§ Mr. Barry Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he proposes to initiate a traffic control scheme at the Severn bridge whereby traffic signals automatically activated by the heaviest lorries control traffic flows;
(2) if he had initiated studies and feasibility schemes concerning lorry signal schemes prior to the announcement of the Severn bridge strengthening programme and the second Severn crossing feasibility study.
§ Mr. Ridley
Very careful consideration was given to the possibility of employing automatic traffic control systems in order to reduce the need for strengthening, but it was concluded that the savings that could be achieved would be exceeded by the cost of developing and installing a reliable system.
§ Mr. Hayward
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will elaborate on the reference to prior year adjustments in paragraph 5 of the foreword to the Severn bridge tolls account for 1982–83, which was published on 22 March.
§ Mrs. Chalker
Following a change made in 1976–77 in the accounting procedure used in compiling the Severn bridge tolls account, an item of notional interest which should have been debited each year has been systematically omitted. Although actual expenditure on the bridge is funded from the Roads Vote as it arises, the statutory account, which provides the framework of income and expenditure for setting tolls, is based on funding by notional borrowing from the Consolidated Fund. A working capital account is drawn up which includes both actual and notional cash flows; and it is the interest on notional borrowing from the Consolidated-Fund which should have been debited to this account which has been omitted. The annual deficiencies on the operating accounts for the years 1977–78 to 1981–82 were therefore understated by a total of £1,984,690. As soon as my Department discovered this, we brought the additional deficiencies into the 1982–83 account. They are listed year by year in note 7 to the account. I regret the necessity for these adjustments.