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23 Jan 2006 : Column 1721W—continued

Alstom Rail Test Track

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions his Department has held with (a) Network Rail, (b) the Association of Train Operating Companies and (c) Alstom about the impact of the closure of the Alstom rail test track on (i) jobs and (ii) engineering capacity in the UK. [41057]

Derek Twigg: The Department has held informal discussions with Network Rail and the Association of Train Operating Companies about the implications for UK railway testing capability of Alstom's announcement of its intention to surrender its lease of the Asfordby/Old Dalby test track. Alstom's announcement was not preceded by discussions with the
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Department. BRB Residuary Ltd. has subsequently asked Alstom to clarify its intentions so that the future of the facility can be considered.

Aylesbury Southern Link Road

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the proposed Aylesbury southern link road. [43308]

Ms Buck: There are currently no proposals for an Aylesbury southern relief road before the Secretary of State. I am aware that local authorities in the Milton Keynes and South Midlands area submitted sub-regional studies to the South East England Regional Assembly on proposals for delivering housing growth, including infrastructure to support new developments. This scheme was included in the information supplied by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes authorities. It is for the Regional Assembly to consider the study's recommendations as they develop the South East Plan.

Bus Companies

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many bus companies were in existence in each of the last five years. [44250]

Ms Buck: Information relating specifically to bus companies is not held centrally. The following table relates to the number of Public Service Vehicle Operator's licences (which are required by any bus or coach operator) in issue for the last five years:
Special restricted146120128126112
Standard international


A Public Service Operator licence is generally required to carry passengers for hire or reward in vehicles adapted to carry nine or more passengers, and smaller vehicles in some circumstances.

There are four types of Public Service Vehicle Operator's licence. The special restricted licence is only available to Hackney Carriage operators who wish to use their taxis to operate a registered local bus service. The restricted licence only allows the operation of a maximum of two vehicles up to 16 seats. There are no restrictions on the number or size of vehicles for the other two types of licence which are, essentially, those used by bus and coach operators.

Currently there are approximately 1,700 PSV licence holders claiming Bus Service Operators Grant, which is a rebate on the fuel duty paid by the operator for the fuel used while operating a local bus service.

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of the impact of fuel duty on local bus operators. [44249]

Ms Buck: Operators of local bus services are entitled to claim Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) from this Department. In general this grant is equivalent to 80 per cent. of the duty paid on the fuel used in operating services (the percentage of duty reimbursed is higher for gas used as a road fuel and bio-diesel).

The rate of BSOG is kept under regular review.

Policy on fuel duty is of course a matter for HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs.

Concessionary Travel

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether a senior citizen will be eligible for free travel in an area where he (a) is not a council taxpayer and (b) has a second home under new proposals for concessionary travel. [44626]

Ms Buck: In such cases, it is at the local authority's discretion.

Cycling England

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the Department's funding to Cycling England is for each of the next three years. [43296]

Derek Twigg: The Department has provided Cycling England with a budget of £5 million per year for the three financial years from 2005–06.
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Executive Agencies

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) targets, (b) advice and (c) guidance his Department has given to executive agencies that fall under the remit of his Department on the reorganisation of their administrative functions on a regional basis; and if he will make a statement. [41648]

Ms Buck: Agency key targets are set annually and agreed with the Department and Ministers, taking into account wider government objectives and priorities. Since its formation on 29 May 2002, the central Department has set no specific targets and offered no specific advice or guidance to the executive agencies on the subject of reorganisation of their administrative functions on a regional basis.

Identity Fraud

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what training his Department has provided for (a) front desk and (b) administrative staff in relation to identity fraud. [41411]

Ms Buck: The Department is fully committed to reducing identity fraud and provides training for staff where it is required as part of their role. Such training is provided through specific courses, as part of general job specific training, or through mentoring.

Night Flying Restrictions

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether it is his policy to allow the overall number of night flights into and out of Heathrow airport to increase. [43185]

Ms Buck: We have published a consultation paper, Night Flying Restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports, Stage 2. of Consultation on Restrictions to apply from 30 October 2005". This invited views on proposals for future night flight restrictions. We are considering responses to that consultation and will announce our decisions in due course.

Predictive Dialling

John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2005, Official Report, column 2315W, on predictive diallers, whether his Department makes calls using predictive dialling technology to groups other than members of the public. [43737]

Ms Buck: The Department for Transport does not use predictive dialling technology.

Public Transport

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the merits ofa public transport (a) hub and (b) corridor for Aylesbury; and if he will make a statement. [43310]

Ms Buck: A public transport hub proposal for Aylesbury was provisionally approved for Community Infrastructure Fund (CIF) bid funding in March 2005.
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Ministers are expecting to announce the final decision on this shortly, as well as on other transport CIF proposals in Aylesbury.

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much has been spent on subsidies for (a) rail and (b) bus travel in East Yorkshire in each of the last five years. [44248]

Ms Buck: Rail services in East Yorkshire are supplied as part of four rail franchises with wider geographical boundaries than the county. Subsidies cannot be identified to a particular region.

