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Government Car and Despatch Agency

The Minister of State for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I am pleased to announce the Secretary of State for Transport's targets for 2006–07 in respect of the Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA). The Secretary of State has set a range of high-level targets for the 2006–07 year on behalf of the GCDA. They will be included in the Agency's Business Plan together with their associated measures. The plan will also include a range of management targets, performance indicators and key tasks which are appropriate to the Agency's business. Copies of the Business Plan will be placed in the Library in due course.

The key targets for the Government Car and Despatch Agency are:
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Secretary of State Targets

To break even on an accruals basis.

To maintain a customer satisfaction index score at least at 2005–06 levels of 86.7.

To maintain accreditation for ISO 9001.

By March 2007 to reduce the average tailpipe emissions of the Government fleet by 5 per cent. compared with March 2006 levels.

To increase the use of alternative engine and fuel technology in GCDA vehicles by 10 per cent. by March 2007 against 2005–06 levels.

To reduce the administrative charges to customers by 2 per cent. against 2005–06.

Railways (North-East)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): Today the Department for Transport has published the North East Regional Planning Assessment for the railways (RPA), the second in a series of 11 RPAs covering England and Wales. The north-east RPA covers the north-east of England region and a small part of North Yorkshire where the railway services are closely linked to the north-east network.
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RPAs are the key link between regional spatial planning (including preparation of regional transport strategies) and planning for the railway by both Government and the rail industry and are designed to inform the development of the Government's strategy for the railway. They look at the challenges and options for development of the railway in each region over the next 20 years, in the wider context of forecast change in population, the economy and travel behaviour. An RPA does not commit the Government to specific proposals. Instead it sets out the Government's current thinking on how the railway might best be developed to allow wider planning objectives for a region to be met, and identifies the priorities for further development work.

The area covered by the north-east RPA has a population of just over 2.5 million, mainly concentrated around the two major conurbations of Tyne and Wear and the Tees-Valley. While population levels are not expected to grow significantly, structural changes in the type of employment available are expected to increase labour market participation rates and prosperity for residents of the region. In general, greater prosperity can be expected to lead to more trips and longer travel distances for all types of journey. Growth in rail passenger journeys is forecast for the region and it is expected that there will be particular growth in longer distance journeys, linking the north-east to other regions.

Planning for railways in the north-east needs to take into account a changing economic and social context. Rail has a part to play in addressing national and regional government agencies' aims to close the gap that has opened up between the prosperity of the north-east and the rest of the UK over the next decade. This aim is the prime objective of recent initiatives such as the Northern Way, which have influenced the formulation of the north-east RPA.

The RPA clarifies the role of the railway in the region, its contribution to the economy and its place in the overall transport system, setting out where greater rail capability and capacity will be needed over the next
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20 years, and the options for responding to that need. In the shorter term it recommends optimising timetables, improving accessibility and interchanges, and matching resources to demand best to use existing capacity and improve performance.

Copies of the document have been placed in the House Library.

Safety Cameras

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I have today approved the operational cases submitted by the 38 safety camera partnerships in England and Wales to enable them to continue as part of the national safety camera programme in 2006–07.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced on 15 December 2005, 2006–07 will be the last year of the safety camera programme under the current netting-off funding arrangements.

The Department has worked closely with the safety camera partnerships to help them to develop operational cases for 2006–07, which will ensure that all camera activities continue to contribute to reducing speeds and casualties and assist in the achievement of the 2010 casualty reduction targets.

All activities and camera sites will comply with the "Handbook of Rules and Guidance for the Safety Camera Programme in England and Wales for 2006–07" which we published on 30 January 2006.

In 2006–07, the 38 operational cases project that there will be, in total:

Below is a table which shows a breakdown for each partnership.
New sites proposed

PartnershipProposed Total ExpenditureFixedMobileRed LightRouteTotalSites to be decommissioned in 2006-07
Avon & Somerset£4,618,076000004
Devon & Cornwall£2,907,03401210132
Gtr Manchester£3,148,769000000
North Wales£3,187,055000000
South Wales£5,942,575000002
South Yorkshire£3,131,5223710110
Thames Valley£5,375,651000000
West Mercia£2,629,648110020
West Midlands£3,179,1390000010
West Yorkshire£3,253,97062300290
Total£109,327,513 59 152 9 13 233 30

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London and Continental Railways

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): I reported on 14 February 2006 that my Department has been considering its future relationship with London and Continental Railways (LCR) who are responsible for the construction and operation of Channel Tunnel Rail Link and had also been independently approached by a third party, with an interest in the potential acquisition of the shareholders' interests in LCR. I announced on 1 March 2006 that, given such interest, the best way of delivering continuing value for money for the taxpayer would be for there to be an open, transparent, competitive process and that my Department was discussing this approach with LCR's shareholders.

Having considered the matter, it is clear that certain shareholders do not wish to sell their shares at this time. Meanwhile, LCR and its shareholders have proposed a significant overhaul of the future relationship with the Department, which I welcome. There is therefore no need to proceed with a competitive process now. My main concern is to secure best value for taxpayers as well as continuing value for money and so we will look again with shareholders at a later stage, probably once the Channel Tunnel Rail Link has been commissioned, which we expect to be in 2007.

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