§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I wish to raise the question of some traffic problems in Wembley, now part of the borough of Brent. To be more accurate, I should say that they are traffic problems in Wembley and its outskirts, because the first two I shall discuss are at road junctions not entirely within my constituency. The problems there were brought to my attention by a constituent and, on going into them, I found that three-quarters of each junction was in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant). My hon. Friend is here, and I know that he hopes to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker later.
I take, first, the junction of Harrow Road and Sudbury Hill with Greenford Road and Sudbury Court Drive. It is only the south-east corner of Harrow Road and Sudbury Court Drive at that point which is in my constituency. It is a staggered crossroads. Greenford Road enters from the west about 40 yards from where Sudbury Court Drive enters from the east, and it is quite difficult at any time for traffic emerging from either of those two roads to turn right and even more difficult to turn left. Drivers have to await gaps in the traffic moving in both directions along Harrow Road and Sudbury Hill, and sometimes that traffic is going at quite a pace. At peak hours there is considerable congestion.
The solution, I suggest, is a system of traffic lights, probably in three or four phases, allowing traffic to emerge from each road in turn. But this is a technical matter which I shall not go into now. Some control of the junction is urgent.
The second problem is at the junction of Watford Road and Sheepcote Road with Kenton Road. Here again, it is a staggered crossroads, but it is the exits from Kenton Road which are staggered, with a railway bridge in between. Last Friday afternoon, just before the peak hour began, I saw a regular police officer and a special constable on duty directing the traffic at this junction. That is a complete waste of the valuable time of officers who could probably be much 2090 better employed dealing with crime. Traffic lights should be installed here, with three or even four phases. This junction, because of its volume of traffic, is perhaps even more urgent than the other one.
I also ask that at both junctions the needs of pedestrians should be looked after. I do not suggest any details because I have not investigated that problem, but I mention this because the needs of pedestrians do not seem to have been adequately covered at another junction where traffic lights have recently been installed. That is the junction of Ealing Road with Bridgewater Road, and it is a T-junction. The lights are so deeply hooded that it is difficult to observe how they are phased if one is standing on the sidewalk. So the hooding makes it difficult for pedestrians. They find it very risky to cross Bridge-water Road from east to west just north of the junction, at a point where there used to be a zebra crossing but the zebra part of it has been taken away since the traffic lights have been installed. Pedestrians can cross the first half of the road easily when the Bridgewater Road traffic is stopped, but when they start to cross from the small island in the centre to the west side they find traffic turning right from Ealing Road into Bridgewater Road bearing down on them. I believe that traffic in these circumstances ought to give way, but it frequently does not. There seems to be no period in which the west half of Bridgewater Road is completely free of traffic. I suggest that there ought to be an all-red phase of the traffic lights plus "cross now" and "wait" signs for pedestrians. I urge that consideration be speedily given to this problem.
In a letter from the Borough Engineer of Brent on 29th July, a constituent of mine, Mr. Reed, who lives in Burnside Crescent on the west side of Bridgewater Road—consequently, he has to cross Bridgewater Road frequently to get to any part of Wembley—was told that these points were being discussed with the police and with the Greater London Council. As a fortnight has elapsed, perhaps a decision has now been reached on what is really a simple problem and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give some information about it 2091 My fourth point is that there are some roads in Wembley which could be made one-way. I mention this not so much because of the volume of traffic that they carry, which is not very great, but because they are very narrow and sometimes nearly blocked by cars parked nearly opposite each other on opposite sides of the road. If the cars were exactly opposite each other, the roads would be completely blocked.
I have in mind Eton Avenue and Rugby Avenue—all these roads are named after public schools—which are quite close to one another and parallel to the whole of their length, and possibly also Beaumont Avenue, Charterhouse Avenue and Repton Avenue, though these may be more difficult because Charterhouse Avenue begins by being parallel to Rugby and Eton Avenues and then turns right and becomes parallel to Beaumont and Repton Avenues. There are other areas in the former Sudbury Court ward of the former Borough of Wembley where there are narrow roads which I would urge should be examined.
I would stress that it is not only the volume of traffic but its safety and convenience which should be governing factors in deciding whether roads should be made one-way or not. It seems sensible to install one-way working in any two parallel roads which are close to one another unless there are overwhelming reasons to the contrary.
