HL Deb 14 March 1983 vol 440 cc474-6

2.53 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

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 how many miles of new road and motorway were constructed in the last year for which figures are available.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, in the year ending 31st March 1982, 127 miles of trunk roads and motorways were completed in the United Kingdom. Of these 127 miles, 94 are trunk roads and 33 are motorways. Comparable figures for local authority roads, which are not the Government's responsibility, are not held centrally.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is satisfied with progress in 1982–83, and what can he tell me about by-pass construction?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, progress so far in 1982–83 is satisfactory. In England, a combination of fine weather, very low tender prices and the ability of some contractors to redeploy resources to road construction have enabled us to achieve far more than anticipated; 26 contracts are expected to be completed or open to traffic, 15 of them ahead of schedule, and that will add a further 21 miles of motorway and 62 miles of trunk roads to the national network. To answer the second part of my noble friend's supplementary, regarding by-passes, 234 of these are on trunk roads and 135 have been or are being by-passed. There are plans in preparation for a further 84 and, of the remaining 15, eight have relief roads other than by-passes planned or already in construction.

Lord Derwent

This Question deals with new construction, my Lords. Can my noble friend say in what century the repairs to the M1 are likely to be completed?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, work on the M1 is now under way and it is expected to be completed in the early autumn of this year.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, although the Minister says, probably rightly, that he is satisfied with the progress made, may I ask him to tell the House about the number of schemes and miles of roads which have not been made in recent years, including by-passes and so on? Has he worked out the consequences of that in terms of delays, accidents and other effects to offset the aspect which he would claim was creditable, that of saving public money?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I regret that I am not able to tell the noble Lord the number of roads and projects that have not been completed. I can tell him, however, that the accident rate on trunk roads and motorways involving both passenger cars and commercial vehicles is reducing each year.

Lord Plant

Referring to maintenance, my Lords, may I ask when the Government expect the M25 ringing London might be completed?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, the M25 orbital route is on target and completion date for the whole is scheduled for 1986; 51 miles are completed and a further 24 miles are expected to be opened this year, which means that by the end of the year over half the total length will have been completed. The remaining contracts should be let about this time next year.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

Bearing in mind the major importance of road transport in this country, my Lords, does the Minister not think it rather a pity that Governments of both parties have disregarded the Department of Transport's advice on road building programmes and have always used them as the first Aunt Sally in any cuts?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I could not agree with that, my Lords. For example, £620 million is the estimated figure for new construction and maintenance for the current period, 1982–83. That is 11 per cent. up on the previous year, which was 16 per cent. up on the year previous to that.