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Trains (Disabled Access)

Ms Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to help ensure that trains are designed to provide better access for people with disabilities, with particular reference to wheelchair and power scooter users. [145394]

Mr. Hill: We are fully committed to providing a public transport system which is accessible to disabled people, providing them the same opportunities to travel as other members of society. We are introducing technical regulations under Part V of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), to require new trains, as well as buses and coaches and taxis, to be accessible to disabled people, including wheelchair users.

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations have applied to all new rail vehicles entering service since 1 January 1999. These Regulations considerably improve access for disabled passengers to new rail vehicles and include, among other features, a requirement for a boarding aid, either a ramp or lift (where the gap exceeds prescribed dimensions), dedicated wheelchair spaces and on-board accessible toilets for those trains in which toilet facilities are provided.

The Regulations specify the maximum wheelchair dimensions that can be accommodated in regulated vehicles. The dimensions of the occupied "reference" wheelchair are set at an overall width of 700 mm, length of 1,200 mm and height of 1,350 mm. These dimensions are based on the international wheelchair standard. This is bigger than the majority of wheelchairs in this country and is able to meet the needs of almost all wheelchair users. There may be some scooters which exceed these dimensions, or in addition, there may be operational reasons why some scooters cannot safely be carried on trains. These dimensions were set after extensive consultation and with the agreement of our statutory advisers on the transport needs of disabled people, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee. The dimensions also have to be technically achievable within the constraints of vehicle design and operation.

The DDA does not allow for an "end" date to be set by which all rail vehicles must comply with the Regulations. However, the Disability Rights Task Force, in their report to the Government, have recommended that this point

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should be addressed in any future disability legislation. We are now in discussion with the industry about how that recommendation can be taken forward.

For existing trains, the Rail Regulator is currently revising his Code of Practice, "Meeting the needs of Disabled Passengers", which I understand will deal with refurbishment of existing vehicles.

Clearly, disabled people need to have reliable information about whether their mobility equipment can be accommodated. My Department is therefore working with the wheelchair manufacturing industry to ensure that disabled people are able to make their choice of a scooter or wheelchair based on their particular life style, including their transport needs.

Housing (Leeds)

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the annual capital spending on housing by Leeds city council for each of the last 20 years. [146000]

Mr. Mullin: Information on housing capital expenditure, reported by Leeds city council to the Department as part of their annual Housing Investment Programme submissions, is set out in the table.

Housing capital expenditure by Leeds city council 1980-81 to 1999-2000



1. All figures are in cash prices

2. Figures since 1994-95 are on an accruals basis


DETR Housing Investment Programme returns

Road Schemes

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many road schemes were (a) accepted, (b) provisionally accepted and (c) rejected in the Local Transport Settlement 2000. [146038]

Mr. Hill: Three road schemes were accepted, 36 provisionally accepted and one rejected. In addition, we were unable to take decisions on 34 schemes bid for by authorities because they had provided insufficient information about them. These schemes have been treated

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as work in progress and there will be an opportunity for authorities to resubmit them with their first-year progress reports on their local transport plans this July.

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list those major road schemes (a) accepted and (b) provisionally accepted in the Local Transport Financial Settlement 2000 which may affect a nationally designated site of environmental importance, indicating the designation in each case. [146037]

Mr. Hill: (a) None.

(b) The following schemes will have a direct or indirect affect on designated sites. All the schemes which authorities bid for were assessed using the New Approach to Appraisal and in deciding to accept these particular schemes for funding it was judged that the benefits they would confer outweighed the impacts on the designated sites.

SchemeSite directly or indirectly affected
Barnstaple Western BypassRiver Taw Estuary SSSI
Camelford BypassRiver Camel SSSI
Carlisle Northern Development RouteRiver Eden Coastal Plain Zone
East Kent Access Phase 1Pegwell Bay SSSI
Nar Ouse Regeneration RouteRiver Nar SSSI
Salisbury Transport Package:
Brunel LinkRiver Nadder SAC
Harnham Relief RoadWest Harnham Chalk Pit SSSI
Sunderland Southern Radial RouteDurham Coast SSSI
Weymouth Relief RoadLorton and Lodmoor SSSIs and AONB


Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) on how many occasions the Government have traded shares in Railtrack; [146003]

Mr. Hill: The Government's holding of Railtrack shares originates from the time of the Railtrack flotation in 1996 when some 4 million shares were held back in order to meet a contractual obligation to distribute bonus shares to shareholders who held their shares for three years. Some 3 million were distributed as bonus shares on 31 May 1999. The residual shareholding represents 0.2 per cent. of Railtrack's share capital of 500 million shares.

Apart from the specific arrangements for the flotation of Railtrack, including the issue of bonus shares, the Government have not traded in Railtrack shares. The Government have no current plans for disposing of their residual shareholding.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what quality control checks are in place to ensure that the re-railing of track meets the industry's standards; and if he will make a statement. [146005]

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Mr. Hill: Railtrack has prime responsibility for the safety and security of the railway it controls and for the health and safety of those who are affected by its activities.

Railtrack's contracts for infrastructure maintenance and track renewal require contractors to be compliant with specified standards designed to ensure safe and secure operation. The contractors are required to inform Railtrack of any deficiencies found and of any remedial work they consider necessary.

In order to continue to discharge its statutory safety obligations under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Railtrack must accept responsibility for all decisions that relate to infrastructure maintenance, repair and track renewal works.

Transport Accidents

Paddy Ashdown: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many (a) road and (b) rail accident fatalities there have been in the United Kingdom since 1971; and if he will make a statement. [144607]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 18 January 2001]: Figures for fatalities in rail and road accidents are published by the Department in the annual publication "Transport Statistics Great Britain". The latest figures for Great Britain are set out as follows:

Rail accident fatalities Road accident fatalities
NumberOf which: died on trainsNumber

(8) Since April 1991 rail fatality statistics have been collected by financial year, for example the rail death figures shown for 1991 were for the financial year 1991-92.

The rail fatality figures include passenger and staff fatalities and the total includes those killed in incidents involving the movements of trains (although excluding trespassers and suicides) as well as those travelling on trains.

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The road fatality figures include pedestrians killed as well as vehicle occupants.

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