Previous SectionIndexHome Page


3. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): If he will make a statement on his Department's strategy for (a) increasing cycling journey numbers and (b) reducing cycling injuries and deaths. [66803]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): The Government set up Cycling England to plan and co-ordinate the development of cycling across the country. Cycling England is supporting local authorities by providing expert advice on the design and promotion of cycling and showcasing best practice in six towns. Measures to improve safety include recommending safety and visibility aids, publicity campaigns, promoting cycle training, and raising motorists' awareness through training and testing.

Jo Swinson: Many people are deeply concerned about the draft revised highway code and the effect that it will have on cyclists. If, as is proposed, it is changed to require cyclists to use cycling facilities, a cyclist involved in an accident with a vehicle might not be covered by the motorist's insurance company due to a contributory negligence claim. Will the Minister give us an assurance that the new highway code will not force cyclists off the road for fear of legal consequences?

Derek Twigg: The simple answer is that it will not.

Mr. David S. Borrow (South Ribble) (Lab): We want to encourage more cyclists to use our roads in urban areas, but I am sure that many hon. Members will have noticed the increasing propensity of cyclists to ignore traffic regulations. They often cycle straight through red traffic lights and over pedestrian crossings. What action is my hon. Friend's Department taking to increase the education of cyclists, and to enforce existing legislation?

Derek Twigg: We have set up Cycling England, which plays an important role in taking cycling forward, and we will see better cycling safety training and driver
2 May 2006 : Column 819
awareness. Significant extra sums have been invested, not least in providing safer routes to school to increase the safety of younger people.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): In regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow), the House of Lords has recently discussed a proposal for vehicle registration for cycles to encourage cyclists to be more responsible on the roads. What is the Minister's view of that proposal?

Derek Twigg: The key issue is that cycling is a sustainable type of travel that is very good for people's fitness and health, and we want to encourage it. It is also important that we continue to press safety awareness issues and to make them clear to cyclists and motorists alike. Increased investment has been made in cycle training and in developing cycle training programmes, which will be important for improving safety on the roads for cyclists and motorists.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): What about training for motorists? Instead of trying to confine cyclists to using specific cycling provision, which might be inadequate, will my hon. Friend consider the practice in continental Europe, where far more people cycle? One of my constituents, who comes from France, tells me that the French highway code places the onus on motorists to give cyclists plenty of space. Can we look to best practice in European countries and bring our cycling levels up to theirs?

Derek Twigg: Yes, we can clearly learn lessons from such best practice, and we will do so. The consultation on the highway safety code finishes on 10 May and we will listen to any suggestions and proposals made. I hope that, when the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) cycles anywhere, the Lexus carrying his socks and shoes is far enough behind him.

Transport Infrastructure (Northamptonshire)

4. Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What discussions his Department has had with the growth areas directorate in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on additional transport infrastructure provision in north Northamptonshire. [66804]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr.   Stephen Ladyman): The Department continues to work closely with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to agree what the plans for the growth areas mean in detail and how they will affect the Department's investment plans.

Mr. Hollobone: With 52,000 new houses planned for north Northamptonshire in the next 15 years, some respected traffic consultants say that there will be a 75 per cent. increase in vehicle traffic. Local residents are rightly worried about that. The local road infrastructure is already completely inadequate and it will not be able to cope with growth on that scale. Will the Minister undertake to sort out the A14 and advise the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister that large-scale housing expansion cannot take place unless there is a dramatic improvement in the local road infrastructure?
2 May 2006 : Column 820

Dr. Ladyman: We recognise that these issues are important and that people wish to be assured that the development of road infrastructure will go hand in hand with the development of new housing. We are working closely with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to achieve that. For example, the growth areas fund has provided £60 million in Northamptonshire in recent years, and there will be another £50 million in the next two years, along with £27 million for transport projects from the community infrastructure fund. In addition, a range of other initiatives is ongoing. On top of that, we are considering the region's advice on how we should spend its allocation of funding on transport projects in the overall region.

