Parliamentary Questions 4th-6th February

Parliamentary Questions 4th-6th February

6th February

Oral Answers to Questions relating to Transport Safety

Motorway Safety

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): What steps he is taking to improve safety on motorways.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): Motorways are the safest roads in the country. The Highways Agency network carries 32.7% of all traffic, but accounts for only 6.8% of those killed or seriously injured. Hard-shoulder running on smart motorways is delivering further improvements.

Mr Bain: Does the Minister not accept that opening a stretch of hard shoulder permanently, while reducing the amount of signage and the number of emergency refuge areas on our managed motorways, is an example of the Government giving reduced costs a higher priority than road safety?

Mr Goodwill: The hon. Gentleman has got it completely wrong. I know that this seems counter-intuitive, but 8% of fatalities take place on the hard shoulders of existing motorways, although only a very small proportion of traffic is on them. Hard-shoulder running, managed motorways and smart motorways have been a great success, and have reduced the number of accidents on those sections of the motorway by 50%.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I agree with my hon. Friend that the standard of safety on motorways is very high, but he and I would both benefit from improved safety on the A64. Will he update the House on the progress that is being made with better road improvements, less congestion and the easing of traffic on the A64 between York and Scarborough?

Mr Goodwill: I suppose that I should declare an interest, as the Member of Parliament for Scarborough.We have tripled spending on road projects since we came to power, which will mean that roads such as the A64 are likely to have a much better chance of improving. In the short term, I am interested to note that a trial that is taking place on the A9 in Scotland, where the speed limit for lorries is being increased from 40 to 50 mph. We hope that will reduce the number of nasty accidents caused by people overtaking in dangerous places.

Mr Speaker: The road in question is immensely important, but I do not think that it is a motorway,

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): A broadband approach.

Mr Speaker: Indeed. There is a degree of ingenuity about the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh), with which I am very familiar.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): The great British pub is well sited in many places, but I suggest that junction 2 of the M40—or, indeed, any other motorway junction—is not one of them. Organisations such as Brake are firmly against the siting of a pub there, and a survey from the RAC has now shown that two thirds of the British public are against it as well. Will the Minister please look into this issue? It is nonsense to have a pub at a motorway service station.

Mr Goodwill: I understand that the pub in that particular case is at a motorway service area that is served by other roads as well as the motorway, and these decisions are a matter for local authorities. Every pub in the country is served by a road, and it is up to drivers to act responsibly and ensure that they do not drink and drive.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that expecting the police to enforce the proposed new offence of smoking in cars with children present will divert them away from other duties, which could have a direct impact on motorway safety?

Mr Goodwill: That is probably a matter for the Secretary of State for Health. There will be a free vote on Monday on that subject, and I will certainly be voting to ban smoking in cars where children are present, having had to sit in the back of the car at a young age feeling green and carsick while my father was puffing away.

 

Transport Infrastructure (Kettering)

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What recent progress has been made on (a) Highways Agency works to widen the A14 between junctions 7 and 9 and (b) Network Rail’s reconstruction of the Pytchley Road road bridge over the Midland main line in Kettering.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I am sure my hon. Friend will welcome the news that works to widen this section of the A14 around Kettering are under way. Widening the eastbound carriageway has begun and is due to be completed in approximately four months’ time. Work will then follow on the westbound carriageway. Network Rail installed the new Pytchley Road bridge deck over the Midland main line over the Christmas period and is now reconstructing the road over it. This work is on programme for completion by the end of February.

Mr Hollobone: I welcome the Government’s direct investment in the transport infrastructure in Kettering, but can I point out to the Minister that while residents will welcome the works once completed, they are causing a huge amount of traffic disruption to residents in Kettering? There is concern that both projects are being undertaken at the same time. Can I seek his guarantee that the work on the Pytchley Road bridge will be completed on time at the end of this month?

Mr Goodwill: I can certainly give him that assurance. The Pytchley Road bridge is part of the electrification that we are carrying out on the railways. We have already announced 800 miles of electrification, compared with 9 miles under the previous Government. The decision was taken to do the two works simultaneously, and we are using the same traffic management company to try to ensure that we co-ordinate the disruption that sadly always happens when that type of work is done.

