Previous SectionIndexHome Page

2.41 pm

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mrs. Calton) for agreeing to share some of her precious time. I am very much in agreement with her and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) in strongly supporting an integrated transport solution for our area. I should also like to thank the Minister for coming to the Dispatch Box to engage in discussion on this matter for the second time in six months. Our last such meeting occurred on 10 July last year in Westminster Hall on the eve of the study's publication. In that debate, I said:

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that a study has now been published that does exactly that, and I am very much hoping that he will respond positively.

The multi-modal study has done a valuable job and has reached some excellent and comprehensive conclusions. In particular, it has proposed an integrated solution that includes extending the Metrolink tram from the centre of Manchester and improving heavy-rail, bus and cycling connections. The latter were, of course, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle. The study also said very clearly and directly that, unless the road network was completed, all that development would be in vain.

We now have a set of recommendations that everybody seems to favour. The study clearly proposes an integrated response. Local people are in favour; indeed, thousands of postcards have been returned from residents to the consultants—the consultation was not political, but was carried out by the consultants themselves—saying that they are in favour. The regional development agency is offering its support, as well as the chamber of commerce. The Greater Manchester passenger transport authority is also on side. At our last meeting, the Minister gave me some hope by saying, with reference to my speech, that the initial work of the report had

This month, we have seen two developments that reinforce the message very strongly as regards the A6. One of them is the study, which made the very clear claim that the A6 in Hazel Grove was the most dangerous road in Greater Manchester. Its record of fatal, injury and non-injury accidents is by far the worst of any road in Greater Manchester. The study is extra ammunition both for the consultants and for me in arguing the case for building the bypass link.

Roadworks on the A6 have completely destabilised local traffic flows and led to massive congestion and waste of time for my constituents. It is ironic that the work was intended to complete the connections to a supermarket and to build the first 200 yards of the Stepping Hill link to the Hazel Grove bypass. It has been done, however at the expense not only of developers but of everybody who uses the A6.

25 Jan 2002 : Column 1176

The Minister's last words in the debate in July were:

I wanted to remind him of that, because today would be a good day to give effect to those words. Will the hon. Gentleman follow up his positive and helpful comments last July with a commitment to support the study and invest in the 10-year integrated transport plan? Will he give a high priority to the Hazel Grove bypass and the Stepping Hill link?

2.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under–Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr. David Jamieson): I congratulate the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mrs. Calton) on securing an important debate, which follows the debate that the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) obtained in July. I assure him that the words that he and I uttered then are ringing clearly in my ears.

Although the hon. Lady said that she did not understand what a multi-modal study was at the beginning of the process, both hon. Members have made positive contributions to the discussions. I cannot speak for the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton)—we appear to have a Liberal Democrat-Conservative alliance today—but he is usually not slow to speak for himself and his constituents. I am sorry that he is not present.

The hon. Member for Hazel Grove mentioned hearts and money. I assure him that our hearts were in the schemes that we discussed for improvements in the road structure. I also assure him that the money is there. Both hon. Members who spoke had perhaps too short a time to mention that, so I thought I should. If we consider the amount of money that the Government are providing for the local transport plans, there have been substantial increases in both hon. Members' constituencies. For example, in Greater Manchester in 2000-01, the local transport plan's block allocation was £31.9 million. That increased in this financial year to £63.3 million. The figure has more than doubled, and it will increase to £65.4 million next year.

In Cheshire, the 2000-01 figure was £11.8 million, which rose in this financial year to £18.8 million. Next year, the figure will be £20.7 million. I appreciate that there was probably too little time for hon. Members to welcome those huge increases in money for local transport plans.

Mr. Stunell rose

Mr. Jamieson: I see that the hon. Gentleman is rising to do precisely that.

Mr. Stunell: Of course that investment is welcome, but I am sure that the Minister would acknowledge that the plans funded by it specifically excluded the multi-modal study's recommendations.

Mr. Jamieson: I raised the matter to show that not only our hearts but money lay behind our ambitions. Once the plan has been through the Department, it will be up to local authorities to identify in their plans the moneys that

25 Jan 2002 : Column 1177

they want. The way in which we have dealt with the transport plans should give the hon. Gentleman and his constituents every reason for optimism.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the fact that I have been able to hear at first hand the impact of the transport problems in both hon. Members' constituencies and in the wider south-east Manchester area. As they both know, my ministerial colleagues are currently considering the recommendations of the south-east Manchester multi-modal study report. The debate is therefore timely and an important input into those considerations. Although the hon. Lady wanted a response today, I assure her that she will not have to wait much longer for decisions on those important matters for her constituency.

We are committed to looking at transport problems in the round. We do not automatically assume that a road problem means a road-based solution. The reality is that seeking to provide a bypass for every place that has a traffic problem would be neither practical nor cost-effective. The result would be a very long wish list and frustrated expectations. Rather, it is necessary to study individual problems and tailor solutions accordingly.

Mrs. Calton rose

Mr. Jamieson: I will give way to the hon. Lady, although it will probably inhibit my giving some of the answers that she was looking for.

