HL Deb 21 March 1983 vol 440 cc929-32

2.49 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

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 whether they will direct the traffic authority for Greater London to remove the traffic lights recently installed at Hyde Park Corner.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

No, my Lords. I understand that the Greater London Council, which is the traffic authority responsible, intends to install additional traffic lights at this junction shortly, with a view to improving the flow of traffic. Both the council and the Metropolitan Police are monitoring the situation carefully and are keeping my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport informed.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that that Answer will be extremely disappointing to the many thousands of people who during the last few weeks since the installation of these lights have found that the congestion at Hyde Park Corner and in the streets leading up to it has become very much worse? Is my noble friend further aware that in the guidance to motorists given by Capital Radio on a number of occasions recently there have been warnings to motorists to avoid Hyde Park Corner because of the lights? Is his indication that the Greater London Council intend to put in more lights an indication that they are not satisfied with the damage they have done and that they want to make it worse?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am not aware of the messages that Capital Radio send out. However, I can tell my noble friend that about 150,000 vehicles use Hyde Park Corner each day, and that excludes the underpass. At peak flow there are about 11,000 vehicles per hour. The additional two sets of traffic lights are to complete a traffic management scheme. These lights should come into use over the weekend of 27th March and, as the traffic management scheme is experimental, it may well be some time before this can be evaluated.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I have lived by Sloane Square for some 20 years and have come round Hyde Park Corner in order to get to the Palace of Westminster and also to get to my home in the North? While it is occasionally like the Place de la Concorde, being a shade exciting, it is quick and I have never known a blockage there until these lights arrived. Now I find a total blockage between the big square past St. George's Hospital right up to Seaford House and another blockage down to Victoria Station. When I am coming down Park Lane I find it blocked from Grosvenor House. I have in fact had to search for other ways both to get to the Palace of Westminster and to get home. These lights are an infernal nuisance, and will he please remove them?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am not able to remove them; nor indeed is the Secretary of State for Transport. The Greater London Council are the traffic authority and it is a matter entirely for them. Much as I regret that the noble Lord has been inconvenienced, I should tell your Lordships that over the last four or five years there have been a consistently high number of accidents in that area, and the traffic management scheme is in part to alleviate that irreparable damage.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that those who use Hyde Park Corner and have used it over a long period of years have long thought that something was needed to control the traffic problems—problems caused mainly by the selfish and impatient driver, and therefore that some control was necessary? Would he also agree that, as this is a matter for the GLC (as the highway authority) and for the Metropolitan Police, questions like this could be raised in respect of places all over the country, and this is not the place to deal with them?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, who has quite obviously grasped the seriousness of this situation and recognises that a traffic management scheme is necessary both to control the traffic and to reduce the toll of accidents. I confirm that this is an experimental scheme, the results of which are being monitored and will be reviewed in the fullness of time.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, would my noble friend agree that the irritation caused by hold-ups which are occurring at present may well in the future increase the accidents that we are all anxious to stop? Does he know whether the future traffic lights are to help the roar and flow of London's traffic or to stop it?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, patience is a virtue seldom found in men and very seldom in drivers.

Lord Boardman

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that the monitoring is already being done very effectively by the motoring public using Hyde Park Corner? Might I suggest to my noble friend that perhaps the traffic authority might be advised to consult the taxi drivers who use that area most frequently, because information from them would be both helpful and pungent?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, the monitoring is done by both the GLC traffic department and the Metropolitan Police. I have little doubt that the comments made by your Lordships this afternoon will add to the whole point of the monitoring.

Lord Wigoder

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord what effect the experiment has had so far on the punctuality of the buses involved?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I cannot give an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, but I am sure he will recognise that when any new traffic scheme comes into operation it takes some little time to settle down. I can tell him that officials from my department were at Hyde Park Corner from very early this morning for about three hours and did not notice any ill effects from the scheme. The scheme is now one month old.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, as my noble friend has told the House that the Metropolitan Police are monitoring the situation, may I ask what conclusions they have so far come to?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

None whatsoever, my Lords. It is far too early to come to any conclusion on a scheme as massive as this.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, in view of the damage being done and the waste of time caused by this scheme, can my noble friend at least tell us when this so-called experiment will be deemed to have had enough time, so that we shall be able to get back to reasonable traffic movement?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I cannot give my noble friend any exact date, but obviously it will be some months before a true and full evaluation can be made. That time must follow on the introduction of the additional lights which I mentioned earlier and the settling down period for them; so I should imagine it will be four or five months at least.