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Petitions

Monday 19 March 2012

Observations

Education

School Buildings (Runcorn)

The Petition of parents, staff and students at The Heath School and others in their community.


Declares that the petitioners are concerned about the poor state of the school’s buildings and accessibility for disabled people, and the small size of the classrooms, when considering future school capital spending allocations.


The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons gives consideration to any motion expressing concern at poor built environment in some schools, and requests that the Leader of the House and the Back Bench Business Committee schedule a debate on school buildings and facilities, and school capital expenditure.


And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Derek Twigg , Official Report, 25 January 2012; Vol. 539, c. 376 .]

[P000996]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

This Government’s capital programmes give priority to the core needs of the school system: ensuring sufficient school places in those areas experiencing severe demographic pressures; and addressing the school buildings in the very worst condition.

Halton received £4.8 million in 2011-12 and £3.9 million in 2012-13 to address these needs. This funding could be used to improve accessibility, if that is a local priority. In addition to funding allocated directly to schools and local authorities, the new privately financed Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) launched last year aims to target schools in the very worst condition. Applications, including one for The Heath School, are currently being considered.

One of the recommendations of the Review of Education Capital conducted by Sebastian James was to target capital funding better. To do that effectively we need to understand the current condition of the school estate. The Secretary of State announced in July 2011 that the Department for Education would collect up-to-date and comprehensive information on the condition of the school estate.

Our expectation is that this information will help to determine future allocations of capital funding.

Transport

Train Fares in West Kent and East Sussex

The Petition of residents of West Kent and East Sussex,


Declares that the Petitioners note the campaign by the Kent and Sussex Courier on Southeastern rail fares and that the Petitioners believe that local rail travellers have been unfairly targeted by double figure fare increases, above the average across the network.

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The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review its policy on the setting of rail fares.


And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sir John Stanley , Official Report, 19 October 2011; Vol. 533, c. 1022 .]

[P000967]


The Petition of residents of West Kent and East Sussex,


Declares that the Petitioners note the campaign by the Kent and Sussex Courier on Southeastern rail fares and that the Petitioners believe that local rail travellers have been unfairly targeted by double figure fare increases, above the average across the network.


The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review its policy on the setting of rail fares.


And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Michael Fallon , Official Report, 19 October 2011; Vol. 533, c. 1023 .]

[P000968]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

The fares paid by passengers are making a vital contribution to funding the rail capacity expansion projects which the Government are delivering. This major programme of rail improvements is probably larger in scale than anything attempted since the Victorian era. It will deliver crucial benefits for passengers, including relief from crowding on some of the nation’s busiest routes. In total, we propose to deliver around 2700 new carriages on to the rail network in the coming years.

That said, we fully recognise the concern felt about rail fare levels and the impact they are having on family budgets. We also understand the concern felt about the level of inflation. To ease the pressure on passengers, we secured the funding to cancel the RPI+3 increase planned to take effect from 2 January. The average rise in regulated rail fares has been capped at 1% above inflation for 2012.

The coalition is formally committed to delivering fairness in rail fares. That is one of the reasons why the Government believe it is vital that the cost of running the railways comes down so that we can deliver better value for money to both taxpayers and farepayers.

Increases in Southeastern’s regulated fares are capped at RPI+1% for 2012 in line with the Chancellor’s announcement on rail fares last November. The train operator may increase individual regulated fares by up to 5% above this average cap as long as the average increase across their basket of fares is compliant. DFT monitors compliance of the fares baskets in respect of all the Train Operators and Southeastern is compliant with this fares basket regulation.

When it awarded the integrated Kent franchise in 2005, the previous Government decided to impose an increased cap on regulated fares for five years from 2007 to the end of 2011 reflecting investment in new rolling stock, power supply, stations depots and related infrastructure which had recently been delivered.

Last year, Sir Roy McNulty completed an extensive review of value for money on Britain’s railways. He concluded that the cost of running Britain’s railways is considerably higher than in our European neighbours and made a number of recommendations which he

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believes could deliver major cost savings. He also concluded that inefficiency across the railway industry is costing farepayers and taxpayers £3.5 billion a year.

We have just published our Command Paper “Reforming Our Railways: Putting the Customer First” which outlines how the industry will work collaboratively to reduce the £3.5 billion efficiency gap by 2019 with the savings going towards curbing fare increases while also investing in rolling stock and better infrastructure, and lessening the industry's reliance on public subsidy.

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Our consultation on rail fares and ticketing issues is open until 28 June. It will consider structure of fares—what one group of passengers is asked to pay compared with another—and ticketing.

We have committed, once savings are found and the improvement in the wider economic situation permits, to reducing and then abolishing above-inflation rises in average regulated fares.