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8 Jan 2004 : Column 430W—continued

Civil Servants (Disabilities)

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in meeting targets for the proportion of people with disabilities in senior posts in his Department. [145994]

Mr. McNulty: Statistical information about senior civil servants with disabilities is available on the Civil Service Statistics web-site at: http://www.civil-service. .pdf

As there are less than five members of the senior civil service in my department with a disability, the actual number is not published in order to protect the privacy of the individual in line with exemption 12 of the "Code of Practice on Access to Government Information".

Driving Tests

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received about the average waiting time for a driving test; and if he will make a statement. [145331]

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Mr. Jamieson: The average waiting time for a practical car test in November (the last month for which there is full data) was eight to seven weeks, against an annual national target of six weeks.

Figures for the rest of this financial year are:

MonthWaiting time (weeks)

During this period of high demand for practical driving tests the Driving Standards Agency, the executive agency of the Department responsible for conducting driving tests, received some 220 written representations about the waiting time.

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the cost of introducing compulsory hazard perception tests for existing approved driving instructors. [145335]

Mr. Jamieson: The consultation paper issued by the Driving Standards Agency in April 2003 contained a draft Regulatory Impact Assessment of the costs of introducing hazard perception testing into the standards supervision arrangements for existing approved driving instructors. The letter issued by the Agency in December that announced our decision contained an Assessment which had been amended in the light of consultation.

The direct costs to instructors who prepared thoroughly for the new assessment should be minimal. No fee will be charged for the first attempt at the test and training and information support have been supplied free. An instructor will have up to 12 months to take the test at a nationwide network of centres. An instructor who was unsuccessful on the first attempt would be charged £50 for a re-test.

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will publish the responses to the consultation paper, "Driving Test Fees and Other Matters". [145336]

Mr. Jamieson: The Driving Standards Agency published a response to consultation letter on 5 December 2003. This summarised the 82 responses received. Copies of the letter were deposited in the House Libraries.

Where those who responded indicated that they had no objection to their response being made publicly available, the Agency will on request supply copies of individual responses.

M1 (Mill Hill)

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the closure of the access road to Gateway Services on the M1, from Ellesmere Avenue, Mill Hill. [146616]

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Mr. Jamieson: The access road is not a public highway. It is temporarily closed during the installation of automatic barriers designed to restrict use to authorised users only. There has been excessive use of the access road by motorists taking a short cut through the service area to join the M1 and there have also been repeated incidents of fly-tipping.

Mersey Tunnel

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the date of the inquiry into the proposed increase in the Mersey Tunnel's toll will be announced. [146744]

Dr. Howells: The Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority and Executive (Merseytravel) has withdrawn its application for an Order to revise the Mersey Tunnels' tolls as it has been able to secure alternative funding to cover the initial cost of constructing emergency escape refuges/passageways in the Queensway (Liverpool/Birkenhead) Tunnel. As a consequence, an inquiry is no longer required.

Road Accidents

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps are being taken to reduce the number and seriousness of incidents of motor vehicles striking railway bridges. [146220]

Mr. Jamieson: Many measures have been taken to prevent overheight vehicles striking bridges, including improved signing and conspicuity of low bridges, and regulations requiring that the vehicle's height be displayed in the cab. Despite these measures bridges continue to be struck. Such strikes can cause disruption to road and rail traffic, even for minor incidents, and a serious incident could cause injury and damage. The Department let a research contract last year to investigate the causes and possible prevention of bridge strikes, with the aim of identifying which available measures are likely to be worth pursuing so that drivers follow a route that is appropriate for their vehicle. My officials will be discussing the research findings and possible future steps with a wide range of stakeholders who meet with the Department in the Bridge Strike Prevention Group.

Measures to prevent vehicles from striking bridge parapets on roads over railways are being pursued as part of the general programme to manage the accidental incursion of the railway by road vehicles, following the accident at Great Heck, near Selby in February 2001 and the publication in February 2003 of the Department's report, "Managing the Accidental Obstruction of the Railway by Road Vehicles ".

Telecommunications Industry

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what plans he has to consult Ofcom in connection with the impact on the telecommunications industry of the Traffic Management Bill; [146329]

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Mr. Jamieson: During 2003, my Department hosted a series of meetings of the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC) Legislation Working Group, which was set up to consider possible measures for inclusion in the Traffic Management Bill. Those represented on the group included highway authorities and utilities, as well as the various utility regulators such as Oftel. The next meeting of the Group is on 15 January 2004 and those attending will include the new regulator body Ofcom. In drawing up the Bill we have looked closely at its possible impact upon the telecommunications industry and shall continue to do so as the Bill progresses through Parliament and as we draw up the secondary legislation which will be needed to implement some of the Bill's provisions. We will be involving Ofcom closely in this process.


Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment has been made by his Department of terrorist threats to civil aircraft in flight over Saudi Arabia. [145654]

Dr. Howells: The Government keep the threat to civil aviation in all countries, including Saudi Arabia, under continuous review.

Traffic Management Bill

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what the level of congestion on (a) inter-urban roads and (b) urban roads is against which he intends to achieve a reduction; and by how much he expects this to change when the measures in the Traffic Management Bill are implemented; [145531]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 5 January 2004]: For the detailed references to congestion in the RIA, calculations represent estimated time lost in seconds per kilometre travelled for different vehicle types compared with speeds obtained in periods of light traffic flow . In urban areas light flow speeds are usually speeds achieved at night time and would incorporate the effects of traffic signals, pedestrian crossings and other unavoidable constraints on vehicle movement.

In 2000, the average time lost per vehicle kilometres as a result of congestion was 24.8 seconds on roads in large urban areas and 3.2 seconds on strategic inter-urban roads.

The Highways Agency estimates that the introduction of Regional Control Centres and Traffic Officers will lead to a reduction in congestion on motorways of up to 5 per cent. We expect that measures outside of the scope of the Bill, such as additional capacity at key points on the strategic road network, many of which will be implemented alongside, will also lead to reductions in congestion on trunk roads.

The new duties and powers in the Bill provide an incentive and a means for local authorities to reduce congestion on their roads, and for utilities to work with less disruption, especially in urban areas. The level of

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reduction will depend on the local circumstances and the performance of individual utilities and authorities, including the use that the latter make of the new powers.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what powers of arrest will be available to traffic officers appointed under the Traffic Management Bill. [145538]

Mr. Jamieson: Traffic officers will not have powers of arrest.

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