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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The financial memorandum to which the noble Lord refers is the financial memorandum drawn up by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, and the two finance departments, North and South. In Northern Ireland, the North/South Language Body is required to comply with the financial memorandum by virtue of (i) the agreement of 8 March 1999 made between the British Government and the Irish Government establishing the North/South Implementation Bodies and (ii) the North/South Co-operation (Implementation Bodies) (NI) Order 1999.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Answer given on 12 May 2003 (WA 1) indicated that on 12 November 2002 the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA) advised the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) of DCRGA's 2003 provision for the North/South Language Body and similarly advised the body a few days later. In practice, by agreement between the two departments, that advice was given to the two agencies of the body via telephone calls from DCAL to the Ulster Scots Agency and from DCRGA to the Irish Language Agency. These calls were made on 14 November.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The special advisers in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister were consulted on the budgets for the bodies prior to the British and Irish Governments approving the recommendations for those Budgets under the exchange of notes between the two governments of 19 November 2002.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Special advisers are employed in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to assist the former First Minister and Deputy First Minister during suspension, working for a smooth return to devolved government and engaging in discussion for that purpose.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: In view of the high costs involved and the low level of passenger demand, Northern Ireland Railways have no plans to develop further railway connections to either Belfast International or Belfast City Airports.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Development plans will identify disused rail track beds, which provide a realistic opportunity for reuse for transportation purposes, or for recreation, leisure or tourism related
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Financial support is already available to private operators of scheduled bus services in Northern Ireland in the form of a rebate on fuel excise duty and concessionary fares grants.
In a consultation document issued in September 2003, entitled A New Start for Public Transport in Northern Ireland, the department set out proposals which included the progressive opening up of the public transport market to private sector participation. The next stage in this process has included the department commissioning review of the regulation of bus services with the aim of developing a new regulatory framework within which a publicly owned public transport company would continue to have a lead role in the provision of bus services but within a market that may be opened up progressively to private sector involvement. The study is to be completed in November 2003 and will be subject to further consideration thereafter.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Translink has advised that as at 31 March 2003 the average age of its bus fleet was 13.4 years. It is the Department for Regional Development's policy that Translink should replace buses as they reach their target replacement age of 18 years. Increasing maintenance costs and reliability problems make keeping vehicles over this age in operation uneconomical and unsatisfactory. The allocation of an additional £40 million for bus grants in the Northern Ireland budget, announced in December 2002 will, subject to economic and other appraisal processes, enable Translink to replace older vehicles and reduce its average fleet age.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Translink has, since its inception, endeavoured to provide integrated public transport services where feasible, with the aim of both improving options for the travelling public and also
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The table sets out the number of speeding convictions from 1996 to 2000. Statistics in respect of 2001 and 2002 are expected to become available towards the end of the year. Figures are for "excess speed", an offence under Article 43 of the Road Traffic Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.
|Year||Number of Convictions|
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Due to the substantial costs that would be incurred in establishing a railway link between Portadown and Armagh and the expected limited usage of such a link, this project was not included in the regional transportation strategy for Northern Ireland 200212, the strategic direction and underlying principles of which were agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 3 July 2002. Accordingly there are no plans to establish a railway link between Portadown and Armagh.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The provision of park and ride facilities is one of the initiatives included in the Regional Transportation Strategy for Northern Ireland 200212, the strategic direction and underlying principles of which were agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly in July 2002.
As area plans are developed opportunities for park and ride facilities will be protected. The Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan is currently being developed and will likely include proposed park and ride facilities for Trooperslane, Knockmore/Lisburn West and Tillysburn.