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Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent (a) support and (b) guidance has been given by his Department to the SRA and the rail industry regarding (i) the re-opening of rail stations and (ii) the development of new lines and stations; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Government's priorities for the Strategic Rail Authority are as set out in the Secretary of State's Directions and Guidance. The Strategic Rail Authority's priorities for implementation are set out in the Strategic Plan.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what changes (a) have taken place and (b) are planned with relation to the penalty regime in the railway industry; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) what recent (a) discussions have taken place and (b) assessment there has been of the role of the penalty regime of the railways; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: During the periodic review of Railtrack's access charges by the Rail Regulator in 2000, a thorough review of the incentive regime was carried out. The payment rates were raised to broadly double their previous levels in order to improve incentives to run trains punctually. Similarly, the SRA are incorporating increases in train operator's incentive rates as new franchises are let.
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John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many miles of rail track in Scotland are fitted with train protection warning systems; and what percentage this represents of the total rail track in Scotland. 
Mr. Jamieson: The fitment programme for the train protection and warning system (TPWS) is based on the number of sites to be fitted not miles of track. Railtrack advises that in Scotland TPWS is to be installed at approximately 1,600 sites by the end of 2003. To date TPWS has been installed at 1,109 sites, of which 955 are now operational and 154 are currently being tested.
Mr. Jamieson: Grey assets are defined in the PPP contracts as those assets where a full condition assessment has not been possible, either for access reasons or lack of historical data. They tend to be older heavy civil engineering assets such as retaining walls or brick arch tunnels. The Secretary of State has had no recent discussions on such assets.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when his Department expects to respond to the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee on the 10-year transport plan; and if he will make a statement. 
John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the answer, on Prestwick, of 20 June 2002, Official Report, column 507W, what air traffic levels would make it financially prudent to commence further work at the new Scottish centre; and what current levels are. 
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Mr. Jamieson: The completion of the new Scottish centre depends on both air traffic levels and NATS' capital investment plan. Completion is expected to be during 2008 or 2009. NATS is currently engaged with suppliers in evaluating systems.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what contribution his Department will make towards implementing the Government's commitment in the Rural White Paper to protect the countryside for its own sake; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Department for Transport remains committed to ensuring transport fully contributes to sustaining and improving the English countryside. Since the publication of the Rural White Paper in 2000, we have, for instance:
ensured that the impacts on the environment and countryside of any new road proposalswhether for the trunk road network or proposed by local highway authoritiesare clearly identified and appraised using our New Approach to Appraisal; and
continued to work with local highway authorities and the Countryside Agency in order to develop local traffic management measures, which can help preserve the tranquillity of the countryside.
Mr. Jamieson: For staff below the Senior Civil Service in the Department, including the agencies, the average annual leave entitlement in 2002 is 28 days. For staff in the Senior Civil Service in the Department, including the agencies, the annual leave entitlement in 2002 is 30 days.
Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason a question about financial standing has been added to application forms for an operator's licence; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: Holders of licences to operate heavy goods vehicles or passenger service vehicles are required by law to have available sufficient financial resources to maintain their vehicles in a roadworthy condition and to run a viable business. Licence application forms contain questions about financial resources to enable the licensing authority to decide if the applicant meets the criteria for financial standing. These questions are not a new addition to the forms.
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Mr. Jamieson: We want to improve novice driver safetyyoung and newly qualified drivers have a poor safety record compared to older, more experienced drivers. However, we have no evidence to suggest that the learning process is dangerous and no plans to require the compulsory use of dual controls in vehicles driven by learners. We consider that learner drivers should gain more experience before they take the driving test and earlier this year we issued a consultation paper on ways to achieve this. This included an option to introduce a mandatory requirement for a minimum amount of professional tuition.
Research indicates that a mix of professional tuition and plenty of practice with friends or relatives is the best way to learn to drive and our initial view was that the introduction of compulsory professional tuition is not justified. Nevertheless we will be considering carefully all the views we receive on this issue before taking a final decision.
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