HL Deb 11 November 1981 vol 425 cc229-31

2.39 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

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, pursuant to the cancellation of the M.23 extension to inner London, what long-term plans are proposed for the improvement of the road access from London to Gatwick.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport decided that the route between the M.23 and inner London could best be improved by improvements along the existing line of the A23. Construction work is in hand on the A23 to enable traffic to flow more freely at Purley Cross, and further improvements are planned there. North of Purley Cross the roads are the responsibility of the Greater London Council.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that Answer, which gives some hope. Is he aware that the Surrey and East Sussex County Councils and a number of boroughs, the Automobile Association, the RAC, motor hauliers and so on all supported the improvement? Could he say whether pressure will be brought on to the Greater London Council to make a long term plan for improving their part of the road?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, it is only right to point out to the noble Lord that there are other considerations rather than the ones he mentions, such as housing and environment. All these have to be taken into account. It is as long ago as 1978 that the then Secretary of State for Transport decided on the abandonment of the M.23 north of Hooley: and only this September that the Government announced, following a public inquiry, the revocation of the orders relating to the extension. So far as my noble friend's remarks about the Greater London Council are concerned, I am sure that the GLC will take note of them.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the British Airports Authority estimate that the number of passengers using Gatwick will increase from 8.8 million in 1980 to 16 million—that is, at present capacity—by 1985, that this could grow to 25 million, if the second terminal is approved, by 1990 and that freight tonnage could increase from 111,000 tonnes to 480,000 tonnes by 1991? Would he therefore not agree that it is an essential part of airport planning in the South-East that road access to Gatwick be kept in line with what already exists for Heathrow and is planned for Stansted?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for underlining what the whole House knows: that the recovery of this country is so well under way. So far as the traffic from Gatwick is concerned, we are expecting that British Rail, who as my noble friend is aware are considerably improving their services, will help to cope with a great deal of it.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, while acknowledging what the noble Earl said about keeping environmental considerations in mind, may I ask whether he would not say that there is something apparently wrong-headed or misguided in spending many millions, probably hundreds of millions, on airport equipment and new aircraft in order to reduce journey time by probably 10 minutes, when the expenditure of much less money can reduce the same journey time by probably a quarter of an hour or half an hour?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, of course I agree with what the noble Lord says, but there are enormous complications over extending this particular motorway into London, including the orbital routes at the end of it. It is this consideration, as well as the outside ones, which have led to the public inquiry coming down the way that it did. However, the Government intend to keep the route under review to see what further improvements may be made from time to time.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, has any consideration been given to the extraordinarily difficult task of moving from the aerodrome level down to the railway? One cannot take a trolley there. Anyway, there are never any trolleys and one cannot get a porter, and it can be very difficult for people of my extreme old age who have to carry two bags. The two-level position is absolutely absurd and something should be done about it. Will the noble Earl, Lord Avon agree?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, that is slightly outside the terms of this Question, but I remember answering a question fairly similar to that a little while back and, if my memory serves me correctly, the new plans do indeed envisage what the noble Lord wishes.