HL Deb 26 July 1982 vol 434 cc4-6

2.44 p.m.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton

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 what is the projected expenditure on new motorways and repairs to existing motorways in the current financial year and how this compares with the last two years for which figures are available.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, forecast expenditure on new trunk road motorway construction and improvement in the United Kingdom in 1982–83 is £256 million. This compares with figures for 1981–82 of £217 million and for 1980–81 of £186 million. For motorway maintenance, the figures are £112 million, £103 million and £67 million respectively. Comparable information is not available for local authority motorways.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that basically very encouraging reply. Can he say when the major works on the M1 and the M6 will be completed, and can he tell the House whether some of the money earmarked for the railways may, instead, be used to hurry up the improvements to motorways and the construction of new motorways?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, if I may take my noble friend's last point first, I do not think that any such suggestion is in mind at the moment. To return to his point about improvements being made to motorways, particularly on the M1 motorway, this can be divided into two, if not three, points. To start with, there is a widening of the two lanes into a three-lane motorway, which I think all noble Lords will welcome, on both the M1 and the M5. Secondly, there are major maintenance works going on which will take approximately two to three years to complete.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister in a position to indicate whether the fact that we spend so much money on the repair of motor roads and that one or other of them is out of action every day, indicates that this is due to poor construction or to the extent of their use?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, to take the M1, the life of the M1 has now technically come to an end, so major works are needed to refurbish it. Originally, it was built for a period of 20-odd years, and that period is now over. So major works are required there. One of the reasons that motorways now need major repair is that they have been so successful in taking traffic on them.

Lord O'Neill of the Maine

My Lords, can the Minister say when it is hoped that the M3 may be completed, in view of the fact that it leads to the important port of Southampton?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have any information on the M3. I can do the M25, the M42 and the M40.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, would the noble Earl not agree that, although the figures that he has given in reply to the original Question are encouraging, there is a lot of leeway to be made up? Will he take account of the fact that the British Road Federation stated soon after the Budget in April this year that the expenditure on motorways and trunk roads at 1979 prices was only 50 per cent. of what it was in 1975–76 and that the expenditure on all roads, local roads included, was only one-third of the expenditure of 1975–76?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the way in which he has put his question. At the moment I think that we are on the road to getting this correct, if I may use that rather awful pun. The forward roads programme which we now have is intended to keep things on a level par and not to let them get behindhand, which they did in the late 1970s.

Lord Reigate

My Lords, as my noble friend has the answer, could he consider telling us about the M25?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for following my advice. The London orbital route is the department's top priority. Currently some 75 miles are either complete or under construction. It is hoped that contracts for the remaining 46 miles will be let during the next two years. The whole route should be completed and open to traffic by 1986.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, can the noble Earl explain why so much of the MI which is neither out of order nor being repaired is marked off for the purpose of repair? Could we not have a little more road until they actually want to repair it?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord is on a theme on which I have heard him speak two or three times before. Everything possible is being done to help the motorist; using re-design, smoother lane diversions, phasing the contracts and keeping a minimum distance, continuing to provide towing trucks, making maximum use of weekend and night working and providing more information. We are doing as much as we can.

Lord Soames

My Lords, now that we have seen the full effects of motorways being built only for 20 years, can my noble friend say how many years life is anticipated from motorways now being constructed anew?

The Earl of Avon

Indeed, my Lords, the research department at the moment is working on plans to ensure longer life for all motorways.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Minister whether, from his expert knowledge of all that is going on on our major roads, he can help me with my special road, which is the A40 leading to the M40? The noble Minister will know very well what I mean. The delays are almost more than some of us can take in the morning and in the evening.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, on the noble Baroness's favourite road, the Hillingdon West End Lane, Polish War Memorial, the works there are to provide a free-flow grade separated junction. They should be completed at the end of next year. The contractors are trying to keep dual two-lanes open during peak hours and as much as possible during the rest of the time. The lighting was examined recently and there are emergency propane fuel lights provided where the electric lighting is inadequate.