Railways (Personal Safety)

5. Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): What recent representations he has received expressing passenger concerns about personal safety on railways. [66805]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): The Public Accounts Committee and Select Committee on Transport have both recently examined aspects of personal safety on the railway. The Department has, of course, received a number of approaches on the subject from hon. Members and others.

Mr. Khan: I am grateful for that answer. Balham station in my constituency has the sixth worst crime figures out of all the stations run by Southern Railway. My right hon. Friend is aware of the excellent safer station campaign begun by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Ms Butler) and the Evening Standard. In light of the failure of train operating companies to provide fully staffed stations, and bearing in mind the huge success of British Transport police in making passengers feel safer and in actually making stations safer, what plans does he have to review both the powers and the numbers of British Transport police?

Mr. Darling: As the House is aware, we are considering how best to focus the BTP's activities, primarily with a view to improving safety on stations. My hon. Friend and his colleagues have rightly drawn attention to the importance of making sure that stations are as safe as possible. I think that I am right that Balham station is staffed for the time that it is open, but I hope that the additional BTP officers that we have funded over the past couple of years will also help, as well as the increased use of closed circuit television on both trains and stations. He is right that we should continue to do everything that we can to make stations as safe as possible.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): What action are the Government taking to examine how passengers can be safer on trains in the event of rapid deceleration or derailment? Is any work going on to secure luggage, to give people the option of a belt, or to improve the design of carriages so that there are fewer hard objects and sharp-edged surfaces, as the difference between the inside of a train and a modern car in the standard of safety is scandalous?
2 May 2006 : Column 821

Mr. Darling: Yes, work is going on. Specifically, following the tragic accident and derailment in Berkshire in 2004, the Rail Safety and Standards Board is considering the lessons to be learned. Trains in general are much safer and better constructed than they were in the past. There is a lot of evidence to show that, provided that people remain within the train at a time of rapid deceleration or derailment, they have a better chance of not being injured than if, for one reason or another, they are flung out of the train. In addition to that work, we constantly do everything that we can to use all the modern techniques available to make trains as safe as possible. Self-evidently, trains are different from cars. The right hon. Gentleman has previously raised with me the question of seatbelts, and that is still to be investigated, but I assure him that we are considering that.

Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what he is doing to get train operating companies to give passenger safety a higher priority? As my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) said, I have been working hard with Silverlink and the Labour-run Brent council to ensure that stations are properly staffed and lit. A clear message must be sent that safety must come before profits.

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend has done a great deal to highlight the issue of safety in her constituency and in London generally. The rail companies are acutely aware that, if we continue to see more and more people using trains, we must ensure that stations are safe. That is why we have increased significantly the funding available to British Transport police, both to increase numbers of staff, including special constables, and to make capital expenditure available to improve the safety of stations. Train operating companies must also play their role. As I mentioned earlier, closed circuit television is being used on stations and nearly a third of rolling stock has been replaced over the past seven or eight years, much of which has CCTV on board. The mainstream police forces also have their role to play. Nobody in London, particularly after the Evening Standard campaign over the past few weeks, can be in any doubt that safety is important. Different approaches must be applied at different stations, but we are right to keep the issue at the front of our minds.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): My constituents are concerned about the ever-increasing number of people using trains from Wellingborough who, when they get on are forced to stand because of overcrowding, which must be a danger to personal safety. What does the Secretary of State have in mind to increase capacity on the Wellingborough-London line?

Mr. Darling: As I have said during the past few Question Times, there is no doubt that, as more and more people use the railways, we must increase capacity on the lines, not just in the hon. Gentleman's area but elsewhere. We have significantly increased capacity on the west coast main line, but there are plans to increase it in other areas as well. The objective must be to make rail travel as safe, and as comfortable, as possible, but if we are to increase capacity significantly we must all sign up to increased investment, because the railways cost money to run. Unfortunately, so far the Conservative party has failed to join us in that.
2 May 2006 : Column 822

Next Section IndexHome Page