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Local Bus Services

Charlotte Atkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps the Government are taking to ensure that private bus companies continue to provide comprehensive local bus services to small communities. [59208]

Mr. Spellar: I have been asked to reply.

The provision of bus services to small communities is one of the issues we would expect local authorities to consider when drawing up their local transport plans. We encourage local authorities to work in partnership with operators to help meet the public transport needs in their area, and they may also, where necessary, provide funding for bus services that are not being met commercially.

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My Department also provides support for bus services in small communities in rural areas by means of the Rural Bus Subsidy Grant and Rural Bus Challenge schemes. These two schemes have been allocated a total of £198 million over the period 2001–02 to 2003–04.

Additional support is provided by the Countryside Agency for small-scale rural transport projects through its Rural Transport Partnership scheme for which £32 million is available for the period 2001–02 to 2003–04.

Traffic Management

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will have discussions with his US counterpart on the measures used there to reduce traffic congestion without increasing taxation; and if he will make a statement. [59108]

Mr. Spellar: I have been asked to reply.

The United States, at federal and state level, have put in place or tested a range of measures aimed at tackling traffic congestion, such as controlling access to the freeway network and dedicating lanes for buses or high occupancy vehicles, and are investing in telematics to manage road space more effectively. They have also taken steps to improve the management of incidents on major roads. Their approach is broadly similar to that being developed here and in many other western countries.

There is regular dialogue between this country and the United States on transportation matters, including road traffic management, to share experience and exchange best practice. I look forward to discussing our respective approaches with my US counterpart when the opportunity arises.

Paddington Rail Crash

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the meeting between his Department and the Paddington Survivors' group on 12 September 2001; and if he will place copies of the minutes in the Library. [59879]

Mr. Jamieson: I have been asked to reply.

The Secretary of State met the Paddington Survivors Group on 12 September to hear their views in advance of the publication on 20 September of part 2 of Lord Cullen's report into the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. Recent allegations that the Secretary of State suggested at this meeting that Railtrack would be taken into administration are without foundation.

It is not normal practice to place the minutes of ministerial meetings in the House Libraries.

Channel Tunnel

David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the answer of 29 April 2002, Official Report, column 567W, on the channel tunnel, what recent discussions he has had with the French Government regarding the policing resources at Fréthun; what British policing resources are in place to support anti-intrusion measures; if he will claim compensation from the French Government for the companies affected by asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement. [60806]

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Mr. Jamieson: We continue to discuss channel tunnel issues with France at the highest levels. On 17 May my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke at length with French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. It was a constructive discussion which covered a range of issues, in particular illegal immigration and the policing of the SNCF site in Fréthun. M Sarkozy assured the Home Secretary that the existing policing resources would be maintained. Further bilateral meetings are planned.

There are no powers for British police to operate on French soil to support anti-intrusion measures at Fréthun. However, we have expressed our willingness in principle to help in any way we can with improvements to physical security. In particular we are willing to provide specialist detection equipment. In the UK, the British Transport Police attend the Dollands Moor freight depot as necessary to detain and process clandestines.

As far as compensation is concerned, freight operators can seek to enforce EU law on the free movement of goods in the French courts, and this could include a claim for losses caused by the breach of that law.


Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 6 March 2002, Official Report, column 375W, on airports, what further research has been commissioned and when the research is due to be reported; to whom the results will be published; who has been commissioned to carry out the research; and if he will make a statement. [61531]

Mr. Jamieson: Further research has been commissioned by the Department to reassess attitudes to aircraft noise in England; their correlation with the Leq noise index; and to examine (hypothetical) willingness to pay in respect of nuisance from such noise, in relation to other elements, on the basis of stated preference (SP) survey evidence.

The consultation document "The Future of Aviation" (DETR December 2000) explained that further research into the monetary valuation of the effects of noise may be needed to inform charging strategies. The research is designed to underpin the Government's stated principle set out in "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone" (Cm3950) that the aviation industry should meet the external costs it imposes.

