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27 Jun 2006 : Column 260W—continued

Incident related closures
Clockwise Anti-clockwise
Number Time (hours) Number Total time (hours)




































Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what lessons relating to (a) evacuation of the motorway, (b) minimising the jam of vehicles and
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(c) other related matters were drawn from the incident in the vicinity of junctions 29 and 31 of the M25 on 17 March 2004; to what extent these lessons were applied to the incident on the M25 between junctions 8 and 10 on 9 June 2006; and if he will make a statement. [79473]

Dr. Ladyman: Although the circumstances of the incidents on 17 March 2004 and 9 June 2006 were significantly different, lessons learnt from incidents such as that in 2004 have enabled the Highways Agency to better manage the recent event. The nature of the earlier incident enabled traffic to pass safely the site of the accident; the more recent one resulted in fire and damage to infrastructure which prevented this from taking place.

Since 2004 the Highways Agency has improved capability for the evacuation of the motorway through detailed and tested joint operating procedures with the local emergency services in the event of a major incident. It has also developed detailed incident management procedures such as the capability to implement rearward relief; the process by which trapped vehicles are turned on the carriageway and returned to the previous exit. These procedures include the support and welfare of motorists where they cannot be assisted from the site.

The period since the 2004 incident has seen significant developments in the Highways Agency’s capability to minimise congestion caused by incidents. The introduction of Regional Control Centres as part of the Traffic Officer Service and the commencement of the National Traffic Control Centre provide an ability to divert traffic away from an incident through strategic signing, and around an incident through tactical signing and direction.

The Highways Agency has substantially strengthened its ability to detect and respond to incidents and reduce the resulting congestion. The Traffic Officer Service on the M25 and other motorways is enabling significantly increased resources to be more quickly available at the scene to support the management of the incidents. Traffic officers worked well with emergency services on 9 June to minimise the duration of the incident and quickly restore the motorway to a safe condition. The emergency procedures were implemented and motorists received both welfare and medical assistance as necessary.

The Highways Agency has continued to develop its Incident Support Unit service on the M25 and, following its successful contribution to incident management on the M25, implemented similar services on most of the strategic road network. In addition Regional Control Centres are proactively monitoring the road network quickly to detect incidents and improve communication between responders with the aim of reducing the clearance time.

All major incidents are reviewed soon afterwards jointly by the Highways Agency and emergency services to identify lessons to be learnt in dealing with future incidents. There is an ongoing programme to continually develop incident management capability including innovations such as central reserve screens to prevent visual distraction of motorists on adjacent carriageways and specialist equipment to support the clear-up operation.

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Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will (a) place in the Library and (b) supply to the hon. Member for Thurrock a copy of the full report into the incident between junctions 29 and 30 of the M25 on the 17 and 18 March 2004 which was prepared by Mr. Paul McCreevy, M25 Route Manager North at the Highways Agency; [79474]

(2) if he will make a statement on the hold-up of traffic flows on the M25 consequent to the accident in the vicinity of junctions 29 and 31 on 17 March 2004; what the maximum length in miles was of the resulting traffic queues; what the duration was of the hold-up; what actions were taken by (a) the Highways Agency and (b) Essex and Kent Police (i) to advise motorists of the hold-up and (ii) to ameliorate the delay and congestion; at what time each such action was taken; and why the answers to these questions were not supplied in the executive summary of the report by Mr. Paul McCreevy on the incident placed in the Library and supplied to the hon. Member for Thurrock following his Question answered on 24 March 2004, Official Report, column 982W, on the M25. [79476]

Dr. Ladyman: The maximum length of traffic queuing on the M25 as a result of the incident on 17 March 2004 was 14 miles on the clockwise carriageway and 11 miles on the anti-clockwise carriageway. The maximum length of the traffic queuing on the A128, which was used as the diversion route, was 6 miles.

The M25 clockwise carriageway was closed for 22 hours. The anti-clockwise carriageway was also closed for 1.5 hours for safety reasons while the tanker was being removed.

The Highways Agency advised motorists of the incident and delays by providing radio stations and news media with regular updates, and their website and Information Line also provided up-to-the-minute information. Television and press representatives were invited to the incident scene by Essex police to observe the recovery operation.

The Highways Agency repaired the nearside boundary fence and used a specialist environmental sub-contractor to clean the road surface. This enabled the carriageway to be opened safely for the public after the vehicles and debris had been removed.

Essex police carried out the incident investigation, co-ordinated the recovery operation, and set the diversion signs. They also allowed the trapped clockwise traffic between junction 29 and the incident to escape using lanes 2 and 3. Throughout the duration of the closure, the variable message signs advised motorists that this section of the M25 motorway was closed. Contractors undertaking road works on the A128 were contacted by Essex police and agreed to change the mechanism of temporary traffic lights at the road works in order to give priority to diverted traffic travelling south from the M25.

An Executive Summary and full report were produced at the time of the incident. The summary was a chronological log of events on the day detailing agencies involved and actions taken to clear the incident. A full copy of the report has been sent to my hon. Friend by the Highways Agency, and copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average time was for which motorists were detained on the M25 on Friday 9 June following the incident in the vicinity of junctions 8 to 10 and the subsequent closure of the motorway; what the maximum length of time was for which motorists were so detained in the (a) clockwise and (b) anti-clockwise direction; and if he will make a statement. [79475]

Dr. Ladyman: As a consequence of a heavy goods vehicle catching fire on 9 June, the M25 was closed in both directions to ensure the safety of the travelling public and emergency services dealing with the incident. Under the direction of Highways Agency Traffic Officers, a number of vehicles that had already passed the exit slip roads at junction 9 were turned around and were then able to use the available diversion routes.

