Edinburgh want to have that traffic coming into it. The heavy traffic, especially that released over the Forth Bridge, wants to get to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and to Felixtowe, as quickly as possible. The flood into Edinburgh of heavy traffic plus the private car has resulted in Edinburgh becoming absolutely lousy with traffic wardens. It is rumoured that these traffic wardens have a very high casualty rate. Those who do not get run down end up in the mental hospital, which is wonderfully conveniently placed.
Another instalment of this road has just been opened, and it has got over the greatest obstacle, which is the Water of Leith. It has had to cut into one side of that valley to a considerable extent, and a very fine bridge has been put up. The result is that you get on to that new by-pass there, you whizz along and before you know it you are passing through some of the finest highland scenery to be encountered anywhere. But suddenly you come to an abrupt end, and you are then 1226 faced with a dilemma. Fork right, and you are faced with the alternative of three roads. Little wonder that that has now become one of Edinburgh's worst accident spots! Little wonder that you vow never to return that way again!
On the other hand, should you go left you have a most puzzling roundabout, with a myriad of traffic lights which are most difficult to comprehend—that is to say, if you can get into the system. There are usually long queues of vehicles already building up to get into it—poor souls! So you vow that you are never going to get caught in that again. So the poor little pig never gets to market at all, and misses the Commonwealth Games. Of course, it can still go back and come through Edinburgh—and that, of course, creates more work for the ambulances and the police cars.
§ 8.18 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, for what he has said on this. This is an important subject. I do not know whether your Lordships remember, but the late Lord Brabazon said, "There is a road which they humourously call the Great North Road". Those were the days when one could perfectly correctly say that. Now the A.1(M) goes up half-way through Northumberland, and then it steadily degenerates until it buries itself in that charming but entangling place called Musselburgh. That has been the position for years and years, and, really, it is time we extracted ourselves a little from that.
I can claim that as far back as 45 years ago I tried to impress the Edinburgh Town Council, of which I was at that time a member, that this was important, but absolutely nothing happened. I was supported, I understand, by the Buchanan Report, which was about 10 years later and which obviously took the same position. My Lords, it is ridiculous. Here is the Forth Bridge, built at immense expense, and w here does it go? All it can do, practically, is to bury itself into Edinburgh. You have to drive practically the whole way to Glasgow before you get on to a moderately decent road. Even then, if I may say so, on that road, the A.74, if you go up the M.6 to Gretna Green, suddenly the road stops and you come into the land of native, simple, human beings, with a very much inferior road. It really is time that we began to put that situation right.
I should like to add the importance of this. There was a time before the war when I was rather deeply concerned with the industrial side of Scotland. What was the central problem of industry in Scotland? It was access to markets—market power. Where is the big selling area in this country? It is, of course, London; and it is essential to get easy access for these goods, in many cases carried from Scotland by lorry, to these markets. It is because that access is difficult that Scotland has always done a great deal of overseas trade.
I know that the Government will say that we are in money trouble. Everyone is in money trouble all over the world. It makes no difference where you are. This is capital development of first-class importance. I hope the Government will keep in mind that this is connected with industrial development which is well worth doing. I hope that they will not 1227 pass it aside as something not to be considered. It is time that the disgraceful state of the roads around Edinburgh should be brought to an end. I ask the noble Lord who is to reply to carry the message to his honourable friends and right honourable friends that this is something which must be clone.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, after the very detailed information given by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, and his two noble friends, it is questionable whether I should intervene at all but it is felt that this matter comes under transport responsibilities plus the fact that for the best part of the last 25 years I have spent all my holidays in the north-west Highlands and on a number of visits there I have travelled through Edinburgh by car; so that I know something of the problems. In many other visits to the city by train and by air, I was taken around by car and I know the problems when I wanted to get to Preston Pans and Tranent to keep engagements. People want to visit the city; but if you are going to the north-west Highlands there is no time to spend in admiring the sights of the city. You want to get through and haulage traffic wants to get through.
The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, referred to the A1 and to the radial roads. They will want to get links with the motorways on the West side to Glasgow, Perth and Stirling where at the moment the only way is to go through the city. It is not for me to say whether this is the priority. But I presume that the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, in the transport debate in this House on 21st January would be similar to the views held by the Minister at the Scottish Office. I presume that they talk the same language. When he was referring to the roads programme he said that the first priority were the schemes to help economic recovery. He went on to say that the second priority were roads to take the traffic from towns and villages which were never designed with cars and lorries in mind, and particularly the historic towns. I said something similar; so that we are in agreement that these are the priorities, the priorities which the Minister has said are priorities, despite the fact of the present cuts in the road programme.
