HL Deb 23 July 1998 vol 592 cc1033-5

3.9 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have yet approved upgrading to motorway status, as part of the M.6, of the stretch of trunk road now confined to two lanes each way from the Scottish Border to Junction 44 near Carlisle.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman)

My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that the Government are currently undertaking a review of the roads programme in line with our manifesto commitment so to do. A decision on the future of this scheme will be made as part of that review. We plan to publish the results before the parliamentary Recess.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Does she recognise that this is the missing link in the motorway system on the west side of Britain; that is, the gap between the M.6 in the south and the M.74 which starts at the Scottish Border? Since upgrading is supported by all concerned, and particularly by businesses in Scotland, will approval be granted soon, whether or not as a result of the review, by the Minister responsible for roads in England?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I am the Minister responsible for roads in England. We are making decisions about the schemes, including this one, against the criteria which we set out: integration, economy, accessibility, the environment and safety. I am well aware of the particular importance placed on this scheme and on completing the motorway link to Scotland. I have discussed these issues with colleagues at the Scottish Office. However, I have to say that, in terms of the roads review, we have to make sure that all schemes are properly assessed against those criteria.

Lord Renton

My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell us whether any further road construction would be needed in order to achieve this purpose? Is it not a fact that all that would be needed really is the alteration of road signs?

Baroness Hayman

Would it were that simple, my Lords. The scheme under review is to provide a dual-three rather than a dual-two stretch of road. Once one has a motorway it is not simply a matter of changing the signs from green to blue because certain traffic is not allowed to go on motorways. Therefore, the access roads that currently go into a dual carriageway road have to be changed; and in order to give access to settlements on the current road, slip road arrangements have to be made. That ends up being a quite large construction scheme.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, in view of the establishment of the assembly in Cardiff, will my noble friend take immediate action to improve the road from north Wales to south Wales?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, in reviewing roads within England I have been well aware of the cross-Border issues with both the Principality and Scotland. As well as having discussions about the integration of roads on either side of the Border with colleagues in the Scottish Office, equally I have discussed these matters with Mr. Peter Hain who, as my noble friend will be aware, is looking at roads solely within Wales.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, bearing in mind the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and also the surge of nationalism and separatism which events in Scotland have recently precipitated, does the noble Baroness agree that the reason for improving up to the higher standard links between the north west of England and the south of England and the Continent involves an overriding political imperative above and beyond the normal transport considerations?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, political imperatives were not on the list of the five criteria that I put forward for assessing road schemes. There have been instances in the past when political imperatives of less—

Noble Lords


Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I am thinking of particular schemes perhaps in the more recent past. There have been instances in the past where political imperatives of less national significance have been assessed for those reasons. We have to look at the issues of integration and it would be foolish not to look at transport links on both sides of the Border. Certainly, we have to look at issues such as regional services, the CTRL and Eurostar services. We have to look also at cross-Europe issues, as this route is a trans-European network. So wide issues of integration are involved.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware of the vast amounts of money that have been wasted on building dual carriageways which have then been made into six-lane carriageways. I have in mind the A.19, the M.25, the A.1, the M.6 and so on. Would it not be a great deal cheaper if in the first place six-lane roads were made whenever possible?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I do not think that the general spirit of an integrated transport policy and the emphasis the Government want to put on cutting pollution and congestion are such that we should go to the philosophy of predicting and providing in terms of road space. If one looks at the predictions for traffic growth if no change is made, it becomes perfectly obvious that we cannot build our way out of transport problems. That is why we need an integrated approach and why we need to look closely both at integrating transport issues with land-use planning issues so that we do not generate unnecessarily the need for travel and journeys and also at providing clean, affordable, acceptable public transport alternatives to individual car journeys where appropriate.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, in view of the interest expressed by the Minister in cross-Border links, does she not feel that equal priority should be given to the long awaited dualling of the A.1 between Newcastle and Edinburgh?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, the dualling of the A.1 between Newcastle and Edinburgh is being considered in the context of the Scottish roads review, the results of which will be published later this year. There are also schemes proposed for the A.1 south of the Border, which comes within my responsibilities and about which I hope to be able to give information to the House next week.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, it is encouraging to hear the noble Baroness's response to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Campbell about this stretch of road. She has shown that she understands precisely what the problem is and why there is a difficult bottle-neck on that stretch. I gather that the decision as to whether the work goes ahead is to be taken within the next few days. When she returns to her office today, will she underline those particular details in red because they are very important?

Baroness Hayman

My Lords, I was trying to be studiedly neutral in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, about this scheme and in explaining the issues we have to take into account. I said that I understood very well that locally and north of the Border great emphasis was put on the issue of having motorway standard links all the way down. But I also pointed out, in the context of less emphasis on road building and more emphasis on road maintenance and making the best use of what we have, that we have to assess rigorously claims, for example, that a specific part of a road is a particularly bad bottle-neck and needs to be addressed because of that.