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European Transport Council

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I attended the Transport Council in Brussels on 27 March.

The Council's main item was a debate on the draft Public Service Obligation (PSO) regulation which would provide new rules for public funding of rail and road passenger transport services. The discussion focused on the extent of permissible exemptions from
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competitive tendering, measures to prevent distortion of competition and the status of contracts concluded before any new regulation comes into force.

Most member states could accept the possibility of contracts for long-distance, regional and suburban rail services being directly awarded without competition. But, the majority could not accept that authorities should also be free to award bus and light rail contracts directly to an operator of their choice. I stated that the UK opposed any extension of the power directly to award contracts beyond the long-distance and regional rail markets, which the Council had accepted in December.

On behalf of the UK I argued for additional measures to be put in place to prevent distortions of competition by operators in receipt of directly awarded contracts. The UK received limited support for such measures, with most member states believing the Commission's proposal contained sufficient safeguards.

Most member states favoured the continuation of existing contracts until their expiry date, particularly if the contracts had been awarded on a competitive basis.

In conclusion, the Austrian presidency invited Coreper to resume its detailed examination of the proposal with a view to bringing a text to the Council for agreement in June.

The Council also held a discussion on road safety. The Commissioner stressed the value of recently agreed road safety legislation, but noted that further work was necessary. The Commission will therefore shortly come forward with new proposals to meet the objectives of the road safety action plan. The proposals will include minimum safety standards for new roads on the trans-European network, improved cross-border recognition of the most frequent breaches of road safety law, a requirement for retrofitting dead-angle mirrors, and a requirement for the fitting and use of day-time running lights. The UK has concerns about some of these measures and we will need to consider them very carefully.

The Council also heard the Commissioner's presentation on the communication on the promotion of inland waterway transport ("NAIADES"). The proposal includes a number of strands to revitalise Inland Waterway transport in order to reduce traffic congestion and harmful effects on the environment. The Austrian presidency indicated they want to agree Council conclusions on this proposal in June.

The Council reached a general approach on aviation security. The proposal, if political agreement is achieved, will update the existing Regulation 2320/02. The new proposal would help to clarify, simplify, and further harmonise legal requirements with the aim of enhancing overall security in civil aviation. The Council also took note that the Commission would complete its study on financing of security by the end of 2006.

The Council heard the Commissioner's progress report on the SESAR proposal, the project for implementation of the Single European Sky (air traffic management). The Commissioner explained that the proposal would establish a Joint Undertaking to manage the development of a new air traffic management system, which would improve air safety and reduce the environmental impact of aviation. The project would be supported by the European Community, Eurocontrol
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and industry, and also possibly third countries in the future. The Austrian presidency hopes to reach a general approach at the June Transport Council.

The Council received a progress report from the Commissioner on the air transport negotiations between the EU and the US. He reported that the US Government aims to finalise its rule on airline control by the end of April. In the Commissioner's view, and provided the US proposals were acceptable, this timeframe could allow Ministerial approval at the June Transport Council and a signature at the EU-US summit on 21 June.

The Council was able to agree conclusions and to grant the Commission a mandate to take forward negotiations with Russia regarding Siberian overflight payments.

The Commissioner gave a progress report on the Galileo satellite navigation project. The second round of negotiations with the consortium bidding for the PPP concession have begun, and the contract is expected to conclude by the end of the year. The most difficult issues so far were: risk sharing between the public and the private sectors; and design risk. The Commissioner will provide a further update on development at the June Transport Council and would inform member states on the outcome of the negotiations as soon as they were known. The presidency noted that it would be important to provide information to member states in sufficient time to allow them to make an assessment of the outcome of the negotiations before the contract was signed.

The presidency noted that member states had responded in writing to the three questions on the EU strategy for sustainable development proposed by a Friends of the Presidency group to inform debate at the next European Council. The Austrian presidency will produce a summary.

The Council achieved a political agreement without debate on the draft recast directive on driving licences. I abstained on behalf of the UK. While, the Government support much of the text; the Government were concerned about the provisions on motorcycle staging. The Government considered that the system for motorcycle staging will create significant difficulty for
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our motorcyclists, with no tangible benefit for road safety in the UK. The Government tabled a minutes statement making our objections clear.

Without debate, the Council accepted the European Parliament's 2nd Reading amendments to its common position on the Eurovignette directive, which will establish new Community rules for the charging of heavy goods vehicles. This agreement between the Council and Parliament was facilitated during the UK presidency.

