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15 Nov 2005 : Column 1142W—continued

North Sea Coastguard

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the process for selecting the next North Sea Coastguard Rescue Helicopter contract; what discussions the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has had with Highland and Islands local authorities on this matter; what assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the current service provided; and what assessment has been made of the technical issues surrounding the use of AS332 Super Puma aircraft. [28985]

Dr. Ladyman: The contract currently at issue will ensure the continued provision of Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter services at the four coastguard bases at Sumburgh, Stornoway, Portland and Lee-on-Solent. The contract for all bases is yet to be let but a preferred bidder has been selected.

The procurement process used has followed European and Government procurement rules. These do not require direct consultation with local committees.
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The contract requirement is based upon operational capability and does not specify helicopter types. A range of different types of aircraft have been put forward by bidders and these have all been assessed against capability criteria.

The preferred bidder for the five year contract is CMC (Scotia) Ltd. The helicopters under consideration are the Sikorsky S92 for Sumburgh and Stornoway and the Augusta Bell AB139 for Portland and Lee-on-Solent. Both aircraft and proposed methodologies meet the operational capability requirements. The endurance and speed of the new aircraft types exceed those of the current S61N.

The evaluation team considered carefully the relative merits of the Preferred bidder's proposal to use new aircraft in the SAR role, but concluded that benefits that would derive from the use of new technology offset any potential associated risks.

The MCA remains committed to the provision of high quality SAR services in the UK, and the contract will require the continued provision of those services to the Highlands and Islands. There will be no reduction in the standard of service as a result of the proposed new contract.

Port of London Authority

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the (a) functions and (b) existence of the Port of London Authority will be reviewed in the context of the review of the Greater London Authority's functions. [27934]

Dr. Ladyman: No.

Ports Police Forces

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his policy is on the establishment of ports police forces. [27933]

Dr. Ladyman: Port police forces are constituted under local Acts which provide individual ports with their statutory powers. Decisions on establishing and maintaining existing ports police force are matters for the individual ports.

Rail Services

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he expects the target of improving punctuality and reliability of rail services to at least 85 per cent. by 2006 to be met. [27482]

Derek Twigg: Current performance remains on track to achieve or better the Industry Public Performance Measure Moving Annual Average (PPM MAA) target of 85 per cent. by March 2006.

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects the Office of the Rail Regulator to make a decision regarding the bid by Grand Central to run a rail service between Sunderland, Hartlepool and London. [28937]

Derek Twigg: I am advised by the Office of Rail Regulation that it hopes to reach a decision on the application by Grand Central by early February 2006.
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Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on rail services in Kent with particular reference to issues raised with the Rail Minister at a meeting with hon. Members representing constituencies in Kent on 9 June. [28194]

Derek Twigg: The future pattern of rail services in Kent will be determined through the new Integrated Kent Franchise to be awarded before the end of this year. I have written to the hon. Member following our meeting.


Stephen Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the (a) total liabilities are and (b) estimated asset base is of Network Rail; and whether all the (i) assets and (ii) liabilities are on the Government balance sheet. [27041]

Mr. Newmark: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the off-balance sheet liabilities are of Network Rail; and whether this amount is gross of any assets. [26226]

Derek Twigg: Full details of Network Rail's liabilities and assets are set out in the company's Annual Report 2005, available from the website:

Network Rail has been classified as a private sector entity by the Office for National Statistics for the purposes of the UK National Accounts. The Secretary of State provides credit support arrangements for Network Rail's borrowing which are recorded as contingent liabilities in the Department for Transport's accounts. As at 31 March 2005, these arrangements supported £15.6 billion of net borrowing by Network Rail.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) whether his Department is working on rail network access options for the proposed Crossrail services which would seek to ensure that all users of the rail network are provided with open and reliable access; [26525]

(2) for what reasons other rail network users have not been consulted on the development of rail network access options for the proposed Crossrail services; [26526]

(3) whether there are plans to use the acquisition power provided to the operators of Crossrail. [26527]

Derek Twigg: I shall publish a consultation paper describing the content of the Crossrail access option that will be developed and submitted to the Office of Rail Regulation for approval. The access option would in due course confer access rights for Crossrail services on Network Rail's network and the consultation paper describes how these rights relate to other users. In parallel a cross-industry timetabling working group is examining the timetable simulation work undertaken so far. It will identify and seek to resolve pinch points between the access needs of all operators, where possible by adjusting the timetable. If this is insufficient to resolve the problem it will report options to a railway forum that I chair.
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The Crossrail Bill contains a variety of acquisition powers in relation to land and other rights in connection with the construction and operation of Crossrail. The Secretary of State, not the operator, has certain powers in relation to railway access rights.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his policy is for ensuring the personal safety of travellers on railways; and what measures the Department has in place to ensure passenger safety is maintained. [27943]

Derek Twigg: The Department and the Health & Safety Executive's HM Railway Inspectorate work closely with the British Transport Police and the rail industry in seeking to maintain passenger safety.

We are committed to reducing crime and the fear of crime wherever it occurs in the transport system. For example in 1998 we launched the Secure Stations Scheme, which is designed to improve security at overground and underground stations for passengers and staff, and we have recently published guidance on improving personal security on trains.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress the Department has made towards making sure railways meet the requirements set out in the Disability Discrimination Act 2004; how he measures progress; and what procedures will be in put place to deal with non-compliance. [27931]

Derek Twigg: Accessibility improvements are being delivered by different mechanisms such as franchising, major projects, investment in rolling stock and maintenance and renewal of the rail network.

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 (RVAR) made under Part 5 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 require that all new passenger rolling stock introduced from 1 January 1999 is accessible to disabled people, including wheelchair users. By the end of this year 4,500 rail vehicles will have been introduced which meet the requirements of those regulations.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 requires that from no later than 1 January 2020 all rail vehicles will have to comply. It also provides for a certification regime for new rail vehicles and an enforcement regime based on civil rather than the criminal sanctions provided in the 1995 Act. We plan to bring in those changes from the end of next year.

On stations, under Part 3 of the Act operators are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled people do not find it impossible or unreasonably difficult to access their services. Where a disabled person believes that they have been discriminated against contrary to Part 3 they can bring a claim against the operator to the county court (in England and Wales) and to the sheriff's court (in Scotland).

From the end of 2006 it is proposed that similar duties should also apply to the train service itself though, given the provisions of the RVAR, those duties will not extend to making physical alterations to vehicles.

We will be publishing a strategy for rail accessibility in the new year which will include details of the initial allocation of the £370 million ring-fenced Access for All funding which we announced in March 2004 to deliver station access improvements over the next 10 years.
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