National Archives 2003-03-18

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MT 39/38

This file is even more substantial than MT 39/41 and contains the full details of the Northern and Western Motorway’s promoter’s attempts to win support for the motorway through a modification of light railways legislation as an alternative to sponsoring a Private Bill for motorways specifically (not clear whether this was done before or after a first Private Bill for motorways only had failed, but it is clear that the intent of modifying light railways legislation was to expedite the scheme, with a view toward orders being prepared and construction beginning in time for the winter 1923-24 unemployment season). The file includes

• Correspondence between Montagu and other scheme promoters and the Prime Minister’s private secretary, indicating that Montagu tried to promote the scheme direct to the Prime Minister himself.

• Correspondence between civil servants and H. Gosling, the MinT, to determine departmental policy WRT motorways.

• Correspondence between the promoters and the Committee on Trade Facilities, an apparent subcommittee of the BOT which would have extended credit facilities (promoters wanted 2/3 guarantee on capital, CTF were not disposed to be more generous than 50-50, and ultimately MOT suggested that the govt make it unambiguously clear that no credit facilities would be granted, because the prospect of a motorway being built in an adjacent corridor was making it impossible for the MOT and local authorities to proceed with main road improvements in parallel corridors).

• Correspondence between scheme promoters and MOT permanent staff to see if they could convince the latter to drop their opposition to the scheme.

• Documentation pertaining to a deputation of the Commercial Motor Users’ Association to either MinT or the PM, voicing strong opposition to the scheme (apparently they did not want to pay toll, felt that the future of lorry transport was in short runs because of the reduction of railway rates, and felt the project would divert resources from the local road improvements they wanted for short-haul work).

• Memoranda and leaflets (at least two) prepared by the NWM people, setting forth the broad parameters of the scheme, explaining the financing, answering criticisms, and promoting it to the general public along the corridor.

As usual, this file is SUPER-RICH in information—the main problem is mining it. Some of the material is probably worth typing in verbatim. Extracts follow.


NWM, 62 Pall Mall, London SW 26 July 1923

Dear Mr Baldwin,

I have the honor to advert to the interview which you were good enough to give me, accompanied by the solicitor to this undertaking, Mr Dixon Davies, on the 18th inst. AT this interview, you will remember, it was suggested that if the project is to be put in hand in time to furnish employment in the coming winter, an amendment of a technical character will be required in the present law.

You will find enclosed with this letter a Memorandum explaining this point, together with two copies of a very short draft Bill, upon which we have consulted Sir Leslie Scott, KC, MP, and Mr. Gerard Hill of the Ministry of Health, which it is hoped the Government would see their way to put through early in the autumn session.

If the government can give some reasonable undertaking or encouragement of some kind, we will incorporate our company now, and take other anticipatory steps during the holiday season. This action seems to us to be advisable with a view to expediting the matter, and thus preparing to diminish unemployment. In regard to this point, I venture to ask if you would give me another appointment early next week, preferably on Tuesday or Wednesday.

If any further prints of the enclosed document sare required, they can be obtained from our solicitors’ office, Messrs. Beale and Co, 16, Gt. George St, Westminster, SW

Yours sincerely

Montagu of Beaulieu

[handwritten] Since I saw you last week, we have obtained further influential support both financially and otherwise.


Letter was filed with a copy of the Light Railways (Motorways) bill of 1923, entitled “A bill to apply with modifications the enactments relating to the construction and working of Light Railways to the construction and working of roads for mechanically propelled vehicles.” 13 Geo. 5.


The light railways (motorways) bill

Memorandum explanatory of the proposed bill

The project which the promoters of the “Northern and Western Motorway” are putting forward comprises the construction of several self-contained sections of arterial motorway, which when completed will link up London with South Lancashire, passing within a short distance of Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, and the Pottery Towns.

The construction of even one section of such a track would provide over a long period a large amount of work, not merely for the unskilled laborer, but also for the various industries concerned in the production of the necessary materials and plant: and its opening for traffic must reduce considerably the maintenance and improvement costs of the highways which now serve that traffic. At the same time, it is considered that in view of the saving of time, running expenses, and wear and tear, resulting from the use of the motorway, owners of mechanical transport will readily pay such tolls as will ensure the prosperity of the undertaking.

The obstacle which must be surmounted if any part of the scheme is to be put in hand in time to afford employment during the winter of 1923-4 is the obtaining of compulsory powers for the acquisition of land before the end of 1923.

Such powers can be obtained only from Parliament, or from some Minister to whom Parliament has delegated the power to grant them—as it has done in the case of Light Railways to the Minister of Transport.

It is now too late to obtain, this year, the approval of Parliament to a private Bill authorizing the construction of the proposed motorway, but the procedure under the Light Railway Acts permits of applications to the Minister of Transport being submitted at any time of the year, and this procedure would, with a very slight modification of the Light Railway Acts, enable the necessary powers to be obtained in the ensuing autumn.

The accompanying draft of a Bill to effect these modifications is put forward as a basis of discussion in the hope that the Government will carry through the desired amendment of the law early in the Autumn Session.

In case the Government should intimate an intention of passing such legislation, the Promoters of the Motorwy will incorporate themselves at once under the Companies Acts, proceed with their surveys, and make and give the necessary deposits and notices, so that the moment the Royal Assent is obtained to the amending Act the Minister of Transport may be in a position to hold his Public Inquiry, and, if he approves of the proposal, pass the Order.

