Road Congestion

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 20th March 2014.

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Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney 9:30 am, 20th March 2014

What steps he is taking to relieve congestion on roads.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

The Government are committed to reducing traffic congestion and investing in our road infrastructure. Spending on strategic roads over this and the next Parliament will be £24 billion. A £500 million programme of pinch point schemes specifically targeted at tackling congestion is being progressed on both the strategic and local road network and a further £800 million is being invested in 25 local authority major road schemes. I am sure my hon. Friend will also join me in welcoming the additional £200 million that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in yesterday’s Budget for pothole repairs.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. The Prime Minister visited Lowestoft in January and saw for himself the fantastic opportunities in the offshore energy sector. Unfortunately, they could be choked off by congestion such as that experienced in the past fortnight. The problem could be solved by a new crossing at Lake Lothing. Suffolk county council, with the help of the local enterprise partnership and Waveney district council, has commissioned a study to come up with the right solution. Will the Secretary of State visit Lowestoft to see the problem for himself?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

It has been a considerable time since I last visited Lowestoft, but following my hon. Friend’s invitation I shall certainly do so. Ministerial colleagues, including the Prime Minister, have visited. My hon. Friend’s points are well made, and they have been made to me by other colleagues.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

Congestion would be much improved if the potholes in the roads were removed. Although I welcome the money that was made available yesterday, how will it be distributed? How much of it is coming to Scotland?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

Scotland will get its share according to the Barnett formula as part of the announcement made by the Chancellor yesterday. It will be up to the Scottish Government to decide how they share the money between the authorities in Scotland.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the A12 through Essex and into Suffolk and Norfolk is a main road to the ports at Felixstowe and elsewhere? Given that a significant proportion of it from the M25 to Chelmsford is already three-lane, would it not be sensible to relieve congestion into the East Anglian hinterland by turning it into a motorway?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

My right hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. No doubt he will pursue that argument with me and the authorities on a number of occasions to come.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

What is the Secretary of State doing about the congestion at Tollbar End, which is affecting businesses, particularly those in the export market, and people getting to work? I contacted his Department last week but I still have not had an answer.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman has not had an answer. I could compare the time delays in reply to correspondence under this and the previous Government, but instead I will try to get the hon. Gentleman an answer as quickly as possible. We are investing significant amounts in road infrastructure, more than that invested by the previous Government. That shows this Government’s overall commitment to infrastructure investment in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Stephen Lloyd Stephen Lloyd Liberal Democrat, Eastbourne

One of the worst sections of road for congestion is the A27 from Eastbourne to Lewes. It has been appalling for many decades and I know that it is being considered by the Department for Transport. Does the Secretary of State agree that the best way to solve the congestion would be a new dualled trunk road?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

I know that the hon. Gentleman has met the Minister responsible for roads, my hon. Friend Mr Goodwill, to make that point, which has been made to me, too, by other people in Eastbourne. However, there is some controversy, not least because Norman Baker has a different view on the matter.

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport)

Traffic jams cost UK motorists 30 hours each last year and were often made worse by a £10 billion backlog in the road repair programme. As local road maintenance was cut by nearly a sixth between 2010 and 2013, is the Secretary of State surprised that the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday of a pothole challenge competition hardly has many motorists shouting “bingo” today?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin The Secretary of State for Transport

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman makes such a point, because I do not know whether he can get the shadow Chancellor to commit to investments such as those we are putting into this country’s road infrastructure. As I understand it, he is not allowed to make any commitments whatsoever. I am very glad not only that the Chancellor yesterday announced an extra £200 million to invest in our roads but that later today I will announce the allocation of the £140 million that I announced a few weeks ago to all local authorities. I hope that they will use the £140 million along with the £200 million announced yesterday to make significant improvements to our roads.