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4 Jul 2005 : Column 21W—continued

Electric Wheelchairs/Scooters

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to increase the number of electric powered wheelchair and scooter users who take out insurance cover. [9437]

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Ms Buck: We strongly encourage users of these vehicles to take out insurance cover. However there is no legal obligation for them to do so.

We are currently reviewing the law which governs the use of powered wheelchairs and powered scooters on the
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highway and one of the issues we have raised in consultation with stakeholders is whether there should be some form of compulsory insurance. The final report and recommendations from that review are expected in the summer and we will be looking closely at this and a range of other issues.


Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made ofthe effects on aircraft noise over Hammersmith and Fulham if the proposed third runway is built at Heathrow. [5895]

Ms Buck: Noise exposure estimates for the larger UK airports—including Heathrow with a possible third runway—were published in December 2003 to support the Air Transport White Paper and are in the document Revised Future Aircraft Noise Exposure Estimates for UK Airports", ERCD report 0308, available on the Department's website. They will be reviewed as necessary in the light of further work in hand to assess the prospects for future development at Heathrow, consistent with the conditions laid down in the White Paper.

The document does not attempt to assess noise impacts by individual London borough, but it includes an explanation of the methodology, figures for households and area affected at different noise levels, and diagrams to illustrate the Leq daytime contours for Heathrow under maximum use of the existing two runways and with a short third runway at various traffic levels.

Helicopter Noise

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will introduce controls on helicopter flights in residential areas to reduce noise nuisance; and if he will make a statement. [8689]

Ms Buck: The Government recognise that helicopter noise can be disturbing. UK helicopter noise certification standards exist in relation to helicopter noise and are based on the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) Annex 16—we both helped to establish, and have adopted, the international standard.

All civil aircraft fly subject to the legislation of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) and the Rules of the Air Regulations (RoA). These require that helicopters should not fly within 500 feet of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure (except when landing or taking off) nor below 1,000 feet over a congested area. Although these regulations are concerned primarily with safety, the height restrictions do give an incidental noise benefit.

There are no plans to introduce any further legislation on helicopter noise, but we seek reductions in noise at source by encouraging industry developments in aircraft and engine technology.

House Building (South-east)

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the likely effects of the Government's house building targets for
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the south-east on (a) traffic flows and (b) consequent noise levels on the M23 between junctions 9 and 10 and on the A23 beyond junction 10. [9393]

Dr. Ladyman: Changes to the traffic flows on the M23 between Junctions 9 and 10 will depend upon the future location of housing which will, in the first instance, be determined by the South East England Regional Assembly. The Highways Agency is contributing to deliberations on the draft Plan.

Traffic from the sustainable communities proposed for the south-east is unlikely to result in a noticeable increase in noise from motorways. However the Government will in 2007 publish maps of noise from motorways. These maps will be updated at least every five years to take into account any changes in conditions and plans to reduce noise levels will be reviewed accordingly.

Maritime Coastguard Agency

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of whether the Incident Management System computer database operated by the Maritime Coastguard Agency is working effectively; what steps he is taking to ensure the system operates well; and if he will make a statement. [8649]

Dr. Ladyman: The Incident Management System (IMS) works well. There were some initial teething problems with the Incident Management System, but these were all recorded and investigated. Any necessary improvements to the system have been implemented and the system is now working well. Any reported faults are dealt with promptly and do not impact on the Agency's ability to respond to search and rescue calls.

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of staffing levels at the Maritime Coastguard Agency; what steps he is taking to improve skill levels in the organisation; and if he will make a statement. [8650]

Dr. Ladyman: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency performs to a high standard and has the resources it needs for the functions it carries out. The Chief Executive and his Management Team keep the skills of staff under review as part of the Agency's approach to learning and development. Specifically in relation to those working in coastguard rescue co-ordination centres, the Agency uses a concept of Training Ahead of Need" for Coastguard Watch Assistants aspiring to be Watch Officers, which has the support of the PCS Union. Peer reviews are also used to test, develop and support the core skills of search planning and co-ordination.

Pensioners' Free Travel

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on what grounds the pensioners' free travel scheme excludes trams; and if he will reconsider this exclusion. [8925]

Ms Buck: The £350 million announced in the Budget for 2006–07 was to cover the extra costs of concessionary free travel on local bus services. Local authorities will remain able to offer concessions on light
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rail services after April 2006. This will continue to be at their discretion, based on their judgment of local needs and circumstances and their overall financial priorities.

Rail Infrastructure (London)

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list for each London borough the (a) rail viaducts and (b) rail bridges in use which have exceeded their original planned end-of-life date. [8067]

Derek Twigg: This is an operational matter for Network Rail. Network Rail advises that the information is not available in the form requested.

Speed Cameras

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of road traffic accidents occurred on or near to the calibration lines of speed cameras in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [8076]

Dr. Ladyman: The specific information requested is not available. The latest published information on the national safety camera programme—Three year evaluation report", carried out by University College London and PA Consulting Group, found that there had been a 40 per cent. reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured at camera sites, and a 33 per cent. reduction in the total number of personal injury collisions at camera sites. The report was published in June 2004 and copies are available in the Library and from the Department's website.


Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps are taken by the Highways Agency to evaluate the potential effects of road building schemes on (a) sites of special scientific interest, (b) areas of outstanding natural beauty and (c) national parks. [8447]

Dr. Ladyman: In designing and constructing new road schemes there is a strong presumption against schemes that would significantly affect environmentally sensitive sites, important species or important habitats. The Highways Agency evaluates the potential effects of road building proposals on the environment in liaison with the appropriate statutory bodies and other consultees.

Where such construction is unavoidable then this is only carried out after a rigorous examination of the possible impacts and the incorporation of mitigation measures to address these.

Sir Paul Beresford: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which roads in Surrey have had (a) crash barriers removed and (b) solid barriers replaced by wire barriers in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [9644]

Dr. Ladyman: For roads in Surrey for which the Secretary of State for Transport has responsibility, there are no locations where crash barriers have been removed without alternative containment being provided and there have been no cases in the last five years where wire rope safety barrier has been used to replace the existing barrier.
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On local roads the local highway authority is responsible for provision of barriers.

On trunk roads whatever safety barriers are used, they are all required to meet the same minimum specified performance criteria in terms of containment.

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