PQs 20th – 23rd June

Oral Transport Questions – 23rd June:
Motorway Speed Limits
2. Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): What recent representations he has received on varying national motorway speed limits. [61506]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): My ministerial colleagues and I have received a variety of representations, including via the red tape challenge to the highways regulations, on the subject of varying the motorway speed limit. The issue raises interesting aspects of our current behaviour, and we will continue to look at it.
Stephen Mosley: The maximum motorway speed limit in several European countries, including France, Italy and Germany, is currently greater than 80 mph. In order to help deliver the economic benefit of reduced journey time, will my hon. Friend consider increasing the motorway speed limit to 80 mph?
Mike Penning: The existing limit has been in place since the ’60s. We will weigh up safety and environmental aspects against enforcement—although we all know that 70 mph is not being enforced—and how increasing the speed limit to 80 mph would help the country to grow in infrastructure. We will look at the balance in those areas.
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): In assessing the impact on safety of increasing motorway speed limits, does the Minister agree that another potential consequence will be our ability to meet our carbon dioxide emission targets? Has he received any representations from his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change who, as we know, is something of an expert on these matters?
Mike Penning: I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, who had my job before me, but he should have listened to the answer I gave a few moments ago before reading out his prepared question. We will balance the environmental aspects against the safety aspects, and also take into account the legislative process and whether or not we can get Britain moving better.
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): May I press the Minister a little further? What analysis has he done of the extra fuel usage and CO2 emissions that would result from increasing the speed limit from 70 to 80?
Mike Penning: The hon. Gentleman should also have listened to what I said. I did not say that we had conducted the consultation; I said we would balance various aspects during the consultation, and I am sure he would like to take part in that consultation and in our discussion about what is the right balance.
Urban Traffic
3. Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): What steps he is taking to improve the flow of traffic in urban areas. [61507]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): We are providing local authorities with the right tools and the freedom to use them effectively. Our £560 million local sustainable transport fund will contribute to local schemes that support growth and reduce carbon.
Mr Spellar: Last week, in answer to a written question that I tabled on street works, the Minister stated that an independent report had found that legislation was “fit for purpose” but local authority practice needed to improve. He can certainly say that again! He only has to step outside this building to see the chaos caused by nearby street works that continue for week after week with no work actually being done, and that pattern is repeated across London and the rest of urban Britain. What is he going to do to create a sense of urgency about freeing up the roads—and, as a start, will he get Boris to focus on his day job and start sorting out London’s roads?
Norman Baker: All of us have considerable sympathy for those who encounter street works, which are a nuisance to motorists and pedestrians alike, and which cause congestion and adversely affect business. We are keen to take steps to improve matters, including by developing regulations to allow targeted lane rental schemes, cutting red tape from the private scheme approval process, and considering utility works overrun charges.
Crossrail
7. Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the Crossrail programme provides adequate toilet facilities at stations and on its rolling stock. [61512]
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): Provision of adequate and accessible facilities is an important consideration for many passengers. The majority of Crossrail stations will have toilet facilities. Since this will be a high frequency metro service, with most passengers travelling relatively short distances, we have no current plans to provide toilets on Crossrail trains.
Accessible Travel Information
10. Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): If he will bring forward proposals to ensure the provision of accessible public travel information for blind and partially sighted people. [61515]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): The Department is committed to improving accessible transport information that is available to enable people to plan their full journey. For example, the development of a journey planner for spectators going to the Olympics has provided an important new opportunity to achieve high standards of accessible information.
Mr Cunningham: I thank the Minister for that answer, but has he had any discussions with the railway operators, particularly in relation to the implications of cuts in the staffing of railway stations for people with disabilities?
Norman Baker: Matters relating to individual stations are, of course, ultimately ones for the franchise holder, but we have offered financial support for new information systems at more than 170 railway stations since 2006 and audio-visual passenger systems have been mandatory for all new rail vehicles since 1998.
 
Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): I received a visit from my constituent, Lionel Broughton, on this matter with regard to buses. My local bus company, Stagecoach, has said that it will look at introducing visual and voice announcements on its fleet. Can the Minister do anything to give the industry a nudge?
Norman Baker: I am delighted to say that I wrote to the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents the main bus operators, on 23 May, to give exactly that nudge.
Low-carbon Vehicles
14. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What steps he is taking to encourage take-up of low-carbon vehicles. [61519]
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): The Government have made provision of over £400 million for measures to promote the uptake of ultra-low-carbon vehicle technologies. These measures include support for consumer incentives, the development of recharging infrastructure and a programme of research, development and demonstration work. Low-emission vehicles also benefit from tax advantages.
Jo Swinson: A convenient network of publicly available charging points is essential if we are to encourage the uptake of electric cars, so I welcome the £1.45 million of Government funding for Transport Scotland to build 375 charging points across the central belt of Scotland, but I was concerned at BBC media reports last month suggesting that the UK in general is behind schedule in getting these charging points in place. Will the Secretary of State give us an update on progress on charging points?
Mr Hammond: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question and I agree that we need to understand the way in which the public expect to use public charging points, in order to understand how we can best roll out the electric vehicle programme. Early evidence from other countries has produced some results that might not have been intuitive before the demonstration projects. It is true that the total number of charging posts that are rolled out will be less than was originally envisaged, because in a number of cases promoters of the plugged-in places schemes have determined that multi-headed charging posts are the best way forward. That accounts for some of the discrepancy in numbers to which I think the hon. Lady is referring.
Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): Will the Minister consider maintaining the duty differential for sustainable biofuels? This has played an important role in creating green jobs, which are now threatened by the removal of the differential in April 2012.
Mr Hammond: As my hon. Friend knows, the differential plays an important role in bringing forward sustainable biofuels. In particular, the re-use of used oils is an important source of sustainable fuels. However, all matters relating to duty are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor to consider and, when the current arrangements expire in 2012, he will consider whether to renew them and on what basis.
Public Transport (2012 Olympics)
15. Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Mayor of London on public transport provision during the London 2012 Olympics. [61521]
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): I have lead accountability in Government for transport preparations for the 2012 Olympic games. Ministers and departmental officials regularly meet and correspond with the Mayor of London and Transport for London officials on a variety of London transport issues, including those in relation to the 2012 Olympics. The Mayor of London also attends the regular meetings of the Cabinet Sub-Committee overseeing preparations for the Olympics, of which I am a member.
Mr Ellwood: Not all the events are taking place in London. Bournemouth is still coming to terms with losing the bid for the beach volleyball to Horse Guards Parade. However, Weymouth is delighted to be hosting the sailing events. Can the Secretary of State outline what improvements to transport will take place for 2012 in that area?
Mr Hammond: I agree that on the face of it Bournemouth has a better beach than Horse Guards Parade, but there we are. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the transport challenges around the other venues. Plans to improve transport access to Weymouth during the Olympic games include temporary traffic management and a £5.7 million scheme to improve the Canford Bottom roundabout, which will include the installation of 70 additional traffic lights to control traffic flow. During this summer, the Highways Agency will be trialling the use of its traffic officers on the route between London and Weymouth as an additional means to manage traffic flows.
Written Answers in the House of Lords – 20th – 23rd June:
Cyclists: Accidents
Question
Asked by Lord Janner of Braunstone
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will reduce the level of road accidents involving bicycles. [HL9887]
Earl Attlee: On 11 May the Government published their new Strategic Framework for Road Safety. This document sets out the Government’s plans to assure the safety of all road users. The framework is available on the Department for Transport website: http://www.dft.gov.uk/publications/strategic-framework-for-road-safety/.
Written Answers in the House of Commons – 20th – 23rd June:
Bus Services
Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the minimum statutory requirement is for the provision of (a) evening and (b) Sunday bus services in local areas in England. [59515]
Norman Baker: There is no specific statutory requirement for the provision of evening and Sunday bus services in local areas of England.
78% of local bus services are provided on a commercial basis by private operators and the routes and times that they run are a matter for the operator concerned.
There is a duty in the Transport Act 1985:
“to secure the provision of such public passenger transport services as the council considers it appropriate to secure to meet any public transport requirements within the county which would in their view not be met apart from any action taken by them for that purpose…”
It is therefore a decision for local councils to decide what further services, if any, they should be providing.
Bicycles
Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what responses his Department received to its consultation on electrically-assisted pedal cycles; and whether he plans to issue any regulations as a result of the consultation. [60817]
 
