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Dr. Ladyman: Significant progress has been made putting measures in place to tackle congestion through targeted improvements and new methods of managing traffic. Since 2001 we have completed 32 major strategic road schemes. A further 15 major schemes are currently under construction, including widening of the M25 between Junctions 12 to 15 around Heathrow.
Uniformed Highways Agency Traffic Officers are now patrolling the motorway network in five regions of the country (West Midlands, South East, North West, North East, and East of England), having taken over some responsibilities from the police for managing incidents and keeping traffic moving. They now have powers to stop and direct traffic in live carriageways, and will be operational on all motorways by next summer.
Regional control centres are assuming responsibility for scheduling road works, monitoring road conditions, establishing diversion alternatives, setting variable message signs for real-time traffic management, and supporting traffic officers. Five regional control centres are currently operational, and all seven will be live by summer 2006.
Britain's first High Occupancy Vehicle (carpool) motorway lane will be trialled on the M1 between junctions 6A and 10 (St. Albans to Luton) in 2008, following widening of the motorway. As part of an Active Traffic Management pilot on the M42 corridor
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between junctions 3a and 7 to the east of Birmingham, mandatory variable speed limits became operational in November, with other aspects of the pilot to follow in 2006, including strictly controlled use of the hard shoulder as a running lane, and access management. Both schemes will operate at peak times to help minimise delay and congestion for road users.
Transport Direct, the Government's real-time web-based travel information and journey planning service for public and private transport, allows travellers to check the likelihood of delays and see whether choosing a different route, departure time or transport mode might suit them better. The service has now recorded 2.5 million user sessions since formal launch in December 2004. The Highways Agency's Traffic England" website is now operational with real-time information about traffic conditions on motorways and trunk roads.
The Traffic Management Act 2004 gave local authorities a duty and new powers to do all that is reasonably practicable to keep roads clear and traffic moving, including appointing traffic managers to manage local roads; powers to co-ordinate utility and telecoms companies' road works to minimise disruption, enforce parking and bus lanes, and some moving traffic offences from police.
In June the Government announced a Transport Innovation Fund to help local authorities develop local charging schemes. Up to £200 million per annum will be made available to support such schemes. Alistair Darling announced on 28 November that seven local authorities will share over £7 million in advance of the main fund to explore new ways to tackle local congestion.
Ms Buck: This information is not collated centrally. The duration, amount, cost and timing of gritting will depend upon each local authority's individual winter service operational plan, and the weather conditions they experience.
The Department for Transport strongly recommends that local highway authorities carry out winter maintenance in accordance with Section 13 of Well-maintained Highways: Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance Management" published by the UK Roads Liaison Group earlier this year.
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John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the percentage of daily journeys taken by road in the Leeds area from (a) 1980 to 1997, (b) 1997 to 2001 and (c) 2001 to the latest date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Buck: The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges" (DMRB) sets the design standards, including road widths, for motorways and other trunk roads throughout the UK. Where it is used for local road schemes, it has the status of guidance only, and it is for local highway authorities to decide on the extent to which it is used in any particular situation.
Guidance on the width of residential roads and footpaths is contained in Design Bulletin 32: Residential Roads and Footpaths", and in Places, Streets & Movement: A companion guide to Design Bulletin 32". In due course these two documents will be superseded by the Manual for Streets", currently expected to be published by the Department for Transport in late 2006.
The dimensions for parking bays are specified in Schedule 6 to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002" (SI No. 3113). Guidance on use of the markings for different categories of user is given in section 20 of Chapter 5 of the Traffic Signs Manual". Bays for general use can be varied in width between 1,800mm and 2,700mm at the local authority's discretion, to take account of local conditions. These bays may also be marked wholly or partially on the footway if the traffic order provides for this. Bays for disabled badge holders are normally required to be a minimum of 2,700mm wide (3,600mm maximum), but this minimum may be reduced to 1,800mm in a case where, on account of the nature of the traffic using the road, the overall width of the carriageway is insufficient to accommodate a wider bay. Echelon parking bays, set at an angle to the kerb, are required to be between 2,000mm and 2,500mm in width.
The Department has procedures in place to deal with misconduct, unsatisfactory performance or attendance. The procedures are published in our internal Staff Handbook that is readily available to staff.
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received on (a) licensing of and (b) other regulations relating to stretch limousines; and whether specific regulations apply to them. 
Ms Buck: Over recent years we have received a number of representations from numerous individuals and organisations about the licensing, operation and use of stretch limousines. Many of those concerns were aired in the House of Lords Report Stage debate on the Road Safety Bill 29 November 2005, Official Report, columns 12226W. We are very much aware of the issues and concerns surrounding the operation of stretch limousines and officials are actively looking at what can be done to clarify the position for all parties.
Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many reported incidents of (a) verbal abuse and (b) physical attack on train drivers, guards and ticket inspectors there have been in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Darling [holding answer 22 November 2005]: The number of crimes recorded for verbal abuse is not available as the British Transport police (BTP) does not record these offences separately. However, the number of crimes for fear or provocation of violence, harassment, alarm or distress and other public order offences is shown as follows. These numbers include all offences of verbal abuse.
The number of incidents of assaults on all rail staff while on duty, recorded by the BTP from April 1998, is also shown in the following table. A breakdown of these figures by train drivers, guards and ticket inspectors is not available.
BTP has recognised that staff assaults are a major concern for the train operating companies and their employees and subsequently view this crime as a policing priority. BTP continue to explore different methods of preventing and detecting staff assaults.
|Public order offences||Staff assaults recorded|
A change in counting rules occurred in 1998. This was built upon by changes in the National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS) in 2002. With the shift to a more
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customer focused approach and the recording of crime based upon the perception of the victim rather than the police satisfying themselves that a crime had taken place; it was inevitable that there would be a rise in the number of crimes recorded. This point was acknowledged by the Home Office in their publication, Crime in England and Wales 2002/03".
2. It should also be noted that changes in the National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS) in 2002 led to a rise in the number of crimes recorded, with the biggest impact on the 'Violence against the person' grouping equating to an average 23 per cent. increase in this crime recorded by police forces across England and Wales.
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