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The Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly): The Transport Research Laboratory has today published a report, commissioned by my Department, on the subject of longer and heavier goods vehicles (LHVs). The report highlights a number of issues that make the implementation of large 25.25 metre LHVssometimes referred to as super-lorriesimpractical either on a permanent or trial basis. I will therefore not be allowing them on UK roads for the foreseeable future.
There is a risk (substantial in the case of 60 tonne super-lorries) of increased CO2 emissions and other environmental drawbacks due to modal shift from rail to road if these vehicles were to be permitted, which would also impact on the viability of existing rail freight services and the potential for future growth.
There are serious implications for the management of the road network, as such vehicles would be unsuitable for many roads and junctions.
Substantial investmentin the order of several billion poundswould be needed to provide for junction improvements, the protection of bridge supports, and the provision of parking infrastructure for statutory rest periods, particularly if a new nationwide network of dedicated facilities is required.
There is uncertainty about how efficiently such vehicles could be used, particularly when sourcing loads of sufficient size to make return journeys sustainable.
Such vehicles would introduce new safety risks.
It is not currently possible for us to mandate tougher safety or manoeuvrability standards that might address some of these issues because of European trade rules.
The report does show, however, that there could be worthwhile benefits from permitting a modest increase in the length of current articulated vehicles. The Department will consider these further in the context of its on-going strategic work on freight, on which I expect to publish a summary of progress this summer.
The report will help inform member states and the European Commission who are reviewing the rules on lorry sizes as part of the logistics action plan to improve the efficiency of transport and logistics in the European Union.
Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House and can also be viewed at www.trl.co.uk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris):
I have today launched a public consultation on proposals to extend the scope
of the Railway Heritage Committee. The public consultation, which will run until 5 September 2008, identifies three options to enable the Committee to extend its scope to railway related bodies that were overlooked or not in existence at the time of the original legislation. These options are:
for legislation to remain the same;
for railway related bodies to voluntarily agree to allow the Committee to designate their records and artefacts; or
to add further organisations to the original list of bodies covered by the 1996 Railway Heritage Act.
From previous discussions between the Committee and railway bodies, and a response to an informal questionnaire in March, there is a need for such bodies to be brought into the scope of the Committee to enable it to fully meet its statutory obligations.
The consultation also seeks to update its membership to enable it to appoint an archivist. Current legislation restricts the Departments ability to attract suitable candidates and appoint members who do not meet the existing requirements of the Public Records Act 1958.