Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what periods of consultation have taken place between the shadow Strategic Rail Authority and interested local parties over the award of (a) new and (b) extended rail franchises. 
Mr. Hill: The Franchising Director is operating an inclusive consultation process for franchise replacement. The Instructions and Guidance given to him by the Deputy Prime Minister require him to consult the Chairman of the British Railways Board, local authorities, Passenger Transport Executives. the Rail Regulator, regional planning bodies, Regional Development Agencies and Rail Passenger Committees. He has consulted widely about the replacement of franchises and there will be further on-going consultation as the process continues. Bidders will be encouraged to consult interested stakeholders, including local authorities and Rail Passengers' Committees, giving them the opportunity to raise issues which they would like to see addressed.
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Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what account the Government and the shadow Strategic Rail Authority will take of the record, including safety record, of an existing franchisee and its owner company in the award of (a) new and (b) extended franchises. 
Mr. Hill: The Deputy Prime Minister has asked the Franchising Director to evaluate bids for replacement franchises against the following criteria: commitment to secure better performance and customer services, the extent to which extra or earlier investment can be secured, the extent to which passengers will be given a greater voice in the level and standard of services, and value for money to the taxpayer. Bidders will be encouraged to consult interested stakeholders, including local authorities and Rail Passengers' Committees, giving them the opportunity to raise issues which they would like to see addressed.
Decisions on withdrawal of individual local services are matters for the bus operator concerned and for the relevant local authority, which has the power to provide subsidy for socially necessary services which would otherwise not be provided.
Mr. Hill: Stopping distances for HGVs are governed by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation Number 13 and European Council Directive 71/320/EEC as amended by Commission Directive 98/12/EC.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what information has been supplied to him by the shadow Strategic Rail Authority on its plans for a Scottish office, with particular reference to the number of staff it will employ. 
Mr. Hill: The Strategic Rail Authority, which will be the national strategic rail authority for Great Britain, is currently based in London and has no plans to establish separate offices in Scotland, or any other part of Britain.
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Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many methane explosions have taken place in the past 10 years arising from the operation of landfill sites. 
Mr. Meacher: The Environment Agency has no records of any explosions attributable to landfill gas occurring in England and Wales since 1 April 1996. Records for the period prior to this are not held centrally.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment procedures are in place to monitor the spread of toxic leachate from landfill sites; and what remedial measures exist to combat public health threats from such leachate. 
Mr. Meacher: Recommended procedures and protocols for monitoring ground and surface waters for evidence of contamination by leachate are set out in the Government's statutory guidance to the Environment Agency--Waste Management Papers 4 and 26. Operators of landfills must undertake such monitoring and report the results to the Agency on a regular basis. The Agency also undertakes its own monitoring as a check on operator performance. Extensive research has been conducted on landfill leachate and, although potentially polluting, it is not normally classed as toxic.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessments he has made of the increase in (a) heavy vehicle traffic, (b) vermin and (c) noise levels arising from the operation of a landfill site. 
The Government have published two relevant studies. "The Control of Noise at Surface Mineral Workings" was in 1990, and "The Environmental Effects of Traffic Associated with Minerals Working" in 1998. While they refer to surface mineral workings, the contents are applicable to landfilling. The Department issued in May 2000 a consultation draft of Mineral Planning Guidance Note 11, "Controlling and Mitigating the Environmental Effects of Minerals Extraction in England". This provides guidance on noise, with specific reference to the issue of waste disposal sites.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many landfill operators were prosecuted for breach of the site licence in the past 10 years; and what were the (a) largest and (b) smallest fines imposed for those found guilty. 
Mr. Meacher: Data are only available from April 1999, since when there have been 50 prosecutions relating to waste management licences. The largest total fine since April 1999 was for £87,500, and the smallest was £400.
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Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance he gives to landfill operators to reduce gas generation from putrescible materials deposited to their site. 
Mr. Meacher: None. Guidance from the Secretary of State is directed at controlling emissions of landfill gas. This is in the form of Waste Management Papers which address the issues of site design, engineering and operation. Waste Management Paper 27 relates solely to landfill gas.
Mr. Hill: The Government have never promised that they would set a national road traffic reduction target; nor does the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act 1998 require us to do so, if we are satisfied that other measures or targets would be better for tackling the adverse effects of traffic. As we set out in "Tackling Congestion and Pollution", our first report under the 1998 Act, published in January, our targets and policies focus on improving the outcomes that matter to people, such as congestion, pollution and road safety, rather than national traffic volume figures.
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