Yes. In 1949, if I may give comparable figures, there were 105 accidents in that part of Eastern Avenue which is in the Borough of Ilford. Twenty-four of those accidents, one of which was fatal, took place within the distance to which I have referred at Newbury Park bridge, on either side of the crown of the bridge. [his year, the figures until the end of March are a little better than the other two years. There have been 14 accidents, two of which took place on the bridge at Newbury Park. The traffic statistics, therefore, show clearly that this is a place where accidents occur with disturbing frequency.
Everybody, I think, including the right hon. Gentleman, has agreed for some time that this site is a place which calls for treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. In March of last year the local authority were informed that the Ministry would keep closely in mind the proposal for widening the bridge and reconstructing the roadway and that the work would be started as soon as funds and materials became available. Later in the same year, the local authority were informed that the reconstruction of the bridge was on the priority list of the Ministry and that it was hoped to put the work in hand during the year.
Last November, however, the situation changed. The local authority were then told that it was out of the question that the work would proceed for the time being. The reason given was that the economic crisis—I think that that was the expression used by the Minister—had necessitated a curtailment of the capital expenditure programme. When I put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of last week, I received the same reply. He said that he was not then able to say when it would be possible for the work to be undertaken.
The local authority and others who are concerned with this matter understand, of course, the necessity for restricting financial and economic commitments of this kind. What they fail to understand is how, at a time when it is not possible to spend what is needed to put this bridge in a safe and proper condition, it is at the same time found possible to spend a very large sum of money, exceeding, I believe, the amount which would be sufficient to put this bridge in a state of safety, on a temporary footbridge, adjoining Hungerford Bridge, for use at the Festival of Britain. People who use this road and know its dangers are not able to understand how it comes about that material and labour can be allocated for a temporary purpose such as this temporary bridge, when the Minister says that it is not possible to find the means to put this bridge at Newbury Park Station into proper order.
Not only is the bridge itself quite unsuited to the class of traffic using Eastern Avenue, but the approaches to the bridge are occupied by important public buildings. one side of the bridge there is a large hospital and, on the other side, London Transport Executive have recently erected a new omnibus station from which 'buses serving various parts of the Eastern counties, start and terminate. The result is that on either side of the bridge, within a very short distance of the crown of the bridge, there is a constant entry into Eastern Avenue of traffic from the hospital and from this new 'bus station. The traffic entries on the approaches from either side are practically blind and that has added very considerably to the danger of the situation. On the other side of Eastern Avenue there are one or two subsidiary road entries into Eastern Avenue which aggravate the danger for traffic approaching from either side. Those conditions ought not to be allowed to continue any longer.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is personally acquainted with the conditions on this part of Eastern Avenue. He told me the other day, when I put a supplementary question to him, that he knew very well the dangers involved. We have seen tonight that the Government majority is somewhat precarious and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, if for no other reason than the stability of the Government, our experience tonight has shown that no further accidents should be allowed to take place on this bridge. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that this work will be delayed no longer and that that which is needed for the safety of the traffic and of those who use this bridge will be attended to at the earliest moment.