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Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the A1 from the New Tyne Crossing to the Ponteland road interchange is capable of being widened from four to six lanes with slip roads within its existing embankments. 
Dr. Ladyman: The Secretary of State has not commissioned a study to look at widening the A1 Tyne crossing to six lanes. However the Highways Agency has been asked to look at future upgrade opportunities for the full length of the A1 western bypass. They are due to report to Ministers shortly.
UK operators are required to have procedures for ensuring the continuing adequacy and suitability of the aerodromes that they plan to use. No UK operators have raised the concerns about the safety of Suvarnabhumi airport with either the Civil Aviation Authority or the Department for Transport. However, I understand that British Airways has undertaken its own investigation and is satisfied the cracks do not affect the safety of its operations.
I understand the Thai authorities have undertaken their own investigation which has concluded that the cracks are superficial. However, officials from the Department are currently in Thailand on unrelated business and will take the opportunity to discuss the issue with them.
The Directgov website brings together a wide range of public information and online services. In July 2006, a new interactive service, which makes it easier for disabled people to find Blue Badge scheme parking bays, was launched on the site.
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Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will arrange for the Health and Safety Executive to inspect the UKs fleet of Volvo buses consequent on the evidence regarding their susceptibility to engine surges given in the case of Henvey at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) if he will arrange for his Department to inspect the UKs fleet of Volvo buses consequent on the evidence regarding their susceptibility to engine surges given in the case of Henvey at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: Any technical problem with such vehicles would be a matter for the Department of Transport to deal with, not the Health and Safety Executive. However, we are not aware of any technical evidence to suggest that there might be any such problem with Volvo buses operating in the UK.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will ensure that there will be a physical link between the west coast main line and the north London extension of the channel tunnel rail link. 
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which external consultants were used by (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies in relation to private finance initiatives in 2005-06; and what the (i) nature and (ii) cost of the work was in each case. 
Mr. Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many employees from his Department were asked to retire upon reaching 65 years of age as a result of the Departments mandatory retirement policy in each year since 1997. 
Gillian Merron: The Department for Transport was established in May 2002. The Department does not hold a central record of whether any staff have been asked to retire upon reaching 65. The information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many driving instructors have qualified to instruct in 2007; and how many qualified in (a) England, (b) Scotland and (c) Wales in each of the last 10 years. 
The number of driving instructors who have qualified in England Scotland and Wales from 2004 to 2007 is shown in the following table. The Driving Standards Agency does not hold the information prior to 2004.
|Area||2004-2005||2005-2006||2006 to January 2007|
Dr. Ladyman: The average age of driving instructors in Great Britain as of 21 February 2007 was 47. The Driving Standards Agency, which holds the register of approved driving instructors, does not have separate figures for England, Scotland or Wales.
Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many noise monitors have been put in place for monitoring the noise of aeroplanes entering and exiting Heathrow airport in the last 12 months; where such monitors have been placed; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) what monitoring there was of noise in the London borough of Wandsworth caused by aeroplanes entering and exiting Heathrow airport in (a) 2005 and (b) 2006; what monitoring has taken place in 2007; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: Noise from departing aircraft is continually monitored by BAA at 10 fixed sites under the departure tracks at Heathrow. The monitors are put in place to gauge whether aircraft comply with the departure noise limits specified in the noise abatement notice for Heathrow under Section 78(1) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. The noise limits apply at a distance of 6.5 kilometres from aircraft start of roll, so the location of the fixed monitors is relatively close to the airport; it does not extend to Wandsworth. Compliance is reviewed regularly through the Noise and Track Keeping Working Group, and data is published annually in BAAs Flight Evaluation Reports. There are no equivalent limits for arriving aircraft.
Data from the fixed monitors, together with additional mobile noise monitors, is used to validate a noise exposure model for the 16 hour daytime summer period. The Civil Aviation Authority, on behalf of the Department, uses the model to produce annual noise contours at Heathrow airport, representing noise from both arriving and departing aircraft. (ERCD Report 0406, available on the CAA website, shows the location of both fixed and mobile monitoring sites over recent
years.) The 2005 noise contours were published last December and are available on the Departments website.
Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on how many occasions BAA imposed fines when aeroplanes exceeded noise limits when (a) entering and (b) exiting Heathrow airport in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: Airlines who infringe noise limits (which are for departures only) are surcharged by BAA Heathrow, in the form of a noise supplement. Details are reported annually in BAA Heathrows Flight Evaluation Reports. The relevant data for the last five years are as follows:
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Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consultation he has undertaken on the implementation of private hire legislation as applied to local authority operators in London. 
Gillian Merron: The only change which has been brought forward recently to the legislation on private hire vehicles (PHVs) in London which will affect PHV work for local authorities, is in section 54 of the Road Safety Act 2006. This will bring into the licensing regime in London currently unlicensed PHV operators, drivers and proprietors who carry specific groupsincluding under local authority contractsrather than the general public. A three-month consultation exercise in was carried out in 2004 before including this change in the Road Safety Bill. Following Royal Assent to the Bill in November 2006, we sought the views of principal stakeholders, and others who had written to us about this matter, on the date for bringing sections 53 (which repeals the contract exemption from licensing outside London) and 54 into force.
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