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Coastguard Station Closures at Oban and Pentland Firth

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Deputy Prime Minister has stated that there will be no net job losses in Scotland, so the savings to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency will accrue from the closure of the maritime rescue sub-centre buildings at (a) Oban and

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(b) Pentland Firth. In a full year these are expected to be:

    (a) Oban £30,000

    (b) Pentland Firth £67,000

    Total £97,000 Further “savings" will accrue from the reduced costs of ICCS which for the two stations is likely to be in the region of £450,000.

However, it should be underlined that savings were not a reason for station closures, which are aimed at enabling the agency to make better use of its resources.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many search and rescue operations have been conducted by the coastguard stations at (a) Oban and (b) Pentland Firth.[HL4163]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The table below details seach and rescue operations conducted by Her Majesty's Coastguard at the Oban and Pentland rescue centres between 1988 and 1998.

YearOban MRSCPentland MRSC
1999 To Date23692

Figures = total incidents.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For each of the coastguard stations at Oban and Pentland Firth, how many people are employed and how many have opted for redundancy when the stations close.[HL4164]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The number of staff employed at each station is as follows:

    Oban 17 (two of which are on contract employment which cease on closure)

    Pentland 21 (one of which is on contract employment which cease on closure). A preference exercise for staff is about to commence and the number of staff opting for redundancy will not be available until this has been completed.

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Train Protection Warning System

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In respect of their instruction to install the train protection warning system in all passenger and freight trains:

    (a) what is the estimated total cost of the installation;

    (b) who is responsible for funding this work; and

    (c) whether funders are able to obtain any reimbursement of these costs from government sources in respect of either passenger or freight trains.[HL4166]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: (a) The regulatory impact assessment attached to the Railway Safety Regulations 1999 (available in the Library) gives estimated figures of £40 million for cab fitment, £80 to £105 million for initial signal fitment and £10 million for driver training.

(b) The regulations place the duty to install train protection systems on both train operators and infrastructure controllers but do not specifically address responsibility for funding.

(c) The costs of fitment to passenger trains are not expected to be such as to trigger government payments under the cost-sharing agreements between the Government and the rolling-stock leasing companies in respect of mandatory modifications. It is to be expected that costs will in due course feed through to track access charges and in some cases to subsidies. For freight trains, if increases in operating costs make certain freight flows non-viable, then freight grants are likely to be available provided those flows generate sufficient environmental benefits compared to the road alternative.

Train Emergency Exits

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the efficacy and marking of emergency exits on trains.[HL4186]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Following a fire on a train near Maidenhead in 1995, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommended improvements to the provision of emergency equipment and facilities for passengers. This resulted in the British Railways Board, in conjunction with train operators and train leasing companies, producing an industry code of practice, which remains in force.

HSE's investigation of the Paddington accident will re-examine whether current provisions are adequate and the wide-ranging remit of Lord Cullen's public inquiry will allow further consideration of the matter, if judged relevant.

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Train Signals Passed at Danger

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the sanctions imposed upon drivers and train operators where trains pass red lights at danger; and to what extent such actions have been imposed during each of the past three years.[HL4185]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Railway Group Standard GO/RT 3252 Signals passed at danger sets out the requirements for both Railtrack and train operating companies (TOCs) on investigating incidents of signals passed at danger (SPADs). Under this standard, a TOC must review its own safety arrangements and, where relevant, the suitability of a driver to continue in his or her duties if he or she has been involved in three or more SPADs. A driver who is assessed as no longer competent or fit must, under the Railways (Safety Critical Work) Regulations 1994, be relieved of his or her duties. Information is not available on the number of occasions on which this sanction has been imposed.

HSE's Railway Inspectorate has a range of ways of securing any safety improvements which it considers necessary. In most cases, safety improvements are achieved without the need for formal sanctions. However, if companies or individuals fail to comply with their statutory safety duties the inspectorate has power to issue legally binding improvement or prohibition notices, or to prosecute, if necessary. So far in 1999 the inspectorate has brought one prosecution and issued one prohibition and two improvement notices as a result of SPAD incidents. There were no such prosecutions or notices in 1997 or 1998.

