I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) for having had the good fortune and the initiative to raise this important subject. I wish to draw to the attention of the House the problems which are caused to my constituents by the M6 and will be caused by the proposed M42. The M6 runs close to the large Birmingham overspill estate of Chelmsley Wood and gives rise to considerable concern among many of my constituents. As it goes north from Chelmsley Wood it runs to the west of the pleasant village of Water Orton.
The noise and pollution caused by the M6 have been accepted as part of the price of modern developments, but the electors of Water Orton, having already suffered pollution and noise from the motorway to the west of the village, are concerned that at its nearest point the M42 is to run 30 feet away from the east side of the village. That would be bad enough, but the planners want to compound the damage by building an M6/M42 link round the south side of the village. What was a pleasant residential area will become the centre of motorways running to the east, west and south.
I am disturbed about the procedures within the Department of the Environment. At the beginning of June in a Written Question I asked my right hon. Friend about the structure plan as it affected Water Orton. I was told that my right hon. Friend hoped to be able to send his proposed modifications and reservations to the county planning authorities concerned during the summer. It therefore appears that we might get the structure plan for the county, including Water Orton, well before we get the detailed proposals for the line of route of the motorway.
The line of route has been challenged by the Water Orton Parish Council, members of which went to see the Minister and put before him nine alternative routes. In reply to a Written Question last month I was told that my right hon. Friend would probably be able to make a statement on the line of route before the end of this month. There are two days to go, and I hope that answer will be forthcoming so that before the House rises the people in my constituency will know the line of route and exactly what are their prospects. Uncertainty has been hanging over the village like the sword of Damocles for a long time.
I hope that the Minister will find it intolerable to compound the environmental damage done by the M6 by putting the M42 on the other side of the village and linking the M6 and the M4 on the south side, thus boxing in a small village on three sides—all in the name of progress.
The general problem is much wider although Water Orton highlights it. People who live in Birmingham seek refuge from urban life by going out to the villages in my constituency. Yet the building of roads to allow them to go into the rural villages destroys what they go into the country to find. For example, the pleasant village of Birchmoor is being cut in half by a proposed motorway. I hope that we shall not divorce the problem from the need to secure a much more integrated approach to transport.
In my constituency we are tearing the guts out of some of the finest parts of rural England in order to create motorways. At the same time we have a railway network which barely stops at the numerous halts along the line. I hope that the Department of the Environment will take more seriously than in the past the need to reopen some of the halts along existing railway lines. I refer, for example, to lines such as the one from Nuneaton to Birmingham. Trains run along these lines with monotonous regularity but they fail to serve those who live in the area with anything like the requisite regularity. For example, the railway line runs through the village of Whitacre, but because trains do not stop there my constituents have to use their cars to get into the town.
I hope that serious consideration will be given to these and similar problems. The railway line is still in existence from London to Birmingham and Tam-worth to Birmingham, but even in times when we are facing an acute fuel crisis and we are concerned about energy problems empty trains still travel through areas in my constituency and local inhabitants have to use their cars to travel into the cities. This leads to further congestion of already overburdened roads in city centres such as Birmingham, with all the use of expensive fuel and energy resources that is involved. This in turn leads to the justification for more motorways. It is all part of a vicious circle that must be ended.
Furthermore, there is the growing problem in taking people from their place of residence to their work or to their recreation at weekends. There is also the need to divert unnecessary goods vehicles away from the roads on to the railway system. To do this would not only be of great benefit to people whose lives are disturbed by the continuous drone of heavy goods vehicles but would be of great assistance for the railway services. It would provide much valuable revenue that is now being lost to the railway services. I hope that the Department of the Environment will look carefully at some of these problems and find solutions that will be to the advantage of the Department as well as of my constituents.