Mike Penning: The Department for Transport received 79 responses to the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC) consultation and the results have been analysed. Regulations pertaining to EAPC are also subject to the current ‘Red Tape Challenge’, and comments submitted as part of this initiative will also be considered before the Department publishes a statement on next steps.
Invalid Vehicles: Regulation
Mr Ivan Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to announce the results of his Department’s consultation on proposed changes to legislation governing powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs. [59452]
Norman Baker [holding answer 13 June 2011]: The findings from the consultation are currently being considered. I will be making an announcement as soon as practicable.
Motor Vehicles: Sales
Mr Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate his Department has made of the number of used car sales in each year since 2005. [60874]
Mike Penning: The Department for Transport estimates that there were 7.65 million transfers of used cars during 2010.
Some of these transfers will not have been through a sale of the vehicle. The transfer may be as a result of a gift, inheritance or trader registering the car to their business after holding it for longer than three months. Information about what type of transfer took place is not held on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database.
The estimate for 2010 was based on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) which enables changes in the ownership of a vehicle to be tracked over time. A less accurate method was used to produce a broad estimate for 2009, of 6.44 million transfers, based on matching the registration marks of vehicles. Estimates have not been produced for years prior to 2009, and to do so would incur disproportionate cost.
Driving: Licensing
Nick de Bois: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether provisions are in place to prevent individuals without a (a) provisional or (b) full UK driving licence purchasing motor insurance. [60835]
 
Mike Penning: There is no statutory requirement on insurers to check that someone seeking motor insurance has a valid driving licence. Insurers undertake the risk of those they insure and are obliged to meet the insured’s liability in the event of an accident.
 
Motor Vehicles: Sales
Mr Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate his Department has made of the number of used car sales that have involved tampering with odometer readings since 2005. [60875]
 
Mr Davey [holding answer 20 June 2011]: I have been asked to reply.
The Department for Transport does not have year on year figures as requested. However, an OFT study on the second hand car market estimated that between 5 and 12% of second-hand cars checked have a mileage discrepancy.
Roads: Safety
Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for television road safety campaigns in 2011-12. [61433]
Mike Penning: I refer my hon. Friend to my answer of 5 April 2011 Official Report, column 877W.
Low-carbon Vehicles
18. Peter Aldous: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department is taking to promote low-carbon vehicles. [61524]
 
Mr Philip Hammond: The Government have made provision of over £400 million for measures to promote the uptake of ultra-low carbon vehicle technologies. These measures include support for consumer incentives, development of recharging infrastructure, and a programme of research, development work and demonstration work. Low emission vehicles are also supported by the tax system.
Crossrail Line
Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) accidents and (b) fatalities in the construction of Crossrail have been recorded. [59790]
Mrs Villiers: There have been no fatalities to date during the construction of Crossrail. There have been 12 RIDDOR-reportable accidents (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, 1995) since Crossrail commenced its main delivery phase in May 2009. Prior to that one reportable accident occurred in February 2008 during the preliminary works stage.
 
Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information his Department holds on the safety record in constructing Crossrail. [59791]
Mrs Villiers: The Department for Transport receives regular information from Crossrail Ltd regarding safety matters. In addition, arrangements are in place to ensure that the Department for Transport is advised if a serious safety incident occurs.
Large Goods Vehicles
 
