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School Run (Congestion)

16. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his assessment is of the impact on congestion of children being driven to school. [63730]

Mr. Jamieson: 16 per cent. of cars on urban roads at 8.50 am in term time in 1998–2000 were taking children to school. This is a reduction from 20 per cent. in 1995–97. We have asked local authorities to include strategies for further reductions in their local transport plans and have increased funding for associated measures.

Gourock Station (Redevelopment)

17. David Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with Railtrack concerning the redevelopment of the transport interchange at Gourock station. [63731]

Mr. Jamieson: None. I understand that the Scottish Executive is working with the promoting authorities for the scheme to try to find the way forward. Signal design and engineering resources remain at a premium within the rail industry although Railtrack and the Strategic Rail Authority are taking steps to address the shortage.

Airport Capacity

18. Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the ability of current airport capacity to meet demand for air travel over the next 10 years. [63732]

Mr. Spellar: We are currently finalising a series of regional consultation documents on airports and air services, between them covering the whole of the UK, which we intend to publish shortly. These consultation documents include an assessment of current airport capacity to meet demand for air travel up to 2030, and identify the capacity enhancements which might be required over that period under a range of policy scenarios.

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Train Punctuality

19. Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the trends in train punctuality over the last five years. [63733]

Mr. Spellar: Between 1997 and 2000 the rolling annual average Public Performance Measure (PPM), which measures punctuality and reliability, slowly declined from about 90 per cent. to 86 per cent. as the number of train kilometres ran (passengers and freight) increased by some 20 per cent. Punctuality and reliability fell sharply after Hatfield due, in large part, to the temporary speed restrictions imposed to deal with gauge corner cracking and other rail defects. The rolling annual average PPM fell to 75 per cent. though it is now rising. The Strategic Rail Authority is working with the rail industry to achieve substantial, lasting improvements in performance.

Train Services (London)

20. Roger Casale: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to improve the reliability of train services in London. [63734]

Mr. Jamieson: It is a primary objective for the Strategic Rail Authority to work with the rail industry to achieve substantial lasting improvements in performance. £400 million has been allocated to a new Rail Performance Fund set up to co-invest with rail companies in short-term schemes to improve reliability for passengers.

Rail Stops (Leeds)

21. Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to encourage the opening of new suburban rail stops in the Leeds area. [63735]

Mr. Spellar: The Rail Passenger Partnership scheme administered by the Strategic Rail Authority helps fund new or enhanced rail services or facilities, including stations.

I understand that the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) has commissioned a study into five potential new stations as part of the proposed new Northern franchise.

High Speed Rail Links

22. Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he next expects to meet the chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority to discuss the development of high speed rail links. [63736]

Mr. Spellar: The Strategic Rail Authority's study into the need for and viability of a high speed line running between London and the North of England and Scotland is due to be completed later this year. The Chairman of the Authority will report the findings to Ministers at that time.

Freight (Railways)

23. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in transferring freight traffic to railways in the past five years. [63737]

Mr. Jamieson: Our policy is to help establish an integrated, sustainable freight distribution system to support economic growth and bring social and environmental

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benefits. In the past five years, the amount of rail freight moved has grown by 30 per cent., including 9 per cent. in the past year.

Transatlantic Air Services

24. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on transatlantic air services. [63738]

Mr. Spellar: The UK Government is keen to liberalise the UK-US Air Services Agreement as we would like consumers to benefit from increased competition and airlines to benefit from improved access to the world's largest market. But that competition has to be on fair terms. We are currently reviewing a range of options that are open to us.

Road User Charging

25. Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received regarding road user charging. [63739]

Mr. Jamieson: We have received various representations, reflecting various points of view.

A303 (Safety)

26. Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on safety improvements to the A303. [63740]

Mr. Jamieson: A number of safety improvement schemes have recently been undertaken on the A303. The Highways Agency continues to monitor the safety record of this and other trunk roads and, if further improvements are needed, they will be added to the Agency's programme.

Railways (Private Finance)

27. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the railways' ability to raise private finance. [63741]

Mr. Spellar: The 10-Year Plan for Transport and the SRA Strategic Plan have projected a total amount of private sector investment in rail of around £34 billion over the 10 years to March 2011. This investment will be supported and levered in by £33.5 billion of public sector funding for rail.

We remain confident that this level of private investment will be delivered, indeed over £7 billion has already been committed.

Airports (Consultation)

28. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to consult on the future of airports in Great Britain. [63742]

Mr. Spellar: We are currently finalising a series of regional consultation documents on airports and air services between them covering the whole of the UK, which we intend to publish shortly; these documents will seek views on the future development of airports and air services in each region over the next 30 years.

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Light Railway and Tram Schemes

29. Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to expand light railway and tram schemes. [63743]

Mr. Jamieson: Our 10-Year Plan reflects our commitment to light rail in major cities. However, whether light rail offers the most appropriate and cost- effective response to local transport needs is a matter, in the first instance, for the local authorities concerned, to consider while formulating and reviewing their Local Transport Plans. Thereafter, any light rail scheme or other major transport project would need to undergo rigorous appraisal, and examination under any relevant statutory procedures, before funding approval could be considered.

Buses (Pupil Overcrowding)

31. Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received about changing the law on pupil overcrowding on scheduled bus services. [63745]

Mr. Spellar: We have received no recent representations, other than the parliamentary questions tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth at the end of last year, which dealt with overcrowding on a bus route in Monmouth and related matters.

Fire Safety

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) statutory duty and (b) guidelines have been given to fire authorities on giving fire safety advice to the public. [60439]

Mr. Raynsford: I have been asked to reply.

Fire authorities have a statutory duty under The Fire Services Act 1947 1(1)(f) to secure efficient arrangements for the giving, when requested, of advice in respect of buildings and other property in the area of the fire authority as to fire prevention, restricting the spread of fires, and means of escape in case of fire.

In addition to this, we intend to introduce a duty on fire authorities to secure efficient arrangements for providing advice, assistance and encouragement in respect of the steps to be taken to prevent fires in their area and to prevent the death of, or injury to, any person being caused by such a fire. This will form part of a Regulatory Reform Order, which will be out for consultation shortly.

The National Community Fire Safety Centre was established in 1998 to provide a resource for brigades in community fire safety work, whose toolbox gives guidance on advising the public on fire safety issues as well as examples of best practice.

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