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Railways: Power Supply

Viscount Astor asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) is responsible to the Department for Transport for planning for the railways' power supply needs. Before it went into administration, Railtrack had this responsibility but it failed to make proper provision for the power supply upgrade needed to

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cater for the new trains now being introduced on the Southern Region. That upgrade is now being led by the SRA, working with Network Rail which has day-to-day responsibility for use of the power supply and for remedial action if the supply fails.

Drivers: Eyesight Tests

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they require from drivers over 60 to provide to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency proof of adequate eyesight when applying for or holding driving licences.[HL5189]

Lord Davies of Oldham: For drivers of cars and motorcycles, eyesight is checked at the practical driving test by the reading of a number plate from a prescribed distance. When the licence is renewed at 70 the driver is required to declare that the eyesight standard can still be met. Drivers of large vehicles such as lorries and buses are required to undergo a medical examination, including an eyesight test, at application and then at age 45 and at five yearly intervals thereafter until 65, from which time the examination is carried out annually.

All drivers are required by law to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency if at any time they develop an ongoing medical condition affecting their fitness to drive, including defective eyesight.

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In which European Union member states driving licensing authorities require drivers over 60 to submit evidence of a satisfactory eye test when applying for or holding driving licences. [HL5190]

Lord Davies of Oldham: There is currently no comprehensive information available on how other member states evidence satisfactory eyesight in relation to driver licensing. However, the European Commission has recently issued a questionnaire seeking information on the procedures in place in member states for applying the minimum standards of physical and mental fitness to drive. We understand that the findings of this will be presented at a future meeting of the EC Committee on the Driving Licence and when they are available I will write to the noble Lord.

A1 Roundabouts

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will indicate the roundabouts on the A1 trunk road, detailing in respect of each the date on which they plan to replace the roundabout with another form of road junction.[HL5213]

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Lord Davies of Oldham: The construction/opening dates for the roundabout schemes on the AS1 which are to be changed to grade separated junctions are as follows:

NameTiming for Construction(1)Opening(2)
Carpenter's Lodge2007–082008–09
Gonerby Moor2007–082008–09
Markham Moor2005–062006–07

(1) The dates indicated assume completion of the statutory procedures for the schemes.

(2) The dates indicated are based on typical construction periods.

Felixstowe: Rail Freight

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of the container traffic to or from the port of Felixstowe arrives at or leaves that port by rail; and what plans they have to increase that proportion. [HL5216]

Lord Davies of Oldham: Rail had a 21 per cent market share at the port of Felixstowe in the 2002 calendar year. To increase the capability of the network to carry freight the route between the port and the West Coast Main Line is being cleared to take 96 containers, work will be completed by the end of 2004.

UK Ports: Empty Container Units

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any records of the proportion of containers leaving the United Kingdom which are empty.[HL5217]

Lord Davies of Oldham: In 2002, 41 per cent of container units leaving major ports of the United Kingdom were empty.

Train Protection and Warning System

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evaluation has been made of the safety justification and risk-based evidence of the decision of the safety authorities to fit the train protection and warning system at terminal station platforms; and whether they will publish the results.[HL5248]

Lord Davies of Oldham: The TPWS System Authority, a rail industry body, commissioned a study which considered the safety benefits, disbenefits and operational issues arising from the fitment of the Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) at station terminal platforms used by older style Mark 1 rolling stock. This is an internal industry document and there

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are no plans for it to be published outside the TPWS System Authority members.

TPWS has been fitted at certain sites on the network as a requirement of the Railway Safety Regulations 1999. The industry has always had the option of applying to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for exemptions from these requirements, if justified. No such application has been made to the HSE for TPWS buffer-stop fitments.

Wales and the Borders Franchise: Through Ticketing

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the decision by the Office of Fair Trading to let the Wales and the Borders franchise to Arriva Trains on the ground that Arriva operates bus services in part of the area covered, whether transport operators should have available a public interest defence when proposing through or joint tickets and services.[HL5262]

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Wales and the Borders Franchise was awarded to Arriva plc by the Strategic Rail Authority. Continued participation in existing integrated transport schemes (e.g. rail-bus links) was a requirement for all the bids for the franchise but it was not a critical factor in the selection of the franchise operator.

The Office of Fair Trading is required, under the Enterprise Act 2002, to investigate the impact of the franchise award on the bus operations of Arriva plc to the extent that they overlap with the rail services. In doing so they will take into account the views of third parties including user groups.

The sale of through tickets covering both a rail and bus journey seldom has competition implications because the operators of each stage of the journey are not normally competing with each other for the passengers making the journey.

The public transport ticketing schemes block exemption allows transport operators to agree to through or joint ticketing schemes, subject to certain conditions, notwithstanding the general prohibition on pricing agreements in the Competition Act 1998.

The Transport Act 2000 gives local authorities powers to make ticketing schemes for local buses which may include connecting rail or tram services. Even where a scheme has a significantly adverse effect on competition, but secures improvements in local bus services, or reduces congestion or pollution, it satisfies the competition test in that Act if the benefits achieved are proportionate to the restrictions on competition.


The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What services SchlumbergerSema provides for the National Health Service.[HL4910]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Information about local contracts let by National Health Service organisations is not held centrally where there is no need for departmental approval.

The Department of Health, on behalf of the NHS, has awarded the following contracts to SchlumbergerSema:

    (i) The England-wide National Electronic Booking System. The contract was awarded in October 2003 and is due to run over five years, with a value of £64.5 million for the provision of core services. Options exist for extensions to the length of contract and the services to be provided. The service will provide patients with the ability to choose, from a range of options, which hospital they would like to attend at a date and time to suit them. The first bookings are expected in summer of 2004, with national implementation by the end of 2005.

    (ii) The NHS Strategic Tracing Service (NSTS). A contract was awarded in March 1999 to provide a service to NHS organisations in England and Wales.The NSTS is a secure database of all people born, or who have been registered with a GP in England and Wales. It maintains administrative data on:

    people: (NHS number, names, date of birth, sex, date of death etc.);

    places: (address, postcode); and

    organisations: (GP practices, Trusts, Health Authorities) and the relationships between them, within the NHS.

    Authorised NHS personnel use it to validate demographic information about NHS patients.

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