The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, referred to the saving in fuel. I saw today a statement made in January by the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors. They estimate that the 12-mile Glasgow urban motorway saves no less than 3 million gallons of fuel a year. That, at present prices, is over £5 million a year saved on fuel. When you add to that the cost of delay and the congestion of cities (which Lord Ferrier explained) the increase in accidents, pollution and other environmental problems; plus the fact that if other traffic is taken out public transport moves freely, there are vast advantages.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, made a very sound case. The question to be asked is this. Is this a priority which should be carried through in any event? If the answer is, Yes, then the question must be: "Why the delay and particularly the long delay mentioned of 40 years since the project was first talked about"? If it is a priority which is prevented at the 1228 moment only by cuts, then I must emphasise what I and others have said in this House over recent weeks and months: that a decision must be taken whether or not some of these things are of such priority for industry and other purposes that the reversal of cuts is a priority which will pay dividends and that mere cuts for cut's sake is not the answer. Government supporters who may feel that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has made a good case—which I think he has—may have to decide to say to the Government, "This is a case where you are not making a hole and putting money in it; but where you are developing something of value to industry and to the environment and which in the long run can be a saving of money".
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Lord Lyell
My Lords, before I reply to the very interesting and substantive points raised by my noble friend Lord Ferrier, and most amusingly and charmingly by other noble Lords all round the House, I may commence by reciting to my noble friend one of the lines in the national anthem of France:Enfin le jour de gloire est arrivé".—because, after four postponements, today we have had the full panoply of the noble Lord's arguments as to his reasons and requests for the pursuit of the construction of the Edinburgh ring road to be completed and pursued more diligently. My noble friend Lord Ferrier raised one point which, in the absence of my noble friend the Chief Whip, perhaps the House would allow me to mention. The usual channels understand the reasons which have prompted my noble friend to make his point ever so gently at the start of this evening's Unstarred Question. As your Lordships will know, the Question has been postponed at very short notice on two occasions because of the length of the preceding business. I would make one or two points in mitigation and I hope that the House will bear with me. It is not simply Government business which has caused my noble friend's Unstarred Question to come on late. We have had a number of Private Member's Bills in this Session; and we had one earlier this evening. The subject matter of my noble friend's debate is of local interest but it is very important as Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland.
All of us would be grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrier for raising this interesting subject which has concerned him for many years—as many as 40 years. We are aware that many people in Edinburgh and, from the remarks made in this House this evening, around the United Kingdom, as well as amenity groups and road users around Edinburgh, are of the opinion that the outer city by-pass would act as a valuable link between the A.1 trunk road and the A.8 trunk road; and also that this by-pass would divert through traffic away from busy city streets in the centre of Edinburgh and would ease journeys between the suburbs. Nobody would suggest that this would not be a good thing, or that it would not make a useful contribution towards easing the traffic problems which beset the city of Edinburgh. The outer city by-pass has long been planned and is now being carried out as part of the road construction programme.
The ultimate responsibility for the outer city by-pass is laid firmly and squarely upon the regional council, 1229 which is Lothian Regional Council. This by-pass is being built by them because they are the highway authority. The by-pass is not a road which the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for constructing. I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that a project which involves the construction of some 12 miles of new roads, largely through the outskirts of a major urban area, is very costly. My noble friend mentioned the figure of £2 million. The current estimated cost for the completion is more than £50 million at current prices.
In addition to the problem of cost there are other problems and obstacles of design, land use and environmental effect to be overcome. The construction of this by-pass is a major undertaking for the Lothian Regional Council and it has to be related to the technical and financial resources which are available. It is for the regional council itself to decide on how the work shall be carried out and the timing, phasing and expenditure of the work. It is the council that has to set its own priorities and plan its own programme of work within the capital resources which are made available to it by the Secretary of State. In the light of the resources which are likely to be available over the next few years the council has decided, very sensibly, to construct the by-pass in five separate sections. No one could have reason to suppose that the council does not intend to construct the by-pass as quickly and as efficiently as practicable.
The first part of the route to be constructed is the Colinton section, which runs from Wester Hailes to the A.702 Biggar Road, which was so wittily and amusingly mentioned by my noble friend Lord Balerno. Work on this particular section started early in 1979, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Balerno and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, will be aware, and that your Lordships' House will be very happy to know, that this section was open to traffic on 14th May this year. This first section is providing much needed relief to motorists who previously suffered very considerable delays in the bottleneck at the village of Colinton, not to mention the improvement to the environment for people who happen to live along the existing route. Just by itself, this section is making a very useful contribution to improving communications from the south-west flank of the city.