Train Driver Training

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the training periods prescribed for drivers employed by the train operators; and[HL4183]

    Whether the training requirements for drivers employed by the train operators have changed since the privatisation of British Rail; and, if so, in what respects have they done so.[HL4184]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Before privatisation of British Rail, drivers were trained for competence in a wide range of duties. Following restructuring of the industry, training methods have modernised; driver training has become more focused on particular types of trains and routes; and typical training periods have fallen. There is no prescribed training schedule or period imposed on the train operating companies.

National performance standards for the privatised industry have recently been launched to replace certain previous individual train operator standards. Drivers must be judged competent against performance

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standards to be allowed to drive, though the reduced breadth of training post-privatisation leads to a corresponding restriction in the work each driver is competent to undertake.

The broad remit of Lord Cullen's public inquiry, following the Ladbroke Grove accident, will allow consideration of driver training and competence issues. The current investigation of the accident by the Health and Safety Executive's Railways Inspectorate will identify and report publicly any issues particular to the accident.

EU Transport Council, 6 October

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the EU Transport Council held on 6 October[HL9273]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston : The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 6 October, the day after the rail accident at Ladbroke Grove in west London. The Chairman of the Council and a number of EU Transport ministers expressed condolences to the UK. I was able to attend for part of the meeting before returing to London. The UK Permanent Representation occupied the UK seat for the remainder.

The Council agreed the text of its report to the Helsinki European Council on the integration of transport and environment policies. The report, another important step in the process launched by the UK during its EU Presidency last year, emphasises the importance of policy integration at EU level.

The Council adopted mandates for negotiations with the United States and the Russian Federation as part of the definition phase of the Galileo satellite navigation project.

Following a long debate, the Council agreed conclusions on the railways package, guaranteeing rail operators access to a trans-European rail freight network (TERFN), yet to be defined, leaving the arrangements for delivering this to member states and respecting the UK's approach to infrastructure charging. The conculsions lay down the outline of the final package. The Council agreed that it will aim for a Common Position at the December Council on the infrastructure package and on access rights and that proposals would be taken forward on a definition of a TERFN, interoperability and technical harmonisation.

The Commission reported on its continuing contacts with the US, aimed at reaching an agreement in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on new aircraft noise standards. The Presidency called on the Commission to make

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legislative proposals which would facilitate work within ICAO and affirmed the objective of maintaining EU environmental standards.

As in June, the Council showed divergent views on aspects of the proposal on working time in road transport, extending EU working time provisions to that sector. Member states remained divided on the issue of inclusion of the self-employed. The Presidency said it would work with the Commision to produce a compromise proposal before the December Council.

The Council debated the proposed directive on harmonisation of weekend and holiday lorry bans. Member states were divided on the issue. The UK, while in favour of harmonisation, recognised the concerns of some other member states which currently have lorry bans. The Presidency asked for further work to be done.

Under other business, the Commission reported that it would submit a communication on air traffic delays to the December Council. Member states were urged to make every effort towards a successful conclusion to the negotiations on Community accession to Eurocontrol.

France presented a paper proposing a programme of work on tackling trans-Alpine transport problems, in the light of recent incidents. The Commission said it would look at further initiatives, which should fit in with wider transport policy.

Other issues dealt with under other business were: preparation for the aviation Open Skies conference being held in Chicago in December; transport in WTO/GATS, with particular reference to the Seattle conference in November; the Year 2000 computer problem (the Commission noting that good progress had been made in transport sectors); and the current blockage of navigation on the Danube.

Schools: Collective Worship

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Blackstone on 11 October (WA20), whether, in the light of the Department for Education and Employment's expectation that schools and their governing bodies fulfil their statutory requirement in providing collective worship, they will introduce sanctions upon those that fail to do so.[HL4189]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone) : There are arrangements in place through local standing advisory committees on religious education to assist those schools which have difficulties in meeting their statutory requirements in relation to collective worship. We believe this is the best way to ensure that schools meet their obligations.

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