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18 Oct 2004 : Column 436W—continued

Driving Tests

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what level of dialogue he envisages between local organisations of driving instructors and test examiners under the auspices of the Driving Standards Authority. [191026]

Mr. Jamieson: Examiners routinely seek to maintain professional and mutually beneficial working relationships with driving instructors. Many local driving instructor organisations hold regular meetings. Whenever possible, Driving Standards Agency examiners and senior managers attend. The discussions focus on local issues of interest to the instructors.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what role he foresees for (a) driving instructors and (b) the Driving Standards Authority in enhancing road safety. [191027]

Mr. Jamieson: The government's Road Safety—"Tomorrow's Roads Safer for Everyone"—was published in 2000. It identifies key roles for the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and driving instructors in improving road safety.

The contribution of skilled and well-motivated driving instructors is central to delivering higher standards and improved road safety. Their input is significant, not only in terms of initial driver training but also in encouraging novice drivers to further develop their skills (eg by taking the "Pass Plus" course).

DSA's primary aim is to promote road safety through improving driving standards. Initially this centred on driver testing and the regulation of instructors that provide tuition in the driving of motor cars. However, the Strategy envisages a significant increase in DSA's road safety remit, including raising the standards of all driver training both pre- and post-test. The Government want to raise the quality and expertise of all driving instructors to that of the best.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to make the Driving Standards Authority more accountable; and what continuing professional development is available to driving test examiners. [191036]

Mr. Jamieson: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is responsible to Parliament via the Secretary of State for Transport. Ministers set the agency demanding targets on performance, efficiency and service delivery and require regular updates on progress. Key priorities are contained in DSA's Business Plan and Annual Report and Accounts. The latter also reports performance against targets.

DSA's examiners undergo a rigorous supervision regime, including regular assessment of their performance by senior officers, and in-service training and development.

The agency also runs an Open Learning Fund. This is available to all staff and is aimed at encouraging lifelong learning.

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reasons the Driving Standards Agency requires certain applicants to pre-nominate the
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vehicle before a test takes place; why the agency does not take advance bookings for tests without details of the vehicle; and if he will make a statement. [191188]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 15 October 2004]: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) administers a Trainer Booking Scheme. This enables those organisations providing training in riding a motorcycle or driving a lorry or bus to book practical test appointments up to 10 weeks in advance. Neither the name of the candidate nor the vehicle details are required at that time.

Candidate and vehicle details must be provided shortly before the date of the test to enable DSA to confirm that the candidate has the necessary driving licence entitlement to take the test, that the appropriate test has been booked for the category of vehicle concerned and that the vehicle meets the minimum test requirements for that test.

For lorry and bus tests, the test centre manoeuvring area has to be set out to accommodate vehicles of differing lengths. Having vehicle details in advance of the test saves DSA time in setting up the area and reduces inconvenience to the candidate.

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the current average time taken in processing test applicants by the Driving Standards Agency is; and what action he is taking to reduce this time. [191189]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 15 October 2004]: The current waiting times for practical driving tests administered by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) are as follows:
Test type(1)Actual waiting time
Car practical tests(2)9.2
Motorcycle practical tests(2)4
Lorry and bus practical tests(2)4.2

(1) September 2004.
(2) Weeks

I have set DSA a demanding target to reduce waiting times for car practical tests to a national average of six weeks from January 2005.

Lorry Road User Charging

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what negotiations have taken place between his Department and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise about lorry road user charging; and what the outcome was of those discussions. [191489]

Mr. Darling: The 2004 Finance Act laid the formal responsibility for implementing the proposed Lorry Road User Charge on HM Customs and Excise. My Department has worked very closely with HM Customs and Excise and HM Treasury to develop both policy and proposals for procuring and implementing the charge, and will continue to do so.


Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the traffic information signs between
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junctions 8 and 12 of the M27 were due to be in operation; when it is expected that this will occur; and if he will make a statement. [190819]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 14 October 2004]: The new variable message signs on the M27 between junctions 8 and 12 will come into operation in January 2005. Originally scheduled for June 2004, this new date has been set to ensure both old and new roadside equipment is linked to the police control office and working correctly before being launched.

MOT Tests

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy that the new computer system intended to be used for MOT testing is not introduced nationwide until he is satisfied that no delays will be caused by the use of the new technology. [191186]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 15 October 2004]: Overall the new computerised MOT service should have no adverse impact on test times, but it will take time for MOT station users to become accustomed to new processes. Current trials will identify and address factors likely to cause delays. The system will not be rolled out until we are satisfied that contracted service levels, designed to ensure MOT tests are not delayed, will be met.

New Road, Mawdesley

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what powers Lancashire county council has to designate New Road in Mawdesley, Lancashire, as a 20 mph zone. [190774]

Mr. Jamieson: All local traffic authorities were given consent to introduce 20 mph speed limits and 20 mph speed zones when the Road Traffic Regulation Act (Amendment) Act Order 1999 (S.I. 1999/1608) came into force on 16 June 1999.

The decision on identifying the most appropriate speed limit is determined against an assessment framework, taking into account the local environment, the level of vulnerable road users and the road's position in the functional hierarchy.


Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the safety of the railways. [191459]

Mr. McNulty: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the railway health and safety regulator, recently published its annual report on the safety record of Britain's railways during 2003–04. Copies are available from the Libraries of the House.

Overall, there has been a continued improvement in railway safety indicators. The year saw the lowest number of significant train incidents on record as well as no train incident passenger fatalities. The total number of signals passed at danger (SPADs) in 2003–04 was the lowest 12-month total since records began in 1985, and there were also reductions in acts of vandalism, broken rails and assaults on staff. The fitment of the Train
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Protection Warning System, which reduces the risks from trains passing red signals, was successfully completed at the end of 2003.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will make a statement on the condition of (a) Romford and (b) Gidea Park railway stations; [191456]

(2) what plans he has to improve facilities at (a) Romford and (b) Gidea Park railway station. [191458]

Mr. McNulty: Romford and Gidea Park stations are managed on a day-to-day basis by ONE Great Eastern. Their franchise agreement with the Strategic Rail Authority requires them to maintain minimum standards of facilities at stations in terms of waiting accommodation, the provision of information, cleaning and maintenance. These requirements are currently being met. An audit programme is built into the franchise agreement to ensure that there is no degradation of facilities.

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether it is his policy that car parking should be restricted at provincial railway stations in order to discourage long-distance commuting. [191759]

Mr. McNulty: The provision and management of car parking facilities is at the discretion of the train operating companies. Train operators will provide car parking where they consider it appropriate to do so.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what plans he has to twin-track the rail line from London Waterloo to Exeter; and if he will make a statement; [192126]

(2) what plans he has to reduce journey times on the Exeter to London Waterloo line; and if he will make a statement. [192128]

Mr. McNulty: There are no current plans for double-tracking or journey time reductions. The needs of the area will be considered by the South West Regional Planning Assessment which will include input from the relevant local authorities. Service frequencies from some stations on the line are to be enhanced from the December 2004 timetable. For example, Yeovil will receive an hourly service from London.

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he asked the promoters of the Central Railway project for a guarantee that they would not seek financial assistance from the Government at any stage of the project. [192198]

Mr. McNulty: I refer the hon. Member to the statement made on 25 March by my hon. Friend the then Minister for Transport Official Report, column 68WS.

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