There have been questions from all sides of the House about why more resources could not be devoted to the speedier completion of the by-pass. In the Government's view, we have to take into account the economic position as we see it and the recovery on the economic front has to be soundly based, as many noble Lords will know having heard this on a number of occasions from my colleagues—and I risk being rather repetitive: we believe that inflation must be brought under control first. In order to do this we have to restrict the growth of the money supply and of the public sector borrowing requirement. This requires restrictions on public expenditure and local authorities are not able to have an unlimited share of national resources. What can be made available for their road and transport capital programmes has to cover a very large number of roads in all parts of Scotland. At a time when financial and economic resources are limited, local government (just like central Government) has to tailor its programmes to the funds which 1230 are available.
The view was strongly expressed that the outer city by-pass should be uprated to trunk road status. I hope that I might be forgiven for digressing slightly in referring to the status of trunk roads, which were initiated in 1936. At present trunk roads are primary through routes linking major centres of population. This has been the convention since the inception of the trunk road system in 1936. It has also been the convention that trunk road status ends at the boundaries of cities.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier mentioned a traffic survey that was undertaken in the 1960s. There has been another survey within the last two months which shows that a very small proportion of all vehicles (less than 20 per cent.) which enter Edinburgh—heavy vehicles, light vehicles and other types—comprise traffic which is "by-passable", or in other words, traffic which is going from one side of Edinburgh to the other side of Edinburgh and has no particular business or reason for visiting Edinburgh. In view of this finding we do not consider that the by-pass should be considered as a major national arterial route. Certainly on the basis of this survey the Government would not contemplate giving the by-pass trunk road status. I understand that the Lothian Regional Council has never pressed for the road to be "trunked".
There are disadvantages as well as advantages in a road having trunk road status quite apart from the fact that planning controls over development alongside trunk roads reside in the Secretary of State rather than the local authority. In fact, the local authority loses the ability to determine the place which that particular road shall have in its scale of priorities, and the capital allocation made to the regional council for the purposes of road and transport takes account of the fact that the council and not the Secretary of State is responsible for the by-pass.
If the by-pass in Edinburgh were to become a trunk road then it would be the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to decide on the place that this by-pass should have in the national trunk road programme for Scotland. My right honourable friend believes, as I do, that if this happened there would be a considerable risk that the priorities of finance allocated to the Edinburgh bypass might not be as great as they are at the moment, when the finance comes through the regional council.
My noble friend also made one or two points about the share of resources available for the speedy completion of the by-pass. The share of the resources available to Lothian Regional Council out of the total economic resources for regional road expenditure in Scotland is 12½ per cent. of the overall Scottish expenditure. In 1978–79 the share was only 9.5 per cent. We feel that this figure is reasonable, especially when there are many urgent calls on these resources from other parts of Scotland. The rate of progress envisaged in the completion of this by-pass may seem unduly slow to my noble friend and to other Members of your Lordships' House, but it is not possible to think in terms of the capital resources being available for the council to achieve completion of the total by-pass by 1986.
The by-pass is not the only major project which the council has programmed for the next few years. Indeed, 1231 Lothian Regional Council plans to start the Mussel-burgh by-pass in the current year. I understand that the Musselburgh by-pass will be of primary importance to the arrival and departure of the motor traffic which is likely to be generated by the Commonwealth Games in 1986 at the Meadowbank Stadium and at other centres. My noble friend Lord Ferrier and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in reference to Glasgow, made the point that a by-pass might be desirable and indeed would be helpful from the point of view of energy conservation.
Of course, road building can save energy by reducing the congestion which leads to waste of fuel and traffic building up. This cost-saving effect is normally built into the assessment of costs and the benefits of major road projects. We are quite sure that the Lothian Regional Council have done so. Even if fuel will be saved—as has been asserted by my noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and others—we believe that it is not a magic wand which outweighs all other considerations and automatically calls the road into existence and gives it a boost in the priorities of the Lothian Regional Council and indeed their road programme. Of course, the regional council should look at whether the benefits, including any energy saving, outweigh the costs. They should assess the speed at which the project should be carried forward within the region's capital allocations and its guidelines for roads and transport.
My noble friend, Lord Balerno, made an outstandingly amusing and witty contribution in five minutes which was an example to your Lordships in questions and debates of the type that we are hearing tonight. I would say to him that the survey I spoke of just a few moments ago shows that 80 per cent. of all traffic that comes to Edinburgh wants to go into the city to do business there. Even if there were a by-pass, the replies which were given by the "questionees"—if one can call them that—who were driving cars, was that only 20 per cent. of them would want to use a by-pass and would want to go from one end of Edinburgh to the other or from one side of Edinburgh to the other without stopping.
I was amused—and I am sure that the House was amused—by my noble friend's reference to the fate of the traffic wardens in Edinburgh. Certainly the Scottish Office are not responsible for the fate of traffic wardens in Edinburgh, Glasgow, (my own home town) or anywhere else. I am interested in this institution for retired or squashed traffic wardens which was referred to by my noble friend. I regret that I have nothing in my background notes to indicate where this might be. I shall make inquiries of my noble friend Lord Balerno if the fate of traffic wardens is so desperate.
