§ Sir Neil Macfarlane
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what information he has on the name of the haulage contractor and the goods that were being conveyed on 25 June which caused the closure of two lanes of the M1;
(2) if he will call for a report on whether the emergency services were affected by the closure of two lanes of the M 1 on 25 June during the movement of the wide load vehicle; what prior notification they were given; and by whom;
(3) who took the decision to permit two lanes of the M 1 to be closed on 25 June for a wide load vehicle; and on what date and time the broadcasting authorities were informed;
(4) if he will make it his policy not to permit the closure of two lanes, in daytime, on the motorways for wide load transportation; and if he will make a statement;
(5) which section within his Department handles the arrangements for the movement of wide load vehicles on motorways; upon what criteria decisions are based; and who co-ordinates the details;
(6) what discussions took place between his Department and the police authorities prior to the closure of two lanes of the M1 on 25 June for an abnormally wide load vehicle.
§ Mr. Atkins
The abnormal load in question was a large transformer being transported from Goole docks to Ratcliffe power station in Nottinghamshire. The move was urgent, being necessitated by an electrical breakdown at the power station. In order to reduce the length of the road journey, the transformer was moved from its storage place at Kingsnorth power station on the Thames, by sea to Goole, from where it had to complete its journey by road. The total weight of the transformer and trailer was 377 307W tonnes, its width was 5.6m and it height 5.25m. The haulier was Abnormal Load Engineering and the move was carried out on behalf of PowerGen.
The police were notified at least three days before the move took place and they escorted the vehicles throughout the journey. The local radio stations and the Automobile Association were informed prior to the move. The emergency services were not affected, so far as I am aware. Had they been, the police were on hand to render assistance. I do not consider it necessary to call for a special report in this instance.
Movements of this nature have to be authorised in advance by officials in my Department by delegated authority from the Secretary of State. Before authorisation is granted, the necessity for the move is determined and a suitable route is worked out between my officials, all the police forces and all the highway and bridge authorities concerned. This route is issued to the haulier and all the relevant authorities and must be followed in detail. When the route has been agreed and issued, the special order authorising the move is made and circulated. In this case the route had already been worked out, as is often the case for routes from port to power station, so it was necessary only to obtain confirmation from all concerned that it was still suitable. The order was then signed and issued on 22 June by the special order section in the vehicle standards and engineering division of my Department.
The actual timing of a move such as this is determined by the police. They have the local knowledge to decide the best timing for minimising danger to other road users. In general, they consider that it is less dangerous to encounter a large, slow-moving vehicle in daylight, but they do appreciate that congestion is likely to be worse in the daytime and I understand that they are currently reviewing this policy. I do not consider it appropriate to interfere in this matter.