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The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group. Amendment No. 7A is about integrating road and rail policiesor, as the former Deputy Prime Minister, my right honourable friend John Prescott, used to say, integrated transport, which I always thought was rather a good idea. The Bill requires each local transport authority to produce local transport policies,
but it also puts a duty on local transport authorities to take into account any policies announced by government which relate to these things.
In the integration of road and rail transport, there is already good contact between Network Rail, which tends to lead these things, and many local authorities, but I am not sure that that is quite enough. The new integrated transport authorities have a duty to consult, and Network Rails new route utilisation strategies, which already cover much of the country, have been taken into account. It is, however, interesting to reflect on what the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport said about the Bill. It said that Clause 57, the relevant clause in the draft Bill,
Local authorities are already consulted on these route utilisation strategies, but it would be good if the Bill provided for a formal requirement for consultation between road and rail operations; otherwise, some local authorities will undoubtedly decide not to do it. It is quite easy to change bus routes, bus stops and all the other things we will talk about when we reach the relevant part of the Bill, but it is sometimes difficult to change the rail side even with the route utilisation strategieswhich are very good and have had lots of consultation. If local transport bodies are to develop safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport locally as the Bill requires, they must take into account the areas current and future rail capacity as well as all the other things. I beg to move.
Lord Hanningfield: I speak to Amendments Nos. 9 and 10, which complement Amendment No. 7A. An authority's consultation requirements when producing a local transport plan are stated clearly in the subsection of the Bill to which this amendment applies. I suggest that there is a case to include two further points to the consultation requirements to ensure that local authorities are best informed when devising their plans. Having these on the face of the Bill will ensure that due consideration is given to the issues. As I say, such provision would also complement what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has just said.
First, an authority should have regard to plans and strategies published by any relevant rail infrastructure manager, such as Network Rail's route plans and route utilisation strategies. I know that Network Rail has close and regular contact with a number of local
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Route utilisation strategies are central to the forward planning activity of the rail industry. They set out the current capacity, passenger and freight demand, operational performance and cost projections going forward to address the future requirements of rail users, funders and key stakeholders. The rail utilisation strategies then perform the development and delivery of timetables, infrastructure, maintenance and renewals of the network. If local transport bodies are to adequately develop safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport within their area, as it says in the Bill, they should presumably take account of current and future rail capacity in that area and therefore provide the very best possible plans for transport users.
The second part of the amendment concerns consultation with transport users. It is vital that the Bill highlights the importance of consulting representatives of local transport users if a plan is to be successful and achieve transformational results. In particular, getting around is essential to children and young people meeting the five Every Child Matters outcomes, which include being healthy, staying safe and achieving economic well-beingeverything we are aiming for. All too often the needs and views of children are neglected, which is why we are proposing an extra consultation. That is especially pertinent when considering the high rate of transport accidents and lower reported feeling of personal security on transport. Developing local transport plans is central to meeting peoples needs and expectations.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I support any moves that would seek to improve the relationship between highways planning authorities and the railways. I have a question about one aspect of the relationship between road and rail. Every year, at the point at which they physically meetlevel crossings, in other wordssome 1,800 pedestrians and motorists are reported as in some way abusing the level crossing. Not only do they put themselves in great danger, they also endanger the lives of the passengers. In broad planning terms they also cause havoc because bridges have to be closed, as do roads and rail lines. Will the Minister update the Committee on actions that the Government intend to take following the Road Safety Act 2006? My noble friend Lord Bradshaw, who cannot take part in this Grand Committee, was very keen to table amendments to that effect but was ruled out of order by the Public Bill Office. However, they are not able to stop me today.
Baroness Crawley: I shall deal with the noble Baronesss point first. We were intending to discuss a number of safety issues at Clause 9 stand part, but if she wants me to bring forward the level-crossing issue I am happy to do so.
I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for raising this issue and thank the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of
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Lord Berkeley: Is Network Rail included in the consultation?
The Government agree that consultation on local transport plans with interested and affected parties and consideration of their plans and strategies is vital in securing transport policies and projects that best serve local people. We are grateful to the National Childrens Bureau for its input on this aspect of the Bill. It is important that the views of children and youth groups are taken into consideration when producing and implementing local transport plans.
We are also grateful to Network Rail, the Campaign for Better Transport and others for their proposals for railways and local transport plans. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, the integration of local railways with other local transport services already forms a key component of many plans, and we support that and will continue to encourage it. In many cases, it is right that organisations such as Network Rail and representatives of young people should be consulted on local transport plans. We believe that such groups are already likely to be covered by the duty the Bill places on local transport authorities to consult such other persons as the authority considers appropriate.