There were a number of additional AOB points of which the most significant were:

The Commission reported on supply chain security and noted that there was already legislation on airports, port facilities and on the ports themselves. This proposal served as a way of linkage to increase security of the supply chain. The proposal would be a voluntary system to provide a quality label of "safe operators" showing that they complied with minimum standards. The Commission said that the benefit for safe operators would be reduced checks and paperwork which could give them a competitive advantage.

The Commission presented its proposed directive on promotion of clean road vehicles. The Environment Council will be taking forward this proposal for which 25 per cent. of publicly procured vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will be required meet enhanced environmentally friendly vehicle standards.

The Commission informed the Council that it had withdrawn the proposal on access to port services. The forthcoming Commission review of the EU Transport Policy White Paper would include a chapter on ports focusing on transparent financing of port operations and the application of competition rules.

During lunch there was a discussion of the Commission's mid-term review of the EU Transport Policy White Paper. There was a consensus that the proposed shift away from focusing on modal shift to an approach that makes the best use of each mode was a sensible approach. There was also a discussion on the response of the transport sector to a possible future (human) flu pandemic, during which there was an agreement to share best practice.

Highways Agency

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): The Highways Agency's 2006–07 business plan is published today and contains eight key indicators for the agency to deliver by 31 March 2007. These are:
Indicator06–07 Target
Deliver the PSA target to make journeys more reliable on the strategic road network by 2007–08.Make journeys more reliable on the strategic road network by ensuring that the average vehicle delay on the 10% slowest journeys is less in 2007–08 than the baseline period.
1. Deliver improved management of the strategic road network.Assess the impact of the Agency's initiatives to improve journey time reliability by end October 2006, using the information to shape forward delivery programmes and produce a delivery trajectory by December 2006. Achieve full capability of the HA Traffic Officer service across all 7 Regional Control Centres (RCCs) by December 2006.
2. Deliver the programme of improvements to the strategic road network.Achieve at least 2023 of 2129 progress points for delivery of the strategic roads programme. Introduce controlled use of hard shoulder on the Active Traffic Management (ATM) pilot on the M42 by March 2007. Complete a cumulative total of at least 74 of 92 priority action sites at junctions.
3. Deliver improvements to journeys by making information available to influence travel behaviour and inform decisions.Evaluate the influence on driver behaviour of information channels currently available and during 2006–07 develop an improvement action plan for implementation on 2007–08. In line with the Highways Agency Information Strategy develop, for Ministerial approval, 3 new cost effective driver information services which contribute to improving journey reliability and safety for our customers. Evaluate the impact of those travel plans introduced in 2005–06 and in light of the experience gained, introduce at least 7 travel plans (making a cumulative total of at least 10) by March 2007.
Deliver the Agency's agreed proportion of the national road casualty reduction target.Reduce by a third (i.e. to 2244) the number of people killed/seriously injured on the core network compared with the 1994–98 average of 3366.
4. Deliver improvements on the network to reduce the number of people killed/ seriously injured.Reduce by at least 748 to 2618.
5. Maintain the network in a safe and serviceable condition.Maintain a road surface condition index score of 100±1
6. Mitigate the potentially adverse impact of strategic roads and take opportunities to enhance the environment taking into account value for money. Deliver the Highway's Agency's contribution to the Department's joint PSA target for air quality.Achieve an average score of no less than 95% across the 5 sub targets Air Quality: implement measures to improve the air quality in at least 2 prioritised Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) making cumulative total of 4 completed improvements in the 28 priority areas.Biodiversity: Achieve at least 7% of the published HA Biodiversity Action Plan, which extends across 15 targets (making a cumulative total of 41% of the HA BAP complete). Landscape: Introduce at least 9 planting schemes to enhance the landscape. Noise: Treat at least 110 lane km of concrete road surface with lower noise surfacing. Water: Treat at least 4 pollution risk water outfall sites. Improve the environmental performance of major schemes by improving the average score for the environmental sub-criteria in the Appraisal Summary Table, in at least 5 out of the 10 sub-criteria.
7. Deliver a high level of road user satisfaction.Achieve an overall customer satisfaction level score of at least 82% on Trunk Roads and at least 84% on Motorways across core objectives: Journey time reliability Safety Environment
8. Deliver the Highways Agency's contribution to the Department's efficiency targetDeliver efficiency improvements in roads procurement through adding value to service delivery of £132m in 2006–07. Deliver our programme within the allocated administration budget, which requires an efficiency improvement of at least 2.5% per annum.

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Explanatory notes against each of these indicators are provided in the business plan, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Copies of the Highways Agency Information Strategy have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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