PACTS Comments on Parliamentary Questions:10 – 13 January 2011

 

Road Safety: Finance

Steve McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the change in funding from his Department to local authorities through the Road Safety Grant has been in the financial year 2010-11. [17160]

Mike Penning: The Government have made clear that an urgent priority is to tackle the UK’s record deficit in order to restore confidence in our economy and support the recovery. As a contribution to addressing the record deficit, we therefore have reduced the previous plans for local authority funding in 2010-11.

Central Government’s financial support grant to local authorities is provided through a variety of mechanisms, such as formula grant (including the revenue support grant), specific grants and specific capital grants.

The Government are clear that local government needs increased flexibility to take decisions locally. It has therefore retained the most flexible funding (formula grant) for 2010-11 at the level approved previously by Parliament (£29 billion). We have also lifted restrictions on how local government spends its money by removing ring-fences.

We expect local authorities to be able to make savings from efficiency measures, eliminating waste and, where necessary, reducing spending in areas that are lower priorities for their communities. The fact that certain grants have been chosen for reduction over others, does not mean that the Government expect there to be a direct correlation between grant reductions and local authority budget changes. For example, road safety grant was reduced as this grant was spread evenly across all local authorities, not because this was considered an area of lower priority spending.

Therefore the road safety area based revenue funding for 2010-11 has been reduced by about 26.6% from approximately £77.3 million to approximately £56.7 million. The road safety capital grant for 2010-11 is not being paid and had been planned to total about £17.2 million.

PACTS comments: The complete cutting of the Road Safety Capital Grant and the significant reduction in the Road Safety Revenue Grant has left road safety facing a double squeeze, as it competes with other services for a reduced quantity of general funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government. This is having a direct and significant impact on road safety at a local level. PACTS has had feedback from representatives in local authorities who have given examples such as the cutting of school crossing patrols and cancelled education campaigns. This feedback is part of research for a follow up report to Tackling the Deficit, which looks at the effect of the deficit and deficit-reducing measures on road safety. This second report on Tackling the Deficit will be published mid-February, and include a discussion on moving forward as well as an update on the current situation.

Sustainable Transport Fund

Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport by what mechanism the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will enable local authorities to continue to participate in nationally co-ordinated programmes; and if he will make a statement. [29945]

Norman Baker: The Local Sustainable Transport Fund represents a move away from programmes co-ordinated at a national level, and towards local authorities delivering at local level, sustainable transport measures that meet the needs of local communities.

Guidance on the operation of the Fund will be published shortly. This will encourage local authorities to work together and in partnership with external organisations such as sustainable travel groups in identifying the measures that deliver the greatest benefit for communities. If local authorities wish to be part of a scheme which runs over several local authority boundaries, they would be able to submit a joint bid to the Fund, with one authority taking the lead.

I also refer my hon. Friend to the written ministerial statement I made on 13 December 2010, Official Report,columns 82-84WS.

PACTS comments: The written statement Mr Baker refers to can be viewed by clicking here. In it he gives examples of projects which the Sustainable Transport Fund could be used to develop, including improving road safety. The guidance for the Fund should be published next week. 

Electric Vehicles

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what timetable he has set for the design of a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. [33126]

Norman Baker: As part of the Department for Transport’s structural reform plan, we plan to publish a strategy for promoting the installation of electric vehicle infrastructure by the end of June 2011. This will include details of subsequent actions that we plan to take regarding a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

PACTS comments: Due to the level of support the government is showing the promotion of electric vehicles, PACTS discussed the safety element of these vehicles with the experts attending the PACTS Vehicle Design Working Party held this week. There was a good level of support and interest in this field, and it was generally agreed that there was no reason that electric vehicles shouldn’t be as safe in a crash as normal vehicles.

The safety issues to consider with electric vehicles include: noise, acceleration, vulnerable road users and speeds. It was agreed that the Working Party would take further steps to investigate these matters with the aim of producing a briefing paper. 

Other transport safety Parliamentary Questions this week: 

Plugged-In Places

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he plans to announce the outcome of the Plugged-In Places scheme; and if he will make a statement. [33031]

Norman Baker: The Secretary of State for Transport announced the outcome of the second round of Plugged-In Places funding on 14 December 2010. Five projects were successful, based in Northern Ireland, Central Scotland, Greater Manchester, the Midlands and the East of England. These supplement the three existing projects in London, Milton Keynes and the North East.

The outcomes of these projects will inform the development of national policy regarding electric vehicle infrastructure, with a strategy for promoting the installation of charging infrastructure due to be published in June 2011.

Large Goods Vehicles

Tracey Crouch: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what his policy is on the European Commission’s proposal to restrict all semi-trailers built under whole vehicle tyre approval to four metres in height; and if he will make a statement; [32498]

(2) what representations he has received on the proposed restrictions on semi-trailers built under whole vehicle tyre approval to four metres in height. [32499]

Mike Penning: The Government’s policy is to resist the four metre height limit and other aspects of the Commission’s draft proposal that make fundamental changes to existing requirements. Following a request for evidence on the potential impacts of the proposal, the Department for Transport has received replies from trade associations and individual companies. These indicate
10 Jan 2011 : Column 35W
that the impact could be significant and the Department will be pressing the Commission and other member states to maintain the status quo.

