HL Deb 02 November 1983 vol 444 cc561-3

2.58 p.m.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect the M.25 to be completed.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am glad to say that we expect the motorway to be finished in 1986, provided that the few statutory procedures still outstanding are sucessfully completed.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for that reply. I wonder whether he has been a little optimistic in that he has been good enough to explain to me that the section between Chertsey and Wisley, of rather less than six miles, is already running several months behind schedule. Is he confident that this experience will not be repeated elsewhere? May I also ask who pays the extra cost when one of these contracts is not finished in time? Is it the poor old tax-payer?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am happy to tell the noble Lord that I am absolutely confident of the dates that I have given him. I think he is referring to an exchange of correspondence that we had earlier in July when I explained the then delay on that section, Wisley-Chertsey. I am happy to tell him that, due to the exceptionally fine weather and also to the exceptional efforts of the contractor in moving in more men and machinery, this section will be completed before the end of this year.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, would my noble friend tell the House when the section, the bottleneck, that runs between Rickmansworth and the M.40–A.40 joint, alongside Denham, is likely to be completed? This has been holding up all traffic going to and from London Airport and that area for some five years. When will that be completed?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I think that my noble friend is referring to the section known as the M4–Maple Cross section. If he is, I can tell him that it is under construction and that it is estimated that the opening date will be mid-1985.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, may I ask the Minister when the completion of the M.25 from the Theydon Garnon interchange with the M.11 to Waltham Abbey is likely to he completed? Is the Minister aware of the considerable concern in the Epping Forest district about the position that will arise when the interchange, the slipway, on the M.25 at Honey Lane takes effect? This is because there is no north-facing slipway from the Debden entrance on to the M.11 and there is likely to be considerable traffic going through local roads, the roads bisecting Epping Forest and narrow lanes in Epping Forest, by traffic which wishes to get on to the M.25 to link up with the M.11. Is the Minister aware of that? If he is not, will he make inquiries and see whether steps can be taken fairly quickly to proceed with a north facing slipway at Debden?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, the A.10–M.11 section currently under construction is expected to open in January 1984. This, I think, is the section to which the noble Lord refers. He was kind enough to suggest that he himself was in some little difficulty coming from Buckhurst Hill. I had a map prepared and I think it might be sensible if I offered him a copy of it to help him and his friends in that area. The Honey Lane junction will not be opened separately from any other section within this three-part link. The M.25–M.11 traffic will, therefore, need to get on or off the M.25 either at Honey Lane or at the Brentwood interchange. There would be no on-off provision of slip roads at the Theydon Garnon interchange between the M.11 and the M.25. I think that the noble Lord's concern and that of people in that area is somewhat misplaced. I may add that if after the A.10–M.11 stretch opens there are difficulties we are pledged to consider expanding the junction at Loughton.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, am I right in thinking this is the first major effort in road planning which has not been subject to any cuts by the Government? If that is the case, I should like to congratulate the Government. If I am right in the first part of this supplementary question, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether this means that the importance of road networks and communications is now beginning to dawn upon the Government at large and that transport Ministers are not going to be the first people to have their coats cut away from them every time?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am not sure whether my noble friend is right in thinking as he does of this major construction work. Certainly this is a £875 million investment in roads covering 122 miles which has not suffered from cuts or delays. So far as the second part of my noble friend's supplementary question is concerned, I am sure that he and noble Lords elsewhere in the House will recognise that road expenditure has to take its place in a very long, never-ending, enormously-growing queue for funds.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, can the Minister say how long the M.4 is likely to be closed during the bridging operations at the M.25 interchange, and what arrangements will be made to deal with the resulting traffic chaos into and out of London as a result of the closure of the M.4?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, the interchange to which the noble Lord refers will not be complete until the spring of 1986. The work is complicated by the need to ensure that the 100,000 vehicles a day continue to pass through. Special efforts and special road traffic management schemes will have to be devised by the contractor in accord with the authorities and ourselves to ensure that there is not an undue congestion of traffic. I could not promise that there would not be some inconvenience at that time.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, with regard to the traffic using the M.25 in the area of Gatwick, can the noble Lord say what long-term plans there are to improve the access to London from that area?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I could do so but not this afternoon, since I came prepared to deal with the M.25 itself. If the noble Lord would like to put down a Question I shall be delighted to answer it.