I was also interested in what he called the pattern of the traffic lights. Next time I drive through Edinburgh I must see whether the pattern is different, whether my Highway Code can be thrown out of the window and that in Edinburgh red means "go". It could be interesting! My noble friend Lord Balerno mentioned—as did other noble Lords—the question of the Commonwealth Games. Indeed, that is the basis of the Question on the Order Paper from my noble friend Lord Ferrier.
1232 We are all pleased that Edinburgh has been successful in its bid to host the games in that 1986. It is true that the games will attract a great number of visitors and that a by-pass would relieve some of the ensuing traffic problems for residents, visitors and I hope for the aggrieved traffic wardens alike. But this by-pass is not a panacea for congestion in Edinburgh and indeed the success of the games is certainly not called into question by the fact that only part of the by-pass will be available. It was 11 years ago when the Commonwealth Games were last held in Edinburgh, that was in 1970, and about 240,000 people came to the city, either to participate or to spectate. There were naturally some traffic problems associated with this influx of people round Meadowbank Stadium, where the main events were held, and also round the Royal Commonwealth Pool. These were minimised, and I am sure the same planning procedures for traffic can be adopted for 1986. Further improvements in regard to the problems of congestion were made in 1970 by sign-posting and the fact that the venues for various events were spread over as wide an area as possible.
Even when the by-pass is completed—and this is scheduled for 1990—it will have only a minor effect on the traffic problems associated with such events, since it will still be necessary for traffic to penetrate the main urban areas to reach the sites of the events. Every year we have major rugby matches at Murrayfield, and football matches in most weeks of the season within the City of Edinburgh. The Government have no reason to think that the fact that Edinburgh is to be host to the games requires the completion of the by-pass more speedily than Lothian Regional Council, as the responsible authority, has planned. Indeed, when the Government signified approval for the games to be held, it was made clear that no grant or increase in resources would be provided on that particular score.
My noble friend Lord Selkirk started his remarks by saying that he was for some years on the City Council of Edinburgh. I hope that he will agree with me, in view of much of what I have said, that it is the responsibility of the Lothian Regional Council, not the Government, to plan and carry out the construction of the outer city by-pass. Indeed, the Government are giving all the encouragement that they can to Lothian Regional Council in this particular project. It really would not be constructive, we believe, to adopt trunk road status for the by-pass.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mentioned his personal experience of Edinburgh which I share, since whenever I drive from my home to London I always go straight through the middle of Edinburgh. I regret that I have not yet tallied, as my noble friend Lord Ferrier has, 37 sets of lights through Edinburgh. I shall count them carefully this coming weekend and I shall be in touch with my noble friend. So far as I am aware, the longest that it has taken me to go in a private car at all hours of the day or night—even in the rush hour and on a Friday—from the old Dalkeith road right to the Maybury roundabout is in the region of 17 minutes. I hope that I am not an aggressive driver or anything of that nature but I do not think that that is an inordinate length of time. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, myself and heavy lorries can cause congestion and annoyance to the City of 1233 Edinburgh is a case which is taken into account in the construction of the ring road. If there was a ring road, I have no doubt that I would use it, and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, would use it.
From the survey, and indeed from my comments earlier, it is interesting that, from the information we have at present—that is, the 1980s not the 1960s, as has been referred to by my noble friend—we would be very much in the minority, about 20 per cent., who would be using the ring road. Possibly the flow of traffic might rise to fill the ring road, but I would be doubtful of that.
In conclusion, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrier for raising this particular subject which is one of great interest to the residents of the Edinburgh area and not just to the City of Edinburgh. I can assure him that the Government appreciate very deeply his wish to see the construction of the by-pass proceed as smoothly and as quickly as circumstances will allow so as to provide the very necessary relief to a number of congested areas around the city. But the by-pass is part of a wider programme which has to allow for other projects as well. Resources are not, and indeed cannot be, entirely unlimited. As I have said a number of times, the road is the responsibility of the Lothian Regional Council, but the Government are retaining liaison with the council as far as trunk roads are concerned and they are bearing in mind the need for the by-pass in setting the ceiling for the council's expenditure on its roads and transport programme.
My Lords, I am afraid it is not realistic to hope that the entire by-pass will be completed by 1986. However, the Commonwealth Games will not be endangered by that. We hope and believe that the Games will be a very great success. As I have pointed out to your Lordships, we have already seen a major portion of the road opened to traffic, the most immediately pressing problems on the line of route have been tackled and I am sure your Lordships will join me in welcoming the relief that this is bringing.