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FEBRUARY 3, 2002

Silverstone comes up in the House of Lords

THE British government says that it "does not anticipate that" the entire Silverstone by-pass will be finished in time for the British Grand Prix in July but is taking steps to ensure that "the great majority of it will be available for use from 5th to 7th July to enable Silverstone race traffic to be managed effectively".

The issue of vital importance to Silverstone as the circuit was in December given one last chance by the FIA World Motor Sport Council to sort out its access problems and made what the FIA called "binding commitments" to have everything sorted out before the start of practice. The circuit even went as far as to lodge a $5m bond with the FIA to convince the federation not to dump the race.

At the time the British government gave assurances that the work would be done but there are clearly fears that things have gone wrong and that led Lord Astor of Hever, the president of the Motorsport Industry Association, to last week ask the government if everything was in order during questions in the House of Lords.

Lord Filkin, replying for the government, said that "the Government recognize the importance of the British Grand Prix and want to play an appropriate role to ensure a successful event in 2002" but said that it did not anticipate the whole of the bypass to be open. He went on to explain the delays by saying that there had been "appalling rains" in October and November and that Foot-and-Mouth disease last summer had also slowed things down. This however happened before the FIA decision was made and the suggestion is that the contractors working on the road are needed to do other work which is considered to be more urgent.

Lord Filkin said the government, the Highways Agency and the contractors were working together to solve the problems.

The partial completion of the road work may be enough for the government but if traffic does not flow successfully into the circuit this year, the FIA has said that it will not even consider Silverstone for a date in the future.