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26 Jan 2004 : Column 36W—continued

IT Contracts

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list information technology contracts in his Department with a value of above £20 million in each of the last 10 years; what the inception date for each system was; when it became fully functional; when it became fully debugged; and what the cost of over-runs has been. [146201]

Mr. McNulty: The Department for Transport was formed in May 2002. The Department has let no contracts that meet the description.

Light Rail Schemes

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what light rail schemes will be built by 2010; what their expected cost is; and what their (a) construction start date and (b) completion dates are. [149710]

Mr. McNulty: Sunderland Direct opened in 2002 and Nottingham Express Transit is due to open in March 2004. A number of other light rail schemes are being considered and are in various stages of appraisal, assessment and procurement.

Local Authority Transport Projects

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will set out the measures the Department is taking to enable local authorities to bring forward and implement projects given provisional approval within the last three years' annual transport settlements. [149650]

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Mr. McNulty: The Department, through the Government Offices hold regular meetings with local authorities providing advice on funding issues, statutory processes, etc. Working closely with local authorities the Government Offices make sure scheme changes are reported promptly so that decisions on how to proceed can be taken at the earliest opportunity.

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many local authority projects given provisional approval within the last three years' annual transport settlements are delayed owing to (a) skills shortages and (b) the planning process. [149651]

Mr. McNulty: No local authority has identified skills shortages to the Department as a primary cause of delays to major local transport schemes since the introduction of the Local Transport Plan process.

The planning process has been identified as a contributory cause of delay to several major scheme proposals, but the effects of factors such as delayed planning permissions and delayed TWA approvals cannot be clearly separated from other factors.

Management Consultants

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the cost to his Department of using management consultants has been in each of the last five years. [148031]

Mr. McNulty: The Department was formed in May 2002. The Department spent £122.2 million in 2002–03 and £42.1 million in the period 1 April 2003 to 31 December 2003 on all types of consultancy excluding research. Separate figures for management consultancy are not held centrally.

Rail Freight

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in the rail freight gauge and capacity enhancements (a) Felixstowe to Nuneaton (Phase 2), (b) Southampton to West Coast Mainline (Gauge), (c) north London and Great Eastern Freight Works, (d) West Midland Freight Works, (e) re-opening Portishead line for freight and new line to port, (f) Transpennine/South Humberside freight capacity works and (g) for freight services to Royal Portbury Docks, Bristol. [149709]

Mr. McNulty: Progress is as follows:

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Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many freight access grants have been made in the last 12 months; and what the total sum paid was. [150013]

Mr. McNulty: The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has not awarded any new Track Access Grants (TAGs) in the last 12 months, three existing grants had their contracts extended. Records of the amount paid through TAGs are held by financial years. Since April 2003 £14.2 million has been paid by the SRA in TAGs. Payments for previous years are reported in the SRA's Annual Reports, copies of which are available in the Library of the House.

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he was consulted before the Strategic Rail Authority introduced its moratorium on freight access grants. [150050]

Mr. McNulty: Yes.

Rail Infrastructure Asset Register

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress is being made by Network Rail to establish a comprehensive asset register of the rail infrastructure; what that register includes; and when it will be completed. [149712]

Mr. McNulty: Since April 2001, when the Rail Regulator modified Railtrack's network licence to require the company to establish and maintain an asset register, the company has thoroughly reviewed the state of its asset knowledge, established the key principles of how its asset information strategy needs to improve its business planning processes and developed detailed plans to meet these business needs. Good progress is being made, and Network Rail is continuing to press ahead with the implementation of these plans.

Development of the asset register comprises a number of key elements. It is replacing many old databases with new systems that will provide access to integrated and consistent, company-wide data for the first time. In some cases, existing data systems can be maintained, but they are being overhauled to ensure that data are accurate and fully up to date.

Much of this work is highly detailed and requires a painstaking review of large volumes of data. Inevitably, this is time consuming, but good progress is being made. Some elements of the project are complete, while others, such as the new system for managing maintenance work known as MIMS 1 , are well developed and in the course of introduction. It is expected that MIMS will be fully implemented by April 2004.

As the asset register is being completed, new data collection and storage systems are being implemented, requiring significant changes to the culture of data management within Network Rail. Development will continue to take effect for many years, but it is expected that a fundamental milestone will be the completion of a baseline asset inventory which will contain accurate and fully up-to-date information about the key attributes of the network assets by mid-2005.

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Rail Network (Repair and Maintenance)

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will publish provisional findings from the comprehensive asset register on the cost of the backlog of repair and maintenance work on the rail network; [149713]

Mr. McNulty: The purpose of the asset register is to ensure that Network Rail has appropriate knowledge of the condition, capability and capacity of the network assets. As its development continues, the asset register will introduce new techniques and better quality asset information that will enhance Network Rail's understanding of the age, use and behaviour of individual assets in service, so that it can improve:

Work to develop these long-term planning tools is still in progress but, in their early stages, they provided important input to the Rail Regulator's review of access charges during 2003—particularly in respect of track renewals.

The Regulator's conclusions, published on 12 December 2003, provide for increased levels of funding for infrastructure maintenance and renewals. It is now for Network Rail to respond by increasing its activities in accordance with the scope and priorities of work that it determines in response to the Regulator's review.

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