A5 Trunk Road

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:49 pm on 5th November 1997.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 12:49 pm, 5th November 1997

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention: I concur entirely with his views. As I said, traffic at Moreton Hall increased by 44 per cent. from 1991 to 1996 and has grown by 5.9 per cent. this year. My hon. Friend is absolutely correct when he says that some minor improvements have made the situation worse. Queen's Head junction was built in 1986 and is a relatively new road, but it is the second most dangerous junction after Thomas Telford's road at Shottaton.

There would certainly be environmental gains if the road were improved. The village of Nesscliffe, just outside my constituency, is totally blighted by heavy traffic passing through it. Because of the interminable delays and accidents on the A5, heavy traffic tries to find a way around it through the narrow byroads and the little villages of north Shropshire. Those villages and roads are totally unsuited to the heavy traffic that tries to force its way through. Road improvements would produce air quality gains: it is well known that heavy engines running at a constant speed produce less pollutants than engines that stop and start.

There would also be a political gain—I am trying to be helpful to the Government. I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the poor communications between north and south Wales. Plugging the Shropshire Gap with a dual carriageway would sharply reduce the travel time between north Wales and Cardiff.

I stress to the Minister the extraordinary support that the campaign has aroused since a summit was held in Oswestry on 4 July. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) in the Chamber. I assure the Minister that the project enjoys the full support of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden). I also thank the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) for attending the debate. I have the full support of Shropshire county council, the four district councils and 13 parish councils. The project has the full support of the West Mercia police, the Shropshire fire brigade, the Shropshire ambulance service, the national health service trust at Gobowen, the Confederation of British Industry, the National Farmers Union, the chambers of commerce in Shrewsbury and Oswestry, and the overwhelming support of the business and the farming communities in the area.

Judging from the letters that I have received, I also have the overwhelming support of the people of northern Shropshire. The project also enjoys the support of Shropshire's leading newspaper, the Shropshire Star, which sells more copies in Shropshire than all the national dailies combined. In a short time, it has gathered 13,000 to 14,000 signatures in support of the project. That is a significant number.

I would like an assurance from the Minister that she will discuss the matter with her colleagues in the Welsh Office as the stretch of road north of the Shropshire border does not fall in her bailiwick but is an integral part of the project. I also seek an assurance that the Minister and her ministerial colleague from another place, Baroness Hayman, will come to see the road for themselves. As the project has never been a priority in any previous Government's strategy, I would like an assurance from the Minister that that fact will not prejudice it when the Government discuss the very difficult priorities that they must set for the road building programme.

To give a flavour of the strength of feeling in Shropshire about this issue, I cannot improve upon the words of my constituent Mr. Simon Boyes, a teacher from Ruyton-XI-Towns. On 8 October, he wrote: Recently my son was involved in a major accident on this road and is lucky to have escaped with his life. I know that you are leading a cross party campaign for the A5 to be upgraded to a dual carriageway. This, in my opinion, cannot be done any too soon. Be assured you have the fullest possible backing from your constituents of whatever political persuasion for anything that can be done to improve the situation. This is a matter of pressing importance and needs instant action on the Ministry of Transport's part.