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Transport Projects

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department takes to tackleoptimism bias in transport project promoters' estimation of capital costs. [60592]

Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 22 March 2006]: The department is taking a number of steps to tackle thesystematic tendency for promoters to be overly optimistic in estimating capital costs.

Firstly, to ensure that optimism bias is factored intodecision making the department makes explicit adjustments to promoters' cost estimates within economic appraisal. The adjustments are empirically based (e.g. using data on cost overruns for transport projects in the past).

Secondly, the department is taking a number of steps to try to reduce optimism bias in the future. These include:

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department takes to ensure that traffic forecasts provided by project promoters are realistic. [60593]

Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 22 March 2006]: A range of appraisal information including assessments using the New Approach to Transport Appraisal system, is required alongside all schemes submitted to the department for funding. Traffic forecasts are used by scheme promoters as part of these appraisals. There is departmental guidance available to promoters, setting out the appropriate use of forecasting techniques, to ensure that traffic is realistically forecasted. The forecasts are checked by the promoters, such as the Highways Agency or other appropriate body, and by the department's modellers. The full appraisal is finally inspected by the department as part of the value for money assessment, to provide Ministers with advice on the case for a particular scheme.

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made ofthe difference between demand forecasts used by promoters of (a) rail projects and (b) road projects in advance of building transport projects and the actual recorded demand. [60594]

Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 22 March 2006]: The Department, as a matter of routine, expects to assess the impacts arising from major transport schemes which it has supported against the forecasts originally made, in order to learn lessons for future schemes.

With regard to rail, the Department has been monitoring the usage of section one of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link against the original forecasts, as reported by the National Audit Office in their report Progress on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link", published in July 2005. Further examples of similar evaluations are the studies regarding the Jubilee Line Extension and the Manchester and Sheffield Light Rail Schemes.

All Highways Agency schemes have been subject to some form of post-opening project evaluation, including a comparison of outturn demand against forecast, since 1981.
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Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which major (a) road, (b) rail and (c) other schemes approved since 1997 have assessed future patronage or traffic levels based on (i) a fixed trip matrix and (ii) other forecast models. [60595]

Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 22 March 2006]: The Department does not ordinarily compile information on the modelling technique used by external promoters in assessing future patronage; to compile a list of schemes on this basis would be prohibitively expensive. However, scheme promoters are expected to use appropriate techniques in the appraisals of a project, using the guidance published by the Department.

Since 1997, of some sixty Highways Agency road schemes that have been approved, around 90 per cent. were appraised using a fixed trip matrix method to assess future traffic levels; a similar proportion would be expected for local authority major road schemes. The 'elasticity' approach has been the alternative used in larger schemes. This technique models the growth in traffic induced by the completion of a transport improvement—something a fixed trip matrix would notdo. The Department for Transport has recently published guidance for road scheme promoters to encourage greater use of improved 'variable demand' appraisal techniques. All rail schemes are assessed using an 'elasticity' approach. In the largest schemes, affecting a number of modes, full multi-modal studies are conducted which would better articulate modal change as well as induced traffic.


Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the new Traveline services for providing travellers with details of travel by public transport. [60947]

Dr. Ladyman: Traveline was launched during summer 2000, and is managed and funded by local authorities and transport operators.

During 2001–2002 the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions funded on behalf of Traveline three 'mystery shopping' exercises, to assess levels of accuracy and customer service provided. Traveline has continued to fund a further five waves of mystery shopping and will continue with the research for the foreseeable future. Each wave has indicated that the Traveline service has significantly improved in all regions since the first wave of mystery shopping was carried out. The time taken to answer calls and the customer service elements of the calls are generally satisfactory or good, with all scoring 90 per cent. or more in the last wave. Overall 97 per cent. of the answers given were completely accurate and the results show an improvement across the regions.

The Department for Transport funded a research project in 2003 to assess effective future delivery of Traveline to the customer. As a result of the research Traveline has extended its future minimum opening hours; has identified the requirements for existing Traveline customers; and has established the extent of information that needs to be given by the Traveline
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service. The recommendations and decisions on changes to the future Traveline service following research are made by Traveline.

Traveline currently receives over four million calls a year.


Arms Exports

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Italian government was informed of the re-export of a shipment of Beretta semi-automatic pistols by Super Vision International Ltd. of London before they were transferred to Iraq. [60940]

Malcolm Wicks: The Government contribute information on their export licensing decisions, by destination, to the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports (COARM) Report. There was otherwise no obligation on the Government to inform any other member state about its export licensing decision in this case.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the 20,878 semi-automatic pistols exported to Iraq referred to in the Second Quarterly Strategic Export Controls Report 2004 (a) had been granted an earlier import permit by his Department, (b) were subject to post-export checks and (c) arrived in Iraq. [59990]

Malcolm Wicks: I can confirm that the items in question were granted a UK import licence.

The goods were received by the Joint Contracting Office in Iraq and were distributed by them to the Iraqi Police, Ministry of Oil, and Security Forces.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether evidence has been given to him that a British shipment of arms to Iraq has been diverted for illicit purposes; and if he will make a statement. [60999]

Malcolm Wicks: No such evidence has been presented to me.

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