ROAD TRANSPORT MATTERS IN PARLIAMENT.
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Questions to the Minister About Compulsory Insurance for Thirdparty Risks. Loading and Unloading in London Streets. Road Repairs and Obstructed Roads.
AR L RUSSELL has given a practical turn to 1L1 the vexed question of compulsory insurance against third-party risks by introducing a Bill in the House of Lords providing for the compulsory insurance of each motor vehicle for a sum of not less than £5,000, the issue of a licence being conditional upon the production to the issuing officer of such a policy, which would be co-terminous with the licence. As he explained, there is no hope of the Bill going beyond the first reading this session, but his desire was to obtain suggestions. Evidently the Government have been considering the question a little more closely since• Earl Russell gave notice of his Bill, and Viscount Peel had to inform their lordships that the difficulties of setting up satisfactory machinery are so great that the authorities do not see their way, as yet, to establish a regular system. It is hopedto introduce legislation whereby the penalties for reckless and careless driving may be increased.
No Enthusiasm for Compulsory Insurance.
ON the whole, the Bill did not receive much encouragement. It was stated that the system was already established in Denmark, and had been discussed in Switzerland EtA an international question, whilst Belgium had given approval, but was waiting for other countries to move in the matter. Other arguments were that nearly all motor insurance policies covered third-party risk, the number of exceptions being extremely small, and that compulsory insurance would lead to recklessness and the increase of accidents. The discussion showed that anticipations of Government action are not likely to be realized in the near future except in the direction of stiffening penalties for dangerous driving.
Improvement of Roads.
THE Roads Improvement Bill, which the Government introduced in the House of Commons, has now been read a second time in the House of Lords, and is well on its way to the Statute Book after a very easy passage, its introduction in the Upper Chamber being welcomed by Lord Montagu on behalf of all road users. The Bill has been regarded as a non-contentious measure, having for its objects improvements which everybody desires. The three most important clauses enable the planting of trees and laying out of grass margins in highways, impose restrictions as to walls, fences or hedges at dangerous corners, and empower the Minister of Transport, by himself or through any authority or other organization approved by him, to conduct experiments and trials for the improvement of the construction of roads and for testing the effect of various classes of vehicle on various types of road, and to construct such roads and works as may be necessary. It has already been announced that, so soon as the Bill receives the Royal Assent, experiments will be undertaken on a considerable scale. We are even looking forward to seeing the plant for testing experimental road surfaces at the National Physical Laboratory whirling round once more, instead of standing idle year after year.
Loading and Unloading in Streets.
AS is well known, severe restrictions are placed 2pon the loading and unloading of coal, as well as beer casks and barrels, in certain scheduled Metropolitan streets. The prohibited hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Metropolitan streets and 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (or 3 p.m on Saturdays) in the City of London. The Minister of Transport having been asked to consider the question of extending the restriction to other classes of heavy and bulky goods, he states that he has requested the London Traffic Advisory Committee to advise him whether it is desirable to make regulations under the London Traffic Act, 1924, " prescribing the conditions subject to which and the times at which (a) articles may be loaded on to or unloaded from vehicles, or vehicles of any particular class or description on streets, and (b) vehicles or vehicles of any particular class or description delivering or collecting goods or merchandise or delivering goods or merchandise of any particular class or classes, may stand in streets or in streets of any class or description or in specified streets."
Expenditure of Road Fund.
AS there exists a good deal of misapprehension regarding the extent to which the Road Fund is devoted to the purposes for which it was originally intended, it is of interest to know, on the authority of the Minister of Transport, that during the year ended March 31st last 28.5 per cent. of • the receipts, after the deduction of statutory charges, were applied to grants towards the con. struction of new roads and the acquisition of land for the purpose, while 71.5 per cent, were applied to grants towards the maintenance and improvement of existing roads.
SURELY the time has come for sweeping away tolls altogether and making road users free of an annoying and out-of-date system ! Might not a few of the 120 millions of pounds sterling which owners of motor vehicles will contribute to the Road Fund during the next six or seven years be used to assist local authorities to get rid of such imposts? It appears that there are in England and Wales to-day 64 toll roads and 127 toll bridges, and on eight of the roads and 29 of the bridges the charge is Is. or more.
Attacks on Ministry of Transport.
THERE has been a sudden outcry against the Ministry of Transport on account of obstructed traffic in the Strand and converging streets and bridges. That there has been an accentuation of the now normal difficulty of vehicular movement through the central parts of London, owing to street repairs and the Waterloo Bridge operations, is admitted, and, but for an error, the position would not have been quite so bad. But those who seek to make a scapegoat of the Ministry of Transport might in fairness remember that these sporadic protests in the daily Press are, equally with recent official and legislative activities, 50 years overdue. Members of Parliament have not yet reached the stage of attacking the Ministry of Transport, for the good reason that they realize that it has just got into its stride in the matter of road traffic control, and that the Advisory Committee set up under the long-overdue London Traffic Act of 1924 has been functioning for little more than six months.