PQs 27th Feb – 1st March 2012

Electric Vehicles: Safety
 
Lilian Greenwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what her policy is on measures to be fitted to electric, hybrid and other quiet vehicles to safeguard blind, partially sighted and vulnerable pedestrians and road users; [97160]
(2) what research her Department plans to carry out on the risks posed by electric, hybrid and other quiet vehicles to the safety of vulnerable pedestrians and other road users. [97161]
Norman Baker [holding answer 28 February 2012]: The Department for Transport undertook research into the risks posed by electric and hybrid electric vehicles to the safety of vulnerable pedestrians and other road users. The research found no evidence of a higher accident rate for these vehicles. Metered noise test results and a panel of visually impaired subjects did, however, find that these vehicles tended to be quieter than conventional vehicles at speeds below 12 mph and, as a consequence, their approach was harder to detect audibly at these speeds. The research report can be found on the Department’s website at:
http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/assessingtheperceived safetyriskfromquietelectricandhybridvehicles/PPR525 assessingtheperceivedsafetyriskfromquietelectricand hybridvehicles.pdf
A number of vehicle manufacturers are fitting or developing added sound for electric and hybrid vehicles to increase their audibility. The Department for Transport welcomes this precautionary action by vehicle manufacturers. The Department is engaged with international bodies developing standards for added sound. Such standards should, in particular:
address the audibility of these vehicles at low speeds;
ensure that systems enable effective identification of vehicle approach; and
ensure that systems are acceptable in all vehicle markets while avoiding unnecessarily increasing public exposure to excess traffic noise.
Lilian Greenwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment she has made of the merits of requiring any noise-emitting devices fitted to electric, hybrid or quiet vehicles to be clearly recognisable and as distinctive as the sound of a vehicle; [97063]
(2) what her policy is on requiring that electric, hybrid and quiet vehicles deemed to be near silent to be regulated to generate a warning noise to indicate their presence to vulnerable pedestrians and road users; [97064]
(3) if she will introduce regulation to require that electric, hybrid and quiet vehicles are fitted with a warning noise to indicate their presence to vulnerable pedestrians and other road users. [97065]
Norman Baker: Although the Department’s research found no evidence of a higher accident rate for electric and hybrid electric vehicles, the vehicles were found to be quieter than conventional vehicles, and harder to detect audibly, at speeds below 12 mph. A number of vehicle manufacturers are fitting or developing added sound systems to address this and the Government welcome this as a positive measure to assisting the road safety of vulnerable pedestrians, and other road users.
The European Commission published in December 2011 a draft proposed regulation to tighten vehicle noise limits in order to reduce the adverse health impacts of road traffic noise. The proposal includes requirements for added sound systems on electric and hybrid electric vehicles where manufacturers fit them. These requirements are based on draft UNECE recommendations that address the audibility of these vehicles at low speeds and ensure they are effective at enabling identification of vehicle approach.
During the completion of the Department’s research, and in discussions, visually impaired stakeholders indicated a preference for added sound to be similar to that of conventional vehicles. The Department is currently engaged in discussions on the UNECE recommendations and will be seeking to ensure that such vehicles can be clearly heard and identified by the target audience in sufficient time and that use of bells, chimes, sirens, music or other sounds that
“confuse the identification of a vehicle and/or its operation”
be prohibited.
Buses: Safety
Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether coach drivers are required to take breaks on long journeys. [96949]
Mike Penning: Coach drivers (ie drivers of passenger carrying vehicles with nine or more passenger seats) come under scope of the EU drivers’ hours rules (Regulation (EC) No 561/2006), which require the use of tachographs and prescribe maximum limits on driving time and minimum requirements for breaks and rest periods. Under these rules drivers are limited to nine hours of driving a day. Drivers must take 45 minutes of break time once they have driven for 4.5 hours in a day. For each 24 hour period, drivers must take at least 11 continuous hours of rest.
Large Goods Vehicles: Safety
 
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations she has received from (a) organisations and (b) individuals on the proposed 10-year trial of longer lorries and its effect on cyclists. [97083]
Mike Penning: The Department has received representations from CTC and other cycling organisations, Freight on Rail and a small number of individuals who have concerns about the potential impact of longer lorries.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether she will consider restricting the proposed 10 year trial of longer lorries to non-metropolitan areas. [97084]
Mike Penning: No. These vehicles conform with all technical requirements, including those relating to turning circles: such a restriction is therefore unnecessary.
Roads: Crimes of Violence
 
John Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many incidents of objects being thrown at vehicles from bridges were recorded on the Highways Agency network in each of the last three years for which figures are available; and if she will undertake a review of the adequacy of measures in place to prevent such occurrences. [96046]
Mike Penning: The number of recorded incidents of objects being thrown at vehicles from bridges on the Highways Agency network in each of the last three years for which figures are available are shown as follows:
 Number of objects thrown
2009
222
2010
165
2011
130
The figures are taken from the Highways Agency’s command and control system which is used to record details of incidents where the Highways Agency Traffic Officer Service has an involvement. These figures are not exhaustive as they only include incidents from those parts of the network patrolled by Highways Agency traffic officers and because this incident specific detail is not routinely collected more widely.
Safety on our roads is a top priority and the agency is fully committed to doing everything it can to assist the police in bringing these dangerous and irresponsible activities to an end. Service providers maintaining the network are aware of agency requirements to minimise the amount of loose material at or near high-risk locations.
There are nearly 9,000 bridges on the motorway and trunk road network in England. While on occasion it has been possible to raise the height of bridge parapets and provide domed cages on footbridges and over railways in urban areas, in most cases it is neither cost effective nor practical.
Initiatives have, however, been put in place with the aim of reducing these incidents. These include educating young people through campaigns and the installation of close circuit television cameras and warning signs at high risk locations.
Shipping: Safety
Yasmin Qureshi: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the withdrawal of support by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for the Maritime Incident Response Group on 14 December 2011, what steps she has taken to ensure the safety of passengers and crew on board ships (a) sailing in British coastal waters and (b) at anchor in a harbour or port should they develop a major fire or related incident on board. [97117]
Mike Penning: The international conventions for the safety of life at sea (SOLAS) provide that vessel operators must ensure the operational safety of their vessels through the application of a safety management system, in accordance with the International Safety Management Code. Among other things this requires companies to operate their ships in accordance with mandatory rules and regulations and in such a way that prevents human injuries or loss of life, and avoids damage to the marine environment. This includes fire prevention and fire fighting measures.
The responsibility of Government is to ensure that companies arrange their activities in compliance with the code.
It is the statutory duty of the fire and rescue services to fight fires in ships within harbour or port limits.
Yasmin Qureshi: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether UK coastal fire and rescue services will continue to train for major incidents on ships (a) sailing in British coastal waters and (b) at anchor in a British harbour or port; and what steps she has taken to ensure that such training is adequately funded and that the equipment required is up-to-date and well maintained. [97118]
Mike Penning: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency understands that a fire response at sea capability is being maintained, at least until the end of March 2012, by the following fire and rescue services: East Sussex, Hampshire, Highlands and Islands, Humberside, Kent, Northumberland and Strathclyde.
The extent to which those fire and rescue services are trained, receive funding and maintain their equipment is a matter for each service to consider.
Her Majesty’s Coastguard will task declared facilities as appropriate. Where there are no declared facilities from a fire and rescue service then the Coastguard will call on a commercial service to carry out an onboard fire assessment that will provide a judgment as to the viability of moving a casualty into a place of refuge where the fire would be fought by the fire and rescue under its statutory duty.
Speed Limits
Mark Menzies: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent consultations she has undertaken on (a) introducing more 20 mph zones in residential areas and (b) the fitting of mirrors to HGV vehicles so that cyclists can be seen. [94557]
Mike Penning: There have been no recent formal consultations regarding introducing more 20 mph zones in residential areas and the fitting of mirrors to HGVs so that cyclists can be seen.
The Strategic Framework for Road Safety, published last year, recognised the value that 20 mph speed limits can bring, in some locations, including on lesser residential roads.
It indicated that the Department’s guidance about speed limits in urban areas would be revised with the aim of increasing flexibility. Work on revised guidance is under way and a consultation is planned for later this year.
The framework also indicated that the Department would provide an economic tool to help local authorities assess the full costs and benefits of proposed speed limit schemes. Work has already started and I hope to publish a completed tool later this year.
In the meantime, the Department has provided every English local highway authority with a traffic sign authorisation to use speed limit repeater signs in the place of physical measures in 20 mph zones, where vehicle speeds do not greatly exceed 20 mph. While traffic calming features cannot be omitted or removed altogether (at least one such feature is required within a 20 mph zone) this will provide greater flexibility and reduce costs for local authorities.