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many (a) accidents and (b) fatalities between 2000 and 2010 were recorded as having been caused by freight lorries jack-knifing; [32805]

(2) what recent progress his Department has made on reducing the number of accidents caused by jack-knifed lorries. [32806]

Mike Penning: The following table shows the number of reported personal injury road accidents and consequential fatal casualties in accidents where at least one heavy goods vehicle (3.5 tonnes or over) was reported to have jack-knifed. The latest year for which information is available is 2009. Statistics are not available for accidents where no personal injury occurred.

It is not possible to determine from the data whether the HGV in question caused the accident.

Reported personal injury road accidents and consequential fatal casualties in accidents involving a jack-knifed heavy goods vehicle (over 3.5 tonnes): Great Britain 2000-09

Accidents Fatalities

2000

175

18

2001

156

16

2002

155

19

2003

152

19

2004

145

10

2005

142

23

2006

142

15

2007

98

10

2008

116

11

2009

92

6

In 2002 our national legislation governing the construction, equipment, maintenance and use of road vehicles (The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986) was amended to require anti-lock braking systems (ABS) on certain new heavy commercial vehicles.

Although ABS does not directly prevent jack knifing, it can improve a vehicle’s stability under braking and prevent wheel lock-a potential contributory factor in jack knife incidents.

 

Railways: Suicide

Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he plans to take to reduce the incidence of suicides on the rail network in those areas with a high incidence. [30647]


10 Jan 2011 : Column 40W

Mrs Villiers: Action to prevent suicides on the railways is a matter of operational rail safety, which is the responsibility of Network Rail, operators and the independent rail safety regulator. However, when I met with them in August 2010, I was pleased to support the joint Network Rail/Samaritans initiative to reduce suicides on the railways by 20% in five years.

Mrs Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with train operating companies on the prevention of suicide on the rail network following the launch of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy; and if he will make a statement. [30731]

Mrs Villiers: Suicides on the railways is a matter of operational safety, which is the responsibility of Network Rail, operators and the independent rail safety regulator.

However, during regular meetings with senior representatives from the rail industry, I have discussed the joint initiative between Network Rail and the Samaritans to reduce suicides on the railway by 20% in five years, which I am happy to support.

Railways: Suicide

Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the joint campaign by Network Rail and the Samaritans to prevent suicides on the rail network. [30646]

Mrs Villiers: The aim of the joint campaign, which began this year and which I am happy to support, is to reduce the number of suicides on the railway by 20% by 2015. The programme is being fully evaluated by RSSB, an independent cross-industry body which is supported by Department for Transport funding.

 

Transport: Voluntary Organisations

Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the potential role of the voluntary sector in delivering active travel programmes sponsored by his Department. [30817]

Norman Baker: The Department for Transport recognises that the voluntary sector has potentially an important role to play in the design and delivery of sustainable travel solutions.

My statement of the 13 December 2010, Official Report, columns 82-84WS, on the Local Sustainable Transport Fund made clear that bids from local transport authorities will be particularly welcomed if they can demonstrate support from, and the involvement of, voluntary and community organisations, and the private sector. Detailed guidance on the operation of the fund will be published shortly.

 

 

Driving: Eyesight

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received on changes to the requirements for sight tests for drivers. [32980]

Mike Penning: I met representatives of the Eye Health Alliance at the end of November and confirmed our willingness to work with them to increase awareness among drivers of the importance of good eyesight for driving.

The Department for Transport recently reviewed the arrangements for ensuring driving licences are issued only to those who meet the appropriate vision standards. This review was undertaken in conjunction with the experts of the Secretary of State’s Honorary Medical Panel on Visual Disorders and Driving and concluded that the number plate test remains an effective, straightforward means of testing a driver’s vision.

 

 

Railway Stations: Disability

Mr Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking with (a) Network Rail and (b)train operating companies to improve the compliance of railway stations with legal requirements for access for disabled passengers. [33525]

Norman Baker: The Equality Act 2010 requires service providers, including Network Rail and train operators, to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled people are not at a substantial disadvantage when using their services.

In addition, European and UK-wide accessible standards in the Department for Transport’s publication, “Accessible Train Station Design for Disabled People: A Code of Practice” should be followed whenever station infrastructure is renewed or installed. This is available on the Department for Transport’s website at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/rail/railstations/accessiblestationdesigns/

In 2006, the previous Government launched the Railways for All strategy which included a £370 million Access for All fund for improvements to stations, in addition to the commitments in rail franchises, and major upgrades or renewals, to accelerate this process. The coalition Government are continuing with the published Access for All Programme.