The Promoters will be glad to work in coorperation with the Minister of Transport, who would no doubt be willing to accelerate the ordinary timetable in regard to Light Railway Orders.

If this method can be adopted, there is no reason why the work should not be started in the coming winter.

16, Great George Street Westminster, SW 1 26th July 1926


[bill text—title not incl, quoted above]

Whereas, with a view as well to the employment of unemployed persons as to the improvement of transport facilities and the relief of the public highways, it is desirable to encourage the construction of roads for mechanically-propelled vehicles, and to expedite, as far as possible, the consideration and approval of schemes for the construction of such roads:

Be it, therefore, enacted, &c.

1 In this Act—[para]”the Light Railways Acts” means the Light Railways Acts, 1896 and 1912, and Part V of the Railways Act, 1921;[para]”Motorway” means a road constructed for the exclusive use of vehicles propelled by mechanical power or drawn by vehicles so propelled. 2 For the purposes of the Light Railways Acts the term “light railway” shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be deemed to include, and always to have included, a motorway, and the term “light railway company” shall be construed accordingly. 3 For the purposes of an application for an Order authorizing the cfonstruction of a motorway— a. Section twelve of the Light Railways Act, 1896, shall be modified by the omission of subsection (2), and by the insertion in subsection (1) of the words “and the general enactments relating to railways” after the words “in the second schedule to this Act”; and b. The Minister of Transport shall make rules under sub-section 92) of section fifteen of the Light Railways Act, 1896, and such rules shall be so framed as to ensure as far as possible the prompt consideration and determination of any application. 4 This Act may be cited as the Light Railways (Motorways) Act, 1923, and shall be read as one with the Light Railways Acts, and these Acts and this Act may be cited together as the Light Railways Acts, 1896 to 1923.



Mr. Dixon Davies called today and saw Mr Brooke in connection with this matter. Mr. Everard and Mr. Rowntree were also present.

Mr Brooke pointed out that if any general legislation were to be introduced authorizing the delegation to a department of power to authorize motorway schemes it would be necessary that such legislation should indicate the nature of the conditions to be attached to any such undertaking. Seeing that (as Mr Davies admitted) by far the greater part of the existing general railway legislation would be ainapplicable it was a question whether it would not be more desirable that the legislation should deal with motorways as such rather than as a form of light railway.

He also enquired whether, in view of the strong probability that even if general legislation were passed a scheme of the magnitude of that proposed would in any case have to be referred to Parliament, it would be worthwhile to endeavor to pass such legislation rather than to leave the whole matter to be dealt with ab initio by private bill procedure. In reply Mr Davies said that in his view even if the scheme had to go before Parliament eventually it would be of assistance if it could be promoted in the first instance in accordance with procedure on the lines of light railway promotions as by this means the nature and extent of the objections would be discovered, and moreover the Promoters would be relieved of the obligation to make the ordinary preliminary deposits before they had obtained their powers.

Mr Brooke then suggested that in view of the magnitude of the financial questions involved—Mr Davies stated that the cost of the Manchester to Coventry Section alone was expected to be about five or six million pounds—this aspect of the matter should be explored by the Promoters in the first instance so that if the Government should ultimately be disposed to consider the question of introducing general legislation it would be possible to give a reasonable assurance that advantage would be taken of any such legislation.

Mr Davies made it quite clear that the plans in the minds of the promoters at present differed considerably from those of the promoters of the Bouremouth to Swanage scheme. The present promoters contended that their motorway should be of the nature of a railway rather than a road in that it would be a private undertaking not available for ordinary road traffic.

JR Brooke 2nd August 1923

• Five-page memorandum, “The Northern and Western Motorway,” obviously prepared by the promoters, which sets out the main conceptual features of the motorway proposal. Typewritten, double-spaced. Best for later scanning.

[BQ, anonymous minute]

Proposed legislation to enable motor roads to be authorized under the Light Railways Acts.

Some of the points which it seems necessary to bear in mind in this connection are: 1 The Light Railways Acts were intended to provide a cheap procedure and possibly financial assistance together with the relaxation of restrictions applicable to ordinary railways, in the case of light railways for the special object of assisting agriculture. It is not clear that Parliament would consider that motorways deserved any such special advantages. 2 In the case of light railways Parliament gave an express indication in Section 9 of the Act of 1896 that proposals of large magnitude should be reserved for its own consideration. A similar reservation would be likely to be required in other cases. 3 A provision is also contained in Section 9 of the 1896 Act which has been consistently interpreted as meaning that the procedure laid down by that Act should not be used to enable light railways to be authorized when they could compete with existing railways. Railway companies are likely to urge, especially in view of this precedent, that special facilities should not be given for the promotion of any form of undertaking that would compete with them. 4 In other cases where Parliament has delegated its powers for the promotion of schemes it has at the same time indicated the nature of the terms and conditions that should be applied to the undertakings authorized under such delegated powers. No such terms are indicated in the present proposals as they stand and their determination would be likely to involve considerable dicussion and controversy in Parliament. 5 The underlying idea of a motorway is that its use could be restricted to certain classes of users. At present the practice of Parliament is to secure the right of user of roads to all. This right is safeguarded, for example, when tramways are authorized. Parliament would hardly be likely to be willing to surrender this control over the conditions on which any departure from the present practice should be permitted. 6 It is not known precisely how the promoters propose to deal with such important matters as the crossing of existing highways and the powers to be reserved to highway authorities to take over the proposed undertaking.

