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A.40: Future Plans

3.10 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, following the cancellation of the A.40 Western Approach (Design, Build, Finance and Operate scheme), which included the schemes at Western Circus and Gypsy Corner, a study is currently being undertaken to identify the best sustainable solution to the problems which exist on the A.40 between Hangar Lane and White City. Once a decision has been taken on the form of an alternative scheme, the future of surplus land and properties acquired can be determined.

Baroness Macleod of Borve: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. However, perhaps I may point out to her that a great many people will be very disappointed that the proposed alteration and widening of that road is not to go ahead. I should declare an interest in the matter in that I drive up and down that road every day, as, I believe, do other noble Lords. My main interest and worry concerns not only the number of people who had homes on the A.40 and were persuaded to sell them, but also the other people who are now trying to sell their homes, as I understand the "for sale" boards and notices have been erected. Those people do not understand or know what the future will hold for them. Can the Minister help me in that respect?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I very much understand the points made by the noble Baroness. I also understand her concerns, which are indeed shared by other Members of this House. I am very well aware of the problem for that very reason. Moreover, I realise that the scheme has a long history and reached the point of being very near to construction. However, I have to say that I believe the most responsible thing to do is to

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ensure that the scheme which is eventually implemented is one that is sustainable and one that addresses the needs of those who use the road, while assisting public transport, cyclists, disabled people and pedestrians as well as business and essential car users. A scheme which simply encouraged more single occupant car commuting, as the previous scheme would have done, would be doomed to failure.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, can the Minister tell us what the position is with regards to compensation, if any, for the people in the area--and we all know the area that we are talking about--who are living in intolerable conditions as a direct result of government decision? I am not saying that it is a wrong decision in the transport context, but those people's homes are now completely valueless.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, some people were certainly affected and were eligible for, and received, compensation. There are two tasks that we need to undertake urgently: first, we need to deal with the environmental devastation which, frankly, exists along the side of the route at present; and, secondly, we need to address the other main issue about compensation--namely, those properties which are now badly affected by noise which were shielded in the past by the other properties that have been demolished. I can confirm that those properties will be eligible for compensation for noise insulation.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the stunned disbelief with which this decision was received by people? Can the noble Baroness assure the House that it is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to perpetuate and even design traffic jams at the end of motorways so that they cannot be used?

Baroness Hayman: No, my Lords; it is not this Government's policy to perpetuate traffic jams. That is why it is essential for us to reconsider some of the policies of the past. I am sure that noble Lords will recognise that simply "predict and provide" has failed in terms of congestion, pollution and traffic management. That is why the Government thought it right to step back in order to review all the roads in the roads programme and to undertake the work on an integrated transport policy which will actually provide sustainable solutions for the future. The present system is not sustainable.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I must also declare an interest as one who drives along that road rather more often than I would wish. Is the Minister aware that many people use their cars because it is not possible to count on getting a train back to London following an after-dinner meeting? Further, will the Minister attempt a cost-benefit analysis of traffic reduction by getting the trains to run a little later?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Earl raises a most important point about providing proper public

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transport alternatives. It is no good criticising people for using their cars if they have no real alternative. That is why we shall be looking very carefully at solutions which could, for example, enhance the speed and effectiveness of bus travel along that stretch of road. We shall also be studying the train services and considering park-and-ride schemes. Indeed, there are all sorts of ways in which we can help. In view of the widespread interest in your Lordships' House in the matter, perhaps we could have a car pooling scheme.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: Lords, the Minister mentioned the integrated transport policy programme which the Government are considering. However, can she give us some idea of the kind of time-scale for its implementation? It all sounds highly desirable.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I can tell the noble Lord that the consultation which was launched in August will finish on Friday of this week, 14th November. We will then be bringing together the submissions of which there have been a great number, including many from ordinary members of the public. I should point out to the House that there is a widespread agreement that we need to change and better integrate transport policies. We shall then be looking into the prospect of producing a White Paper in the spring. There is a great deal that can be done in the meantime. Individual schemes--such as, for example, a bus lane on the M.4 spur--can and are being implemented in the interim.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what costs to the public exchequer were incurred, prior to the somewhat hasty cancellation of the scheme, on property acquisition, site clearance and other associated schemes? In other words, how much has already been spent?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the figure that the noble Lord seeks is £27 million. In terms of hasty cancellation, I have to say that this scheme had a checkered history as regards being in and out of the programme and, indeed, had been going on for many years with some doubt surrounding it. That figure represents a lot of money, some of which will actually be recovered from land sales. As the scheme which was being proposed would have cost £75 million, and we believe it to be the wrong scheme, I do not think that that was a justification for going ahead with it.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, can the Minister explain how we know that it is the wrong scheme when consultation is still going on, together with a study, to ascertain what should be done?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the study is of alternatives. In the accelerated review we looked at the schemes that were in urgent need of decision because of their contractual position, and this scheme was one of them. We then considered their viability and this scheme very clearly came forward as one which would simply

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encourage more car commuting into London without giving long-term and sustainable solutions. Therefore, we instituted a study to ascertain what would be the best alternative to a scheme that we viewed not to be viable.

Baroness Macleod of Borve: My Lords, does the Minister know how much land is still left derelict? That, in the view of the public, is obviously a waste of money and usage of land. Will the Minister try to use her best influences, which, as we know, are very sound and strong, to have the central reservation cleaned? It is in a disgusting state.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, there have certainly been problems in that respect, including fly-tipping in the area. I cannot give the House an exact acreage regarding the amount of derelict land or of the amount of land that can be returned and sold off. That depends a little on what scheme is eventually decided upon. Certainly, I have asked the Highways Agency to look very carefully at what it can do, both in terms of regular patrols and of putting up new fencing so that at least we will have some environmental improvements in the short term.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I understand what the Minister has said about integrated solutions, but does she nevertheless agree that the A.40 is one of the major trunk routes in and out of London and that, had the previous scheme been seen through to completion, it would have dramatically alleviated the number of severe traffic bottle-necks? Will the Minister confirm that the Government will at least ensure that any revised scheme will aim to relieve those bottle-necks and that the uncertainty for local residents is removed as soon as possible?

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