The last point, which concerns Wembley only, is the problem of dealing with traffic on days which important football matches take place at the Empire Stadium, Wembley. I know that this is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport, but I am most grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for agreeing to answer this on behalf of the Home Office because it concerns the police.
This problem arose particularly during the recent World Cup matches. In the Wembley News last week it was stated that the police had received few complaints about the control of traffic during the World Cup matches and that on the whole the system of one-way working and no-waiting restrictions had worked well. I am sure that that is right. However, I have received some complaints from shopkeepers in the Broadway, which 2092 forms two corners of the junction on the north side of East Lane and Preston Road. I am not sure whether here I am trespassing a little on my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North (Sir E. Bullus). I am not certain exactly where the boundary is.
Some of the shopkeepers there suffered great inconvenience because vans delivering goods were not allowed to stop outside their shops on the days the World Cup matches were taking place and even before the World Cup traffic began to flow into Wembley, and, also, customers' cars were apparently turned away. I know that the World Cup matches are over, but every year there are several very important matches at the Empire Stadium, not only the Cup Final, the Rugby League Final and the Amateur Soccer Final on three Saturdays every spring but the England-Scotland Soccer International in alternate years and various international matches, usually on Wednesdays at other times. Most of these matches draw crowds of 90,000–100,000, which is the capacity of the stadium for a football match. I should like my constituents to be assured that they will not be inconvenienced any more than is absolutely necessary and will not have their trade damaged by the regulations which have to be imposed in order to control this traffic.
Lastly, I return to a point which is the responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary. It is a very general one, concerning not only Wembley. It is the attitude of some pedestrians to road traffic. I am thinking particularly of Oxford Street. Some pedestrians seem almost deliberately to ignore traffic lights and stroll across busy junctions, such as that at the foot of Baker Street, if there is the slightest gap in the traffic. Sometimes it is difficult for traffic to move along High Road, Wembley for the same reason. A month or so before Christmas police usually have to be installed by the junction in Oxford Street to hold the crowds back, or they would completely ignore the traffic.
This is in striking contrast to most places abroad. In West Berlin, for example, I was once ticked off by a police officer on point duty for crossing the road when the signal was against me, although no traffic was in sight. In Paris, I mink that one would be run down if 2093 one did not obey the traffic signals. There seems to be a big gulf between drivers and some pedestrians in this country almost like the gulf we are hoping to narrow between what are usually called the two sides of industry. Yet many pedestrians must also be drivers these days.
In San Sebastian in Spain some years ago, I once stopped my car to look at a map I had with me. I was somewhat astonished when a pedestrian came up to me and said politely that parking at that point was forbidden. I cannot imagine anyone doing that in this country. I am sure that no pedestrian here would be concerned about the position of a motorcar and a possible offence. This was 15 years ago in Spain when there were comparatively few cars in the country. There must even then, however, have been more traffic consciousness between pedestrians and drivers than there is here now—unless, of course, the pedestrian wanted to air his English. What plans have the Ministry for making pedestrians more traffic conscious in this country and educating them to take notice of traffic lights and police officers when they cross the roads? It is an important matter.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central)
From the broad sweep of the Continent perhaps I may be permitted to contine my remarks to the rather narrower ambit of Harrow, Central and, indeed, of Wembley, North. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) for raising this important matter and informing me that he would refer to my constituency. We all know the assiduity with which he cares for his constituents and I am glad to support what he said on the two particular bottlenecks and problems affecting our two constituencies.
The first problem to which he referred was the double-T junction of Sudbury Hill-Greenford Road-Harrow Hill-Sudbury Court at the border of my constituency and his. This junction involves a great deal of traffic, as I know to my cost when hurrying to a meeting, for traffic from the South seeking to get to the Ml also goes past this point.
It is a most difficult and dangerous manœuvre to negotiate the right and left turns involved, causes considerable 2094 delay and has a deleterious effect on road safety. Going up Greenford Road, it is easier, if one is so minded to go through Harrow, to turn left and go over Harrow Hill itself. But this is undesirable because the last thing we want is for this unique hill to become a through way to traffic. Harrow Hill is one of the most beautiful and unique features of Greater London.
I believe, therefore, that my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that some sort of three-phase or four-phase traffic lights are necessary. This would not only help the passage of traffic, but would also contribute to safety on that part of the roads, because it would have a restraining influence on vehicles which come rocketing down Sudbury Hill into Harrow Road, causing danger to life and limb—not least the life and limb of my hon. Friend when seeking to negotiate that corner.