Questions such as these involve difficult matters of policy which it would be unusual to leave to the unfettered discretion of a Minister.

1st August 1923.

• Memorandum from Wilfrid Ashley (perhaps the Col Ashley referred to occasionally in RJ’s papers?) on the Light Railways bill, in the same general tenor as the memo quoted above.


62 Pall Mall, London SW1

July 11th, 1923

Dear Sir

I have recently seen both Sir William Joynson Hicks and Colonel Ashley about the proposal to build a Motorway between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. I should be very much obliged if the Prime Minister would be kind enough to see me for a few minutes, if possible on Tuesday or Wednesday next week (except between 1 and 3) when I am in London.

As chairman of the promoters I am anxious to ascertain whether the Government could see its way to help financially in the construction of the motorway on the grounds of:

1 The work being of great national utility and importance 2 As providing much work for the unemployed and as helping indirectly many trades 3 As relieving the present roads between London and the North West of England of much of their fastest and heaviest mechanical traffic, which causes the greatest damage to the foundation and surfaces.

I will not say anything more here, but will be prepared with some facts and figures for the information of Mr. Baldwin. I believe that Sir W. Joynson Hicks and Colonel Ashley have already mentioned the matter to Mr. Baldwin, and they asked me to write direct to you.



To the Private Sec’y of the Prime Minister.

• Question: if the Wilfrid Ashley who signed on the memo above and the Col Ashley mentioned in Montagu’s letter are one and the same, why is Ashley associating himself with Montagu yet briefing against the Motorway? HMMM.


MOT (Whitehall gdns address)

13th July, 1923.

My dear Gower,

I return Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’s letter to the Prime Minister.

Colonel Ashley tells me that he spoke to the Prime Minister after an interview with Lord Montagu and suggested that as Lord Montagu was anxious to see the Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin might perhaps be willing to see him for a few minutes.

Colonel Ashley suggests that the Prime Minister will no doubt explain to Lord Montagu that the consideration of any concrete proposals must in the first place be a matter for the Ministry of Transport as the appropriate Government Dept.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Tucker

RPM Gower, Esq, CB, CVO 10 Downing St SW 1

• Memorandum, “Summary of Facts and Figures as to the Northern and Western Motorway,” 6 pp., tagline: “TRANSPORT IS CIVILISATION”—Road Transport has only just begun. Signed Montagu 18/7/1923. Contains financial info and specs on the proposals.


28th August 1923


I SAW, AT THE prime Minister’s request, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who was accompanied by Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, today, with regard to the scheme for the construction of a motor road from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. The question which was exercising their minds is whether the legislation which is necessary to obtain powers to construct the road by the compulsory purchase of land should be obtained (1) by Private Bill legislation or (2) by a Government Bill amending the Light Railways Act. Lord Montagu pointed out that with regard to Private Bill legislation (a) it would take time to pass the Bill, (b) it would cost the Promoters not less than £40,000, (c) because of the time it would take the scheme could not be put into operation early enough to affect this winter’s unemployment.

Both Lord Montagu and Sir Arthur laid great stress upon the fact that if the Government would be prepared to amend the Light Railways Act, a Bill to that end could be passed during the coming Autumn session, and once the finance of the scheme had been arranged, orders could be placed before Christmas which would materially affect unemployment. To this end Lord Montagu proposed to submit within a day or two a new revise of a draft Bill which had already been submitted to the Government and to which objection had been raised; and he hoped that it would be possible for the Government to agree to adopt it.

I also asked Lord Montagu with regard to the finance of the scheme and he told me—and Sir Arthur agreed—that the proper course was for the promoters to apply to the Committee under the Trade Facilities Act, but he said that he was of the opinion that some proportion of the guarantee should be borne by the Road Fund, as undoubtedly the new road would attract traffic from other neighboring roads, for the upkeep of which the Road Fund was liable up to 50%, that the wear and tear of those roads would diminish and the Road Fund would benefit by the amount to which it did diminish. It was only fair, therefore, that the Road Fund should bear some proportion of the cost of financing the scheme.

He pointed out quite rightly that if the Government would father the legislation, the Trade Facilities Committee would, no doubt, give the scheme their immediate attention. I told him that I should write both to Col Ashley and to Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame, and also report to the Prime Minister what they had said to me.

[signed] JCC Davidson [?]

• Pre-printed memorandum: “Northern and Western Motorway. Memorandum on financial prospects.” Labelled CONFIDENTIAL. In red ink. 7 pp. plus 2 maps. Printing is quite fine—obviously a scannable rather than retypable doc. Map no. 1 is a traffic count map, with the four sections of the NWM shown in orange, and existing parallel major roads in blue, green, purple etc. The four sections are as follows: Section 1—London to Birmingham; Section 2—Birmingham to Salford; Section 3—Salford to Liverpool; Section 4—Golbourne to Oldham (as a spur off Section 3). Traffic figures are shown as tonnage, indicating that this scheme was being heavily touted as a TRUCK BYPASS of the existing major routes. Hence the CMUA’s opposition was probably pivotal. Map no. 2 shows a detail of the proposed Coventry-Salford portion (No. 2), superposed upon a large-scale OS map, containing actual tonnage counts and the locations of the recording stations.

