Draft Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008

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Mr. Brazier: I am certain that the Minister does not think that I want to be ungenerous to him personally, it is just that the Opposition are anxious to see those new coaches and to know what the time scale is. We have heard a lot about them.
Mr. Harris: However anxious the hon. Gentleman and his Front-Bench colleagues are, I assure him that it does not compare with the anxiety—I will clarify that, the eagerness—with which I anticipate the delivery of the 1,300 new carriages, all of which will run on our network before 2014 although most will be delivered long before then. If he would like more detail, the Department for Transport rolling stock plan is publicly available.
The hon. Gentleman asked about input from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee. DPTAC supported the changes and welcomed the end date of 2020. It has been fully engaged with the development of the regulations and I am sure that the Committee would expect no less.
The hon. Member for Cheadle asked about how onerous the new standards are. In my original comments, I gave examples of how much less onerous they are. For example, the maximum permitted floor gradients are higher under the new regulations than under the RVAR, as are the maximum clearway and door widths and the minimum duration and tone of door warnings. DPTAC has been consulted on all of those changes and has no problems with any of them.
On a wider point, the hon. Member for Cheadle discussed the valid concern that we should not make so many exemptions as to make the original legislation somehow ineffective. I hope that he is not suggesting that previous exemptions considered by Committees of the House have done that. When I have introduced such exemptions, it has been in full consultation with DPTAC and other organisations. There is certainly no Government inclination to bail out, as he suggests, train operating companies or rolling stock companies from their legal obligations. Any exemptions will be made only with full consultation and with the support of the stakeholders involved.
I am more than happy to write to hon. Members if I have not addressed their specific questions, but I shall now address the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield. I am delighted that he supports the access for all programme, because it is very important. It involves investment of £370 million over 10 years. Of course, he is more than welcome to raise difficult and detailed questions tomorrow, in the debate in Westminster Hall, with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Transport, but let me make a general point. Accessibility to vehicles and accessibility to train stations are two very different things for the simple reason that train stations have a much longer shelf life. The process that we have embarked on, to try to make more stations accessible, obviously will not be on the same scale as other processes. At this stage, we cannot make promises regarding all 2,500 stations, many of which were built in the Victorian era when there were fewer concerns about the issue under discussion than there are today. Having said that, we are doing our best to ensure that the stations with the highest footfall and those that have been identified, using the 2001 census, as being in the areas that have the highest number of people with disabilities, will be addressed first.
The 2013 deadline that my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield mentioned is for the current tranche of work. There will be subsequent tranches, and there will be announcements about more stations that will receive money through the access for all programme. Of course, my right hon. Friend and I—indeed, all members of the Committee—would prefer it if we could spend significantly more money over a shorter period to make all 2,500 stations accessible immediately, but we are all realistic enough to know that that is not possible. However, we should make the maximum effort to ensure that as many stations as possible are covered, and we are doing that.
I rarely enjoy afternoons more, Mr. Key, than when I serve on a Delegated Legislation Committee. In the hope that I have managed to address most, if not all, of the concerns that have been raised, I ask the Committee to support the regulations.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008.
Committee rose at fourteen minutes past Five o’clock.
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