§ 2.35 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is considered that the road bridge at Marlow is safe and adequate for modern traffic.]
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD MANCROFT)
My Lords, Marlow Bridge, which was built in 1829 and is much prized for its good looks, is on a Class I road, and the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire County Councils are the authorities jointly responsible for its upkeep. It is recognised that it has become weak and unsafe for all except light traffic, and a weight restriction of five tons has been in force for some time. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation is considering at present a joint application by the two Councils to confirm an Order further reducing the limit to two tons.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that 348 owing to the construction of this bridge and to the fact that it is controlled by an artery at the other end, traffic can go through only in one way at any point, and that it sometimes happens that vehicles, individually well within the limit, collect on the bridge waiting for an opportunity to pass? Is the noble Lord also aware that the bridge has been showing grave signs of weakness; that some of its supports have been breaking and that it looks as if a major disaster is possible? Would it not be better if a new bridge could either be built at this point or incorporated in the Marlow By-pass which I believe is under the consideration of the Ministry, observing that the bridge as it is at present cannot contend with all the weight of traffic coming from the south-west and going to the north-east and vice versa?
§ LORD MANCROFT
Yes, my Lords, I am aware of all this; but the difficulty is that to repair the bridge to such a safety standard as would enable vehicles up to ten tons to cross it would cost upward of £150,000 and to build a new bridge would cost up to half a million. As the noble Earl rightly says, there is a scheme for a by-pass about half a mile east of the existing bridge, incorporating a proposed new bridge, but I am afraid that the importance of this traffic, considerable though it is to the local inhabitants, is not such as to give the project a very high place in the present list of priorities.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I accept the noble Earl's point. It is to obviate the risk of disaster that it is proposed further to reduce the limit from five tons to two tons. I am not fully aware of the point about traffic lights, but I will certainly have that matter looked into.