Harrow Borough Council has prepared a scheme for traffic lights which it has submitted to the Greater London Council and my latest information is that the G.L.C. is agreeable to a traffic lights scheme and is indeed offering some embellishment in the way of islands and channelisation. This scheme of the G.L.C. has been put to both Harrow and Brent Councils and I am confident that they will accept it. If that is the case, I hope that the Minister will approve it and that there will be no further delay in rectifying this serious problem.
The second point my hon. Friend referred to is the rather worse position at the junction of the Kenton Road, Sheep-cote Road and Watford Road, a complicated maze of T-junctions going over the railway bridge towards an even greater bottleneck and also involving traffic from the South to the M1. At peak hours there is always one or more policemen directing traffic and considerable congestion takes place.
I have reason to know this bridge very well because, during the election campaign of 1964 a very large whitewash sign appeared on it. In enormous letters there was the slogan "Labour Now". In recent months the whitewash has become somewhat grey and tarnished, but at that point, during the campaign, I was nearly cut down by my then Liberal opponent.
The majority of Harrow people probably favour as a long-term solution a 2095 new bridge widening and some sort of roundabout. We realise, however, that this is a long-term solution and would involve considerable expenditure and the acquisition of land. Therefore, we are concerned at this point with a rather short-term solution. This might well be a system of traffic lights. I accept that it would have to be a sophisticated system and I understand that there are certain basic practical difficulties.
The Harrow Borough Council is meeting the Greater London Council tomorrow to consider not only this, but a whole range of traffic problems which are bedevilling Harrow so much. My constituents are very much concerned with the traffic congestion and other problems in Harrow and I know that the council and the Greater London Council will consider them very carefully. They will be thinking, for example, of a system of one-way routing in Harrow, which may be a solution to the problem if traffic lights are not the answer.
I hope that they will consider a scheme put to me by a young man of only 17 who is at the Harrow Technical College studying traffic management, and who put what I thought, for one so young, was an extremely thoughtful and sensible scheme for one-way routing through Harrow. I have forwarded it to the borough council and the Greater London Council and I will send it to the Minister if he so desires.
I understand that if it is decided that traffic lights will be in the interests of the flow of traffic and safety, the mere money consideration will not come into the matter and that the criteria will be only delays to traffic and road safety. I very much hope that there will be an early solution to these two major problems. The local councils are very alert to the problem and their postbags and mine are full of the problems of traffic congestion in this crowded, but important area. I trust that if they arrive at a solution, which will be reached only with considerable thought, the Minister will give it his immediate blessing.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) for giving me notice in detail 2096 of the specific local items which he wished to raise so as to enable me to make inquiries about them. As he knows, nearly all these matters are matters, in the first place, for the boroughs, and secondly, for the Greater London Council, as the traffic and highway authority, although my right hon. Friend has a responsibility when it comes to approving traffic orders or allocating funds for new schemes for signalling systems.
I will deal seriatim with the matters raised by the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant), who also has an interest in the matters raised by the hon. Member for Wembley, South.
I want, first, to deal with the junction of Greenford Road, Sudbury Court Road, Harrow Road and Sudbury Hill. As I said, these are all Metropolitan roads and I have, therefore, made inquiries of the Greater London Council, which has the responsibility, about this junction. I understand that there have been considerable discussions between the Greater London Council and the Boroughs of Harrow and Brent about a signalling system for this junction. It is generally admitted that the need is clear.
Plans have been made for a signalling system, but I understand that the G.L.C. wishes to have further discussions with the two borough councils about the details of the scheme, but I am assured that there will be no delay in submitting it and I can certainly give the assurance that, if and when agreement is reached between the G.L.C., as the major authority, and the two borough councils concerned, we in the Ministry of Transport will endeavour to expedite the installation of any signalling system which they regard as necessary at that junction.
The hon. Gentleman then referred to the junction at Watford Road, Sheepcote Road and Kenton Road. A scheme for the improvement of this junction, which is in the Borough of Harrow, was added to the classified roads programme for the three-year period, as it then was, 1965–68 at an estimated cost of £150,000, to which a grant of £112,500 would be paid. That was when the Middlesex County Council was the highway authority. On 1st April last year these roads became Metropolitan roads and the G.L.C. became the highway authority. The proposals formulated by the Middlesex County Council have since been reviewed by the G.L.C. and the 2097 Borough of Harrow, and they consider that the. scope and design of the scheme for the improvement of this junction requires revision.