To further reduce costs and sign clutter, the authorisation permits local authorities to place speed roundel markings without upright signs in 20 mph limits or zones.
To help improve cycle safety, the Department has recently issued an authorisation to all highway authorities in England, permitting the use of ‘Trixi’ mirrors at traffic signal junctions.
Lilian Greenwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of funding from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund has been used for (a) 20mph limit or zone schemes and (b) other schemes to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. [97106]
Norman Baker [holding answer 27 February 2012]: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 12 January 2012, Official Report, column 314. Ministers plan to issue revised guidance on setting local speed limits later this year.
Large Goods Vehicles: Safety
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what impact assessment her Department carried out prior to plans for the trial of longer semi-trailers in respect of the potential effects on (a) cyclists and (b) other vulnerable road users; and if she will make a statement. [97165]
Mike Penning: The Department’s revised Impact Assessment on the trial of longer semi-trailers took into account evidence submitted on the potential impact on vulnerable road users, including cyclists.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will consider commissioning research into the potential risks posed by longer semi-trailers to cyclists and other vulnerable road users; and if she will suspend the trial pending the outcome of that research. [97166]
Mike Penning: No. Thorough research has already been undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory on the risk to all road users, including cyclists. This indicates that there should be no detectable difference in safety between existing trailers and the proposed longer trailers.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many times the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport has met
28 Feb 2012 : Column 220W
representatives from
(a)
cycling organisations,
(b)
haulage organisations and
(c)
motoring organisations since May 2010. [97167]
Mike Penning: My fellow parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), and I have frequently met with representatives from such organisations.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the oral answer to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport of 15 September 2011, Official Report, column 1163, on heavy goods vehicles, if she will set out the evidential basis for his claim that, ‘We considered carefully whether longer semi-trailers posed a risk to cyclists in particular, and the risk is not there’; and if she will place a copy of any supporting evidence in the Library. [97289]
Mike Penning: The research report by the Transport Research Laboratory, TRL PPR526 (available on the Department for Transport website) concluded that:
“Overall it is considered likely that the effects of the measures under consideration will be sufficiently small to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify them in a reliable post-hoc analysis after implementation or to have any measurable effect on the overall long-term downward trend in HGV accident involvement rates.”
Roads: Accidents
Mr Burley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to reduce the length of time that roads are closed after accidents. [96675]
Mike Penning: Tackling the disruption caused by incidents on the road network is a key priority for this Government. As such, this Department is leading a joint initiative called CLEAR with the emergency services, Highways Agency and the Home Office to reduce the time taken to re-open motorways following an incident.
As part of this initiative we published a review and action plan in May 2011. This action plan included a £3.14 million fund to assist police forces in purchasing 3D laser scanning technology to help speed up accident investigation and reduce the length of time that roads may need to be closed.
On 29 December 2011 I announced the outcome of awards from this fund. A total of £2.7 million was awarded to 27 forces across the country, enabling 37 scanners to be purchased, which will start to be used from spring 2012.
Speed Limits
Lilian Greenwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she plans to take to encourage more widespread use of 20 mph limits in communities for the purposes of enabling safer walking and cycling; and whether she plans to issue revised guidance on setting local speed limits. [97105]
Norman Baker [holding answer 27 February 2012]: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 12 January 2012, Official Report, column 314. Ministers plan to issue revised guidance on setting local speed limits later this year.
Driving: Licensing
John Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) take following identification of an MOT testing station as a poor performer; and what proportion of MOT testing stations inspected by VOSA have lost their licence in each of the last three years. [97198]
Mike Penning: VOSA identifies poor performing MOT testing stations through a transparent and proportionate disciplinary points system published in the MOT Testing Guide. VOSA cessate individual testers called Authorised Examiners (AEs) from carrying out MOT tests, not the test stations. AEs cessated in the last three years are 111 in 2008-09, 90 in 2009-10, and 89 in 2010-11 all after appeal.
Large Goods Vehicles: Safety
 
