'Thirty years ago there were sound reasons for building new motorways along new routes - without them it would have been impossible to deliver the means for industry to communicate efficiently and the desire of the vast majority of British people for an improved network would have been frustrated.'
Mr MacGregor said that nowadays the Department's road building programme was concentrated on widening and improving the existing motorway and trunk road networks, not on building new motorways; and on bypasses.
'Some existing roads were constructed at a time when environmental standards were not so high, so when we upgrade and improve a road we take the opportunity to improve the environmental treatment - bringing it up to the high standards we are setting our contractors in the 1990s.
'No-one would pretend that most roads are built purely for environmental reasons, but we go to enormous lengths to make absolutely sure that their effects are minimised and that the surrounding land is restored to the best that the local climate and conditions can support. Anyone who has travelled on newly improved stretches of road with their innovative approaches to making the best of the environment would see a sharp contrast if they looked back to the stark banks surrounding the early motorways.
Mr MacGregor assured the conference: 'The Government does not build new roads for the sake of it. No Government would spend these sums on any programme unless it was very clear that it produced tangible benefits - for the road user, for industry and for the environment. People must be free to make their own choices about forms of transport, and the plain fact is that 90% of journeys are by road. People make that choice because of the unequalled freedom and convenience of road transport.'