• Correspondence between Col Ashley (MOT) and one Gideon Murray, Master of Elibank, acting on behalf of a friend in Bucks who is concerned about the location of the NWM—apparently the survey goes right through her lands, close to her house and cuts out two of her buildings. The file contains the letter with a typewritten note from Ashley saying he will write back to say that he will have no details until he has a report on the scheme in hand, which he does not think will be long delayed. There are file minutes concerning this:



Please see attached letter from the Master of Elibank. Perhaps you could let me have by tomorrow morning a draft of a reply which Colonel Ashley could send.

Gordon Tucker 13th September 1923

Mr Gordon Tucker

I cannot very well draft a reply. DGR will be seeing Col Ashley about the motorway on Tuesday and you know the gist of the telegram which I sent to Col Ashley yesterday. I do not know how far Col Ashley may wish to go in suggesting to the Master of Elibank that the proposal is not likely to mature.

Piggott 13/9


• Note: JCC Davidson is a figure in the Chancellor of the Duchy [of Lancaster?], based in the Tresury Chambers. Basically a Treasury functionary. (Is he the Chancellor himself?) Letter in the file from him dated 1/10/1923, forwarding the memorandum regarding the NWM (not sure whether it’s the financial prospects memo, but it’s near here in the file) and expressing amazement that Montagu expects the scheme to pay: “You will notice that Montagu claims the proposed motorway will be a paying proposition.” Double exclamation marks added in the same pen as used to sign the name. Letter indicates he is forwarding the memo (yes, it’s the financial prospects memo) and Montagu’s cover letter, dated 29/9/1923.


[from Beale & Co, 12 Newhall St, B’ham]

17th October 1923

Dear Sir,

Northern and Western Motorway

In accordance with your request, we have pleasure in appending the names of those who will attend the meeting today at the Postmaster General’s Office, St Martins le Grand.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen Mr. C. Carkeet-James Mr. Arthur Collins Mr. Dixon H Davies

Yours faithfully, Beale & Co

The Minister of Transport Whitehall Gardens, SW1


NWM Windsor House, Victoria St., Westminster SW 1 18th October 1923

Sir Henry Maybury, KCMG, CB Ministry of Transport 6, Whitehall Gardens, SW 1

Dear Sir Henry,

You will probably have heard from Mr Hart that, subject to your approval, we are to have a friendly meeting to see if there are any points of divergence between us in regard to the estimates for the Motorway from Coventry to Stratford. If this meets with your approval, I would ask that you would kindly let me know the points of divergence, as it would save time if I could go into the details beforehand. The census, I know, is one question which Mr Hart would like to have more information about, and again, subject to your approval, I think I had better send Major Turner ahead of the meeting to talk matters over, and explain our figures to Mr Hart. Turner would bring all his calculations and figures with him. As I think this meeting is considered fairly urgent, any day early next week would be convenient to me if it suits you.

Yours very sincerely,

C Carkeet-James

• File at this point has multiple copies of a resolution on the NWM passed by a conference of representatives of Las in N Staffs, held at the Guildhall, Newcastle-upon-Lyme, Fri 19/10/1923, resolving that “subject to the satisfactory settlement of details between the local authorities and the promoting parties the proposal to construct a motorway from Coventry and Birmingham to Manchester and Salford Docks, be approved, and that having regard to the necessity for relieving unemployment, the various local authorities and other bodies represented at this meeting should urge the desirability of the immediate introduction of legislation to facilitate the construction of such motor ways.”


SECRET. C.U. 69TH Conclusions.


Draft conclusion of a meeting of the above Committee held in Conference Room A, 2 Whitehall Gardens SW, on Friday, November 9th, 1923 at 3 PM.

4 With reference to CU 68th Conclusions (3) the Committee were informed that the Prime Minister had expressed himself in favor of the state undertaking motorways rather than private enterprise and also, subject to proper safeguards, of the railways being allowed to use such motorways.[para]It was urged that the Committee should now take a definite decision as to Lord Montagu’s proposals, in as much as until some decision was taken it was not possible to proceed with important schemes such as the Liverpool-Rochdale road. In this connection the Committee were informed that while no application had been received by the Trade Facilities Committee from the promoters of the scheme, the Chairman of that Committee had, in reply to Lord Montagu, expressed the opinion that before his Committee could consider the question on merits they would desire to know whether the Government had decided in principle that motorways of this kind were to be entrusted to private enterprise.[para]On the other hand it was represented that the question of principle could not be decided without a prolonged investigation, and that it was eminently desirable that in the particular case under consideration the financial and engineering aspects of the scheme should be examined by the Trade Facilities Committee.[para]The Committee agreed—To request the Chairman to communicate with Sir R. Kindersley and to report the result to the Committee at their next meeting.


• Print of a Motorways Bill—[Bill 216], 14 Geo. 5. The order to print went out on 15 November 1923. They must have given up on adapting tramway legislation by that point.

• Promotional leaflet—“The NWM,” dated 1/11/1923, 8 pp. Definitely worth copying as it contains an interesting financial argument in favor of the motorway, but too much to type out.





