HL Deb 14 February 1991 vol 526 cc209-11

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the latest estimate of the cost of widening the M.4 motorway to four lanes between the Chiswick flyover and Junction 12.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, the estimated cost of the schemes for widening the M.4 motorway between Junction 4B, the M.25, and Junction 12 was announced as £130.9 million in the report Trunk Roads. England Into the 1990s, published in February 1990. Consultants appointed by the Department of Transport are evaluating the options for increasing the capacity of the motorway and more precise estimates of cost will be made when that work is completed. The section of M.4 between the Chiswick flyover and the M.25 is included in a study of the M.4 and A.4 corridor with the objective of improving the efficiency of the existing roads.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I am most obliged to the Minister for that very informative Answer. I am sure he will agree that a lot of money is involved. Is he aware that the widening of the motor way would serve to attract extra population and additional development to an area which is already over-populated and over-developed? Does he agree, and is he aware, that the nearside lane of this stretch of the M.4, even at peak periods, is often quite empty? Before spending £130.9 million, would it not be better to try to make better use of the existing lanes of the motor way either through additional speed restrictions or by allowing passing on the nearside as well as the offside?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I believe that there is a recognised need for further capacity on this road. At some places along the stretch which the noble Lord identified it is already operating at more than double its design capacity. Therefore, I am not sure that it is necessarily true that additional development in the area would be attracted. As regards lane discipline, we want to see high-volume utilisation and productivity from our existing motorways without compromising safety. The Highway Code makes it quite clear that where possible people should use the nearside lane. The fact is that on this road at certain times all three lanes are fully occupied.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, has thought been given to the effects of congestion on the roads into inner London if four lanes were provided up to but not beyond the Chiswick flyover?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, in my original Answer I sought to make clear that there are particular proposals for four lanes which extend only as far as the M.25. The piece of road between the M.25 and the Chiswick flyover is the subject of a separate study to make maximum use of the existing road.

Lord Milky

My Lords, will the Minister consider whether the department can give more publicity to the need for adherence to the Highway Code standards for driving on motorways? There are still people who drive from London to Scotland in the middle lane; they never move from one lane to another. No matter which three-lane motorway one travels on the inner lane is nearly always empty.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes, my Lords. We are commissioning research at the moment which will help us to decide whether changes are needed in our advice to drivers. In the meantime we shall be stressing in our publicity campaigns the importance of good lane discipline on motorways.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, of passing on the inside (that is, the left side) in order to make use of the inner lane, is one of the most dangerous practices to be seen on motorways? Is he aware that many of us who have driven in France, and even more so in Italy, and who have experienced drivers passing on the inside (the right side over there) feel that the practice exposes both drivers to the maximum danger of collision and that it should be heavily prosecuted?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I did not answer that particular point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. As my noble friend has said, we would have to think extremely carefully before making any decision allowing passing on the nearside.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that what he has just said about passing on the nearside is to be welcomed? I wholly endorse the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. As regards the points raised by my noble friend Lord Stoddart, is the Minister intending that there should be an environmental impact assessment? If so, would that not cover at least some of the points which have been mentioned and perhaps many more?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Certainly, my Lords. All widening options will be assessed in terms of their impact on existing communities: for example, the landscape, agriculture, nature conservation, heritage values and recreation.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, with great deference to those noble Lords who have spoken about passing on the inside lane, traffic in Park Lane in both directions passes on the nearside or in the outside lane according to whether those lanes are empty. Lane hopping does not take place. The traffic appears to flow quite safely.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is not a motorway. It is not the M.4. I hope that traffic is keeping within the speed limit allowed in Park Lane which I suspect is 30 miles per hour.

Lord Geddes

My Lords, can my noble friend advise whether any consideration has been given to making the Chiswick flyover three lanes? To the best of my knowledge, the flyover is the only dual carriageway between Knightsbridge and the M.4 itself.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I said in my original Answer that between the elevated section of the Chiswick flyover and the M.25 junction, a study is already being carried out into the A.4-M.4 corridor. It is due to be completed in the spring. The aim of the study is to improve the efficiency and safe use of the existing A.4-M.4 by optimisation of traffic routing. Once the study is complete we shall consult the local authorities and the BAA on the results.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

My Lords, will the noble Lord consider giving instructions to dispatch riders who, both on motorways and in towns, suddenly arrive on the nearside and are therefore invisible in the rear mirror?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, enforcement of the law on roads is a matter for the police. They do not have limitless resources. Where possible they should prosecute when actions of that kind take place.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, have the Government considered whether £130.9 million spent on public transport might be preferable?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

; My Lords, record levels of money are being spent on public transport at the moment. However, that will not solve the problem of congestion on our main inter-urban roads. A balanced policy is being pursued which aims to improve all forms of transport including railways, so that each can make a proper contribution towards a safer, more efficient and less environmentally damaging transport system.

Back to