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Passenger Transit System

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what was the total cost of the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station project between commissioning initial feasibility studies and abandonment of operation; and if he will make a statement. [85069]

Ms Glenda Jackson: This is a commercial matter for Birmingham International Airport Ltd.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions who owns the surviving overhead structure of the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station; and if he will make a statement. [85073]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I understand from Birmingham International Airport Ltd that it owns the surviving overhead structure.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station was formally commissioned after trials to the intended operator; who the intended operator was; and if he will make a statement. [85067]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I understand from Birmingham International Airport Ltd that the MAGLEV system was formally commissioned on 16 August 1984; and that the intended operator was the airport undertaking as part of the former West Midlands County Council.

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Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to revive the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station; and if he will make a statement. [85071]

Ms Glenda Jackson: Birmingham International Airport Ltd. is committed to reinstating a link between the terminal building and the railway station. It is also subject to a planning obligation in a section 106 planning agreement between the airport company and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with reference to the outline planning approval for the extension of the passenger terminal facilities and related infrastructure granted in July 1996. The airport company is considering what form the link should take and how it can best be integrated with the multi-modal interchange which is being planned for the airport.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in whom the residual rights and liabilities of the principal design and construction contracts of the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station are now vested; and if he will make a statement. [85075]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I understand from Birmingham International Airport Ltd. that in the agreement between the former West Midlands County Council and the individual joint venture companies, the parties agreed that patents, registered designs or copyrights in the case of mechanical and electrical aspects of the transportation system were to be the property of the individual company undertaking that particular aspect of the work, and that in the case of civil engineering and building aspects of the system intellectual property rights were to be the property of the Council. The airport company is a successor in title to the former Council.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions who commissioned the initial feasibility studies for the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station and when; who let the contracts for its construction, with whom and when; and if he will make a statement. [85066]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I understand from Birmingham International Airport Ltd. that the initial feasibility studies for the MAGLEV system were commissioned in 1979 by the former West Midlands County Council, which owned Birmingham Airport at that time; and that the contracts for its construction were let by the Council in 1981, as part of the airport's development, with the People Mover Group (GEC, Balfour-Beatty, Brush Electrical Machines and Metropolitan-Cammell) and John Laing.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what was the total of passenger fares collected in the period of fare- paying operation of the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station. [85070]

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Ms Glenda Jackson: I understand from Birmingham International Airport Ltd. that the MAGLEV system always formed part of the airport's essential infrastructure as the link to the railway station and that no fares were ever charged for its use.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what has become of the passenger cars for the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station and who owns (a) them and (b) the proceeds of their sale; and if he will make a statement. [85074]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I understand from Birmingham International Airport Ltd. that it still owns the passenger cars and that they remain stored at the airport.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when and by whom it was ultimately decided to abandon operation of the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station; and if he will make a statement. [85068]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I understand from Birmingham International Airport Ltd. that it took and implemented this decision in July 1995.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will estimate the cost of making the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system linking Birmingham International Airport and Birmingham International Railway Station operational; and if he will make a statement. [85072]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The cost of reinstating a link between the airport and the railway station is a matter for Birmingham International Airport Ltd. It will depend in part on how it is decided to integrate it with the multi-modal interchange which is being planned for the airport. But I understand from the airport company that a study in 1995 concluded that it was not technically feasible to make the MAGLEV system itself operational.

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the occasions on which actions for damages were assessed as to liability against a party considered to have been responsible for the failure of the MAGLEV overhead passenger transit system at Birmingham International Airport; and if he will make a statement. [85277]

Ms Glenda Jackson: This is a matter for Birmingham International Airport Ltd.

Asbestos Imports

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to ban the import of all forms of asbestos; if he has received the Health and Safety Commission's recommendation on this matter; and if he will make a statement. [85473]

Mr. Meacher: The policy on asbestos is decided and is final. The import of blue and brown asbestos is already banned. Earlier this month, a draft European Directive was voted on which would tighten the restrictions on imports of white asbestos. An overwhelming majority

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voted in favour. I am pleased to say that the Health and Safety Commission, at its meeting yesterday, approved draft Regulations to implement a ban, and I look forward to receiving its advice.

Unfortunately, there are legal problems in formally making the Regulations before the European Commission ratifies the vote of the technical committee. The Government are now lobbying the European Commission to adopt the directive as a matter of urgency.

Memorials

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on his Department's discussions with the Confederation of Burial Authorities on the sale of memorials to the public. [85526]

Mr. Meale: My Department is currently preparing a paper for discussion with the Confederation of Burial Authorities, the National Association of Memorial Masons, and other representative bodies, both public and private sector, on the existing legal basis under which local authorities charge for the provision of memorials, and the Confederation's proposals for clarifying this.

Council Housing

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on his policy on the building of new council housing in England and Wales. [85519]

Mr. Raynsford: The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is responsible for housing policy in England. His statement on "Housing and Regeneration Policy" on 22 July 1998 set out our policy. The need for new social housing in a local authority's area is a matter for that local authority to establish in its local housing strategy, as part of the Housing Investment Programme process. Most new social housing is provided by Registered Social Landlords supported by the Housing Corporation, either through its Approved Development Programme or through Local Authority Social Housing Grant, in areas where such developments are seen as a priority in local housing strategies.


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