As the Government continue with their welcome and important programme of clearing the backlog of motorway and trunk road repair and renewal, will my right hon. Friend put into the programme a fourth lane for the M1 in the congested section from Bedfordshire to London, and a fourth lane on certain parts of the M25, which is equally heavily congested?
I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his remarks. With regard to his specific question about four lanes for the M1 and the M25, I shall shortly place a contract for the addition of a fourth lane between junctions 11 and 13 of the M25. I am considering a similar study of another heavily used section between junctions 15 and 16. Just before Christmas I announced a review of the pattern of traffic on the M25 to see whether the capacity of other sections needs to be increased.
On the M1 we are adding some short stretches of climbing lane. I do not think that at this stage it is necessary to have additional lanes because, as the House knows, before long the M40 will be completed between London and Birmingham, and I expect it to carry a substantial part of the traffic.
Is the Minister aware that there is still continuing disquiet about the progress of work on the A1? We see the Al as central to the economic development of the north and, indeed, to the development of tourism, but the work means that it is difficult to travel on the road now, and our fears are that even when it is finished it will not be of sufficient standard. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his views on the A1.
A tremendous amount of work is being done on the M1. A tremendous amount of improvement is planned for trunk roads in general. The hon. Lady, of course, was referring to the A1. We are determined to make improvements. Let me say gently to the hon. Lady that one of the reasons why there are so many difficulties on the motorways and trunk roads is the backlog of maintenance caused in the late 1970s by the cuts in the maintenance programme.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that most users of the motorway system believe that it will never catch up? Has not the time come for a major review of the system with a view to increasing capital expenditure substantially and ensuring that the lifeline artery to our industry is brought up to date?
A review was carried out as recently as last April. I am sure my hon. Friend will be aware that capital provision for motorways and trunk roads is now higher than it has ever been. Indeed, it is 30 per cent. higher in real terms than it was in 1978–79. We have added 740 miles of new trunk road since we took office, and 350 schemes are in the pipeline. I assure my hon. Friend that the highest priority is given to that by the Government.