Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540
WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY 2001
MR T MATTHEWS
540. Are you making much progress in using waste
tyres and glass for road surfacing materials?
(Mr Thorndike) We do have a research programme which
is looking into those areas of recycling, but actually very little
recycling is done on the surfacing of the trunk roads. What does
happen is that the top surfaces are very often taken off, recycled
and used in the lower layers where you can use different materials.
Yes, there is research.
541. People are telling us that a big way of
getting rid of waste tyres and of waste glass onto your roads
is really not realistic. Is that right?
(Mr Thorndike) At the moment we cannot make the materials
durable enough to stand up to the trunk road traffic.
542. Can we deal with this business of road
noise? I want to ask you about the A30 near Marsh Green in Exeter.
You will be aware that the local residents are very upset about
the rolled concrete surface. You will also, I am sure, accept
that at the inquiry the inspector gave various undertakings which
did not appear to be followed when the road was actually built.
Is it true that that is the case? What actually happened there?
How is it that concrete surface on this road which has recently
been built is in a state which is producing considerable oscillation,
considerable difficulties for the people near it? Did the Highways
Agency specify the conditions? At the public inquiry, did the
inspector make it clear he expected certain conditions to be applied
to that road?
(Mr Thorndike) No.
543. Did the Highways Agency specify in the
contract the sort of surface?
(Mr Thorndike) No, the contractor had a choice of
544. You did not ask him specifically to deal
with the question of noise.
(Mr Thorndike) No, he had a choice of surfacing materials.
545. Other contractors put in a bid and were
specific, were they not?
(Mr Thorndike) I do not know.
546. Why did you not ask about noise? Why did
you not think it was important?
(Mr Thorndike) At that time, we have to go back four
years to when the contract was let, the new quieter surfaces were
really only just coming into service. They were moving from an
experimental stage to becoming normal.
547. But you did not specify, you did not think
noise was important and you did not buy the houses which were
close to the motorway.
(Mr Thorndike) We did not specify.
548. You did not think that was important enough.
Are you therefore going to resurface this road?
(Mr Thorndike) Government have said that we will resurface
all concrete roads within the ten-year period and we are currently
consulting the local authorities who have noise responsibilities
on the criteria we should use for prioritising.
549. So although this is actually something
the Highways Agency is almost directly responsible for, the people
in the area may have to wait some considerable time.
(Mr Thorndike) Yes. We are consulting on the criteria
which have to be used and we have proposed the criteria should
follow the principle of the roads which affect the most people
being done first.
550. Yet this is a recent road and it is a direct
responsibility of the Highways Agency not specifying the type
(Mr Thorndike) Yes.
Chairman: I do not think that is one of your
551. How many Exeter households got noise insulation
as a result of the higher levels of noise from this surface?
(Mr Thorndike) I do not know. I should have to write
to you about that.
Chairman: We shall accept a note from you.
552. The question of hard shoulders. You have
got rid of at least two miles in the centre of Stockport in order
to put in the extra lane. Do you think that is really safe?
(Mr Matthews) We will only develop use of hard shoulders
where it is safe. It is not a policy of the Agency to make extensive
use of hard shoulder, indeed we have no power to do so without
agreement with the police.
553. Some of the hard shoulder which is left
is so narrow that if you park on it you cannot actually change
your offside wheel in any safety. Does that not present problems?
(Mr Matthews) I confess I am not aware of the detail
of the particular stretch you are referring to. I can write to
you separately with some assurance on that if you want.
554. What is going to happen about having some
recovery system for vehicles which break down in sections where
there is no hard shoulder?
(Mr Matthews) At the moment we have one or two ideas
that we are beginning to develop which cover a range of what we
call active traffic management, which may include use of hard
shoulder. As part of that thinking we have been developing the
notion of what is called a safe haven, so that on any stretch
of road there will always be with appropriate frequency somewhere
where somebody who has broken down or needs to be towed off the
main carriageway can go. I emphasise these are very much outline
ideas at this stage in terms of how we might make better use of
the network and we might clear the network more clearly and effectively.
We will be consulting the police in particular, because they have
particular responsibility in this area, and also the motoring
organisations, when we have some firmer ideas. We certainly have
no plans for extensive use of the hard shoulder.
555. Would it not have been a good idea to talk
to the motoring organisations a bit earlier because some of them
think you fancy yourself as the AA or the RAC or the Green Flag?
(Mr Matthews) We have talked to the motoring organisations.
These ideas were presented in the autumnand I emphasise
these are outline ideas not firm plansat a major conference
we had for all of our stakeholders as a followup to the Ten-Year
Plan. The RAC, AA and other organisations were involved in that.
They are involved in regular meetings with us through the Road
Users' Forum and bilateral meetings and we are committed to developing
these ideas in discussion and consultation with them.
556. If you get rid of the hard shoulder, there
are quite a lot of breakdowns which could be described as catastrophic
in that the vehicle cannot go very much further. Is that not going
to present considerable problems?
(Mr Matthews) We do not have plans for extensive running
use of the hard shoulder in those areas. Where we might wish to,
those are precisely the sort of factors which we shall need to
take account of, as well as all the other technology, whether
CCTV or linkups between us and the motoring organisations, which
can help that. Our objective is to keep the road running as effectively
and quickly as possible to clear incidents as quickly as possible,
but above all to do that in a safe manner.
557. In what sort of time would you expect to
be able to clear incidents where people break down in areas where
there is no hard shoulder?
(Mr Matthews) Once we have clearance from the police,
and we can only clear once the police have cleared us to do that,
we would aim to do that within quarter to half an hour.
558. But it is often very difficult for any
breakdown vehicle or the police to get through the queuing traffic
to the scene of the incident, is it not?
(Mr Matthews) Yes, that is right.
559. Do you still think you can do it in quarter
of an hour?
(Mr Matthews) Yes.