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Mr. Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many local bus passengers there were in each year since 199899 in (a) London, (b) English metropolitan areas, (c) English shire counties and (d) England. 
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Mr. McNulty: Information on the number of local bus passenger journeys in each year since 199899 in each of the areas of England is published by the Department in Table 10 of "A Bulletin of Public Transport Statistics GB, 2002 edition". The publication is available in the Libraries of the House and on the Department's website at www.transtat.gov.uk/tables/2002/pts/pts.htm.
Mr. Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the public subsidy is for 200304 to local bus services for (a) London, (b) English metropolitan areas, (c) English shire counties and (d) England, separately identifying the (i) concessionary fare subsidy and (ii) fuel duty rebate. 
Mr. McNulty: Local transport authorities make their own decisions on the amount to be spent on supporting local bus services and subsidising concessionary fares. No forecasts of the totals expected for the current year are available. However, the figures for 200102, the last year for which information is currently available, were:
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(2) Includes administration costs and expenditure met from the Department's grant schemes
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Expenditure by my Department in the current financial. year on payments to bus operators in England of Bus Service Operators Grant (formerly called fuel duty rebate) is forecast to total £335 million, of which about £75 million is expected to be to London operators. No estimates are available of the split of this expenditure outside London between operators in metropolitan areas and shire counties.
Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the financial assistance given by the Government to local authorities for the implementation within their areas of concessionary bus fares. 
Mr. McNulty: In England about £450 million per year is spent by local authorities on concessionary travel by bus. That expenditure, along with other costs falling on local authorities, is covered by the contribution that the Government makes to local authorities through the annual grant settlement.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average number of passengers carried by a bus in general public service was in the last year for which figures are available. 
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Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the performance of the Driving Standards Agency booking hotline for practical driving tests; how many telephone calls have been received on average per day by the Driving Standards Agency booking hotline for practical driving tests; how many staff are employed to handle calls to the Driving Standards Agency booking hotline for practical driving tests; and what the average waiting time has been for allocation of (a) a driving theory test and (b) a practical driving test by the Driving Standards Agency. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Driving Standards Agency has a single national telephone number for booking theory and practical driving tests. Over three quarters of those who call the number reach a call centre agent, and 93 per cent. of those who get through speak with an agent within 20 seconds.
During 20022003, some 13,730 calls a day were made to the Driving Standards Agency's national practical test booking telephone line. The Agency currently employs some 220 call centre agents to handle calls for practical test bookings.
During 20022003, 99 per cent. of theory test candidates got an appointment at their preferred test centre within two weeks of their preferred date. During the same period, the national average waiting time for a practical driving test was 7.8 weeks.
Mr. Charles Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what revisions he proposes to make to maritime safety procedures off the West Coast of Scotland, with particular reference to the sinking of the Jumbo on 29 June. 
Mr. Jamieson: We await publication of the report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch into this incident and will consider carefully any recommendations for improving maritime safety procedures.
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Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to his answer of 8 July 2003, ref 123834, if he will place in the Library the assessment his Department has made of the road safety implications of increasing motorway speed limits. 
Mr. Jamieson: The assessment carried out in 2001 into the possible effects of raising the motorway speed limit was an internal review of the available evidence. In its evidence to the Transport Select Committee on Road Traffic Speed, the Department gave both oral and written evidence to support its conclusion that the current motorway speed limit should be retained. The Select Committee's Report refers to this information together with other evidence. These documents are already available in the Libraries of the House.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) investigations and (b) inquiries he will conduct into the incident at Charlton, Worcestershire on Monday 7 July involving a mini-bus and First Great Western train; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: There is an on-going British Transport Police (BTP) investigation into the accident at the Pools user worked level crossing, at Charlton in Worcestershire on 7 July involving a minibus and a First Great Western high-speed train. The Health and Safety Executive is providing technical support to the BTP-led investigation.
Mr. McNulty: Suspension of the freight grant schemes was a short-term budgetary decision. The Strategic Rail Authority plan to reopen the Freight Facility and Track Access Grant schemes in the autumn for spend from April 2004, subject to available funding.
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railway maintenance safety standards are managed on the railways. The first specified more detailed and prescriptive requirements for the inspection and rectification of rails exhibiting rolling contact fatigue. The second involved the implementation of more stringent requirements for general track inspections to enable better monitoring of rail condition.
Network Rail is fundamentally changing the way it manages rail maintenance. Its New Maintenance Programme ensures that Network Rail decides what work is completed and when. Network Rail is also taking direct control of three maintenance contract areas. This will give Network Rail clearer control of the works being completed and will help provide a safer, more reliable and efficient railway infrastructure.
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