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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of (a) the prevailing inflation rate for highways construction works and (b) the causes of the level of such inflation. 
Dr. Ladyman: The Highways Agency use the ROADCON and ROCOS indices published by the DTI for assessing the impact of historic inflation on highway works. As these indices are published in arrears, the Highways Agency has commissioned further work to provide an assessment of current inflation and a forward look.
Dr. Ladyman: A research project into external vehicle speed control (the technology now more commonly known as intelligent speed adaptation or ISA) was carried out on behalf of the Department for Transport, local government and the regions between 1997 and 2000. The results are available on the Department for Transport website and copies of the executive summary have been placed in the Library.
A further project into the longer term effects of intelligent seed adaptation on driver behaviour began in 2001 and is expected to end in December 2006. The reports will be available when the project has been completed.
An additional project entitled Intelligent Speed Adaptation Research (National and International)" supports the main ISA project and allows for the provision of expert technical advice on ISA, on an ad hoc basis, as the need arises.
The Department also took part in SpeedAlert"a European project which looked at issues surrounding the implementation of speed advice systems. The consortium's final report has been completed and copies placed in the Library.
3 May 2006 : Column 1582W
Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he is taking (a) to remove panel gapping on railway level crossings and (b) to improve level crossing safety generally; and if he will make a statement. 
Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), the safety regulator for the railway, are both actively engaged in work to make level crossings safer and reduce risk. The ORR has a policy for reducing the risks which focuses on:
Ensuring that the railway industry is itself doing everything that is reasonably practical to ensure that all those who use level crossings are not exposed to unacceptable risks to their health and safety.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funding his Department and its agencies have provided to the Cambridge University Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies on research into the Sustainability of Land Use and Transport in Outer Neighbourhoods; and what submissions it has received so far from the research body. 
Stephen Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much agencies of his Department spent on (a) media monitoring, (b) media training and (c) marketing in each year since 1997; and how much his Department spent on (i) marketing in each year since 200203 and (ii) (A) media monitoring and (B) media training in 200506. 
Derek Twigg: The requested figures are set out as follows. However, records of costs from 199798 until 200102 are not readily available due to departmental and Agency re-organisations. Figures for 200506 are provisional outturn figures subject to audit.
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to his answer of 1 March 2006, Official Report, column 730W, on motorway signage, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that information provided on variable message signs is current and accurate after functions are transferred to regional control centres. 
About 350 'information' VMS are located at key decision points (i.e. before major junctions). They are used to inform drivers about major incidents and advise diversion routes. These VMS are operated by the National Traffic Control Centre (NTCC) in Birmingham. The NTCC gathers information on conditions on the network from its control centre in Birmingham. This is a 24/7/365 operation.
About 1850 'safety' VMS are located mostly on motorways to manage traffic locally in the event of incidents and emergencies, and to provide warnings of slow moving or stationary traffic in order to protect queuing traffic. Operation of these signs is currently transferring from the police to the Highways Agency's Regional Control Centres (RCCs).
There are seven RCCs which monitor conditions on the motorway and trunk road network within their regions of England and allocate resources such as Traffic Officers to manage incidents. They set messages on VMS for safety reasons, to inform drivers and to assist with incident management. Incidents (and VMS settings) are monitored from control rooms and messages displayed on VMS are reviewed and removed as necessary. Currently only one RCC, the West Midlands RCC, is working at full capacity and it has an established system for monitoring consistency and timeliness of sign setting to support the Agency's goal of demonstrably improving the accuracy of VMS. The system involves checking timeliness of response both when incidents are identified and when cleared. Results are used to identify and implement improvements.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the maximum (a) safe and (b) desirable limits on peak aircraft noise (Lmax dBA) for airports; and what the existing equivalent continuous noise level (Leq) limits are. 
The departure noise limits at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, set by the Secretary of State, are 94 dBA Lmax between 0700 and 2300; 89 dBA between 2300 and 2330, and 0600 and 0700; and 87 dBA in the night quota period, 23300600. The noise limits relate to a fixed reference distance 6.5 km from start-of-roll. The full reasons for applying these limits are set out in the document 'Noise limits for aircraft departing from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports: decision of December 2000' which is available in the House Library.
The Department for Transport has not set limits on equivalent continuous noise level (Leq). However, based on research, the Government use various levels of Leq as indicators of disturbance or of potential annoyance, or as criteria for mitigation measures, including advice for land use planning purposes. For example, the Government use 57 dBA Leq as the level of daytime noise marking the approximate onset of significant community annoyance.
Daytime noise contour criteria for mitigation schemes were set out in the 'Future of Air Transport' White Paper. In particular, we expect operators of larger airports (those with over 50,000 air transport movements per year) to offer relocation assistance to households subject to daytime noise of more than 69 dBA Leq and to offer acoustic insulation to non-domestic noise-sensitive buildings, such as schools and hospitals, exposed to daytime noise levels of 63 dBA Leq or more.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether (a) measurements of and (b) limits on peak aircraft noise (Lmax dBA) are in place for airports other than Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. 
Derek Twigg: The Department for Transport does not collect comprehensive information about noise control measures at airports other than Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. However, existing practice at a number of larger airports is set out as follows:
These noise limits apply at the noise monitors and departing aircraft are monitored against the relevant limit. Airports also have noise and track-keeping systems, which are required to assess breaches of departure noise limits, in place.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he plans (a) to introduce new and (b) to change existing (i) measurements of and (ii) limits on peak aircraft noise (Lmax DBA) for airports. 
Derek Twigg: The Government sets departure noise limits at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports which are designated for the purposes of section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. We will consider exercising similar powers at other airports if there is evidence that a major noise problem is not being dealt with adequately through local controls; otherwise, such limits are the responsibility of the airport operator.
The present noise limits at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted have applied since early 2001 and have been subject to further review. The results were published in the Civil Aviation Authority's Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) Report 0207, Departure Noise Limits and Monitoring Arrangements at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports", in April 2003. The main findings were summarised in our April 2003 consultation paper on night flying restrictions, together with a broad indication of how we would take them into account. This has been taken forward in the Stage One and Stage Two consultation papers on night flying restrictions published in July 2004 and June 2005 respectively.
In the Stage Two consultation, we proposed possible changes to the departure noise limit applying in the night shoulder periods (11 pm to 11.30 pm and 6 am to 7 am). We also proposed that two additional noise monitors should be sited at Heathrow. We will announce our conclusions in due course. Copies of all the consultation papers and of ERCD 0207 were placed in the House Library.
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