Conclusions of a meeting of the above Committee held in Conference Room A, 2 Whitehall Gardens, SW1, on Tuesday, January 8th, 1924, at 5 PM.

2 With reference to CU 71st Conclusions, Minute 3, the Committee had before them a letter (CU 612) from the Secretary of the Trade Facilities Act Advisory Committee enclosing a copy of a letter from Sir Robert Kindersley to Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, in connection with the Northern and Western Motorway.[para]In the letter in question it was stated that on the information before them the Trade Facilities Act Advisory Committee could not on financial grounds recommend a guarantee in this case.[para]The Committee agreed to report to the Cabinet:[para]That no useful purpose would be served by further consideration on the part of HBMG of the proposals for constructing the NWM.[para]2 Whitehall Gardens, SW1/10th January, 1924.



I saw today Lord Montagu and Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen. They explained that they wanted me to reconsider the decision of the late Government and indicated that they were prepared to explain the whole scheme to me at length. I said that I had not yet made up my mind about the matter, but that the case appears to be against them, and that if I was to reopen the whole question I must be satisfied that they had fresh financial proposals to make.

Sir Arthur Boscawen suggested that if the Government would promise 2/3 of the money it would be quite easy for them to get the remainder. I asked them for really definite proposals. Lord Montagu suggested that they would like three weeks to put these forward. I said that the uncertainty was interfering with our road policy and that I must know tomorrow whether they could produce any new financial proposition which would make it likely that the Trade Facilities Act Committee would reconsider their decision. I said that the promoters would also have to satisfy me that there was a real volume of support behind the scheme. Lord Montagu thereupon mentioned that he hoped the letter from Mr. Sharpnell-Smith which appeared in “The Times” would not weigh too heavily with me as the writer did not represent any substantial body of opinion.

[signed] H Gosling [MinT]

5th February 1924

• Preceding refers to one of a series of representations heard by MinT in February 1924. Promoters were heard on 5 February. Opponents heard 6 February. N Staffs Las heard 13 February. Both former and latter supported; middle didn’t like the scheme.



The Minister received a deputation today from the Commercial Motor Users Association consisting of:

Mr ES Shapnell-Smith, CBE President Col RE Crompton, CB Past President General SS Long, CB (Lever Bros Ltd) Vice-President Alderman WG Lobjoit, JP (Hounslow) Deputy Chairman Mr F Morgan (Morgan & Sons, Newport) Mr CC Power (Birmingham Omnibus Co Ltd) Mr C Davenport (Boots Ltd, Nottingham) Mr George Monro (Covent Garden) Mr J Armstrong (John Walsh Ltd, Sheffield) Mr FG Bristow (John Walsh Ltd, Sheffield, General Sec’y)

The Minister was accompanied by

Sir Henry Maybury, KCMG, CB, MinstCE Mr JR Brooke, CB Major F Gordon Tucker, OBE, TD

Mr Shrapnell-Smith, who introduced the deputation, stated that the hwole of the users of commercial vehicles throughout the country were emphatically opposed to the scheme. He outlined the following arguments against a road of the type proposed:

1 Traffic follows closely the distribution of population. 2 The calculated saving of 1d per ton-mile is not accepted by commercial motor users. 3 Higher speeds do not result in a proportionate overall performance in work done per day. 4 The estimates of through traffic upon which it is based are incapable of support. 5 Entrances and exits every three or four miles only limits it mainly to through traffic.

He also pointed out that since the reduction in railway rates the length of the hauls of road traffic had decreased very largely, and anything beyond 30 or 40 miles was now exceptional, whereas this road was designed for long distance traffic and would be of no assistance to the bulk of motor goods traffic nowadays which, as General Long pointed out, was largely from depots to which goods were sent by rail.

Colonel Crompton put in a plea for widening any of the lanes or thoroughfares by the filling in of ditches.

Mr Power, on behalf of the motor omnibus users, said that the road would be of no use whatever to his vehicles.

Alderman Lebjoit and Mr Davenport also spoke.

Mr Shrapnell-Smith pointed out that not more than 5 per cent. Of traffic handled by members of their Association would be carried over this road. He also criticized severely the suggested receipts of the undertaking, pointing out that the tonnage which the promoters estimated they would carry was greater than that of the port of Manchester, in spite of the fact that the bulk of the traffic from Manchester went to the north and not to the south of that City.

The Minister in reply said that he was very glad to have received such an important body, and that had they not approached him he would probably have invited them to come and see him in order to obtain their views. He mentioned that he had received the Promoters yesterday and whilst he was not yet in a position to announce his decision on the matter, he asked them not to attach much importance to what they saw in the Daily Mail.

Gordon Tucker

6th February, 1924

[BQ] [unattributed, undated newspaper clipping—this perhaps the Daily Mail?]

Motor Roadway

Government and the Scheme

Work for unemployed

Survey of the Conventry to Manchester section of the new London to Manchester motor highway has been completed, and the engineers are hastening the completion of their working drawings. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, the originator of the project, is head of the syndicate responsible for carrying through the work, which will occupy two years, employ 100,000 men, and cost £15,000,000.

The road is to be 44 ft. wide, will accommodate four lines of cars, and is to be for the exclusive use of motor vehicles. Where the road crosses a public road or railway a reinforced concrete bridge will be constructed, entirely eliminating level crossings.

