instruction to the Committee
9. The Bill
has already completed all its stages in the House of Commons.
After the Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords
the House agreed to an instruction to the Select Committee "that
they should consider whether the transport needs of the area could
be achieved at a lower cost by strengthening the existing bridge
without widening it."
10. In considering
this instruction we took account, inter alia, of the following
(iii) bus passengers;
(iv) cars, including
those used for regular commuter journeys (the majority),
and those used less regularly, including by tourists;
the course of the Committee's proceedings both parties were in
agreement that the bridge needed to be both strengthened and widened
so that it could carry 40-tonne lorries. We agree with
the promoters that it would be damaging to the local economy -
which in south-east Cornwall is especially vulnerable - if there
were to be a weight restriction across the Tamar Bridge.
12. At present
the Tamar Bridge has three rather narrow lanes, with narrow pedestrian
footways. We saw video evidence which illustrated how some cyclists,
rather than competing with cars, buses and lorries on the vehicle
lanes, use the pedestrian footways, presumably for safety reasons.
Particularly at peak times, the journey across the Bridge must
sometimes be at best an unpleasant experience, and at worst a
somewhat perilous one for pedestrians and cyclists. When
the widening process is complete the southern cantilever will
provide dedicated foot and cycle ways, which the Committee considers
to represent a considerable improvement on the status quo
for both pedestrians and cyclists.
13. The Bill
allows the promoters to sever footpaths across the Bridge during
the construction works. However, the promoters have undertaken
to provide a free shuttle bus service across the Bridge, on a
24-hour basis. This service will include a trailer for carrying
bicycles. We consider that this service should enable the transport
needs of pedestrians and cyclists to be met throughout the construction
14. As to other
bus services, at present buses compete with other traffic
on the three-lane Bridge. When the construction works are completed
buses will have a dedicated lane. This is likely to make bus travel
more attractive than it is at present, and we thus consider it
to represent an improvement for bus passengers.
users will also benefit from improved traffic flows across
the widened Bridge. There may also be an improvement in air quality
from a reduction in exhaust pollution from slow-moving traffic.
Traffic flow will, however, still be constrained by the three-lane
tunnel on the A38 west of the Bridge; for structural reasons it
is not possible to increase the number of lanes in this tunnel.
Whilst it is impossible to predict with absolute accuracy what
will be the effect of the Bridge widening on car use, the continuing
constraint of the tunnel may provide a check on car traffic flow
in the area to the west of the Bridge, and thereby encourage some
potential car users to make use of alternative means of transport.
16. In order
to reduce car use, the petitioners were keen for the planned provision
of a park and ride scheme to be accelerated. In this context,
we note that both Cornwall County Council and Plymouth County
Council have expressed their "eagerness ... to implement
a park and ride scheme at the earliest opportunity".
Clause 31 of the Bill provides the necessary powers for the Joint
Authorities to contribute to the cost of park and ride.
17. Our final,
over-riding consideration, for all who use the Bridge, has been
that of public safety, both during the construction works and
in the longer term. We have already mentioned the hazardous conditions
which pedestrians and cyclists may face at present. For other
road users, the turn-in from the local road on to the A38 going
east at the north-western end of the Tamar Bridge is an accident
blackspot. We hope that the dedicated eastbound carriageway on
the northern cantilever of the widened Bridge will reduce the
number of road accidents substantially.
18. We heard
evidence from professionals in bridge construction and highways
and traffic management that without the widening of the Bridge
as part of the strengthening construction works major traffic
hold ups would occur, causing significant economic costs to the
local economy, as well as increases in air pollution and the risks
of increased traffic accidents.
19. We have
concluded that the transport needs of the area could not be achieved
at a lower cost by strengthening the existing bridge without widening
Committee is of the opinion that the Bill should proceed with
the amendments submitted to them by the Promoters.
1 Approximately 75 per cent of traffic using the Tamar Bridge is locally based. Back
2 Letter from Sharpe Pritchard, parliamentary agent for the promoters, to Mr Stephen Joseph, Director of Transport 2000 Limited, dated 5 June 1998. Back