A.1 Road Works. (Darrington and Fairburn)

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th November 1964.

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Photo of Mr George Jeger Mr George Jeger , Goole 12:00 am, 5th November 1964

As I was saying, Mr. Speaker, I want to draw the attention of the Minister of Transport to three cases of road works in my constituency on a stretch of the A.1. The details of these three cases vary with regard to the work, but the complaints which my constituents have raised regarding these works are substantially the same.

The complaints arise from the fact that the A.1 cuts through three villages, dividing them in two. I do not know why it was originally arranged that when the A.1 was to be extended, enlarged, and improved, opportunity was not taken to build by-passes around these villages, or to build flyovers, which are the most modern method of avoiding any difficulty when a village is bisected in this way. Instead, for reasons best known to the previous Minister of Transport, expensive projects of road improvement on the old A.1 were embarked on and there was a complete lack of careful planning or co-ordination. There was a failure to study local conditions in these villages, or to consult local interests.

In addition, a local complaint is that even the local authorities who know their own areas and the needs of their village people best were not consulted by the Ministry of Transport. Further, and probably even more serious, is the complaint that the safety factors were ignored. This is most serious, because schools and schoolchildren are adjacent to each of the roadworks concerned. This is a flagrant example of the policy of pressing on with roadworks regardless of the human factors concerned in the work in the villages.

Let me consider first the most southern of the three villages concerned, working from south to north, the village of Darrington. There has been some correspondence with the Minister of Transport about this village where there is a very busy crossroads, and it has been accepted by the Minister—I am referring to the previous Minister; the present Minister is not to blame in this—that these crossroads are dangerous, so much so that at the request of the local parish council a special survey was instituted by the Minister of Transport who freely admitted that, the crossroads being so dangerous, there ought to be created a deceleration lane in the main Al road for the benefit of traffic turning right into the village. That has been done, and has been very much appreciated by the parish council and by its parishioners.

However, there is another question which this very alert parish council has brought to my notice, and, I believe, to the notice of the Minister. Perhaps I might quote from a letter from the clerk of the council which sets out the complaint far better than I can do. He says: Children have to cross this road daily to attend school, it also has to be crossed to post a letter or to catch a 'bus, and when it is old people who are crossing they quite often have to wait ten or fifteen minutes before they even dare start to cross, and then when they do set off they are in danger because of the speed of the south bound traffic. It should be pointed out that since the deceleration lane has been constructed, which was necessary. … one has now to cross over seven widths of roadway. We think this is too much, and that a footbridge is an urgent necessity. I wholeheartedly agree with that view. I know this road very well. I have tried to cross it. I have stood there and watched the traffic use this crossroad, and I urge my hon. Friend to institute the necessary inquiries for a footbridge to be installed there as soon as possible.

Let us move further north to the village of Ferrybridge. Here road improvements are being made and a new bridge is under construction. Up to now there have been two roads having access from the A.1 into Ferrybridge. One has now been closed because of the work that is going on. All the traffic is therefore concentrated on the one entry and exit road between the A.1 and Ferry-bridge. The Ferrybridge power station is a very large one. It is being extended, and a new one is being built, and there is heavy and continuous traffic using that section of the A.1.

The crossroads from the A.1 into Ferrybridge, and the other way, towards Pontefract, are exceedingly busy. There is a school at one of the corners. One has to wait for a long time for a break in the stream of traffic before one can cross the road. Recently a temporary footbridge was built which eases the situation for foot passengers who want to cross the A.1, but that blessing has brought with it another difficulty. The construction of that footbridge is such that it obstructs the view of drivers coming into the A.1 from the side roads. They cannot see what is coming along the A.1.

There are such serious delays in getting traffic into and off the A.1 that the West Riding Automobile Company, which operates the local bus services, has recently said that it is considering applying for permission to withdraw its bus service there because of the unnecessarily long delays and frustrations on the A.1 going into and out of Ferrybridge. The urgent need at that crossroads is a system of traffic lights. This point has been put to the Minister, and I hope that he will now agree that this should be done immediately, in order to allow vehicles to cross at reasonable intervals.

Moving further north again one comes to the most northerly village in my constituency—the village of Fairburn. I have been in correspondence with the Ministry of Transport since June about the roadwork which is being done on the A.1 which bisects the village of Fairburn. The Minister has been very courteous and has sent me many letters of explanation, but they have not been very satisfactory either to me or to my constituents. One of the main complaints is that on the verges of the road wooden fencing has been erected. It is supposed to ensure safety to the village people from the traffic on the A.1. I do not know whether the Minister knows this, but local people are referring to this as the "Berlin Wall". They regard themselves as residing on one side or other of their Fairburn "Berlin Wall". The fence, which is supposed to have been erected for safety, is not safe, and all the village people said that it would not be safe when they saw it being erected. When I started corresponding with the Ministry in June I expressed my opinion that it was not safe, and would not be safe.

At the end of September a van went through the wooden fencing, knocking down about 20 yards of it. It finished up on the pavement of what is supposed to be the safe service road on the other side of the fence, shortly after children had come out of school. It was lucky indeed that nobody happened to be on the pavement at that moment. When I looked at it last weekend the gap of 20 yards in the fencing was still there. It had not been repaired.

On the other side there is a service road which now serves the other half of the village. My constituents complain about this because they say that although it is a very narrow road it is open to two-way traffic, although there are no cautionary signs. They also complain that the vehicular bridge over the A.1 is now being used by motor cyclists coming not from their own village but from distant parts, and that these motor cyclists use the stretch of road and the bridge for racing. The local police have been asked to install cautionary signs on this bridge as well as on the approach roads, but they say that it is not necessary, because no accidents have yet occurred. What are they waiting for? Are they waiting for a fatal accident to occur, because of the motor cycle races which take place there, before putting up cautionary or warning signs?

During my election campaign I often found myself running round in circles, although I know the roads exceedingly well, when I went to Brotherton and Fairburn. The signs posted round the village lead one to run round so that one is going in the opposite direction to that intended, because the signposting there is deplorable. It matches the general road engineering about which my constituents and I are complaining.

Another complaint concerns public relations. There has been no attempt by the Ministry to meet the local people who have been complaining, and to explain to them what was being done and why, or to utilise local specialised knowledge and experience of local conditions. If I may paraphrase from the letters which I have received, the attitude of the Ministry has been that it hopes that in the course of time the local people will realise that all is for the best. What the Ministry has not said is that it hopes that local people will get used to the conditions or that perhaps they will get tired of complaining. They are not tired of complaining; they have urged their complaints upon me.

The reason for my passing on the complaints to our new Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary is that he at least will realise that we believe that the road system and transport system of our country is not there merely in order to enable traffic to go more speedily from one place to another. It is there for the convenience, comfort and the amenities of the inhabitants of villages through which the roads go. This is a human problem and engineering must take second place. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will acknowledge that humanity is the issue with which we are dealing here.