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Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many heavy goods vehicles were fitted with particulate traps in 2001; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The precise number of heavy goods vehicles fitted with particulate traps in 2001 is not known as vehicle owners are not obliged to notify the Secretary of State of this modification.
However, nearly all owners of heavy goods vehicles fitted with particulate traps will request a Reduced Pollution Certificate (RPC) which, once obtained, can reduce vehicle excise duty by up to £500 per year.
In 2001 the Vehicle Inspectorate, an executive agency in my Department, issued 2,132 RPCs to owners of heavy goods vehicles that were fitted with particulate traps.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what improvements to services and changes in passenger numbers have resulted from bus subsidies paid in each of the past four years. 
Ms Keeble: Public financial support for bus services has helped to maintain service levels and passenger numbers by reducing operators' costs and subsidising services which are not commercially viable, including some 1,800 new or enhanced rural services supported by Rural Bus Subsidy Grant introduced in 1998. Funding has also provided for concessionary fares for pensioners and a number of other groups and helped operators to achieve high levels of investment in new vehicles.
Passenger numbers on local bus services have remained relatively stable over the past four years after a long period of decline and rose by 1 per cent. in England in 200001. This includes some 17 million passenger journeys made on services supported by Rural Bus Subsidy Grant.
The overall position on service levels and passenger numbers in England over the past four years for which figures are available is as follows:
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We are setting up a review of bus subsidy mechanisms to ensure that they contribute as effectively as possible to the achievement of our objectives.
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Bus subsidies in Wales are a matter for the National Assembly for Wales.
David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what action he is taking to assist companies that are affected by delays and cancellations in the channel tunnel. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Government recognise that the disruption caused by would-be illegal immigrants is causing severe hardship to many businesses in this country who depend on reliable freight services through the channel tunnel. The Government continue to press the French Government at the highest levels to provide adequate policing resources at Fréthun to support the anti-intrusion measures already being installed by SNCF.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what progress he has made in transferring the awarding of the Mersey rail contract from the SRA lease to Mersey travel. 
Mr. Jamieson: A draft statutory instrument to exempt the Mersey Rail Electric network from the franchising process conducted by the Strategic Rail Authority has been issued for consultation. It is intended to lay this before Parliament in June.
Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what his latest projected completion date is for upgrading the west coast mainline (a) north and (b) south of the Scotland/England border. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Strategic Rail Authority is leading a review with Railtrack and other stakeholders of the outputs to be delivered from the project. An announcement on the outcome of the review will be made in due course.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the completion dates are for the (a) consultation period and (b) announcement of the preferred route for the east London aspect of the Crossrail project. 
Mr. Jamieson: Between May and July, Cross London Rail Links Ltd. will be consulting stakeholders on all the shortlisted Crossrail route options, east and west. They hope to make an announcement on the preferred route in October. This will be followed by a public consultation period lasting about three months.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions which groups of people will be involved in the consultation
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period for the east London aspect of the Crossrail project; and if the findings of the consultation period will be published. 
Mr. Jamieson: Cross London Rail Links will seek to consult as widely as possible. There will be a period of consultation with key stakeholders on the shortlisted route options, and a period of full public consultation after the preferred route has been identified. The findings of the consultation will be included in the environmental statement when powers are sought for the project.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what steps are being taken by his Department and the Strategic Rail Authority to ensure that the Association of Train Operating Companies provide the Rail Passengers Council with information regarding how the decision regarding plans for the SouthEast Network Railcard was arrived at; 
Mr. Jamieson: The Rail Passengers Council (RPC) wrote to the Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) on 26 March about the changes to the SouthEast Network Card. They requested that the SRA use its powers under licence conditions to ensure that the financial information on which these decisions were based is provided to the RPC. The SRA has obtained this information from ATOC and sent this forward to the RPC on 24 April.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the last safety audit of road and rail intersections in the UK was conducted; and what action has been taken to address highlighted concerns. 
Mr. Jamieson: Where safety audits are carried out they are the responsibility of the individual highway authority and are mainly applied to new works. Safety audits, as such, are not carried out on the railway, but a railway infrastructure authority is under a duty to ensure that it operates in a safe manner. Information about safety audits is not held centrally.
Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent representations he has received on track safety issues between Kilmarnock and Dumfries. 
Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he expects to receive a report from the Health and Safety Executive's railway inspectorate regarding its investigation
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into the circumstances of the incident on the railway line between Abergavenny and Cwmbran on 17 January; and what preliminary findings he has received. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Health and Safety Executive's railway inspectorate have investigated the incident at Abergavenny on 18 January but will not be producing a report because the primary cause of the incident was a road traffic accident on the A40 dual carriageway. Further investigations into this incident are being led by both the Gwent police and the British Transport police.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what his policy is on the protection which will be given to rail freight operators against increases in track access charges by the Rail Regulator in future franchise agreements; 
Mr. Jamieson: There are no franchises for rail freight.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many teachers have taken early retirement through ill health in each of the past five years. 
Mr. Timms: The numbers of ill health retirements from the maintained schools sector in England in each of the last five financial years for which we have data were as follows:
(13) 200001 data are provisional.
Changes in the statutory regulations governing ill health retirement came into force on 1 April 1997. To qualify for ill-health retirement benefits a teacher must now be regarded as permanently unfit to teach.
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