HL Deb 18 November 1954 vol 189 cc1679-82WA

asked Her Majesty's Government whether they have any proposals for the relief of traffic congestion in London.


Her Majesty's Government have the problem under constant review. The traffic situation calls for a number of different steps. More road space on a scale likely to provide a radical solution means considerable and extensive roadworks. These take time and their rate of progress is governed by the state of the national economy, the funds available, and the claims of other roads in other places. But a start is being made. The Cromwell Road Extension scheme at a cost of £3 million from the Exchequer will start in the next two or three months. The recommencement of work on the Dartford/Purfleet Tunnel will be authorised a few weeks later in the early part of the next financial year. This will require £9 million from the Exchequer.

Her Majesty's Government hope to approve soon the first instalment of the new Route 11, planned by the City Corporation between Aldersgate Street and Moorgate. This will ultimately make a notable improvement in London roads and, if the Corporation carry out their imaginative plan for incorporating an underground car park in it, will also help the parking problem in the City. In addition there will be a number of smaller road schemes, including the widening of Piccadilly near Swallow Street which is due to start early in the New Year, and the widening of 1½ miles of the Great Cambridge Road from the North Circular Road to Bury Street, Edmonton.

Traffic signals make a most valuable contribution to the orderly flow of traffic. New vehicle-actuated lights of the sort which have done so well since they were recently installed at Swiss Cottage will be put in at the Monument, Vauxhall Cross and the Bridge Street and Embankment junction. A new and improved system is already nearly installed in Oxford Street in replacement of the former obsolete equipment there, and will be fully working before the end of the year. £200,000 of expenditure on traffic lights in the Metropolitan area has been authorised during the past two years and £140,000 of this comes from the Exchequer. The system of through-route signposting in Central London is also being improved and a special grant has been made for this. Signs on several routes are already up and there are more to follow in the next few months.

All this will help the flow of traffic. But the parked vehicle, with its use of road space otherwise available for moving traffic, is a serious cause of difficulty. Her Majesty's Government do not think it is either just or practicable to prohibit the entry of private cars into the Central area, but are satisfied that in order to keep traffic moving the present unilateral and "No Waiting" restrictions must be substantially extended. After considering representations on behalf of trading interests, Her Majesty's Government have decided that:

  1. (a) The existing unilateral waiting experiments in seventeen streets in Westminster should be made permanent.
  2. (b) The present maximum waiting period of twenty minutes in unilateral waiting streets should be extended to thirty minutes.
  3. (c) Unilateral waiting restrictions should be imposed on twenty-one additional streets in the London suburbs.

The proposals for the Westminster streets are still under discussion between the Minister, the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee and the Westminster City Council, but regulations have been made to cover the other points.

(d) At about the beginning of December, the Police will, with the approval of the Minister, introduce a new series of unilateral and no-waiting experiments in some 70 further streets in inner and outer London, the final details of which remain to be settled with the local authorities.

(e) The Police will also at an early date introduce a further experiment, postponed from September, banning for certain periods all loading and unloading at five important intersections and at five busy stretches of road in inner London.

The reports of the consultants appointed last June by the Minister to prepare plans and estimates for underground car parks in Grosvenor, Cavendish and Finsbury Squares have been submitted to the Minister and are now under intensive study. The Minister of Transport is also in touch with the Minister of Works as regards the special problems of parking cars in the Royal Parks. Her Majesty's Government are also considering whether planning requirements for the provision of garage space in new office blocks could, in appropriate places, be discharged by the erection of a separate multi-storey garage to serve a number of such office blocks. In view of the increasing congestion of the streets, mainly caused by the parking of private cars in the Central Area, London Transport have put in hand a preliminary survey of space at or near other stations on their railways, particularly those near the main road traffic arteries. As part of this survey the practicability of developing additional car parking facilities nearer the Inner Central Area, as well as in the suburban zone, will be brought under review, and a report made to the British Transport Commission accordingly.

A source of annoyance to motorists has been the requirement for all cars left on the streets at night to have all their obligatory lights illuminated, except in some authorised parking places. This requirement is very largely ignored in London and the Minister feels it is no longer necessary. He has therefore decided to exercise the powers conferred on him by the Road Transport Lighting (No. 2) Act, 1953, to legalise the use of parking lights and the parking of vehicles on the road unlit in built-up areas. Proposals will be circulated to representative organisations to this effect both as regards London and, subject to Police consent, elsewhere.

Right-hand turns in crowded streets cause serious obstruction. Hitherto restrictions have been applied only to right-hand turns of lesser importance in Inner London, but it is now proposed to examine those places, such as Oxford Circus, where a large stream of traffic turns right, to see whether at the cost of a small detour greater use could not be made of surrounding streets. A great improvement could be made in traffic conditions in Inner London, if it were possible to arrange for the staggering of office hours. This question has been referred to the Central Transport Consultative Committee, who have agreed that it should be considered in the first instance by the London Transport Users Consultative Committee.

In the past the enforcement of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit in built-up areas has been made more difficult because of obvious inconsistencies between the characteristics of the roads to which it is applied. The Chairman of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee has been asked by the Minister to undertake a complete review of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit as it applies to roads of traffic importance in the London traffic area. He also asked him to consider more generally whether the present law on the speed limit meets modern conditions in London—for instance, whether on some arterial roads now free from any speed restriction there is a case for a higher limit than 30 m.p.h.

These are the preliminary measures which Her Majesty's Government can at present announce for improving the flow of London traffic. Further measures are being worked out and will be announced when they are ready.

House adjourned at six minutes past five o'clock.