The position is that there is no doubt that this important scheme must be carried out, but my present advice is that the G.L.C. does not expect to be able to start work on it this side of 1970. Therefore, it is clear that an interim scheme must be considered, and that is now being devised by officers of the G.L.C. I am informed that this is likely to take the form of a one-way system in the town centre of Harrow and incorporate the introduction of signal control at this junction. More than that I cannot say at the moment. That is as far as the technicians have got. The hon. Member can rest assured that the work on the interim scheme which is thought to be necessary is going ahead as rapidly as possible.
Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman raised the position of the junction of Bridgwater Road and Ealing Road, again a Metropolitan road, for which the G.L.C. is responsible. The traffic is certainly heavy at peak hours, but I am informed that, in contrast to what has been said by the hon. Member for Wembley, South, although there is no pedestrian phase included in the traffic signals at this junction, pedestrians do not appear to have difficulty in crossing. I am told that there are central refuges on all arms of this junction. Those who have inquired into this for me since the hon. Gentleman notified me about the position say that there seems to be little scope for providing more effective facilities for pedestrians without considering a major alteration of the layout of the whole junction, which would be a matter for the G.L.C.
That is my information, but if the hon. Member would care to supply me with further details of the complaints made by pedestrians about the junction we are prepared to enter into further discussions with the G.L.C.
Fourthly, the hon. Gentleman made a suggestion about the introduction of a one-way system on certain unclassified residential roads in the Borough of Brent. He mentioned Eton Avenue, Rugby Avenue, Beaumont Avenue, Charterhouse Avenue and Repton Avenue—the schools roads. It is understood that a proposal 2098 for a one-way circulation of traffic at these roads is strongly supported locally as a means of discouraging the parking of cars on the grass verges, mainly by shoppers and visitors to a nearly sports ground. However, no formal application for the necessary traffic regulation order which would concern my right hon. Friend, has yet been submitted by the G.L.C., as the traffic authority.
Again, this is primarily a matter for discussions between the G.L.C. and the borough, and local interests concerned. I have no doubt that what hon. Members have said this afternoon will be noted, not only locally, but in County Hall, and I can give an assurance that if a submission is made for a traffic regulation order on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Wembley, South, that we will certainly consider it as expeditiously as possible.
At the conclusion of his speech, the hon. Gentleman made some comments about Oxford Street, which is a little outside his territory, with special reference to the behaviour of pedestrians. I should be reluctant to make any particular animadversions about special classes of travellers in Oxford Street. Naturally, we in the Ministry of Transport are almost continuously in receipt of claims for more rights by motorists and pedestrians in Oxford Street, who consider that they are hard done by. It is a fine example of the need for self-restraint and self-discipline on the part of all concerned.
We spend a good deal of time and labour, and quite a lot of money, on the advocacy of obedience to traffic signals and the acceptance of restaint by different classes of travellers who should take into account the interests of others. I wholly agree with what the hon. Gentleman said, and I know that the G.L.C., which has the heavy responsibility of considering future traffic management measures or other measures to deal with Oxford Street, will be fully cognisant of the situation and will note it. We will assist in any way we can.
I pass to the comments which the hon. Gentleman made about the actions taken by the police in connection with Wembley Stadium. As he said, this is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport. However, I took advice from 2099 my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the notice which he gave, and I should like to give the House the benefit of a statement on the measures taken around Wembley Stadium in connection with the World Cup series.
Nine of the World Cup series of football matches were played at Wembley between 11th and 30th July. Total attendance at these games amounted to over 680,000 people. The individual attendances at the matches varied between 35,000 and 93,000 at the final. The number of vehicles on the nine days concerned was well over 25,000 private cars and 1,500 motor coaches.
The police arrangements were basically similar to those normally made for capacity crowds at Wembley Stadium. But additional arrangements included extensive signposting by the Automobile Association of certain main routes radiating from the stadium with the object of spreading the concentration of vehicles and reducing the number of right-turning movements. These signs were specially designed so that they could be readily identified by drivers, including foreign visitors. Additional parking facilities for 2,250 vehicles were made available and special facilities aimed at reducing inconvenience to local residents were also made.
