Trunk Road Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st July 1981.

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Photo of Mr Alan Fitch Mr Alan Fitch , Wigan 12:00 am, 1st July 1981

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he is satisfied with the progress of schemes in the trunk road programme.

Photo of Mr Alan Fitch Mr Alan Fitch , Wigan

Does the Under-Secretary agree, in view of his brief reply, that it is very slow progress? Since only six bypasses were opened in the year 1980–81, compared with 17 in the year 1975–76, and since there is considerable unemployment in the construction industry, with men and machines idle, could the Government do something at least to pursue a bolder programme for the construction of bypasses?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Gentleman chose his years carefully. He made a comparison with a year before the IMF cuts, in response to which the Labour Government halved the funds that were available for the trunk road programme. In fact, we are making extremely good progress. We are up to timetable with our White Paper. We are even accelerating some schemes, and beginning them before they were booked in last year's White Paper. The road to Grimsby is an example. As the programme develops there will be room for more bypasses. My right hon. Friend and I are very anxious to see fast progress in building bypasses to take heavy industrial traffic out of our older market towns and villages.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

If the prospect of maintaining existing motorways and trunk roads is likely to increase steadily and make a bigger and bigger claim on existing resources, which might delay the construction of bypasses, will my hon. and learned Friend re-examine the possibility of imposing tolls on roads to get more finance to pay for the maintenance of existing roads?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

We certainly have increasing demands for resources for road maintenance. We have to get good value for money for that to make sure that it does not slow up the process of construction by taking funds. From time to time we have considered the question of toll roads, but it is very difficult to devise satisfactory systems in this country, because of the density of traffic on our motorways, compared with Continental systems. An enormous amount of land would be required for the toll booths, and there might be great delays to traffic. Moreover, in this country it is easy for traffic to divert from toll roads to non-toll roads, and we would not want traffic going off the motorways and using the old roads that they were meant to replace.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that trunk road and motorway programmes will have a marked effect upon people's attitudes to the Channel tunnel link? Will he therefore arrange with his right hon. Friend at least to make an announcement in the Queen's Speech for the new Session of Parliament of an intention to proceed with the tunnel so that our road programmes can be geared to it, and perhaps to the European Channel Tunnel Group proposals, which are acceptable to British Rail and which will bring great benefits to the United Kingdom?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

We are making sure that we do nothing about trunk roads that is incompatible with the Channel tunnel. We had the Channel tunnel in mind in planning the future of the M2 and the M20 and the link between Folkestone and Dover. My right hon. Friend has just said that he hopes to make an announcement about the Channel tunnel in the near future. We shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend says, and I know that my right hon. Friend will try to meet the timetable that he has suggested.