On the Coventry-Manchester section there will be 400 of these bridges and 19 toll stations, which are to be equipped with automatic slot-paying machines, to obviate delay and the need of gatemen.

It is expected that the scheme will be included by the Government in their plans to alleviate unemployment.


SECRET. C.U. 650


Memorandum by the Minister of Transport

In accordance with the instructions of the Unemployment Sub-Committee contained in Minute 2(ii) of Conclusions 73A, I submit the fololowing note on the present position of the Northern and Western Motorway.

The scheme is for the construction of a motorway 100 feet wide between fences with a completed surface of 40 feet from Coventry to Salford, a distance of 110 miles, and is estimated by the Promoters to cost a little over £7,000,000. This is intended to be the first setion of a motorway, 226 miles in length, from London to Liverpool. The Promoters propose to charge a toll of ½ d. per ton per mile for goods traffic, and 1d a mile for passenger vehicles, and they expect by this means to earn sufficient revenue to make the scheme a profitable commercial proposition. The statements of the Promoters are in general somewhat vague, and their conclusions depend on two main hypotheses:

1 that users of motor commercial vehicles will be prepared to pay the proposed tolls, and 2 that a given volume of traffic will be forthcoming.

A committee of the Cabinet of the late Government, without accepting the principle that the construction of a toll road was desirable, which they reserved for further consideration, referred the ptomoters to the Trade Facilities Act Advisory committee who, after giving the Promoters considerable time in which to produce evidence as to their financial backing, reported on January 2nd, 1924, that in the absence of any reliable data as to revenue, it would be impossible for them on financial grounds to consider the question of a guarantee of more than 50 per cent. Of the cost. A guarantee of 50 per cent entailed the raising of £3,500,000 from other sources to rank after the Government loan, and the Committee understood that nothing like that amount had been promised and from their knowledge of such matters considered it most unlikely that such a sum could be secured from the public under existing financial conditions. For these reasons they did not find themselves able on financial grounds to recommend a guarntee in this case.

I saw Lord Montagu and Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen last week, and referred to this decision and asked if they could produce any new evidence of financial bcking, or of willingness on the part of commercial motor users to use the motorway. They asked for time, but I stated that I was not asking them for anything new but to furnish me with the evidence they had, as they had repeatedly stated that the scheme was ready to go forward. All that they have been able to produce is a vague letter from a firm in the City stating that having regard to the excellent commercial prospects of the undertaking, and to the promises of financial support which have already been received, they have no doubt that, provided a Government guarantee for a sufficient proportion of the required issue is secured, the remainder of the capital will be forthcoming in due course. Lord Montagu also stated that he had sent an agent to America to obtain financial assistance.

Neither have they been able to produce any evidence of support from any Association of commercial motor users or from the Royal Automobile Club or the Automobile Association. On the contrary, when Mr Shrapnell-Smith on behalf of the Commercial Motor users’ Association, which I understand is the lading ssociation of commercial motor users in this country, wrote to the Times opposing the scheme, the Promoters of the motorway were unable to find anyone to defend their scheme except one of their own officials.

I have recently received deputations (a) from the Commercial Motor Users’ Association which was strongly in opposition to the scheme; (b) from various local authorities and persons from localities and businesses on the route of the road. This deputation urged strongly that further main road construction was necessary and advocated this scheme on that ground. No local authority had promised any financial support and the deputation was apparently assuming that all or a great part of the capital would be found by the promoters who only required facilities for legislation. In fact, the Promoters failed to deposit a private bill in the Autumn admittedly because they could not find the deposit money.

I am advised that my department have carefully considered the estimates of cost of construction, expenditure on maintenance, etc. and that, except for one rather important point as to the time the proposed motorway would last before renwal of the surface would become necessary, they considered the promoters’ estimates of cost to be reasonable on the whole. On the other hand, the promoters’ traffic figures are considered by the Department to be not proved, and an inter-departmental committee appointed to examine the details of the scheme reported that in order to earn 5 ½% on the estimated capital expenditure as adjusted on the department’s figures, it must be assumed that mechanically-propelled traffic, other than omnibuses, on the principal main roads will be multiplied nearly four times between Birmingham and Manchester and that the whole will use the motorway. The promoters have not produced any figures which in the opinion of my department alter this conclusion.

In general it may be remarked that, without entering on the vexed question of whether it is desirable at this stage to revert to a system of toll roads in preference or addition to the present system of taxation of motor vehicles, there are many opportunities, as the Committee is aware, of building toll-free roads which are more urgently needed than this London to Manchester highway, and that nay advantages claimed for the motorway in respect of the provision of employment, or the provision of arterial roads, can be more speedily and certainly attained by the policy of building toll-free roads which is alredy in force, than by means of a novel scheme introducing many uncertain factors, such as the suggested motorway, and giving Government money or Government credit to a private commercial enterprise of a novel character.

I should recommend that the offer of the Trade Facilities Committee of a guarantee of 50% of the cost if the other 50% can be raised from the public, should be left open, but for the fact that the possibility of Government support for the motorway is delaying negotiations regarding the Liverpool to Manchester road, and is causing other local authorities to postpone the consideration of important rod improvements. I think, therefore, it is necessary for the Government to announce that while assistance by means of the Trade Facilities Act machinery has been open to this as to any other commercial venture, the Promoters have been unable to raise their share of the cost and it must now be understood that the scheme has no Government backing.