 

Roads: Tyres

Steve Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the merits of (a)mandatory and (b) voluntary adoption of winter tyres on British roads. [32911]

Mike Penning: The Department for Transport has not undertaken a formal assessment on the merits of a mandatory requirement for drivers to fit winter tyres when driving on British roads.

It is appropriate for drivers rather than Government to make that decision about tyre choice and factors such as the costs of purchasing winter tyres, storing the original set of tyres, and refitting them when the conditions improve will be part of their consideration. The tyre industry provides advice and guidance to help people make that choice.

 

 

Transport: Standards

Mr Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what methods other than cost-benefit ratios his Department uses to appraise and rank transport projects; [31478]

(2) what weight his Department proposes to give in appraising and ranking transport projects to the assessment of effects on (a) physical activity and obesity, (b) journey-time reliability, (c) gross value added to the economy, (d) carbon dioxide emissions and (e) time savings by users; [31479]

(3) whether the proposed changes to appraisal methodology for transport projects will include (a) an assessment of the size and distribution of time savings to users and (b) consideration of the effects on the level of carbon dioxide emissions. [31480]

Norman Baker: The Department for Transport’s approach to appraising proposed transport schemes involves identifying a wide range of economic, environmental, and social impacts. An overview is available at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/webtag/documents/overview/unit1.1.php

Benefit-cost ratios (BCRs), after adjustment for non-monetised impacts, are used to inform the economic case through a value for money assessment. Scheme decisions are taken on the strength of their overall business case, of which the economic case is one part.

The impacts of a scheme on: physical activity and obesity; journey time reliability; carbon dioxide emissions; and, time savings by users are reported in the Appraisal Summary Table (AST). Impacts on GVA are captured within these and other categories in the table.

In line with HM Treasury’s Green Book appraisal guidance, wherever possible, impacts are monetised using evidence-based values. The size of each impact, and its monetary value, determine its contribution to a scheme’s BCR, before it is adjusted for non-monetised impacts in the value for money assessment. However, the presentation of the impacts in the AST allows the decision maker to form their own view over each impact’s relative importance, when considering the overall business case.

Last year, the Department for Transport issued ‘in draft’ scheme appraisal guidance requiring scheme promoters to report how benefits from travel time changes break down into time bands, one of which is zero to two minutes per trip. The guidance is available at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/webtag/documents/expert/pdf/unit3.5.3d.pdf

At the same time, the Department for Transport also published updated ‘in-draft’ guidance to reflect the current carbon prices that were based on the then current guidance from the Department for Energy and Climate Change. These carbon prices are provided in Table 2a of the ‘In Draft’ ‘Greenhouse Gases Sub-Objective’ guidance available at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/webtag/documents/expert/pdf/unit3.3.5d.pdf

These ‘in draft’ carbon prices were used for the appraisal of schemes during the spending review, to ensure decisions were informed by the most up-to-date values of carbon impacts.

The Department for Transport’s Business Plan for 2011-15 states it will reform the way transport projects are assessed, and funding prioritisation decisions are made, so that the benefits of low carbon proposals are fully recognised. This includes reviewing and revising its guidance on appraising transport projects, as well as its processes for assessing schemes and supporting ministerial decisions. We aim to announce the scope and timetable of this review shortly.

 

Parliamentary Written Question (Correction)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I regret to inform the House that there was an inaccuracy in the answer I gave to parliamentary question 31081 on 16 December, Official Report, columns 866-67W, about the numbers of persons who habitually travel to a place of work. The table, with corrected figures for 2005, is detailed below:

Numbers of people by mode of travel and location of workplace
Thousands
October to December
Area Mode of travel 2005(1) 2006 2007 2008 2009

England

Train(2)

1,017

970

1,072

1,084

1,040

Car(3)

15,649

14,605

14,518

14,281

13,998

Bus/Coach(4)

1,656

1,562

1,526

1,477

1,331

East Midlands

Train(2)

13

11

12

13

13

Car(3)

1,393

1,317

1,321

1,341

1,279

Bus/Coach(4)

90

99

120

97

97

Note:
(1) Following realignment from seasonal to calendar quarters, data for December are assumed to follow the same pattern as that of October and November.
(2) Includes railway trains but excludes underground train and light railway or tram.
(3) Includes car, van, minibus and works van.
(4) Includes bus, coach and private bus.
Source: ONS Labour Force Survey (LFS)

An investigation has shown that the error was due to a change in the Labour Force Survey methodology introduced by ONS in early 2006. Specifically, the survey changed from providing data for non-standard “seasonal” quarters (i.e. “Autumn” = September to November,
11 Jan 2011 : Column 13WS
“Winter” = December to February, etc.) to using more standard calendar quarters from this point. As a result of this change, the Department’s estimates for the period October to December in 2005 are actually based on only two months of data (October to November) instead of three months in all later years. The 2005 estimates given in the answer should therefore have been adjusted upwards by a factor of 1.5 to take account of this difference. However, this adjustment was not applied and the error was not spotted before the draft answer was submitted.

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