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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 18 March 2003



Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received in opposition to the de-trunking of the A696 in Northumberland; and if he will hold a public enquiry into the proposal. [102843]

Mr. Spellar: Initially 11 objections to the draft orders published on 23 August 2001 were received from Northumberland County Council, Tynedale District Council, Scottish Executive, Northumberland National Park, Freight Transport Association, five parish councils and a private individual. Tynedale District Council, Scottish Executive and Freight Transport Association subsequently withdrew their Objections.

Negotiations continue with Northumberland County Council, which will be the highway authority after detrunking, over the future funding of the A696/A68 and it would therefore be premature of me to comment on whether there will be a public inquiry into the proposal before these discussions are concluded.

Amber Beacons

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received on restrictions on the use of flashing amber beacons on motor vehicles on the public highway; what plans he has to change the regulations; and if he will make a statement. [103476]

Mr. Spellar: The Department of Transport regularly receives requests for clarification of the regulations on the use of flashing amber beacons on motor vehicles. In the past five years only one request has been made for these regulations to be extended. This was to permit amber warning beacons to be fitted to vehicles which are used for the purposes of rescuing animals injured on the roads, as they sometimes need to stop on the highway.

A consultation exercise is currently being carried out on proposals to permit recovery operators to use red rear flashing lights in conjunction with amber beacons at the scene of a breakdown.

The Government has no immediate plans for any further amendments to the regulations on amber beacons on road vehicles.

Motorised Wheelchairs

Mr. Robert Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) when he intends to publish the findings of his Department's review of the use of motorised wheelchairs on the highway; [103736]

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Mr. Jamieson: We receive a wide range of correspondence about the use of motorised wheelchairs on the highway from disabled people themselves as well as from other pedestrians and motorists. A proportion of that correspondence is expressing concern about safety issues.

In response to these concerns I will shortly be launching a review of the law which currently governs the construction of these vehicles and their use on the highway. The review will cover the full range of issues that have been raised with the Department, including the case for compulsory insurance for the users of motorised wheelchairs. We will be seeking the views of users and all other stakeholders before drawing any conclusions about possible changes to current arrangements.

I will publish the results of the Review once it is complete, which I would hope to be later this year.


Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many additional miles of motorway in England and Wales he expects to have lighting (a) by December 2003 and (b) by December 2004. [102815]

Mr. Spellar: Motorways in Wales are the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment at the National Assembly for Wales.

In England, the Highways Agency expects to install lighting on approximately 10.8 miles of existing motorway by December 2003 and a further 14.5 miles by December 2004.

The new M6 toll motorway will be open by December 2004 and will have lighting on lengths totalling approximately 10 miles.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what estimate he has made of changes in the number of injury-accidents occurring after introduction of driving on the hard shoulder; [102220]

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Mr. Jamieson: My right hon. Friend the Minister of State announced on 27 July 2001 that the M42 between Junctions 3a and 7 had been chosen as a pilot site for Active Traffic Management (ATM). The pilot offers the potential to allow carefully controlled use of the hard shoulder as a running lane during congested periods. The outcome of the pilot will be assessed very thoroughly before any policy decision is taken about the more general use of the hard shoulder as a running lane. The hard shoulder is routinely used as a running lane during motorway maintenance.

The Health and Safety Executive regularly provide input into the standards applied when the hard shoulder is used as a running lane during motorway maintenance. They will be consulted about its use as part of the M42 ATM Project when the Highways Agency has developed its proposals more fully.

The Highways Agency has met with and discussed the proposals for the M42 ATM with the local fire service. There is a programme of ongoing liaison with the emergency services to discuss matters in more detail.

The Highways Agency has arranged a number of exhibitions and local presentations and has generally received favourable feedback on the proposals to use the hard shoulder as a running lane on the M42. As part of this assessment a range of surveys will be undertaken to assess motorists' opinions on the scheme. A driver simulator has also been developed and this was displayed at the 2002 Birmingham International Motor Show. Again, a favourable response to the use of the hard shoulder was received.

The controlled use of the hard shoulder in the M42 ATM Project is not expected to result in an increase in the costs to the public funds with regard to insurance,

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medical costs, care of dependants or time off work. Extensive monitoring as part of the M42 ATM Project will be undertaken to quantify the actual impact of the scheme. The proposals are subject to an ongoing assessment and safety audits have already been undertaken as part of the design process.

The proposal for use of the hard shoulder under controlled motorway conditions on the M42 is being designed with safety in mind. Hard shoulder running will only be allowed when a lower speed limit is in place and control room staff have ensured that the hard shoulder is clear. There will be emergency refuge areas, equipped with emergency roadside telephones, installed at regular intervals for motorists that breakdown or require assistance.

I have asked the Highways Agency to place in the Library copies of the reports, listed as follows, that have been assessed in relation to the use of the hard shoulder as a running lane.

It is not envisaged that there will be an increase in the injury accident rate through the controlled use of the hard shoulder for the M42 ATM project. Extensive monitoring of the M42 project will be undertaken to quantify the actual impact of the scheme on safety. The safety of drivers and those concerned with the operation and maintenance of the road will be a major consideration.

The Highways Agency is in the process of discussions with various motoring organisations about different aspects proposed for the M42 pilot. These discussions are on-going.

The M42 ATM Project has received initial funding of £40 million from the Capital Modernisation Fund to cover the ATM infrastructure construction costs. An initial estimate of £3.2 million per annum was made for the future maintenance and operational costs for the project.

No meetings have yet been held with the Transport and General Workers Union or other trade unions to discuss the safety implications of hard shoulder running in general or on the M42 ATM Project. The advanced signalling and monitoring equipment being installed on the M42 will provide the ability to close lanes and provide advanced warning of incidents on the M42. This infrastructure will allow the protection of road users involved in incidents and will support existing maintenance activities which is likely to be especially beneficial in reducing risk to traffic management operatives.

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