[Initialled] H.G.

14th February, 1923.

• Cabinet minutes of an interdepartmental sub-committee meeting to consider the NWM and recommend to the Cabinet unemployment committee (19/2/1924). The relevant part reads: the subcommittee recommends that “That a public announcement should be made that while assistance by means of the Trade Facilities Act machinery has been open to the promoters of the Northern and Western Motorway as to any other commercial venture, the promoters have been unable to satisfy the Trade Facilities Committee as to their share of the cost of the undertaking and it must now be understood that the cheme has no Government support.”

• Copy of the 1924 version of the Motorways Bill (14 Geo. 5, 1924, Bill 106).

• Maybury’s memorandum, 3 pp., against the Motorways Bill 1924. This appears to be WFWI to the copy in MT 39/41. (WFWI = word for word identical.)

• Parliamentary question and answer—11 March 1924. Dealt with the Trade facilities C’ttee decision.

• 2/4/1924. Apparently the position of the CMUA wrt the proposed motorway changed. New position agreed by the national council is “That the Association as a body should neither support nor oppose any scheme which would involve the payment of tolls for the use of any highway which is to be or is being entirely constructed or maintained by private enterprise.”

• Resolution of N Bromsgrove UDC supporting the NWM.

• Correspondence between G Tucker at MOT and Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (or functionary?) AF Hemming at No 11 Downing St, regarding reception of a deputation from the affected councils about the Manchester to Coventry Motorway. This happened in the rooms of Clynes, the HOC leader, at Westminster, and Gosling was present; May 1924. Also, Hemming sent Tucker a pro-printed copy of the Las’ agreed position paper, more or less WFWI to that in MT 39/41, issued under the heading of the Manchester and District Joint Town Planning Advisory Committee, 26/2/1924.

• Updated edition of the Promoters’ Memorandum on Financial Prospects, together with a response to “Criticisms of the Inter-departmental Committee and Promoters’ Replies thereto.” 20 pp., plus the two maps. The 2 maps appear to not have changed.

• Letter from PM Heath, Secy of the Manchester town planning advisory c’ttee (with 93 LA members), to JR Clynes, saying they are very firm that the protective provisions should be included.


30 June, 1924.

Dear Holderness,


In reply to your letter 465,526, in which you enquire our views on the above Bill, I think the position is that we are opposed to special motorways as such, though we have not been anxious to be very articulate upon the subject, as any opposition from us might be regarded as tained and we had rather hoped that these proposals would be defeated from other sources.

In the first place, motorways as proposed really appear to involve a reversion to the old turnpike-toll system which, in itself, in 1924 appears to be a retrograde measure.

Secondly, I think they would have had a very bad effect upon the Highway Authorities. It is difficult enough now to get them to spend sufficient money on the upkeep of the Highways for which they are responsible, and once they got it into their heads, at any rate some of them, that they had only got to let important traffic roads get into a thoroughly bad condition for a private undertaking to come and take them over and relieve them of upkeep, things would be more difficult still.

Thirdly, I have grave doubts as to whether these motorways would pay. Undoubtedly the roads ar ebeing rapidly improved and I should not have thought, with the option to use toll-free roads, that users of mechanically propelled vehicles would show any undue haste or desire to pay tolls.

Fourthly, these proposals involve, so far as I can gather, no restriction as to speed or weight, or number of trailers but it is not prpopsed to start them until you get outside urban areas, eg Uxbridge, and I do not quite appreciate at the moment how you get to the Road.

Yours sincerely,

JS Pool Godsell


• Small note—apparently the deputation of local authorities in May was led by Leslie Scott, the MP who introduced the motorways bill—probably representing a constituency in the area?

• Memorandum of the Manchester and District Joint Town Planning Advisory Committee (MDJTPAC) regarding the motorway proposal. 4 pp. of justification for clauses they wanted inserted into the motorways bill. 26/6/1924.

• 4 pp. containing the actual clauses. Also 26/6/1924. This memo seems almost WFWI to the pro-printed memorandum, except it’s obviously a later edition, updated to meet the contingencies as they were viewed to have evolved.

• More letters and resolutions of support from trader groups and the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme.

• Letter from Ben Tillett, MP, sec’y of the political & international dept of the TGWU, to Gosling, 29/7/1924, enclosing a letter from the Promoters. Letter is worth quoting in FULL.


NWM Windsor House, Victoria St etc address

24th July 1924

Dear Mr. Tillett,

I understand from Mr JQ Lamb, MP, who has repeatedly proposed the second reading of the Motorways Bill, that the opposition thereto is inspired by the railways. If we do not get the Bill through in its present form, the only other course open to us is to promote a Private Bill during the next Autumn Session. This will entail, however, a deposit of 5% of the cost of construction, a sum amounting to upwards of £300,000. This is due to the fact that under the Standing Orders a motor road is classified as a railway and unless we can get an alteration in the Standing Orders, to raise such a sum may lead to indefinite postponement or even abandonment of the scheme. [This explains the reference in Maybury’s memo to the motorways setting a precedent for railways being able to start themselves up cheaply, build, and then fly by night.] Under the circumstances it is hoped that in the debate on Unemployment which takes place next week, you will bring the utmost pressure to bear upon the Government in the hope that they will find the necessary time for the second reading of the Bill now before Parliament.