The Government consider that it is more appropriate for local authorities to decide which organisations they consult, taking account of local circumstances. Similarly, local transport authorities must take into account a wide range of plans and strategies when developing and implementing their local transport plans, including those of Network Rail, but also other relevant local, regional and national strategiesfor instance, regional spatial strategies. It is for local transport authorities to decide which of these are most relevant to them. To aid them, the Government intend to publish guidance that will include, among other things, suggestions about the kinds of bodies that it would be appropriate for local authorities to consult and the kinds of plans and strategies that should be considered. We believe that that is preferable to the inclusion in the Bill of such a long list that it would over time become increasingly out of date.
The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, asked about the actions that are being taken to prevent level-crossing accidents. This matter was also considered during the passage of the then Road Safety Bill. Level crossings now represent the greatest risk to the overall safety of the railway. In the vast majority of cases, however, accidents are caused not by failure of the crossing equipment or the actions of the train driver but by motorists who ignore the warning lights and seek to get across as the barriers
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Local transport authorities have responsibilities to promote the safe operation of transport across their area. While one accident at a level crossing is one too many, we should not lose sight of the small number of accidents at level crossings compared with the number on the rest of the road network. Local transport authorities need to apply their resources across their area, and the noble Baroness will know that that always has to be a consideration. Local transport authorities already have a duty under Section 108 of the Transport Act 2000 to formulate transport policies that promote safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport and to carry out their functions so as to implement those policies. Local authorities have duties under Section 122 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to ensure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic, including pedestrians.
There are numerous other statutory powers that concern safety at level crossings. For example, Section 1 of the Highway (Railway Crossings) Act 1839 places a duty on Network Rail to maintain such crossings. We consider that sufficient protection is provided by Section 1 of the Level Crossings Act 1983, which enables the Secretary of State to make an order providing for the protection of those using the level crossing to take into account their safety or convenience. The Office of Rail Regulation, which, as noble Lords will know, is the health and safety regulator for the rail industry, can impose a duty on the operator of a level crossing to request that the Secretary of State make such an order. Therefore, we do not see the need to impose a duty on local authorities as existing statutory powers can be used to ensure safety at level crossings.
Earl Attlee: I listened with interest to what the Minister said about safety at level crossings. Will she write to me to explain why, on Monday, my partner found herself on a stationary bus on a level crossing? The bus was a replacement rail service from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds. I shall give the Minister further details to assist her.
Baroness Crawley: I shall certainly assist as much as I can in answering the noble Earls query.
Lord Berkeley: The partner of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, could at least have drawn comfort from the fact that there would be no trains on that line to run into the busbut it is small comfort, I agree.
Earl Attlee: She was looking down the track. The noble Lord should imagine how she would have felt if she saw a train coming towards her.
Lord Berkeley: That is extremely serious. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, has done the Committee a great service by raising this issue, since we have all failed to get an amendment accepted.
The Minister spoke about all the obligations and duties on different people in this respect, but, as she said, 99.9 per cent of accidents at level crossings are caused by motorists or drivers of some description. She said that the network operator had a duty to maintain the level crossing, and we all accept that technically, but it is odd that in the Governments high-level output statement for the railways this summer, one of the requirements that they put on the industry was to improve safety. That is very commendable, except that my noble friend has just said that most of the accidents on the railways now are on level crossings.
The railway industry has no capability of improving safety at level crossings because it has no control over the drivers. When we were debating the transport safety Act, we failed to increase the penalties on drivers who do things that they should not do. Will the Government look favourably on increasing the penalties, as that seems the only way of stopping such drivers? You can have as many policies and white lines as you like, but unless somebody is severely fined, or has their licence taken away, they will take no notice. We failed on the previous occasion to increase the penalties. It would be nice to think that somebody could relent, and that an amendment could be tabled on Report to achieve it.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: If the public knew that we were discussing a Local Transport Bill which did not deal with the most dangerous place on the railway, they would think the legislation incompetent.
Baroness Crawley: Given the amount of consultation and scrutiny that the Bill has undergone, I hope that it is not incompetent. However, noble Lords have made serious points about the opportunity for terrible accidents in this area. I understand that there are no plans at present to increase penalties, but if I receive any other information on that, I shall contact the noble Lord before Report.
Lord Hanningfield: I support all that has been said on level crossings. However, we have moved away from the original group of amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and myself, which was about much more co-operation in devising the road network and rail network. I go back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeleythat although you can change a bus route, once the railways or roads are built there is not much that can be done about them. There needs to be a firm relationship between what we do with rail and road. If one goes in for road charging, then perhaps some of that money could be spent on the railways. I would like to see a stronger relationship in this legislation between rail and road. I am not very happy with the comments. I am sure that no one would disagree, but I would like to strengthen that relationship and that part of the Bill.
