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Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps have been taken by (a) his Department and (b) the Strategic Rail Authority to monitor the performance of the public timetable information service provided by Railtrack by (i) telephone and (ii) the internet; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The National Rail Enquiry Service (NRES) is provided collectively by the train operating companies, not Railtrack. The Strategic Rail Authority monitor call handling performance. No less than 90 per cent. of calls must be answered in any one four-week period, and 92.5 per cent. of calls must be answered in the year to 31 March 2002. NRES is currently meeting these targets. Qualitative performance is monitored by independent researchers every six months through mystery shopping surveys. There are no requirement on train operators or Railtrack to provide an internet based system. Where they do so it is done as a commercial initiative and is not subject to performance monitoring.
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Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions by what process the national rail timetable is created; what steps his Department (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to modify the process by which the national rail travel timetable is created; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: Railtrack convene an annual timetable conference at which train operators submit their aspirations for the following years' timetables (summer and winter). Following the conference Railtrack work with each company to produce a draft timetable offer, taking into account the comments of local authorities and Rail Passengers Committees. Each company then has a short period to review the offer and re-bid for any changes that they may wish to see made. Once this re-bidding is completed Railtrack will produce a final version of the timetable, normally 12 weeks before the date of the timetable change. There are no plans to change this process.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what (a) representations his Department has received from and (b) discussions his Department has had with (i) train operating companies, (ii) Railtrack, (iii) the Rail Passenger Council, (iv) rail passenger committees, (v) the Strategic Rail Authority and (vi) others on the process by which the national rail travel timetable is created; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: Ministers have received no representations on this issue, but discussed it with train operators, Railtrack, the Strategic Rail Authority and the Rail Passenger Council in the context of broader considerations about making the best use of the railway network.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the monthly performance figures are for the Railtrack public timetable information service since it became operational according to the criteria for performance as defined by (a) his Department and (b) the Strategic Rail Authority. 
Mr. Jamieson: Statistics on the performance of the National Rail Enquiry Scheme (operated by the Association of Train Operating Companies) are contained in National Rail Trends, which is published quarterly by the Strategic Rail Authority, most recently on 13 December. A copy is placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. John Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he has received a proposal for the Ford Motor Company to construct a rail link between the Land Rover plant at Solihull and the west coast main line; if the link has passenger potential; and if he will make a statement on road to rail. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Strategic Rail Authority has been in discussions with Ford Motor Company about this proposal but they have not received a formal application for support. The scheme has potential to transfer freight traffic from road to rail which is in line with the objectives
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of our 10-year plan. No assessment has been made as to whether this rail link, if built, would have potential passenger use.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what financial commitment the Government have made to (a) the West Coast Phase 1 upgrade, (b) the West Coast Phase 2 upgrade and (c) the Virgin Cross Country Franchise upgrade. 
Mr. Jamieson: Virgin Trains have so far been paid some £300 million under the West Coast Trains franchise since it commenced on 9 March 1997. In addition to making payments under that franchise, the SRA is discussing, with my Department, Railtrack and Virgin Trains, various options for the outputs to be delivered under the west coast modernisation programme. Until the final outputs are agreed it is not possible to say what the costs involved will be. Value for money is one of the considerations under discussion.
Virgin Trains have so far been paid over £400 million under the cross country franchise since it commenced on 5 January 1997. The upgrade to cross country services, including the lease of new trains and infrastructure enhancements, are a commercial venture by Virgin Trains.
Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many criminal incidents have been reported as occurring on trains in (a) the south-east, (b) East Anglia, (c) the south-west, (d) the midlands, (e) the north-west and (f) the north-east in the last 12 months. 
Mr. Jamieson: The British Transport Police (BTP) have provided the following information regarding the number of notifiable and non-notifiable on-train offences recorded by all BTP areas, except London Underground, during the period from December 2000 to November 2001.
|Area||Notifiable offences||Non-notifiable offences||All offences|
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Mr. Byers: I am publishing today a consultation document entitled "Planning obligations: delivering a fundamental change" which is one of a series of consultation papers that together propose a radical reform of the planning system.
Planning obligations (also known as section 106 agreements) are typically agreements between developers and local authorities negotiated in the context of granting a planning consent. They have been criticised by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Committee) for being insufficiently transparent. Business finds them slow to negotiate, unpredictable and, in some cases, unfair. They are then a disincentive to developers who may find themselves with long, expensive planning delays.
I am proposing to replace the present system of negotiated planning obligations with a tariff that will be set by local authorities in their local development plans. The tariff will apply in principle to all development that receives a planning consent. It will therefore give business much more certainty about what cost, in terms of planning obligations, it faces if it chooses to buy and develop a particular piece of land or property. I am also proposing that some development should be exempt because it is too small, it is financially marginalsuch as development of an urban brownfield siteor serves a clear purpose in promoting sustainable development.
My proposals will create an open, accountable and predictable system that will enable business to see, at the outset of a development, what level of planning obligation is likely to be incurred. The tariff will, so far as possible, require no negotiation. It will be much easier for local authorities to administer and should allow planning permissions to be issued much faster.
I propose in the consultation document to allow planning obligations to be used to enable communities to share in the benefits of sustainable growth. Development pressures in some areas are placing heavy burdens on the existing infrastucture and especially on the supply of affordable housing for nurses, teachers, police officers and other keyworkers. We need to ensure that new development supports the investment required in new facilities to help improve the quality of life for local communities.
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