Mrs. Calton: Does the Minister acknowledge that the Department has already agreed to the Shevington bypass in an area with a smaller volume of road traffic but exactly the same environmental problems as we are talking about here? Those proposals have already been passed, but our problems are at least as great as those at Shevington.

Mr. Jamieson: The hon. Lady has somewhat pre-empted some of the things that I was going to say about the schemes in her area.

In relation to the A6(M) Stockport north-south bypass, the A555-A523 Poynton bypass, and the A555 Manchester airport link road west, there have been longstanding proposals in both the hon. Members' constituencies, and in the wider south-east Manchester area, for a series of bypasses to relieve communities such as Poynton and Hazel Grove on the A523 and the A6. Some development work had been undertaken on these schemes while they were in the trunk road programme. At the time of our 1997-98 roads review, the schemes had not been developed sufficiently for us to consider them as candidates for the targeted programme of trunk road improvements. The schemes were also on a part of the trunk road network which we concluded was not of sufficient strategic national importance to justify its inclusion in the core trunk road network.

Non-core trunk roads, which include the A6 and A523 in Greater Manchester and Cheshire, mainly serve local and regional traffic. We concluded that those routes would be more appropriately managed by local highway authorities, to enable decisions about them to be taken locally and better to integrate them with local transport

25 Jan 2002 : Column 1178

and land-use issues. In answer to the hon. Lady's question about the multi-modal studies, they are about giving local people and local authorities—those in the locality who know the problems best—the opportunity to identify the priorities in their own area. I hope that, in the light of her considerable involvement in this study, she has been able to take home that message to her constituents.

As a consequence of our decision, the A6 Stockport north-south bypass, the A555-A523 Poynton bypass and the A555 Manchester airport link west were withdrawn from the national trunk road programme and will pass to the local authorities to consider taking them forward as local road schemes within their local transport plans.

Rather than put forward immediate bids for these schemes, it was decided to look at the problems that they were designed to address in the south-east Manchester multi-modal study. That is one of a number of multi-modal studies examining particularly complex problems. These problems can be addressed only by looking at all forms of transport, and seeking balanced solutions that contribute to our integrated transport policy. In recognition of the importance of the problems in south-east Manchester, this was one of the first multi-modal studies to be commissioned.

As the hon. Lady has noted, the study reported in September and made its recommendations to the north-west regional assembly. After consideration, the assembly made its recommendations to Ministers in November last year. If time allows, I will cover some of the recommendations later, but it may be helpful to explain the process that the study has gone through to reach this stage.

A consortium led by Steer Davies Gleave was appointed following the competitive tender, in December 1999. We funded the study, and the Government office of the north-west took the lead in managing it, in partnership with key interested parties in the study area. As in all the multi-modal studies, a steering group was established to take responsibility for its management and direction. Membership was wide and incorporated all the district and county councils directly involved in the study's coverage, the Strategic Rail Authority, the Highways Agency and the regional development agency, together with other business interests including Manchester airport, and a representative of local environmental and community groups.

The recommended strategy is detailed in the final study report and it includes proposals for four local road schemes—the Alderley Edge bypass, the Stockport north-south bypass, the Poynton bypass and the Manchester airport link road west—to alleviate the impact of traffic on local communities; extensions to the metrolink from Hough End to Stockport, Stockport to Rose Hill and Stockport to Manchester airport; an improvement to the M60/M67/A57 Denton interchange; improved rail infrastructure and services in respect of quality and frequency; and possible new orbital services linking Stalybridge and Stockport and, in the longer term, western and eastern links to Manchester airport.

Also included are improved bus services, including more quality corridors and services of enhanced frequency and quality; better management and maintenance of road capacity to deliver benefits to motorists, public transport users, cyclists and pedestrians; better freight management, including establishing freight quality partnerships; and,

25 Jan 2002 : Column 1179

finally, an intense programme of campaigns to promote transport change and investment to support urban regeneration.

Both hon. Members must agree that that is a full package of measures to assist transport in their area, so I hope that they take heart from my point about local transport plans: not only have we set up those multi-modal studies, but we have shown that we are willing to fund local transport plans. I can assure them that careful consideration will be given when the various authorities put forward their plans to deliver that important programme.

The hon. Member for Cheadle will note that the recommended strategy covers a full range of transport improvements rather than simply the three bypasses previously in the trunk road programme. The study shows that those schemes would not have solved the problems in the study area in isolation and the strategy developed justifies the decision to undertake the study. The problems will be addressed by a multi-modal solution.

I got the feeling that the hon. Lady was a little churlish in welcoming the multi-modal study, but I hope that she has gone through a conversion on the road to Damascus, or perhaps to Poynton, and that she now welcomes it as highly valuable to her area.

The recommended strategy was detailed in a newsletter extensively distributed by the Post Office throughout the study area—I am sure that it appeared in Focus in the hon. Lady's constituency—so that local residents and businesses could be consulted on the study's recommendations. If she has a copy of Focus that welcomes the Government's proposals and extra money, I would be delighted to see it. If necessary, I shall report from the Dispatch Box.

Next Section

IndexHome Page