Information on subsidies for local bus services is not available for East Yorkshire. However, figures are available for the East Riding of Yorkshire unitary authority. Expenditure by the authority on support of bus services is shown in the table (this includes expenditure funded by the Department's Rural Bus Subsidy Grant.)
Bus subsidy (£000)

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what his policy is on the proposed new (a) railway station and (b) park and ride scheme at Stoke Mandeville; [43294]

(2) what his policy is on park and ride schemes for (a) Weedon Hill and (b) Aston Clinton. [43303]

Ms Buck: The Community Infrastructure Fund (CIF) proposal for Aylesbury Parkway rail station to the north of Aylesbury includes a park and ride scheme. This was provisionally approved in March 2005 for CIF funding. Ministers are expecting to announce the final decision on this shortly, as well as on other CIF proposals in Aylesbury.

A park and ride scheme at Stoke Mandeville is included in a list of schemes recently proposed by Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire local authorities for inclusion in the South East Plan. It is now for the South East Regional Assembly to consider this proposal as they develop the South East Plan.

New park and ride schemes at Weedon Hill and Aston Clinton are not identified as major schemes in the Buckinghamshire county council's provisional local transport plan. Any such proposals are for the local authority to consider and develop as appropriate.

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much money has been spent on improvements in transport infrastructure in Gravesham since 1997. [43275]

Ms Buck: Since the introduction of Local Transport Plans in 2000, Kent county council has received around £160 million for local transport improvements and maintenance schemes. In addition the county council has £16 million for the Kent Fasttrack public transport scheme.
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Between 1997 and 2000 the county council received approximately £159 million for local transport capital investment. £16 million was provided for the South Thames-side Development Route Section 4 (some of which is included in the £159 million). The Department does not have the data to identify a figure for all local transport investment in Gravesham.

The Highways Agency's improvements have included the widening of the A2 between Bean and Cobham Phase One, costing £23 million. This work was completed in 2005.

Kent has benefited from the new trains and associated power supply and depot upgrades delivered as part of the Mark 1 slam door" stock replacement programme, the total value of the investment (benefiting Kent and other parts of London and the South East) being in the region of £2 billion.

The Gravesham constituency has also benefited from the £4.6 billion Channel Tunnel Rail Link project, which includes a major new station within Gravesham constituency at Ebbsfleet, which will be served by international trains to Paris and Brussels from 2007 and high speed domestic trains to St. Pancras from 2009 (journey time Ebbsfleet to St. Pancras 16 minutes).

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve access to public transport for disabled people in Gravesham. [43276]

Ms Buck: We have introduced accessibility planning" into the local transport planning process to encourage local authorities and other agencies to assess more systematically whether people can access transport services in their areas. This process covers all forms of transport from buses, coaches and taxis to cycling and walking networks. Making provision for disabled people is a condition against which the resulting Local Transport Plans (LTPs) are assessed.

At a local level, we are supporting the continued introduction of low floor buses in Gravesham. The Kickstart project (services 495/498 between Kings Farm, Christianfields, Gravesend Town Centre, Pepper Hill and Bluewater), launched in March 2005, introduced low floor single deck buses to the route replacing minibuses which were inaccessible to wheelchair users. The introduction of the new vehicles was combined with a programme of work to introduce raised kerbs and bus boarders on this route.

The Department continues to invest in accessibility improvements in Gravesham through LTP funding. Kent county council, Gravesham's local bus provider, Arriva and the Gravesham Access Group (which represents disabled people in the district) work in close partnership to identify priorities for funding. This includes identifying stops which require raised kerbing, dropped kerbs or hard standing.

LTP funding has also resulted in a £14.5 million investment in Fastrack, the new bus based transit system serving Gravesend, which will have fully accessible vehicles and roadside infrastructure designed in accordance with current best practice. Due to commence in March 2006, Fastrack will have bus boarders at all Gravesham stops to complement the fleet
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of new low-floor vehicles, providing level access for all passengers. All Fastrack stops will also be fitted with real time information displays.

Arriva estimates that at present over 70 per cent. of their Gravesham buses are low floor. They also endeavour to ensure that all staff receive disability awareness training.

Rail services in Gravesham are also generally accessible, a situation that will be enhanced with the completion of Ebbsfleet station. When opened, this station will offer high standards of accessibility and will be served by trains which meet the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 (RVAR) operating on the Integrated Kent Franchise. This will provide fast access to Stratford International and London St.Pancras stations (both of which will be fully accessible) and also south to Ashford International together with access to 'Eurostar' services to Belgium and France. The new station will have ample parking including convenient spaces reserved for disabled passengers.

More generally disabled people in Gravesham, as elsewhere in the country, will also benefit from the provisions in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA 2005). We have already laid regulations which will, from 4 December 2006, lift the transport exemption in Part 3 of the Act for land-based public transport, vehicle hire, breakdown services and vehicles used on leisure and tourism transport services. We will also be consulting shortly on draft regulations to set an end date" of no later than 1 January 2020 when all trains will have to meet RVAR and to apply those regulations to older trains when they are refurbished.

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