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Colin Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what research has been conducted in the last five years into the safety of re-surfaced roads in all weather conditions; and what the key findings were. 
Dr. Ladyman: Following the concerns expressed by Derbyshire county council in 2001 regarding the skid resistance on newly laid surfaces that were based on their own specification, the Highways Agency carried out an initial assessment of the skid resistance properties of newly laid modern surfaces. These findings were inconclusive and therefore a further phase of measurements and assessment were instigated in 2003. The findings are to be reported shortly. The Highways Agency also commissioned research in early 2005 regarding the accident risks on the modern surfaces. Findings will be reported in 2008.
The Department for Transport, on behalf of the UK Roads Board has commissioned best practice guidance for local authorities on how and where thin surfacings and stone mastic asphalts can be applied. The results of this research will be available in the autumn.
Traffic authorities (local highway authorities and the Highways Agency) have the powers to set local speed limits through section 84 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, where they feel that the national limit is not
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appropriate, being best placed to manage their road network and set appropriate speed limits, taking into account local needs and considerations.
Many developments have taken place in speed management since 1993, and the Department consulted on draft updated guidance on setting local speed limits at the end of 2004. As well as further improving clarity and consistency, the draft seeks to incorporate important wider factors such as quality of life through, for example, striking a more sensible balance between road safety, accessibility and environmental objectives, especially in rural areas, and taking better account of the needs of more vulnerable road users.
The consultation prompted a considerable number of wide-ranging comments, which are currently being analysed. The updated guidance on the setting of local speed limits will be published later this year.
The Department is however in the process of updating its guidance to Traffic authorities (local highway authorities and the Highways Agency) on the setting of local speed limits, which are set through section 84 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 when the national limit is not appropriate.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his timetable is for publishing accessibility regulations for taxis under Part 5 of the Disabilities Discrimination Act 1995; and if he will make a statement. 
The Government's proposals to introduce Taxi Accessibility Regulations under Part 5 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) were announced in the House on 26 October 2003. These would see the phasing in from 2010 (for all newly licensed vehicles), of regulations in specified licensing areas (those which meet one or more of the following criteria: a licensing authority area population of a least 120,000 people; a major transport interchange; a major tourist attraction or an existing mandatory policy resulting in 100 per cent. accessible vehicles). Full compliance would be required by 2020.
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The 2010 date has been proposed to accommodate a full public consultation process, to give sufficient time for vehicle manufacturers and converters to produce new models that meet the regulations, and to give the trade sufficient time to adapt to the change.
We are currently developing the technical specification which will form the basis for the regulations. To assist this process, the Department recently held a seminar for stakeholders from industry, organisations representing disabled people and licensing authorities to discuss both the technical and policy implications of the proposals. The views expressed at the seminar will be used to shape the final consultation package.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will ensure that train operating companies that plan to operate a congestion charge for commuters at peak hours are not awarded rail franchises. 
Derek Twigg: A wide range of fares are regulated. This includes the majority of peak commuter fares including season tickets and travelcards. Overall, regulated fares are capped so that they cannot increase by more than RPI+1 per cent. a year. Other fares are entirely a matter for train operators, and will continue to be set on a commercial basis.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) railway employees, (b) bus drivers and conductors and (c) taxi drivers have been the victims of offences of violence in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate his Department has made of the proportion of passengers who had no seat on Virgin trains from London to the North West in the last period for which figures are available. 
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