An appeal shall lie to the Minister in respect of any restriction upon any traffic passing over or seeking to cross any bridge or culvert, and the Minister shall have power notwithstanding any provision in any other statute to make such Order as he may think fit concerning the strengthening, standard of maintenance, and maintenance of any bridge or culvert, the traffic using it, or seeking to use it, and apportionment of any expenditure involved.—[Mr. JoynsonHicks.]
I beg to move,
That the Clause be read a second time.
There is a large number of bridges throughout the country, some, not many I am glad to say, belonging to highway authorities, some to railway authorities, and some to canal people, which have gradually got too light and feeble to carry the traffic which is now wanting to get upon them. The question has been raised in Courts of law, as to who should strengthen these bridges. The owner has the right to put a notice on the bridge, stating that the bridge is not strong enough to carry traffic of a certain weight. Very often these notices are put on bridges without any veal necessity. A few years ago a railway company, in a case in which I was professionally concerned, put up notices on a series of bridges which closed the whole of a large section of the central part of Western England to traction-engine traffic. Considerable quantities of goods have to be carried by traction engines which cannot be carried on railways—huge castings and; things which are too wide to go on railways or to allow another train to pass them. These have to be carted by heavy haulage traffic. During the War there was a great deal of very important traffic of this kind from one side of the country to the other. It is very difficult to deal with the whole question, and I am asking the House to give power to the Minister, when there is a complaint with regard to-one of these bridges, to deal with the matter and to say that the bridge should be left in its present position, or should be reconstructed or improved, as the case may be, and also to say who is to do the work. Possibly the railway authority may say, "We will do part of it," and the highway authority may say, "We will do part of it." Somebody must decide, but at present there is nobody to decide who shall pay the cost of maintaining the bridge and fitting it to deal with traffic at the present day. The Minister of Ways and Communications is the proper person to have this additional power given to him. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not think that I am becoming too friendly in offering this additional power, but I think that it is well within the scope of his powers under this Bill.