HC Deb 06 November 2002 vol 392 cc316-7W
Mr. Greg Knight

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those persons who have the right to direct that a stretch of motorway be closed to traffic in England and Wales; what criteria need to be applied in each case; and what(a) safeguards and (b) guidelines exist to ensure that such closure decisions are properly made before implementation. [79132]

Mr. Spellar

Two organisations can close a motorway: the police, under the emergency powers granted to them by the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 Section 67, and the relevant highway authority under Section 14, of the same act. The police use their powers to prevent obstruction of, or danger to or from, traffic as a result of extraordinary circumstances. In such an emergency, the police notify the highway authority that an incident has taken place, and ask for traffic management and diversion routes to be put in place. By their nature, closures by the police cannot be foreseen.

As far as the trunk road network is concerned, the Highways Agency, in its role as Network Operator, is working pro-actively with its maintaining agents and the police forces in England to better manage incidents and help reduce the knock-on effect of congestion.

Highway authorities are allowed to close roads where works on or near the road are likely to cause danger to the public or damage to the highway. Before closing a road, the authority is required to take account of the availability and suitability of alternative routes and, because closures are planned, advance warning is given.

On the trunk road network the Highways Agency is working closely with its contractors to introduce more effective construction and maintenance techniques leading to fewer hold-ups while essential repairs are carried out.

In either case, the decision to close a road is a matter for judgment taking into account the safety of the travelling public and, where appropriate, the workforce.

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