These traffic arrangements were given extensive publicity through the Press, television and radio, and about 1,500 special maps were distributed in advance to the Press, motoring organisations, coach operators and police officers. Assembly for six of the matches coincided with evening peak traffic. But reports indicate that traffic in the area was normal on those occasions about 20 minutes before kick-off in the matches, and, apart from the final, when spectators were naturally reluctant to leave, the bulk of the traffic had cleared within 30 to 45 minutes of the final whistle being blown.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary concluded that there was general satisfaction with the way in which this quite abnormal flow of traffic in connection with the World Cup series was handled. We have, therefore, been surprised to hear of complaints about, for example, the use of no-waiting signs.
2100 We have had special inquiries made into this, and I am advised that 260 no-waiting signs were used in the vicinity of the stadium during the World Cup series under the authority of the Standing Commissioners' traffic directions, which are applicable to all important events at the stadium.
To cater for a 3.30 p.m. event at the stadium, these signs are normally spaced out during the early hours of the morning by the night duty relief police. To cater for an evening event, they are placed out between 6 and 7 a.m. The object of this early placing of signs was specifically to warn the all-day parker that he could not leave his vehicle in those streets. We know that there is a heavy commuter parking problem in the vicinity of Wembley Park and Wembley Hill Stations, and it was essential for the smooth flow of heavy traffic engendered by the Stadium events to ensure that these vehicles were not left on the highway all day. That was the reason for the considerable period of advance notice.
To have placed the signs later in the day would have been not only unfair to the commuter who parked his vehicle in ignorance of the restriction which was to be imposed, but would have presented an impossible task to the police later, when removal of the vehicles was necessary in the interests of traffic movement. That is the reply about why this was done.
We appreciate that inconvenience was caused temporarily to, say, local shopkeepers, but in the view of the police it was inevitable to put out the signs for the no-waiting restrictions many hours before the events occurred, otherwise the streets would have become cluttered up with the all-day parkers and the police would have been confronted with an impossible problem.
In conclusion, I should like to say something briefly in general terms about the tackling of London's transport problems. Our approach in the Ministry of Transport is based firmly on cooperation and joint action on the part of a number of bodies which have responsibility for transport in the capital. Earlier this year, for the first time, my right hon. Friend brought these bodies together on the London Transport Coordinating Council, of which my right hon. Friend is chairman. On that council 2101 sit together top-level representatives of the public transport operators—British Rail and London Transport; the highway and traffic planning authorities of the Greater London Council and representatives of the London boroughs, the transport trade unions and the regional economic planning council.
This Co-ordinating Council for London has set in progress an ambitious programme of work by five working groups. The emphasis is upon improved public transport and the need to get the right balance between public and private transport to make an impact on our traffic problems. The operations group of the Council, under the chairmanship of Sir Alex Samuels, is probably the one whose work is most directly and immediately relevant to the sort of problems which have been raised this afternoon by the hon. Member for Wembley, South.
At regular fortnightly meetings that group is discovering and putting into effect ways of improving the bus services, bringing together traffic management schemes and improvement of interchange between different forms of transport. The results achieved so far are not spectacular, and nobody would expect this, but I will give an example of the kind of thing which has been done.
This group of the London Coordinating Council has recently arranged for Tyburn Way, at Marble Arch, to be opened up for the exclusive use of the Red Arrow buses to improve the operation of this part of the new service. This is an example of co-operation between the police, London Transport and the Greater London Council, which is the traffic management authority. We believe that in other parts of the capital, by achieving a similar kind of co-ordination, we may be able to get rid of bottlenecks or to achieve special ways for the public transport operators to improve their working.
Four other groups of the Co-ordinating Council are working on interchange facilities—for example, the provision of more car parking space at peripheral stations; proposals for major extensions and improvements by British Rail and London Transport and other aspects of their work, including the planning of London's future road system, the problems of freight movement in London and the loading and unloading of vehicles.
2102 In all this the emphasis is upon joint effort by co-ordinating the work of those who make the traffic regulations, who plan the improvement of highways and who carry on the day-to-day job of operating the public transport system. The aim is to achieve immediate improvement in travelling conditions and to define the changes in the law which may be necessary in the longer term if we are to have a properly integrated transport system in London.