Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Traffic Noise

3. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): What assessment he has made of the efficacy of acoustic barriers alongside motorways. [211841]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): Assessments of the effectiveness of noise mitigation measures have been undertaken at a sample of locations including some where an acoustic barrier has been erected alongside the motorway. Before adjusting measurements for traffic and weather conditions, the maximum reduction in noise at first floor level achieved with a noise barrier was 9.1 dB and the average reduction was approximately 4 dB. A report on the surveys is in preparation and a copy will be placed in the Library in due course.

Mr. Robathan: That shows how effective acoustic barriers close to the motorway can be. I hope that the Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State have received a petition, containing nearly 700 names, from people who live in Narborough and Enderby in my constituency, whose lives are made a misery by the noise from the M1. Will the Under-Secretary—and preferably the Secretary of State, too—visit my constituents in Narborough and Enderby to hear the unbelievable noise in their houses and gardens? Will he pledge to come before the end of the financial year, so that money can be made available in the next financial year to erect acoustic barriers when the motorway is resurfaced so that my constituents' lives can be improved, as has happened in Luton? What is good for Luton is good for Leicestershire—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Jamieson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thought that we were not going to finish before twenty past 11.

Mr. Robathan: Will the Minister say yes?
1 Feb 2005 : Column 698

Mr. Jamieson: Yes, I am aware of the benefits that acoustic barriers can bring. Other hon. Members, too, know that from their constituents. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the petition of the motorway action group for Enderby and Narborough. I have a copy of it here—it was presented to me last week by David Morgan, the next Labour Member of Parliament for Blaby. He set out the issues calmly to me and referred to the value not only of acoustic barriers but of resurfacing the motorway with quieter materials, which the petition also requests. A programme has been brought forward for resurfacing the M1 between junctions 20 and 21 with quieter materials. That will have huge benefits for the hon. Gentleman's constituents, and I hope that he will welcome that action that we have taken.

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware that noise barriers were erected in my constituency just a few years ago, following the very helpful intervention of Ministers from our Labour Government, and I am very grateful for that. Many of my constituents are very pleased with the barriers and say that they have reduced the noise, but others are less convinced that they are as effective as has been claimed. If my hon. Friend will agree to look specifically at the height and effectiveness of the barriers in Luton, I will be pleased to welcome him to my constituency to do so.

Mr. Jamieson: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his campaign to get those barriers put in. He presented the case calmly and sensibly on behalf of his constituents, and was successful. He is right to say that, given the different sizes and placings of the barriers, they can in some cases mean more noise for some people. We are looking into the matter very carefully, because we want to get the best value for money. The acoustic barriers are essential, but the quieter surfacing is having the greatest impact on noise for many people.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I entirely endorse that last point. I am interested to learn that the programme for introducing low-noise surfaces on the M1 has been brought forward. Promises were made by the Highways Agency to give villages such as Holton, Compton Pauncefoot and Blackford in my constituency low-noise surfaces on the A303, which carries as much traffic as many motorways, but the programme has been put back. Why is that?

Mr. Jamieson: We have to deal with these matters in order of priority. I think that the hon. Gentleman would accept that we should deal first with the noisiest roads that have the greatest impact on people, and that is exactly what we are doing. Some of the roads have had to be brought forward in the programme not because they needed the quiet surface more, but because they had deteriorated to the extent that resurfacing had to take place. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that we have to tackle the worst cases first.

Lighting (Roads)

4. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): What programmes his Department is sponsoring to provide cats' eyes for roads where there is no lighting or inadequate lighting. [211842]
1 Feb 2005 : Column 699

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): The Department is not sponsoring any special programmes to provide cats' eyes for roads where there is no lighting or inadequate lighting. Providing cats' eyes is the responsibility of the relevant highway authority. On the trunk road network, the Highways Agency installs cats' eyes as standard on high-speed roads, whether the road is lit or not.

Harry Cohen: Cats' eyes are essential for road safety. Will the Minister confirm that they are in place on all roads for which he is responsible? Is it not also the case, however, that local authorities have discretion in this regard over roads for which they are responsible, and that some have not invested in putting in cats' eyes? There have even been reports of some taking them out. Will the Minister issue an edict, or guidelines, to local authorities to increase the use of cats' eyes? If he improves driver safety in this way, he will deserve to have his name up in lights, glowing in the dark.

Mr. Jamieson: I do not think I can follow that.

My hon. Friend is right: cats' eyes are a major contributor to road safety. We do set out guidelines for local authorities, but in the end, it is for them to decide how they are to be installed on their own roads, except where there is a double white line in the middle of the road and they have to be fitted. We certainly recommend them for roads with a speed limit of more than 50 mph. I should be very surprised if local authorities were taking out cats' eyes, but if that is the case, I hope that they can make a very strong safety case locally for doing so. We are carrying out further research into cats' eyes and reflective studs in general, to ascertain the benefits and disbenefits that they can bring, and into the possibility of having lit cats' eyes or studs, which could make a major contribution to road safety.

Transport Improvement Fund (Wigan)

5. Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the future of the transport improvement fund in the Wigan borough. [211843]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): We will be providing £3.5 million for the transport infrastructure fund in 2005–06, and a further £3.5 million in 2006–07. Further funding will depend on the progress of our discussions with Manchester, following the written statement that I made to the House on 16 December 2004. The allocation to Wigan from the fund is a matter for the Greater Manchester passenger transport executive.

Andy Burnham: I thank the Secretary of State for that extremely welcome reply, and for listening to the concerns put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Turner), my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) and me. As a collection of former mining villages, our borough has particular transport needs, but we do not benefit directly from Metrolink phases 1, 2 or 3. To compensate for that, we have the 10-year deal. May I press the Secretary of State to confirm that it is vital that we have that deal for the 10 years agreed in 2000? Will he also look again at the case for the Leigh guided busway?
1 Feb 2005 : Column 700

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend will be aware that the money was tied to the overall agreement with Greater Manchester PTE in relation to Manchester Metrolink. I do not want to rehearse the history of this yet again, but the money that we put in the transport infrastructure fund depends on reaching an agreement. Because Wigan and Leigh seem to have expected to receive the money this year and next, I am prepared to go on providing it, but further funding will depend on progress with the overall settlement that I want to reach with the PTE.

Let me say to my hon. Friend, and his hon. Friends who have played such an active part, that it is essential for the PTE to present comprehensive plans for tackling congestion and improving transport throughout its area. The funding depends on that. I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomes the two years' funding, but it must be realised that we need to sort out Greater Manchester's problem as a whole. We cannot keep on patching and mending.

Mr. Neil Turner (Wigan) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for listening to our case so carefully. The money will ensure that the A5225, the Wigan inner ring road and the town centre link can proceed prior to full approval by the Department. However, difficulties will be caused when people want to buy houses on the protected routes. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that his officials allow a degree of flexibility for the spending of the money over the two years, so that those essential schemes can reach fruition?

Mr. Darling: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming the funds, but I stress that the allocation for Wigan comes from the PTE. It is important for all parts of the PTE to unite and form a coherent transport strategy for the entire area. Many good things are happening in the Greater Manchester area, some of which were cited yesterday and today by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, but it is important for Manchester to come up with an overall plan. It has a real opportunity to show the rest of the country what can be done with sensible transport planning. We are not there yet, but we hope that we are on the way.

Next Section IndexHome Page