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Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number of post offices that could be expected to close as a result of the possible loss of income arising from the ending of the contract for the Post Office card account in 2010. 
Barry Gardiner: [holding answer 13 February 2006]: The future size of the network will depend on many factors including the outcome of ongoing discussions between Post Office Ltd. and Department for Work and Pensions on what accounts, other than the Post Office card account, will be available after 2010.
Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he plans to take to prevent the closure of post offices following the ending of the contract for the Post Office card account. 
The future of the network will depend on many factors including the outcome of ongoing discussions between Post Office Ltd. and
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Department for Work and Pensions on what accounts, other than the Post Office card account, will be available after 2010.
Alun Michael: Yes. In April 2005, England's Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) took over responsibility from the Countryside Agency for delivery of rural economic and social regeneration policies, including responsibility for the regeneration of market towns. The RDAs work with local communities and businesses to deliver long term strategic investment plans that will sustain market towns as important rural service centres, geared to the particular needs and characteristics of each region.
As announced in Rural Strategy 2004, from 1 April 2005, Defra has devolved decision-making on delivery of economic and social regeneration policies to the Regional Development Agencies. This includes areas of activity such as those formerly covered by the Countryside Agency's Vital Villages and Market Towns programmes. The transfer of Countryside Agency funding aims to create an integrated rural funding programme and allow RDAs the flexibility to manage their own resources to meet their regional and Defra priorities. Additional resources from the Countryside Agency will also increase the RDAs expertise in innovation, countryside issues, research and rural development.
This move to devolve funding to the regions through RDAs is part of Central Government's devolving decision-making agenda. RDAs, working in partnership, will decide how to spend their resources to meet national targets and address regional needs. However, Defra is confident that by devolving these responsibilities to the RDAs and increasing their resources, rural delivery will become more responsive to local priorities and better focused on areas and people that need it most.
Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many organisations his Department considered to carry out the cost-benefit report into extending Sunday trading hours; which organisation was selected; what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department of compiling the report; and what measures are in place to ensure that the report will be independent. 
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) invited several organisations to submit a proposal for the study. Indepen Consulting Ltd. was selected to carry out the study. The project fee is currently commercially sensitive information and the DTI is
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unable to release this figure. The contractor has declared no potential conflicts of interest and the DTI is satisfied that the study will be independent.
Ms Buck: Bus companies outside London are not required by law to consult on fare or timetable changes, but must give the traffic commissioner and all relevant local authorities at least 56 days notice of variations to timetables of registered local bus services. Timetables and fares for the London bus network are set by Transport for London.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department has taken to ensure greater access to public transport for people with disabilities and visual impairments. 
Ms Buck: We are committed to providing an accessible public transport system. We have regulated to ensure that all new trains, buses and coaches are accessible to disabled people. We made provision in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 to extend the right of access" disabled people already have to other services to transport and to introduce other measures to improve accessibility.
The concept of a fast frequent service between Gatwick and Victoria will remain. The Brighton main line route utilisation strategy, however, made clear the need to improve punctuality and to reduce overcrowding on this busy route. Detailed proposals about how we resolve this are now being evaluated by the Department in discussion with Network Rail.
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Dr. Ladyman: Highways Agency traffic officers have begun patrolling motorways across the country to clear incidents and keep traffic flowing, and local highway authorities have now appointed traffic managers with new duties under the Traffic Management Act 2004. Trials of innovative new traffic management systems are in progress.
Dr. Ladyman: We are making good progress in delivering our programme of major improvements to the strategic road network. Since 2001 we have completed 35 major trunk road and motorway schemes. 15 schemes are currently under construction and we plan to start construction work on a further 27 schemes by April 2008. In the three years to 200708 we plan to spend £1.9 billionn on major improvement schemes on the trunk road and motorway network.
Dr. Ladyman: We are making good progress in delivering our programme of major improvements to the strategic road network. Since 2001 we have completed 35 major trunk road and motorway schemes 15 schemes are currently under construction and we plan to start construction work on a further 27 schemes by April 2008. In the three years to 200708 we plan to spend £1.9 billion on major improvement schemes on the trunk road and motorway network.
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