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether EU Directive 96/53/EC on road vehicles will restrict use of any articulated vehicle in excess of 16.5 metres in length on UK roads to operation on a trial basis only. [61331]
Mike Penning [holding answer 21 June 2011]: Article 4.4 (b) of Directive 96/53/EC permits a member state to allow, in domestic traffic, vehicles which exceed the maximum dimensions specified in Annex I (in the case of articulated vehicles, a maximum length of 16.5m), provided that the member state also allows vehicles which comply with Annex I dimensions to be used in such combinations as to achieve at least the loading length of the longer vehicle. If this condition is fulfilled, there is no requirement to operate on a trial basis only.
The Government are consulting on a proposal to allow articulated vehicles of 18.75m in total length, with a loading length of 15.65m. This is the same loading length which is currently provided by Annex I compliant rigid/drawbar combinations.
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the potential effect on (a) road safety and (b) levels of carbon emissions of the operation on UK roads of vehicles over 16.5 metres in length. [61333]
Mike Penning [holding answer 21 June 2011]: The Department for Transport’s research into the potential impacts of allowing longer semi-trailers on British roads, set out in the impact assessment on longer semi-trailers, found that while there might be a small increase in safety risk per vehicle, this is outweighed by a forecast decrease in accidents from running fewer lorries, with an overall net decrease in casualties from accidents involving articulated HGVs of around 1.6%. The research also found that allowing longer semi-trailers would result in around 100,000 tonnes annual reduction in CO2 emissions.
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the ratio of laden to unladen heavy goods vehicles on UK roads in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what estimate he has made of the likely ratio following any introduction of vehicles over 16.5 metres to the UK. [61334]
Mike Penning [holding answer 21 June 2011]: Current load factors for heavy goods vehicles are published in the Department’s “Road Freight Statistics”. Figures are available for 2009 on the Department’s website.
The Government are consulting on proposals to allow an increase in the length of articulated lorries. Research commissioned by the Department considered a variety of matters that influence loading factors, and sensitivity tests were conducted to assess the implications. This is summarised in the main report and the impact assessment with the full detail found in section 4 of the Economic Assessment.
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many road traffic accidents involving heavy goods vehicles there were in each of the last 10 years; how many (a) fatalities and (b) serious injuries arose from such accidents in each such year; and what assessment he has made of the potential effects on the numbers of such incidents of the introduction of heavy goods vehicles over 16.5 metres long. [61335]
Mike Penning [holding answer 21 June 2011]: Reported personal injury road accidents involving a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) and the consequential casualties in Great Britain collated by the Department for Transport for 2000 to 2009 were as follows:

 

Accidents  
Casualties  Killed Seriously injured

2000

13,894

 560

2,719

2001

13,631

575

2,564

2002

12,427

532

2,374

2003

12,205

528

2,111

2004

11,542

449

1,884

2005

11,162

486

1,785

2006

10,466

419

1,700

2007

9,829

435

1,574

2008

8,415

368

1,344

2009

7,013

268

1,171

 

The Department’s research into the potential impacts of allowing longer semi-trailers on GB roads found that while there may be an increase in safety risk per vehicle this is outweighed by a forecast decrease in accidents from running fewer lorries, with an overall net decrease in casualties from accidents involving articulated HGVs of around 1.6 per cent.
Railways
Mr Raab: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to increase efficiency on the rail network. [61511]
Mrs Villiers: Sir Roy McNulty published his independent study on rail value for money last month, setting out recommendations for increasing efficiency on the rail network.
The Department for Transport is working with the rail industry and other stakeholders to reduce the cost of our railways to the taxpayer and the farepayer, taking full account of Sir Roy’s study, and plans to publish a detailed policy statement on rail by the end of November 2011.
 
Trailers: Safety
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the longer semi-trailer feasibility study and impact assessment commissioned by his Department, what assessment he has made of the effect of options 4, 5 and 6 proposed in the consultation on (a) tail swings at roundabouts, (b) susceptibility to cross-winds and (c) safety in the absence of new steering technology. [61330]
Mike Penning [holding answer 21 June 2011]: The Department for Transport commissioned research concerning the use of high-volume semi-trailers. From this research a report by the Transport Research Laboratory and Cambridge university addresses these questions.
The report is entitled:
“The likely effects of permitting longer semi-trailers in the UK: vehicle specification performance and safety” by I Knight, T Robinson, B Robinson, T Barlow, I McCrae (TRL) and A Odhams, R L Roebuck, C Cheng (Cambridge University)
A copy of the report has been placed in the Libraries of the House.
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