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Ms Buck: Local authority congestion charging schemes may make provision for exemptions for disabled drivers. The Government will consider with interested parties the need for nationally defined exemptions.
Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve the Department's performance in replying to correspondence from (a) the general public and (b) hon. Members. 
Ms Buck: The Department for Transport and its agencies make every effort to handle all correspondence effectively and efficiently and have targets of between 10 and 20 working days for replying to letters from members of the public. I would also refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 27 October 2005, Official Report, columns 50203W in response to his question about dealing with hon. Members correspondence.
Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the impact of Crossrail on the aggregate depots in West London; and what estimate he has made of transfers of aggregates from rail to road. 
Derek Twigg: It is expected that there will be no permanent loss of capability of aggregate depots as a result of Crossrail. During Crossrail construction, depot capability is expected to be maintained in all but one case. Overall the impact on aggregate depots is not expected to cause a transfer from rail to road.
Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the capacity of platform facilities at Heathrow airport to accommodate both Crossrail and Airtrack services. 
Derek Twigg: On Second Reading of the Crossrail Bill, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport described the ongoing discussions between the Government and BAA about access to Heathrow for Crossrail. The current intention is that Crossrail will serve terminals 14 and will therefore not affect the development of services to terminal 5 such as the Airtrack scheme. We will continue to discuss these matters with BAA as the Airtrack proposals progress.
Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Department spent on in-house training on (a) literacy and (b) numeracy (i) in total and (ii) per head in each year since 2002. 
Ms Buck: The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency has run an in-house literacy course since February 2005. The costs for that were £620 in total and £124 per head. The Department has not delivered any other in-house training on literacy and numeracy.
Five staff have requested and attended an in-house literacy course run by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency during 2005, none have requested numeracy courses. During 2002, 2003 and 2004 no staff requested such training, nor have there been any requests from other areas of the Department during 2005.
3 Nov 2005 : Column 1285W
Ms Buck: The Department encourages its staff to improve their skills, as part of that the central Department's intranet has a page which provides individuals with information on the national tests, assessment centres and some literacy and numeracy courses.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will order a full investigation into the reliability of the service of the Great Western franchise in advance of re-tendering being completed, with specific reference to the performance of (a) First Great Western and (b) Network Rail. 
Derek Twigg: I have already met First Great Western (FGW) and Network Rail to assess performance. Joint action plans are in place between Network Rail and FGW to address performance trends and these are monitored monthly.
Derek Twigg: The Health and Safety Executive's HM Railway Inspectorate has responsibility for enforcing the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 on Britain's railways. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch, which became operational on 17 October, conducts no blame" investigations into accidents and makes recommendations to prevent similar accidents in the future.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the reliability of the rail service between (a) Paddington and Reading, (b) Paddington and Swindon, (c) Paddington and Gloucester and (d) Paddington and Cheltenham; and how many delays have occurred on each route in the last 12 months due to (i) planned and (ii) unplanned maintenance; and if he will make a statement. 
Derek Twigg: The Department for Transport does not keep records on the number of delays due to planned or unplanned maintenance. However, I recently met First Great Western and Network Rail to discuss performance, and I understand that joint action plans are in place between Network Rail and First Great Western (FGW) to address performance trends. These are monitored monthly.
Derek Twigg: Investment at individual stations is a matter for Network Rail. However, the London to Hastings routes have benefited from significant investment through the Southern Region new trains programme and the associated power upgrade. This has seen the elimination of the slam door trains previously used on this part of the network and their replacement by modern, air conditioned trains on all services.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will encourage train operating companies to undertake public consultations for rail users affected by train timetabling changes on the Hastings to London Victoria and Hastings to Charing Cross lines. 
Derek Twigg: Under the terms of each franchise agreement train operating companies are required to consult on significant changes with all relevant local authorities and either the Rail Passengers Council or London TravelWatch.
Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what level of service will be specified in the new contract for the Great Western franchise between (a) Herefordshire and (b) Worcestershire and London Paddington; and what rolling stock will be used to provide this service. 
Derek Twigg: Herefordshire and Worcestershire will retain at least the same level of service as they have today. The current proposal for the new contract is to enhance the service with two additional round trips to the Cotswolds.
Derek Twigg: £4,688 million of public funds were spent on rail in 200304. A detailed breakdown of that spend is set out in table 4d of the Department's annual report which was published on 20 June 2005.
Mr. Pelling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether plans have been agreed to update Thameslink St. Pancras station with pedestrian links to the new Eurostar terminal; and whether finance has been made available. 
Derek Twigg: The timing and funding arrangements for the fit-out of Thameslink St. Pancras station are currently under consideration. Once the station is operational there will be direct pedestrian access to it from within the new Eurostar terminal via stairs, escalators and lifts.
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