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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I support this amendment. However, while my noble friend Lord Jenkin has put the City's case very well I do not believe that the amendment goes far enough. I believe that the whole of the London road system will be completely confused. Under Clause 206 Transport for London will be the highway authority for all GLA roads, and under Clause 208 London borough councils will be responsible for all other roads. There is, thus, a dual responsibility and road users will not necessarily know who is the highway authority for a particular London road.
As a highway authority Transport for London will be responsible for issues such as maintenance, street lighting, signing and so on. That may cause problems. When road repairs must be reported and carried out the public will be confused. Westminster City Council understands why Transport for London should as part of its strategic functions be the traffic authority, but not the highway authority, which deals with local issues.
The proposals to extend the boundaries of GLA roads down borough side roads which connect to GLA roads will cause the public further confusion and lead to inefficient and bureaucratic operation of highway responsibilities. This is an important issue, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that he will be looking at this matter.
Lord Whitty: I am afraid that I cannot accept the intent of this amendment, which in part misunderstands the situation. The central issue here is that the GLA road network will be the strategic network for the whole of London. Following a lengthy period of consultation with the London boroughs and the City Corporation, we have announced the routes that will form part of the network. To exclude the City of London from that network does not make sense in terms of transport strategy. TfL should have direct control of this key network of roads.
However, some of the observations of noble Lords imply that we are handing over virtually all of the streets of the City to TfL. That is not so. The routes that have been designated as the GLA road network are: the
When the City introduced the ring of steel and the two crossing points it had to do so in conjunction with the Traffic Director. If there were any recurrence of the unfortunate situation that gave rise to the ring of steel the same would apply to TfL; in other words, there is no change in the balance of responsibilities between the City and the other authorities. All the designated roads were either red routes or other routes where the Traffic Director had a role. The City never had absolute control over the roads now designated.
As to the issue of side roads to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, made reference, there are some short stretches that need to be taken into the GLA network to ensure that the main roads are operated safely and efficiently. In the wider context referred to by the noble Baroness, we are aware of the concerns of the City about the practicality of that proposal. We shall consult upon and consider further the best way to address that during the summer. But that is not a particular problem for the City. Certainly, there is no implication that the power will extend down side roads any further than anywhere else. It would probably be less far in the City given the network of roads to which the noble Lord referred.
As to the ring of steel, we are not changing the position; nor do we wish to do so. The proposal would affect only one road and two crossings, which are already the responsibility of the Traffic Director for London, to be taken over by the GLA.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I understand the Minister's observation on the ring of steel, but he must recognise that the designation of the red route came after the ring of steel was instituted. Therefore, one must ask whether the Traffic Director would have been prepared to agree that given the controversy at the time. It is no secret that it was very unpopular with Ministers in the previous government for the reasons I explained: it appeared to be giving in to the IRA. Would he have done that? The City Corporation, in recognition of the security aspects, was able to do it on its own initiative. While I accept the Minister's point about the two crossings, they came after the system was established.
The more important point, which I believe will give rise to difficulty unless we have a clearer view, is how far down side roads TfL's authority will extend. If one is talking of 10 or 20 yards--equivalent to the frontage of two or three houses--perhaps it is justifiable. However, it has been suggested to me that the powers might extend as far as 200 yards down roads leading off GLA roads, in which case in the City the powers would extend to virtually the whole highways network. Before
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I also wonder whether the Minister would consider placing TfL under an obligation to offer contracts for highway maintenance. In the past, it has been common for the Department of Transport to contract out the maintenance of local roads to the local authorities. Does the Minister agree that TfL should be placed under an obligation to offer a contract of highway maintenance functions to the relevant local authority, with appropriate funding of course, so that a seamless service could be provided to local road users? Would that be an answer? Will the Minister think about that before we get to the next stage of the Bill?
Lord Whitty: I am not at all sure that I can bring any further enlightenment to this issue. Clearly the contracting arrangements will be a matter for TfL when established, and it is not immediately obvious that the best value would be achieved on strategic routes by extending a contract that related to local authority roads.
The objective of extending the function a small way down some of the side streets would be to ensure that the junctions were safe and appropriate to the traffic coming on to the GLA strategic road. In some cases, that would be more than 10 yards, but in most cases it would not be significantly more than 10 yards. I suspect that there are not many places in the City in which it would be significantly more.
Without analysing the precise design of every junction on every GLA road, I am not sure that I can give the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, an authoritative assurance that the provision would not affect the City as dramatically as he suggests. However, it is the intention only to take that part of the road that would affect the junctions and the flow of traffic on to and from GLA strategic roads. I do not know whether that is any guidance to the noble Viscount, but I hope that he would recognise that that is as far as I can go tonight. We will consider the issue further over the summer.
Lord Bowness: Perhaps I could ask the Minister to recognise, when he considers the issue further over the summer, that he has just articulated the problem. One cannot address it without a detailed analysis of every road junction. The fear is that what will happen is that a blanket, overall policy will be applied that will affect every junction whether it is relevant or not. That is one of the problems that will lead to untold delay in the two-tier highway system that the Bill will establish.
The problem goes further than the City of London. When we come to later clauses, the whole question of highway authorities for non-GLA roads taking decisions that, in the words of the Bill, "may affect" GLA roads
Earl Attlee: I am grateful to all noble Lords who have supported the amendment: it was more successful than I thought it would be and we have widened the debate. I had intended to keep the ring of steel argument for the next group. I do not know whether I am right to do that, and perhaps I should have paid more attention to the management of the groupings. In view of that, I might drop Amendment No. 296AA because we have covered it in such detail.
My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes asked who was the highways authority, and that is a very good question. I have an interest to declare, because I am president of the Heavy Transport Association. One of the association's problems is that it has to notify the highways authorities when it wants to move something and it is often difficult to find out who the highways authority is. That can apply especially if the load will cross a design, build, finance and operate motorway and it is not known whether the bridge belongs to the DBFO operator or to the local county council.
The Minister said that only one GLA road crosses the ring of steel. However, GLA roads can be designated in the future, and my noble friend Lord Jenkin mentioned red routes, so the problem could expand in the future.
I am grateful to hear that the Minister will reconsider the issue over the summer. I accept that the amendment as drafted might not be perfect and I am sure that we shall return to the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.