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the review by Transport for London on dangerous road junctions and the effect that the trial of longer lorries will have in London. [97082]
Mike Penning: I understand Transport for London (TfL) are currently undertaking a review of cycle safety at all junctions on Barclays Cycle Superhighways and major junctions on the TfL road network. Any decision regarding cycle safety in London would be for the Mayor and TfL to take forward.
The research into the possible introduction of longer semi-trailers included the potential effects in urban environments.
Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will consider introducing a mandatory requirement that any consultation her Department issues on the use of road space will have a specific question included on the effects the policy will have on the safety of cyclists. [97168]
 
Mike Penning: No. There are already mandatory Government-wide processes in place related to consultations about regulatory changes. Where such changes might affect the use of roads, it is routine to consider the safety effects for all categories of users.
Vehicles: Semi-trailers
 
Questions
Asked by Lord Watson of Invergowrie
To ask Her Majesty’s Government why they did not commission a specific study on the potential risks to cyclists resulting from the use of longer semi-trailers prior to introducing the 10-year trial of such vehicles.[HL15652]
Earl Attlee: While the very thorough research undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory into the potential introduction of longer semi-trailers did not specifically cite the increased risk to cyclists as a subset of vulnerable road users, it studied the effect of length in accidents, as reported in the technical report Specification, Performance and Safety (Author-TRL & Cambridge University). This report also carefully considered the impact on tail swing and on blind spots.
The research indicates that there should be no detectable difference in safety between existing trailers and the proposed longer trailers. The purpose of the operational trials is to enable us to verify the study’s conclusions about manoeuvrability, compatibility with existing infrastructure and road safety.
 
Asked by Lord Watson of Invergowrie
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to commission the Transport Research Laboratory to research the potential specific risks posed to cyclists by longer semi-trailers; and whether, pending such research, they will suspend the 10-year trial of longer semi-trailers.[HL15653]
Earl Attlee: No. Very thorough research has already been undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory on the risk to all road users, including cyclists. This indicates that there should be no detectable difference in safety between existing trailers and the proposed longer trailers. The purpose of the operational trials is to enable us to verify the study’s conclusions about manoeuvrability, compatibility with existing infrastructure and road safety as well as the economic impact.
Cyclists: Penalties
 
Question
Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 9 February (WA 89), whether they will increase the amount of the penalty for cycling on the footway to bring it in line with increases in penalties for other traffic penalties since 2010.[HL15755]
Earl Attlee: The Government announced plans in their Strategic Framework for Road Safety (May 2011) to increase road traffic fixed penalty notices from £60 to between £80-£100 to bring this in line with other penalty notices and avoid the risk of trivialising these offences. We intend to consult on this in the summer.
We are considering the scope of offences covered by this, including whether this should cover other moving traffic offences, such as cycling on the footway.
Cyclists
 
Question
Asked by Lord Berkeley
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will arrange a trial of cyclists being allowed to go through red lights to turn left or go straight on within zones with a 20 miles per hour speed limit, in conjunction with increased enforcement of stop rules at other junctions controlled by traffic lights. [HL15682]
Earl Attlee: There are already ways of giving cyclists priority over other traffic and improving their safety at junctions; for example, by introducing advanced stop lines, cycle bypasses and providing dedicated traffic signals for cyclists if required.
Current regulations, which prevent any vehicle going through a red light, would have to be changed to permit such a trial. We would need to see strong supporting evidence to demonstrate that this could be done in a manner that did not compromise the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, before considering any regulatory change or trial.
Dangerous Driving: Death
 
Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many cases of death through (a) careless and (b) dangerous driving were recorded (i) in total and (ii) involving illegal levels of alcohol in (A) Leeds North West constituency, (B) West Yorkshire police force area and (C) England in each of the last five years. [96521]
Mr Blunt: The number of defendants proceeded against for, and convicted of, (a) causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, (b) causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, and (c) causing death by dangerous driving in England and the West Yorkshire police force area, in each year between 2006 and 2010 (latest currently available), can be viewed in the table.
Court proceedings data are not available at constituency level.
Annual court proceedings data for 2011 are planned for publication in May 2012.
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