Lord Berkeley: I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, for his comments. I shall read the Ministers responses on this issue. There is work to be done on combining amendments to see whether we can persuade the House that there needs to be provision in the Bill requiring a much greater integration of policies which are acceptable. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 9 [Local transport plans]:
Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 8:
Clause 9, page 11, line 4, at end insert having regard to changing transport need within their area.
The noble Lord said: I welcome the Bills proposals for authorities to replace their local transport plans as they see fit. At present, the requirement to produce a new document every five years can prove rather arbitrary. True locally-driven reform should acknowledge that transport needs may change beyond such a rigid framework, and the ability for that to be determined at a local level will lead to better planning.
I have proposed that the line,
be added after the requirement to replace plans as authorities see fit. I believe that the Bill needs to acknowledge that authorities may need to update their plans according to the manifold pressures they face. Explicitly providing that the production of plans is a requirement in major changes within authorities' boundaries will allow LTAs to demonstrate the implications of large decisions. As an illustration from Essex County Council, the building of a new runway at Stansted Airport would have major implications on the transport strategy for the whole county. I would like the fact that the authority would be compelled to produce a revised plan to be made known when such large decisions are considered. I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that transport planning should not be a secondary issue to be considered as an afterthought.
The local transport plan is presently used to secure funding. If nothing else, the five-year framework allows authorities to plan in that respect and allows the Department for Transport to allocate funding. As I read the Bill as it stands, authorities would be able to produce a plan until it is deemed necessary for that plan to be superseded. If that is the case, will the Minister please confirm how authorities are to plan their budgets accurately? Further, will there be a requirement to bid for a certain length of funding? The plan will very much affect the funding, as I said. The second part of the amendment seeks to make it clear that local transport plans are to be for an initial specified length of operation for that reason.
I would also like to raise the issue of the reporting of local transport plans. How are authorities expected to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their plans? Will this be a guidance itemthe Bill contains lots of guidanceor will it be a requirement? In summary,
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Lord Borrie: On this matter, as on earlier ones, Her Majestys Opposition have very properly probed the Governments reasons for particular provisions in the Bill. However, I question the point of this amendment. I am not sure whether it is meant to limit what is provided for in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, seemed to be glad that an authority may replace its plans as it thinks fit, as distinct from the five-year restriction that has existed until now. Is the phrase,
stating the obvious? Or perhaps it is meant to be restrictive of the phrase,
On the second part of the amendment
what is the point of a provision that seems to restrict the Bills intention that the authority may replace the plan as it thinks fit? Several of the noble Lords amendments have been designed to provide greater flexibility from the bottom-up but this one seems to restrict flexibility.
Lord Hanningfield: Perhaps the noble Lord should have some experience of opposition. When one is in opposition, even if one supports parts of legislation, as I do in this case, it is still ones job to get clarification, as I am seeking to do through these amendments. My amendment is not to change the gist of the Bill but to get clarification on how it will work, as I said at the end of my introduction. I want clarification on how this will work and how the five-year plans result in funding. If there are to be different types of five-year plans, they still have to relate to the funding of the highway infrastructure that is given to local authorities. I would like the Minister to clarify how that might work, or how it will work with funding requirements in the future. It is very important for local authorities to understand that.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, for his explanation and to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for teasing out more from the noble Lord. The Government agree that it is important that authorities regularly review their local transport plans. The delivery of transport projects requires very careful planning and project management, and plans need to be responsive to emerging risks, changing demands, new pressures and, importantly, local issues. That is why the duty to keep plans under review will continue to apply to all authorities.
However, the Government recognise that local transport need is not the only consideration for these authorities when it comes to considering the timing of the replacement of their plans. Different authorities will want to plan differently, using different timescales and linking with different spatial plans, from local
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That is why we believe it is right that authorities should have the flexibility and adaptability to replace their local transport plans in ways that best suit their local and regional strategies and circumstances. That flexibility will not only serve the needs of diverse authorities; it will also be welcome to those authorities that choose to produce their local transport plans as a long-term strategy and one or more shorter-term implementation plans. For example, the implementation plan might need to be reviewed more frequently. It is the Governments intention to include provision on the suitable timing of replacement of local transport plans, including longer-term strategies and shorter-term implementation plans in guidance, rather than in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is right to ask for assurance that local transport plans will continue to be updated according to local transport need. I hope he is reassured that the approach we propose will ensure that local transport plans are reviewed regularly and replaced as appropriate, and that they continue to remain relevant. I hope he feels reassured by our approach to these issues.
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