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Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he or his officials last met representatives of National Express North Eastern to discuss the provisions of its franchise agreement. 
Paul Clark: Department for Transport officials routinely meet train operating companies to discuss a range of issues on an ongoing basis. However, under the franchise agreement a franchise performance meeting between DFT officials and franchised train operating companies must be held once in each reporting period (every four weeks). The last such meeting with National Express East Coast took place on 9 October 2008.
Paul Clark: This information is not available. However, from this year, we are asking local authorities to provide annual reports on the number of people prosecuted for abuse of the Blue Badge (disabled parking) Scheme. Headline figures from this survey will be published on the Department for Transport website from 20 November.
Mr. Hoon: I refer the right hon. and learned Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Coaker) on 22 October 2008, Official Report, columns 451-52W.
Paul Clark: The 2002 Penalty Fares Rules and Policy document sets this out, and many other matters relating to national rail penalty fare schemes in detail. A link to the full version of this document may be found on the Department for Transport website at:
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department and its predecessors have taken to alleviate congestion on trains in the last 10 years; and what steps it plans to take. 
Paul Clark: Over the past 10 years, the initiatives taken to increase rail capacity and reduce train congestion include the West Coast Mainline upgrade and increases in capacity provided through new rail franchises and new rolling stock. Further commitments are set out in the High Level Output Specification published in July 2007.
Paul Clark: Statistics on rail passenger numbers are published by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) in the National Rail Trends Yearbook, which is available in the House Library, or from the ORR website:
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the change in train passenger numbers has been in the South West since 2002-03; what change was predicted in the Strategic Rail Authorities Route Utilisation Strategy prediction of 2005; and what steps his Department is taking in response to the change. 
Paul Clark: Total rail passenger journeys to/from/within the South West region rose from 132 million in 2002-03 to 158 million in 2006-07. The Great Western Mainline Route Utilisation Strategy, published by the Strategic Rail Authority in 2005, predicted a rate of increase of 1.9 per cent. per annum within the Greater Western Main Line area.
The Department for Transports strategy for providing additional capacity on the UK railway is set out in the rail White Paper Delivering a sustainable railway, published on July 24 2007. On top of record sums already committed until 2009, the Government will invest a further £10 billion in enhancements alone over the following five years.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the cost to the economy of congestion in the Greater Bristol area; what steps the Government is taking to reduce it; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Clark: The Government are investing in long-term transport improvements to tackle congestion in the Greater Bristol area, which is estimated by the local authorities in the area to cost the local economy at least £350 million a year.
The Government are providing £35 million over the three years to 2010-11 to Greater Bristol authorities for small-scale highways and public transport capital projects. Additionally £220 million has been allocated to the Greater Bristol area in the period to 2015-16 for major highway and public transport schemes. This includes the Greater Bristol Bus Network, a £68 million scheme that we approved in May 2008 and will provide 10 new showcase bus routes in the Bristol, Weston-Super-Mare and Bath area. In June 2008 we awarded Bristol £11.4 million for cycling initiatives that are expected to double the proportion of local journeys by bike to 7 to 8 per cent. over the three years to 2010-11.
The Government have also made available £2.6 million in pump-priming funding to the Greater Bristol authorities to support the development of packages of measures for addressing local congestion problems that combine local road pricing with investment in the public transport network. We will continue to work closely with the authorities as they develop their proposals.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received on the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001; and if he will make a statement. 
The Government have announced its intention to allow the voluntary display of national flags on vehicle number plates in England, Scotland and Wales. We are looking at how this change can be brought forward as soon as possible.
The 1998 Transport White Paper, "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone", set in hand a programme of detrunking to allow the Highways
Agency to concentrate on the operation of a strategic road network that links the main centres of population and major transport hubs.
The programme enables local highway authorities to set priorities for routes that primarily serve local needs, and supports the Government's aim to devolve more responsibilities to local communities. The programme is currently expected to be concluded by the end of the 2008-09 financial year.
PSA 5 deals with urban and inter-urban congestion, capacity and crowding on the rail network and the value achieved from departmental investment. PSA 5 does not specifically cover rural transport, however it is a requirement for all new policies and programmes to be subject to an impact assessment which includes rural proofing.
Paul Clark [holding answer 29 October 2008]: Hackney carriage licences in England and Wales are granted for a maximum period of one year. The Department for Transport carries out surveys of local taxi licensing authorities. The past four surveys(1) give the following results for the number of hackney carriage vehicle licences in England and Wales (including London).
(1) Surveys are not undertaken annually
|Number of hackney carriage licences|
Paul Clark: The Government's approach to tackling congestion and the role of charging was set out in the Command Paper we published on 16 July and the accompanying written statement made by the then Secretary of State on 16 July 2008, Official Report, columns 32-33WS. I would also refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) on 22 October 2008, Official Report, column 431W.
John Penrose: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what improvements are being made to the South Wests transport infrastructure to support the number of homes to be built in the region by 2026 as referred to in the South West Regional Spatial Strategy. 
Paul Clark: Following advice from the region on the transport priorities for the South West, the Government announced in July 2006 plans to fund a programme of major transport schemes in the period to 2015-16. The programme includes 18 schemes that will provide additional road capacity and improved accessibility to public transport services at locations identified for housing growth in the South West Regional Spatial Strategy. The schemes, some of which are subject to major scheme approval by the Department for Transport, are:
Poole Bridge Regeneration Initiative
Taunton Third Way and Northern Distributor Road
Greater Bristol Bus Network
Weymouth Relief Road
East of Exeter Phase 2
Exeter Principal Urban Area Infrastructure
East of Plymouth Developments
Bath Transport Package
South Bristol Ring Road
Bristol Rapid Transit
Camborne-Pool-Redruth Transport Package
Exeter High Quality Public Transport
Gloucester A40 Improvements
Cheltenham and Gloucester Park and Ride
North Swindon Transport Package
Truro Transport Package
Weymouth Olympic Transport Package
The Government asked the regions in July 2008 for further advice on transport and other priorities in the period to 2018-19. This will provide the opportunity for the regional bodies in the South West to revisit their priorities and identify where the Regional Funding Allocation of £1.1 billion in the period to 2018-19 should be best targeted to support housing growth.
Grant Shapps: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what (a) equipment and (b) data were reported lost by the House of Commons Service in the last 12 months. 
Nick Harvey: I refer the hon. Member to replies to the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) on 13 October 2008, Official Report, column 858W, and the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) on 19 February 2008, Official Report, column 545W. Since then it has been reported that 10 chairs were stolen from Portcullis House.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what rules apply to expenditure by (a) central government and (b) local authorities in respect of local referenda (i) before and (ii) during the referendum period. 
Under the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity local authorities are precluded from incurring expenditure for the purpose of influencing public support for, or opposition to, referendum proposals.
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