§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What plans they have for improving the M25.
The Earl of Caithness
The M.25 is the hub of the national motorway network. Many other motorways M.1, M.40, M.4, M.3, M.23, M.20, M.11 and A.1(M) lead off it. It is, therefore, a key component in the movement of long distance national and international traffic, in particular by enabling traffic from the Midlands and the North of England to reach the South East and the Channel without going through London. It is essential for our industry and commerce, upon whom we depend for our further economic prosperity, that it should work effectively. Besides its national importance, it is also very important at the regional level, playing a major part in the economic development of the South East.
This importance is reflected in its very heavy use. The White Paper "Roads for Prosperity", published in May 1989, announced plans to widen the whole of the motorway to dual four lane standard as part of the motorway widening programme. Work on this is proceeding. Widening between Junctions 15 and 16 is currently in progress and earlier this year we consulted local interests on our proposals for widening within existing highway boundaries between Junctions 7 and 8 and 10 and 11.
However, it has become clear that on certain sections in particular traffic volumes have been rising and will continue to rise to the point where dual four lanes will not be enough to prevent chronic congestion. This problem is particularly acute on the section between Junctions 12 and 15—between the M.3 and the M.4. That is why, as a first phase, we published in June 1992 proposals for dual three lane link roads to augment the existing dual four lane road.58WA
Although these proposals were welcomed in some quarters, they attracted understandable concern in others, particularly from those living near the motorway. We have therefore considered very carefully all the issues raised by those who question the justification for these proposals. Our conclusion is that the balance of public interest lies in taking these proposals forward and that the link roads should proceed to the next stage in the statutory process.
In reaching our conclusion, we have looked particularly carefully at alternatives to the link road proposals. We do not believe that any of these would be an adequate response to the magnitude of the problem. Even with improved traffic management, such as the pilot scheme we have recently announced for controlled motorway operation, additional capacity will be needed. Without it, heavy lorries and other long distance traffic will increasingly divert to the local road network to the point where conditions become intolerable for local people. Nor is increased use of rail transport a feasible option; there are no existing lines able to cope with the variety of journeys of those using the motorway, and it is unrealistic to consider building new lines, nor would they match up to requirements. The link roads, moreover, are designed for purposes other than commuting and other journeys into London.
Junctions 12–15 present the most pressing problem, which we have addressed first. But Junctions 15–16 between the M.4 and the M.40 will also present a serious congestion problem in future. Even after current widening to four lanes is completed I am therefore today launching a public consultation on link roads on this stretch as well.
However, in deciding to proceed to public inquiry for Junctions 12–15 and to launch a public consultation for Junctions 15–16, I can give a number of assurances.
First, we have no plans for similar link roads around the whole of the motorway. We foresee no need at all for widening beyond D4 between Junctions 3–10 and Junctions 21–30. We cannot rule out the need for widening beyond D4 on the remaining stretches (Junctions 10–12, Junctions 16–21 and Junctions 30–3). The need for this will not become clear until future work has been carried out by consultants and any proposals would not necessarily be in the form of dual three-lane link roads. A solution involving fewer additional lanes might be acceptable.
Second, we are determined that the greatest attention should be given to the environmental aspects of the proposals. The fact that we are intending to devote some two thirds of the land take on Junctions 12–15 to mitigation measures, including extensive landscaping and planting, not only shows my enthusiasm for this but also means that there will be considerable landscaping and noise barrier improvements over the existing section. And the proposals will naturally he subject to a very full environmental 59WA impact assessment in conformity with EC directives and the Department's new Manual of Environmental Assessment, which can be considered at the inquiry.
Third, our intention to proceed with the link roads does not imply any diminution in the Government's commitment in the Regional Strategy for the South East to encourage investment to the east of London. We have a very substantial programme of investment in road improvements to the east to which we shall continue to give high priority within the public spending constraints we face. For example work is starting this year on the £200m improvement of the A.13 between Dagenham and M.25 and the £200m Hackney-M.11 link.
Fourth, the Government continues to be strongly committed to improving conditions for rail users on Network SouthEast and users of other public transport. Last year, investment in London Transport and Network SouthEast was running at three times that in roads in London. The Citizen's Charter commits us to improving conditions for both road and rail users and we intend to honour this commitment.
The Government is currently consulting on the introduction of charges or tolls for the motorway network [Paying for Better Motorways Cm. 2200]. No decisions have yet been taken, but if the Government decides to pursue a policy of charging or tolling, and the necessary legislation is passed by Parliament, the M.25, including the link roads, could be part of the charged network. We do not expect any motorway charging system that might be introduced in the future to remove the urgent need to increase the capacity of these already over-used sections of the M.25. Depending on the results of the consultation exercise and subsequent decisions and legislation, these and other motorway widening schemes could also be candidates for private financing.
A copy of the detailed departmental response to the proposals for Junctions 12–15 has been placed in the Library. Copies have already been circulated to those who commented and other interested parties. Copies of the public consultation document on Junctions 15–16 are also available.