HC Deb 03 November 1989 vol 159 cc342-3W
Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many inspectors are employed at ports to ensure that lorry weights from incoming vessels are within United Kingdom requirements; and how many prosecutions were undertaken in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989 to the most recent practicable date.

Mr. Atkins

The Department currently has a force of 235 traffic examiners who carry out lorry weight checks at inland sites as well as at major ferry ports. Vehicles found to be overweight in ports are prohibited from further movement but are not normally prosecuted because an offence has not taken place until the vehicle has been on a public road. Separate figures for prohibitions in ports are not kept. The number of prosecutions nationally for overloading, with in brackets figures for prohibitions, in each of the years 1986–88 were, respectively, 6,400 (5,700), 5,500 (4,250) and 7,600 (7,700). The figures for the first half of 1989–90 were 3,250 and 2,900. These figures do not include offences taken by the police and local authority trading standards staff.

Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many of the short-span bridges on non-trunk roads will not meet 40-tonne lorry weights; what will be the cost of repairing or replacing such bridges; and what is the estimated cost of the traffic delays arising from such work;

(2) whether his Department has carried out an assessment of the likely extra strengthening costs in the event of the EEC directive on 40-tonne lorries being applied in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins

It was agreed at a meeting of the European Council of Transport Ministers in July that the United Kingdom's derogation from the directive permitting the use of lorries weighing 40 tonnes should end on 31 December 1998.

In 1988 my Department began a programme—expected to last 10 years—to assess all the bridges on trunk roads and to strengthen them, where necessary, to cater for heavier lorries. The increase from 38 tonnes to 40 tonnes will require about another 400 bridges to be assessed, but it is expected to account for only a relatively small proportion of the total cost of strengthening work.

Last December, the Government made provision through the rate support grant settlement for an additional £27 million expenditure by local authorities in England in 1989–90 so that a start could be made on the long-term programmes of work necessary on their roads. It is too soon to say what proportion of their bridges will eventually need to be strengthened, but a sample survey carried out by my Department in 1987 suggested that it might be about 20 per cent.

In some cases, strengthening may not be the only option. It will be more appropriate to restrict some bridges to vehicles of a lower weight; in other cases, it would be possible to cater for heavier lorries by reducing the number of lanes of traffic.

It is inevitable that there will be traffic delays while some of the work is carried out, but it is not possible to predict where these will occur or their economic cost. My Department's regional offices will assist in co-ordination of the work to help keep delays to a minimum.