Judging from what one has heard in the Lobbies (that includes remarks by Cabinet Ministers) there is not much opposition in the House itself though I fear we have to face the hostility of certain permanent officials.

Yours truly,

Geo. P. Blizard

B. Tillett, Esq. House of Commons Westminster, SW1

• Copy of Blizard’s article in the Manchester Guardian Commercial, 16/11/1924, “The first road built for motor traffic only. Private and state enterprise in Italy.”

We know the private bill failed. Next correspondence widely distributed among years.

• 2 letters in 1925 (both February)

• 2 letters in 1926 (September): from F Ivan Andrews wanting to know the location of the proposed “London-Birmingham Arterial Road,” and Maybury’s answer saying a survey was made a couple of years ago by “some private people,” who were not successful in attracting capital, and he knows of no new proposal.

The next flurry of correspondence takes place in 1929.

• Letter from David Brooks to Herbert Morrison, then MinT. Encloses article from Manchester Guardian, 23/10/1929, on a revived motorway proposal for which the Las involved claim to have developed PS&E. He wanted to send a deputation to MinT in support of the scheme—himself and GP Blizard. Deputation was heard, apparently by CH Bressey, whose handwritten minute of it is unreadable. • Correspondence between the Borough of Newcastle-under Lyme, the Lord Privy Seal, and Treasury and MOT functionaries (latter including FC Cook at that point), in early January 1930, about the revived scheme. The general idea was for MOT to take over the plans from the people who had developed them, and then build the road by encouraging the Las to do so. FC Cook opined that the proposal was illegal because it would mean using Road Fund money to build a toll road. The file was sent back to the Lord Privy Seal office with a suggestion that Newcastle-under-Lyme be replied to in those general terms. (The involvement of the Lord Privy Seal seems to have arisen from its being a sort of clearinghouse for resolutions of local councils and that type of thing.)

• Maybury’s second memo (out of chronological sequence).

UGH. It took about 5 hours to work through this damned file. MT 39/556, and MT 39/557, the other requested files, will have to be looked through and skimmed. They look promising: 556 with a closed-til date of 2001, the other until 1998.

Did a quick measurement to determine how long these docs are. 6 widths of PRO card + card width up to the line “Surrey” etc. in PRO address on card.

MT 39/556

Super-thick, and in appalling state of repair. Have just returned from a trip to the document pickup desk, where I pointed out that most of the paperwork was not tagged, and many of the papers were curling. Took the better part of an hour just to go through the papers, and eventually it may take 3 visits to the PRO just to get out the most important stuff. Have managed to delay retagging until after Thursday; would have allowed it to go in for retagging straight away but person I talked to (Julie) said they couldn’t promise it would be back from the PRO’s conservation dept at a set time. Will essay a very brief synopsis of contents.

• Memorandum written by FC Cook, originally entitled “Motorways: For and Against.” It takes together what the MOT knew then about express highways in the US and Germany, and combined it with British cost data comparing proposed AP and “single-purpose” long city bypasses. Finding was that if the decision was taken to grade-separate everything no matter what type of facility was eventually constructed, the motorway was always cheaper than the AP road. The big question was whether full access control was justified by traffic and safety. Much debate (translating into file correspondence) over this issue, between FC Cook, AH Lyddon, HE Aldington (then DRE for London) and others. HE Aldington supplied much of the cost data and made a strong argument for a thoroughgoing motorway program, though not a set of full new-location motorways as proposed by the County Surveyors’ Society (CSS), which MOT believed to be extravagant. Memorandum in its entirety is P. Also, a later memorandum by FC Cook—“Motorways and Post-War Development”—appears to be WFWI with the earlier memo, at least for great big chunks. That is also P.

• Correspondence between various MOT figures and local authorities, wanting to know what the MOT planned for the postwar period—not possible for them to plan housing, health, etc. without a road plan to hang it all on.

• Ghost from the past: GP Blizard, now JP, asks Noel-Baker (MinT during much of this) asks if he’s interested in having him chair an advocacy committee. Noel-Baker very politely tells him such a c’ttee would have to be independent of govt. HOWEVER, GP Blizard includes a copy of Modern Transport containing reminiscences about the NWM proposals, and some additional info not in the MOT files—pertaining to contacts with other m’way syndicates in Germany and Italy.

• Draft of a Motorways Memorandum, taking off on existing Memorandum 557 (itself a revision of Memorandum 483), plus correspondence and suggested additions/corrections/comments pertaining thereto.

• The beginning of a series of engineering appreciations of various road corridors, trying to develop a set of criteria for deciding what roads should go into an eventual motorway network.

• Engineering evaluations of some planned bypasses, including Maidstone by-pass, St Albans by-pass (all of these being planned during WW II even though they are children of the m’way age), apparently largely connected with the preceding, but didn’t take time to determine relationships in detail.

• A memorandum on Road Construction (signed, and project to develop it apparently sponsored by, JFA Baker, who was then in the Constructions Branch--?—of Highways Engineering at the MOT), going not just into construction but also into plans preparation and other final-design issues.

MT 39/557

Have NO TIME to go through this thoroughly—so will attempt just a very quick surf.