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6 Nov 2002 : Column 316W—continued


Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those persons who have the right to direct that a stretch of motorway be closed to traffic in England and Wales; what criteria need to be applied in each case; and what (a) safeguards and (b) guidelines exist to ensure that such closure decisions are properly made before implementation. [79132]

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Mr. Spellar: Two organisations can close a motorway: the police, under the emergency powers granted to them by the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 Section 67, and the relevant highway authority under Section 14, of the same act. The police use their powers to prevent obstruction of, or danger to or from, traffic as a result of extraordinary circumstances. In such an emergency, the police notify the highway authority that an incident has taken place, and ask for traffic management and diversion routes to be put in place. By their nature, closures by the police cannot be foreseen.

As far as the trunk road network is concerned, the Highways Agency, in its role as Network Operator, is working pro-actively with its maintaining agents and the police forces in England to better manage incidents and help reduce the knock-on effect of congestion.

Highway authorities are allowed to close roads where works on or near the road are likely to cause danger to the public or damage to the highway. Before closing a road, the authority is required to take account of the availability and suitability of alternative routes and, because closures are planned, advance warning is given.

On the trunk road network the Highways Agency is working closely with its contractors to introduce more effective construction and maintenance techniques leading to fewer hold-ups while essential repairs are carried out.

In either case, the decision to close a road is a matter for judgment taking into account the safety of the travelling public and, where appropriate, the workforce.

Speed Cameras

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what criteria there are on installing roadside speed cameras on stretches of road which have a bad safety record in advance of safer stretches of highway. [79133]

Mr. Spellar: Guidance on speed camera deployment is contained in Circular Roads 1/92. Additional rules and guidelines have been made available to those areas participating in the netting off funding system for safety cameras. In both cases the guidance is that speed cameras should be placed at sites and on routes where there is a history of speed-related crashes resulting in casualties.

Road Deaths

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many deaths there have been involving motorists on the hard shoulder of (a) motorway and (b) dualled trunk carriageways for which the Highways Agency is responsible in (i) 1997, (ii) 1999 and (iii) 2001; and if he will make a statement. [79064]

Mr. Jamieson: In the last five years, including the years for which information was requested, the numbers of people killed in an accident involving motorists on the hard shoulder are.

MotorwaysDual Carriageway trunk roads

The numbers quoted for dual carriageway trunk roads also include people killed in lay-bys.

Compared to all road accidents on motorways and dual carriageway trunk roads, there are relatively few deaths directly caused by accidents on the hard shoulder. Road accident figures are constantly monitored to identify where road improvements would be effective.

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Car Sharing

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what encouragement his Department offers to advance car sharing by its staff. [79337]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 5 November 2002]: The Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency in Swansea operate a voluntary car sharing scheme for its staff. Staff registered on the database are encouraged to car share by the provision of a free emergency taxi service should their sharing travel arrangements break down unexpectedly.

Car Registration

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what his estimate is of the number of unregistered cars being driven; what plans he has to strengthen the law requiring registration and increasing penalties for non-registration; and if he will make a statement. [79115]

Mr. Jamieson: The National Roadside Survey of Vehicle Excise Duty evasion which took place in June 1999 showed the level of evasion as 3.9 per cent. of revenue due which equates to #191 million in 2001–02. This was offset by #110 million recovered through enforcement activities. The number of unlicensed vehicles at any one time is around 1 million vehicles.

We have introduced legislation which will make the registered keeper of a vehicle remain liable for it until a formal change of keepership is notified to DVLA. This system of continuous registration will help to improve the accuracy of the vehicle register which will lead to more efficient tax collection, and more effective enforcement. The legislation will be brought into force by regulations.

In addition DVLA is working closely with the police and local authorities to target unlicensed and abandoned vehicles. Last year, DVLA took successful action against 800,000 evaders recovering some #110 million in fines, penalties and re-licensing revenue.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimates his Department has made of how many vehicles have not been registered by their present owners with the DVLC as having changed hands. [79026]

Mr. Jamieson: It is extremely difficult to provide a precise estimate of the number of vehicle keepers who failed to notify a vehicle transfer. The main problem is

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one of delay when the new keeper fails to notify acquisition until the licence is due for renewal. This will be addressed by our planned introduction of a system of continuous registration which will encourage immediate notice of transfer.

Around 500,000 vehicles are currently shown on the register as ''between keepers'', the majority are in the hands of motor traders.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what plans he has to encourage vehicle owners to register a change of ownership with DVLC. [79027]

Mr. Jamieson: The Modernising Vehicle Registration Implementation Board was established earlier this year with representatives from industry, motorists' organisations, the police and the insurance industry to advise my right hon. Friend on ways to improve procedures. The aim is to improve the accuracy of the vehicle register to combat vehicle crime, to help local authorities trace the owners of abandoned cars and to bear down on vehicle excise duty evasion.

Progress on these issues have been reported to the House in my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) on 11 June 2002, Official Report, column 1138W and in my answer to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Mr. Loughton) on 21 October 2002 [Official Report, column 27W].

Rail Franchising

Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will make a statement on rail franchising policy. [79825]

Mr. Darling: The Strategic Rail Authority has announced today a new approach to franchising. Under it the SRA will be much clearer what it expects from each train operating company. Train companies will not just be judged on whether trains run on time but also on the cleanliness of trains and stations, accurate travel information and passenger security.

The nature of the franchising structure put in place at privatisation has contributed to the difficulties in the railway industry—especially poor performance and variable quality of service.

Today, with the Government's support, the SRA has announced a new approach to franchising that puts passengers first. It intends to do so through: tighter specification of services, station standards, train cleanliness and journey quality; and robust incentives and penalties that will influence positively the behaviour of operators. These include: changes to the performance regime; quantified performance indicators for service and station quality, with payment by results; and a new approach to the award and management of franchises. The first franchise awarded under the new basis is expected to start operating in 2004.

The SRA has also announced proposals to make better use of the railway by combining franchises at key London stations—from 3 to 1 at Liverpool Street, from 2 to 1 at Waterloo and from 3 to 2 at Paddington.

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Transitional arrangements are being put in place as it is not practical to award all of the franchises due to expire by 2004 simultaneously. The SRA has therefore made a number of detailed announcements on individual franchises today. These include: an invitation to Connex Transport UK Ltd and First Group/Keolis SA to proceed to detailed negotiations on Heads of Terms for the TransPennine franchise; negotiations with Arriva Trains Northern on an interim franchise to operate services until the Northern Rail franchise commences in 2004; a one-year extension to the current South West Trains franchise to February 2004; and the agreement of principles with Stagecoach Holdings plc for a new South West Trains franchise extending to 2007.

Further adjustments to franchise periods may be necessary to facilitate an orderly transition from the existing franchise regime to the new one. I shall be prepared to use my powers of direction under section 26 of the Railways Act 1993 for this purpose.

This announcement is another step towards delivering a reliable and safe railway and builds on the SRA's consultation on its Capacity Utilisation Strategy launched on 5 September.

Copies of the SRA's Franchising Policy Statement have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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