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Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 11 January 2002, Official Report, column 1051W, on the rail capacity study, what was the conclusion of the first stage of the study commissioned by the Strategic Rail Authority to aid them in deciding their strategic priorities on rail capacity which reported in September 2001; when the study into the second stage is due to commence; and when that second stage study is due to be completed. 
Mr. Jamieson: The study identified a number of key locations where the rail network is currently or soon to become congested. The study is now assessing possible options to relieve congestion, or to provide additional capacity at key "pinch-points". The Strategic Rail Authority expects to have an assessment of the options after Easter.
Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on Central Railway's application for a hybrid Bill; and what the Government's response has been. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Government are considering carefully Central Railway's proposals for a hybrid Bill. We will take a view on the issues raised by the proposals and respond to Central Railway and to Parliament in due course.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what the planned expenditure is by the (a) Government and (b) private sector for the introduction of the new lines (i) Milngavie to Larkhall, (ii) Stirling to Alloa and (iii) Edinburgh Crossrail, announced in the recent SRA proposals; 
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(3) what the planned expenditure is by the (a) Government and (b) private sector for the upgrading of the 140 smaller stations in Scotland, stated in the recent SRA proposals;
(4) what is the planned expenditure by (a) Government and (b) the private sector on the refurbishment of the 318 electric trains and the reliability improvements for the 170 diesel trains announced in the recent SRA proposals;
(5) what the planned expenditure is by the (a) Government and (b) private sector for the upgrading of Waverley station in Edinburgh, stated in the recent SRA proposals;
(6) what the planned expenditure is from (a) Government and (b) the private sector for the introduction of the six new stations and interchange improvements at Partick, Gourock and Markinch announced in the SRA proposals. 
Mr. Jamieson: The total public sector expenditure proposed by the Strategic Rail Authority's (SRA's) strategic plan is £33.5 billion. The SRA has not attempted to break this down on a regional or route basis.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions are planned between the UK Government and (a) the Scottish Executive and (b) the Strategic Rail Authority to consider the introduction of airport links between Edinburgh and Glasgow airports and their respective cities. 
Mr. Jamieson: No such discussions are planned. This is primarily a matter for the Scottish Executive and the Strategic Rail Authority.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 28 January 2002, Official Report, column 54W, on airport rail links, what the time scale is for the receipt of information from the Scottish Enterprise, BAA and the SRA concerning the introduction of rail links between Edinburgh and Glasgow airports and their respective cities. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Scottish Executive, in association with BAA, Scottish Enterprise, the Strategic Rail Authority and the Government have commissioned Sinclair Knight Merz to undertake a detailed economic and engineering study into rail links to Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. The Scottish Executive is expecting to receive their report in the autumn.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what financial safeguards will be in place to prevent the Government spending more than the allotted £33.5 billion on the specific programmes mentioned in the recent Strategic Rail Authority report on unforeseen costs between now and the completion of any of the planned projects; and who would be liable for such extra unforeseen costs. 
Mr. Jamieson: The £33.5 billion of Government support to the railways over the 10 years to 31 March 2011 will be delivered through franchise and other
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contractual agreements that are subject to value for money considerations and, where applicable, appropriate risk transfer. Discussions on the transfer and management of risks, on a case-by-case basis, would influence the liability for any unforeseen costs.
Ms Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the reports will be made available of the two working groups set up in response to the accident at Great Heck, near Selby, on 28 February 2001; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Spellar: The reports will be published today. Both reports emphasise how rare this accident was and responses to the risks of a similar accident must be measured. The reports of the two groups contain 19 separate recommendations. I have accepted all of them and, in one case, have asked the Highways Agency to adopt the recommended approach more widely and, in another, have asked for the recommended work to be expedited. I must stress how important it is that highway authorities and rail infrastructure providers work together to assess the sites on their networks where vehicles might get onto the rail network and to take what action, if any, they consider necessary to try to prevent this. I commend to them the risk assessment framework prepared by the CSS and Railtrack to prioritise any necessary work at local roads over rail bridges. This framework will be developed to cover other circumstances where vehicles might get onto the rail network.
I accept the conclusion of the Highways Agency report that there are no serious shortcomings in the current standards for safety barriers but nevertheless commend their plans to convene a technical project board to take forward any necessary changes to barrier standards for national roads. I welcome the recommendation of the working group for a clearer and more open procedure for updating the standards relating to safety barriers and have asked the agency to adopt this more open approach for "all" standards.
I have asked that the HSC's recommended timetable for the development of a protocol to apportion responsibility and costs of improvements made at locations where roads meet, cross or run close to railways should be expedited. This is so as not to delay the carrying out of any necessary work. I have, therefore, decided that the protocol should be developed for England by June 2002. I will review the working of this protocol, as recommended by the HSC, once action on the other recommendations is underway. The work necessary to implement the 19 recommendations of the two reports will be steered by my Department and I have asked for a report on progress by 25 July 2002.
Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the estimated cost is of free public transport nationally for all those of pensionable age. 
Ms Keeble: We estimate the cost of providing free local travel to those over 60 years of age and disabled people would be in the region of £900 million per year. We have no estimate for pensioners separately.
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Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what estimate has been made of the number of pensioners benefiting from concessionary bus fare schemes introduced in the last two years. 
Ms Keeble: Since June 2001, local authorities have been required to offer a minimum of 50 per cent. reductions for all pensioners and disabled people on local bus services with a free bus pass to the benefit of 5.5 million pensioners in England and Wales.
Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent discussions he has had with local authorities regarding an extension of concessionary fares for pensioners using public transport. 
Ms Keeble: My ministerial colleagues and my officials regularly meet with the local authority associations to discuss a wide range of transport-related issues, including concessionary travel.
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