The research contract was awarded to a consortium led by the MVA Consultancy last November and is expected to last approximately three years. The work is split into two stages with Phase I focusing on i) the development of the sampling strategy and assessment of the feasibility of using Stated Preference techniques and ii) an initial assessment of the Leq/annoyance relationship. This phase is expected to last until the end of the year. A decision to proceed to Phase II will depend on the Phase I findings. The results of the research will be disseminated widely.

European Rail Systems

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) terms and conditions, (b) terms of reference and (c) jurisdiction are planned for the European Rail Agency. [61145]

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Mr. Spellar: According to the draft proposal, the purpose of the European Rail Agency is "to contribute, on technical matters, to implementation of the community legislation aiming at enhancing the level of interoperability of rail systems and at developing a common approach to safety on the European railway system". Its role would be to establish a source of neutral technical expertise at a European level. It would have no autonomous decision-making powers, but would provide advice and technical support to decisions made by the Commission and member states.

Consideration of the Agency proposal has not yet started in the Council and its proposed role and governance may change as a result of these discussions.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures he plans to promote the inter- operability of EU rail systems; what their approximate cost is; and what timetable is planned for their implementation. [61144]

Mr. Spellar: The UK is involved in European discussions on the development of interoperability, and the Department, working closely with the Strategic Rail Authority and Health and Safety Executive, and in consultation with the rail industry, will continue to implement and ensure compliance with the relevant directives as appropriate.

Regulations to implement directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the high-speed trans-European rail network came into force on 16 May 2002. A Regulatory Impact Assessment, which addresses the cost of implementation of these regulations, was placed in the House Library on 25 April 2002. Guidance on the scope and application of the regulations has been published on the Department's website and is also available in printed form.

Directive 2001/16/EC on the interoperability of the conventional trans-European rail network is due to be implemented by March 2003. We shall in due course produce a further Regulatory Impact Assessment to accompany the necessary regulations.

There is no timetable for making rail systems interoperable. The directives do not require projects to be initiated—the obligation to comply with their provisions only arises where new projects are undertaken. Implementation will, therefore, be gradual.

Rail Safety

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consultation he has had with HM Railway Inspectors in regard to the findings of their inspections of driver management; how many companies were surveyed; what the results were; what changes he plans to the inspection regime; and what response has been received from the companies inspected. [61085]

Mr. Spellar: The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) inspected the driver management processes in 12 train operating companies (TOCs) and one freight operating company during 2000–01. The findings were published on the HSE's website on 23 January 2002 and were circulated to the Secretary of State, the rail industry and trade unions.

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The findings were part of a planned three-year inspection programme covering all major TOCs in the Railway Group. The aim of the inspection programme was to assess the robustness of systems covering drivers' competence and fitness with reference to the requirements of the Railways (Safety Critical Work) Regulations 1994. Key areas included recruitment, training, ongoing maintenance of drivers' fitness and competence, safety briefing and monitoring and audit of systems.

Each TOC received a report containing agreed actions which HMRI required them to pursue. These TOCs are being visited by HMRI during 2002–03 as part of the normal inspection plan to ensure that they have adequately addressed the matters raised.

In general, the HSE reports that improvements have been made over the past three years in the area of driver training, a significant issue given the large numbers of drivers now being trained. The TOCs have produced action plans that they are working through. HMRI will check that actions agreed with the TOCs are completed as part of normal inspection activity.

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 10 June 2002, Official Report, column 780W, on rail safety, if he will have discussions with the British Transport police on these and other incidents of vandalism on the railway. [62330]

Mr. Jamieson: This is an operational matter for the British Transport police, the Health and Safety Executive and the railways industry.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement regarding the proposal for the introduction of a community safety certificate as outlined in Council Document 5744/02. [60414]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government supports in principle the European Commission's proposals for a community safety certificate for railway undertakings, which are part of a wider package of measures to promote rail safety and facilitate access to the EU rail market. We will take into account the results of our consultation exercise on these measures before reaching a final position.

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