PQs 25th – 28th June 2012

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency
 
Mr George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency’s budget was allocated to (a) testing and (b) enforcement in each of the last five years. [113625]
Mike Penning: The total costs allocated to VOSA Testing and Enforcement for the past five years has been:
Testing
£ million

2007-08

69.9

2008-09

69.8

2009-10

59.1

2010-11

52.1

2011-12

51.9

Enforcement
£ million

2007-08

32.3

2008-09

44.8

2009-10

49.4

2010-11

42.3

2011-12

39.0 

PACTS comments: Included in the work of VOSA is the HGV Fleet Complaince Check, to determine the roadworthiness and traffic compliance of GB registered vehicles and trailers. Of the 3609 vehicles checked for roadworthiness defects in 2010: 

– 10.4% of vehicles were issued with prohibitions (2.5% immediate; 7.9% delayed) 

– A further 13.9% warranted an inspection notice 

– 75.7% had no roadworthiness defects 

– £450 was also collected in Graduated Fixed Penalty Deposits from seven drivers due to immediate prohibitions on their vehicles. 

 

 

Aviation: Accidents
 
Naomi Long: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many fatal air accidents there were in the UK in the last 10 years; and what comparative assessment she has made of the number of such accidents in the UK and in other EU member states. [113669]
Mrs Villiers: The number of fatal air accidents in the UK over the last 10 years are:
Number

2012

(1)6

2011

13

2010

8

2009

22

2008

12

2007

24

2006

18

2005

22

2004

22

2003

22

2002

17

(1 )Up to 21 June 2012
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) publishes an annual safety review. This includes statistics on European and worldwide civil aviation safety which are grouped according to type of operation, for instance commercial air transport, and aircraft category, such as aeroplanes, helicopters and gliders. The annual safety review can be found at
http://easa.europa.eu/communications/docs/annual-safety-review/2010/EASA-Annual-Safety-Review-2010.pdf
Motor Vehicles: Registration
 
Mr Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether her Department has considered introducing a central database to record the details of foreign registered vehicles that enter and operate in the UK. [113302]
Mike Penning [holding answer 25 June 2012]: No formal consideration has been given to introducing a central database to record the details of foreign registered vehicles that enter and operate in the UK. This would require consultation across Government. I do, of course, have informal discussions with my officials touching on all aspects of policy, including this.
Railways: Safety
 
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what contribution her Department is making to the Rail Safety and Standards Board’s re-writing of railway safety rules; what the timetable is for the re-write; how and when the revised rules will come into effect; and if she will make a statement. [113855]
Mrs Villiers: The RSSB (formerly the Rail Standards and Safety Board) is responsible for facilitating the work of the Industry Standards Committees that determine the Railway Group Standards, including the Rule Book. These committees are subject to processes that determine the industry consultations required and the timescale for introduction of any revision.
The role of the Department for Transport (DFT) is limited in this context. DFT officials are observers at the RSSB Standards Committees that manage Railway Group Standards. The Department is also consulted on significant changes as part of the industry wide process.
A schedule of the RSSB’s review of the Rule Book is available on their website at
http://www.rssb.co.uk/RGS/Pages/rulebookandnational.aspx
The RSSB should be contacted directly for further information on their standards processes.
School Crossing Patrols
 
Priti Patel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether her Department issues guidance on the criteria for determining when school crossing patrols could be implemented by local highway authorities; and when the minimum national requirements for a school crossing patrol staffed by volunteers are to be introduced. [113930]
Norman Baker: The Department for Transport does not issue guidance on criteria for determining when school crossing patrols could be implemented by local authorities.
The Road Traffic Regulation of 1984 delegates power to local authorities to make arrangements for patrolling places where children cross roads on their way to or from school, but does not impose a duty on them to do so.
The Department has no plans to introduce a minimum national requirement for a school crossing patrol staffed by volunteers.
Transport: Rural Areas
 
Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps her Department plans to take to improve transport links in rural areas. [113714]
Norman Baker: The responsibility for local transport links in rural areas lies with the local transport authorities, who are able to use the Integrated Transport capital funding provided by Government to improve transport links in their rural areas.
In March I published ‘Green Light for Buses’ which includes the commitment to support local transport authorities in their ability to procure non-commercial services, including more flexible, innovative options such as community buses.
In December 2011 I announced a second £10m tranche of the Supporting Community Transport Fund for local authorities in rural areas to help kick-start schemes where commercial services are not profitable and local transport authorities have chosen not to fund services under the powers available to them.
Some of the Local Authority Major Transport Schemes being funded by the Government will improve links to, through and between rural areas. In addition, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) attracted successful bids supporting schemes that improve transport links in rural areas.
We also support community rail schemes and many of the 32 lines or services designated under the Community Rail Development Strategy serve rural areas.
The Coalition Government plans to publish a Rural Statement shortly.
Road Maintenance
 
3. Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): What recent assessment she has made of the level of funding for road maintenance. [114042]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): The Department is providing £3 billion over four years to 2014-15 to local highway authorities in England for roads for which they are responsible. We also provided £200 million in March 2011 to repair damage caused by the 2010 winter. The Highways Agency is responsible for operating, maintaining and improving the strategic road network in England, and this financial year its maintenance budget is £755 million, excluding costs associated with private finance initiative projects.
Steve Rotheram: We know that the coalition’s manoeuvre of choice is the U-turn, so can the Transport Secretary or the Minister continue in that vein by reversing the Department’s decision to cut investment in Britain’s road network by £3.5 billion?
Norman Baker: Again, I thought that the hon. Gentleman might have welcomed the £20 million that the Department gave to Merseyside yesterday for investment in local transport projects. I thought he might also have welcomed the fact that in cash terms the Department is providing more for road maintenance over this four-year period than his Government did over the previous four years.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): May I welcome my hon. Friend’s announcement? North Yorkshire has the second longest rural road network, after Lincolnshire, and the most extreme winter conditions. How can we ensure that we get a fair slice of the extra money that has been announced?
Norman Baker: I am happy to say that North Yorkshire also qualified for funding from the Department yesterday to help the Harrogate and Knaresborough sustainable transport package. We continue to fund road maintenance through the standard arrangements from the Department, as I indicated a moment ago.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): The requirement for large expenditure on road maintenance arises overwhelmingly from the heavy axle weights of lorries, so is it not sensible to look at schemes for transferring vast volumes of road freight on to rail? Will the Government look seriously at schemes for transporting lorry trailers and lorries on trains throughout Britain?
Norman Baker: I entirely sympathise with that question. We are taking steps to improve the amount of freight that can be transported by rail. The rail Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers), is busy activating that. We have improved the gauge from Southampton and the rail line from Felixstowe, and we hope to make further improvements. Of course our high-speed rail plans will free up space on the existing north-south routes.
Cycling Safety
 
6. Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to improve cycling safety. [114045]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): Last year I set up the cycling stakeholder forum, which comprises representatives from cycling groups, motoring organisations and local authorities. A sub-group has been established to look specifically at safety issues. Good progress is being made on coming up with ideas and actions to improve cycle safety. Earlier this week I announced a £15 million fund to improve safety for cyclists outside London by tackling dangerous junctions. This is in addition to the £15 million fund awarded to Transport for London in March for the same purpose.
Mrs Hodgson: Figures from his Department and independent analysis have shown that more cyclists are killed in collisions with heavy goods vehicles than any other kind of vehicle. Will the Secretary of State therefore stop the trial of longer HGVs that her Department has enacted and give serious consideration to the proposals from the cycling stakeholder forum for a proper plan to improve cyclist safety and to increase cycle use?
Norman Baker: I have already referred to the cycling stakeholder forum, which met yesterday and which I attended. We are looking at safety issues very seriously, as the hon. Lady would expect. I do not think it is a question of how long lorries are. The particular issue with HGVs is about lorries turning left and catching cyclists on the inside. That is one reason why I have now given permission for all local authorities across the country to install Trixi mirrors to pick up those manoeuvres. It is also why the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), is looking at issues relating to the information available to the driver in the cab.
Road Infrastructure
 
7. Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): What steps she is taking to invest in road infrastructure. [114046]
The Secretary of State for Transport (Justine Greening): The 2010 spending review committed investment of £2.3 billion for major road improvements over the next four years. We also committed to investment of £614 million towards local road projects. The 2011 autumn statement provided a further £1 billion investment for strategic roads.
Mr Raab: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Surrey pays more revenue to the Exchequer than any part of the country outside London, but it has the third-worst roads and, taking traffic volumes into account, gets the second-lowest funding of all counties for highways maintenance. What steps is she taking to repair and maintain Surrey’s roads so that the county can continue to generate high revenue for Britain?
Justine Greening: I agree that is important. Actually, the latest statistics published by the Department suggest that Surrey road conditions are slightly higher than average. Of the 117 local authorities where we allocate highway maintenance funding, Surrey falls into the top 15 and we are providing £61 million. In addition, my hon. Friend will know that we are focused on important schemes; we are providing £24 million towards the Walton bridge scheme that is now under construction. We are willing to put in that investment, and it will make a big difference on the ground.
Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): Roads are a very important part of any sustainable transport structure. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State turned down Halton’s bid for a sustainable transport fund, and I am in correspondence with the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), on the issue. Can the Secretary of State confirm whether any other area has been asked to rework and resubmit its bid? If so, can she tell me why it has, but not Halton?
Justine Greening: We had a rigorous process for looking at all the bids; they were considered by a panel of experts that we appointed. Some of the bids were modified in the light of the reaction of the independent panel, and we took our investment decisions on that basis.
Topical questions
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): I understand that the road casualty figures for 2011 were published this morning and, sadly, show the first increase since 2003 in deaths and serious injuries. Road casualty reduction targets commanded cross-party support for nearly three decades and played a big part in sending a strong message from Government about how committed they were to reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Those targets were scrapped by the Secretary of State’s predecessor. Is she prepared to revisit that decision? Many in the road safety sector felt that that was a mistake, and the figures this morning tend to suggest that bringing back targets would help in the battle to reduce deaths and serious injuries.
Justine Greening: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that as far as I am concerned, one accident is too many. The figures are disappointing. We are concerned to make sure we improve our road safety record. Many of the things that we are doing, including managed motorways, can help with that. I think he is wrong to draw too many conclusions from the latest figures, because we know that we had some exceptional weather in that period. That is one of the reasons why there was such a change, but I am happy to look at what we can continue to do to work with all sorts of stakeholders to improve road safety. It is an issue that this Government take incredibly seriously.
T3. [114060] Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): The latest figures from Sustrans show a 40 million increase in the number of cycling trips in 2011 compared with 2010—a very welcome 18% rise. I and many others, including British Cycling, welcome the funding that has been provided by the Government, particularly most recently the £15 million that has been provided towards dangerous junctions around the country, a key feature of the safer cycling campaign in The Times. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to make sure that local authorities match this money to do even more work on more junctions, rather than ducking their responsibilities when the Government step up?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for this support for our measures, which include large sums of money allocated yesterday through the local sustainable transport fund, which will also benefit cycling. The sum of £50 million will be available to local authorities on a match-funding basis. We are encouraging them to contribute, and the more they contribute, the more likely it is that they will be successful in securing money from the Government for their dangerous junctions.
Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): If we are to make real improvements in cycling, we must ensure that it is considered properly as part of all decisions and policies on road use, so will the Minister consider the Cycle Stakeholder Forum’s proposal to add a mandatory risk assessment and consultation on cycling to every policy review that affects road users? That would have no cost implications but would make a real difference to transport policy and would show that the Government consider cycling a key part of transport policy.
Norman Baker: The Cycle Stakeholder Forum is producing some useful suggestions and doing some good work. The process that is under way means that all its suggestions will be properly assessed by the Department, and we will respond to those in detail later this year.
T8. [114065] Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): The Dutch now have two thirds of their minor rural road network covered by speed restrictions of 40 mph approximately, as they found those even more effective than 20 mph approximately zones in urban areas. Will the Minister please confirm that he will take this evidence into account when drafting the forthcoming guidance on setting speed limits and set out what other measures should be taken to protect rural cyclists?
Norman Baker: I am happy to confirm that the Department is giving local councils much more freedom in how they use the road network, including the classification of roads and the speed limits that are set. I hope that my hon. Friend will be aware of the extra freedom for 20 mph limits, in particular. Her point on 40 mph limits is well made and I will ensure that my fellow Transport Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), is made aware of her comments when he returns.
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