The Highways Agency estimates that for the majority of vehicles this exercise was undertaken on both carriageways within 2 to 3 hours of the incident occurring.

Some heavy goods vehicles on the clockwise carriageway were too long to turn around and these vehicles remained on the motorway for approximately five hours.

Emergency procedures were implemented to assist motorists who were trapped between motorway exits and the incident, with water provided and medical assistance given to those in need.

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the estimated number is of (a) vehicles and (b) passengers who were trapped on the M25 on 9 June following an incident in the vicinity of junctions 8 to 10; and if he will make a statement. [79623]

Dr. Ladyman: As a consequence of a heavy goods vehicle catching fire on 9 June the M25 was closed in both directions to ensure the safety of the travelling public and emergency services dealing with the incident. Following the closure some vehicles were prevented from continuing with their journey to the next exit of the motorway.

The Highways Agency estimates that approximately 1,000 vehicles and 1,200 drivers and passengers were affected in this way.

Emergency procedures were implemented to assist motorists who were trapped between motorway exits following the incident with water provided and medical assistance given to those in need.

Noise Nuisance (Essex)

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress is being made in reducing the noise nuisance caused by train horns in Ardleigh, Essex; and if he will make a statement. [79492]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 22 June 2006]: Network Rail has been served a noise abatement order by Tendring district council regarding train horn noise at Ardleigh. As this now constitutes a legal process I am unable to comment further.

More generally, and in response to public concern at the levels of train horn noise, the rail industry is
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reconsidering arrangements for the use and application of train horns. A steering group has been set up under the leadership of the Rail Safety and Standards Board to oversee the review and includes representatives from Network Rail and train operators.

Rail Safety

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many signals passed at danger were recorded in each Network Rail Region in each of the last 12 months. [77785]

Derek Twigg: Information on signals passed at danger is published on a quarterly basis by the Office of Rail Regulation. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House.

South West Trains

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the current operational performance of South West Trains; and how many complaints he has received from rail users’ groups in Hampshire about failures to operate timetabled services; and if he will make a statement. [78369]

Derek Twigg: The South Western franchise replacement process included a “base-lining” exercise undertaken in 2005, in which performance for South West Trains was reviewed. This showed that operational performance had increased significantly since the December 2004 timetable change under the Public Performance Measure (PPM) which records the percentage of trains arriving within five minutes of their planned destination arrival time. The moving annual average of the PPM statistic rose from 75 per cent. in July 2004 to 87 per cent. by September 2005, and currently stands at 90 per cent.

The Department for Transport has recently received an extensive report from the South Hampshire Rail Users Group setting out a range of complaints associated with the current South West Trains franchise. A response will be made shortly to this specific letter.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what criteria were used in making the decision to reduce services on the (a) Salisbury to Southampton and (b) Reading to Brighton lines. [78371]

Derek Twigg: The decision to change these services was made during the replacement process for the South Western franchises. The replacement process offers the opportunity to review current service levels, and to assess whether value for money is delivered for passengers and taxpayers by their operation.

The South Western franchise has specified that there will be a regular half-hourly service operating between Salisbury and Southampton. This will be formed of the existing Cardiff-Portsmouth hourly service, and a new hourly service that has been created by extending the current Romsey-Totton operation; this creates a net
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increase in services between Salisbury and Southampton despite a small reduction in Greater Western trains.

The decision to remove services between Reading and Brighton via Eastleigh has been specified in the South Western franchise. Surveys were conducted in September 2005 that confirmed the low utilisation of this service, and the Department for Transport’s standard appraisal methods confirmed that the withdrawal of the service represents good value for money.

Most journeys on this service occur on stations between Basingstoke and Eastleigh, and along the South Coast between Havant and Brighton. A new service is proposed to operate between Brighton and Southampton. The specification does not preclude providing a service between Havant and Eastleigh in the future to meet proposed developments or in response to customer demand, subject to the franchisee’s commercial position and Network Rail’s operational assessment.

Thames Gateway

Mr. Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what expenditure is planned on improving rail links between central London and the Thames Gateway area. [79283]

Derek Twigg: The Channel Tunnel Rail Link has been constructed from central London to the Kent coast through the southern part of the Thames Gateway at a cost of £5.2 billion. Domestic rail services from Kent, including those in the growth area, will be making use of this new infrastructure from December 2009.

In 2001 the Department of Transport approved a grant of £154 million to finance the development and parliamentary process for the Crossrail scheme. This will serve the Thames Gateway, providing links from Shenfield, Essex and Abbey Wood, south east London through to Stratford, Docklands, central London, Heathrow and on to the Thames Valley. The Department of Transport has also provided funding support to the Mayor to provide extensions to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

The GLA and the Mayor are working with TfL to consider the transport implications of growth in the Thames Gateway that falls within the Greater London area.

Trunk Road Islands

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what penalties can be enforced against the Highways Agency for failing to maintain trunk road islands. [80329]

Dr. Ladyman: As long as trunks roads islands are within the boundaries of the highway, they are part of the highway and for maintenance are treated as such. Enforcement of liability for maintenance is covered under section 56 of the Highways Act 1980. An application can be made to the magistrates court under
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that section of the Highways Act 1980 for an order to keep a highway in repair. If the repair is not carried out within the stipulated period the court can by order authorise the complainant to carry out the works and he can recover the costs incurred as a civil debt from the highways authority.

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