Topical Questions

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): A while ago, a lorry caught fire on a motorway in my constituency. It was carrying ammunition, including Sidewinder missiles. Will the Minister consider approaching those who transport very dangerous materials, including chemicals, to suggest transferring those journeys from motorways to rail, where the chances of a catastrophe are greatly reduced?

Mr Goodwill: The Department takes the transportation of dangerous goods very seriously. As a former road tanker driver, I understand many of the hazards. As we build the high-speed rail network and electrify more services, there will be more capacity on the existing classic line for more freight services such as those to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Guide Dogs, Whizz-Kidz and Living Streets, among others, have supported a campaign I have been running with Claire Connon, a prospective 2016 Paralympian, to fix our pavements. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that footways can be used by people in wheelchairs, people with mobility issues, people who are partially sighted, people with pushchairs and everyone else who wants to make use of them?

Mr Goodwill: It is vital that we roll out as much accessibility in the countryside as possible. I know that organisations such as the Country Land and Business Association benevolent trust have given grant aid for such schemes. I think we should roll out as far as possible any schemes to allow more people access to footways and to ensure that disabled people have the same rights as everybody else to enjoy the countryside.

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Written Answers to Questions

Motorways

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve safety on motorways.

Mr Goodwill: Motorways are the safest roads in the country. The Highways Agency network carries 32.7% of all traffic, but accounts for only 6.8% of those killed or seriously injured. Hard-shoulder running on smart motorways is delivering further improvements.

Road Safety: Pedestrians

David Rutley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to improve road safety for pedestrians.

Mr Goodwill: The Government have already taken a range of steps to improve pedestrian safety, including making it easier for local authorities to implement 20 mile per hour zones and launching a new THINK! resource centre to help teachers educate children and teens on road safety. We will continue to work with delivery partners, including local authorities, to identify further opportunities for improving pedestrian safety.

 Driving Under Influence: Drugs

Sir James Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department plans to take to ensure that all patients taking long-term medication understand the new drug driving offence; and if he will make a statement.

Mr Goodwill: I refer my right hon. Friend to my answer of 3 February 2014, Official Report, columns 7-8W.

 M42

Sir Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many types and number of cameras are in use on the M42 motorway; what information is collected or detected by them; and whether such cameras are used to detect breaches of both the national speed limit and the managed motorway limits.

Mr Goodwill: There are four types of cameras in use on the M42 which are owned and operated by the Highways Agency.

There are 16 fixed automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR) which are used to measure journey time reliability by detecting the movement of partial vehicle number plates between defined links on the motorway. These cameras are not used to detect breaches of speed limits and the number does not include ANPR cameras which are wholly operated and maintained by the police and are subject to Home Office regulations.

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5th February

Driving Under the Influence: Drugs

Sir James Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department plans to take to ensure that all healthcare professionals understand the new drug driving offence; and if he will make a statement.

Mr Goodwill: I refer my right hon. Friend to my answer of 3 February 2014, Official Report, columns 7-8W.

Sir James Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance she plans to give to police officers on the enforcement of the new drug driving offence; and if she will make a statement.

Mr Goodwill: The Department liaises regularly with National Roads Policing on the details of the new drug driving offence. We are confident that they understand the new offence and that the National Roads Policing lead will, jointly with the Crown Prosecution Service, be issuing an enforcement process for the use of operational officers at the appropriate time.

Motor Vehicles: Safety

Robert Flello: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the safety implications of quiet vehicles.

Stephen Hammond: A study by Transport Research Laboratory for the Department in 2011 found no evidence that quiet vehicles, eg electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, represent a greater danger to other road users, including pedestrians, than conventional vehicles. None the less, the Government supported in December 2013 a new EU regulation to require additional sound from these vehicles as part of a wider packet of measures on vehicle noise emissions.

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4th February

Driving: Licensing

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Angus of 16 January 2014, Official Report, column 643W, on driving: licensing, what proportion of driving licences surrendered voluntarily following a health-related incident were restored within the 90 day target in each of the last five years.

Stephen Hammond: The information the hon. Member has requested is not readily available. I have asked officials at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to collate the required information and I will write to the hon. Member when it is available. I will place a copy of that letter in the Library of the House.

4th February

Driving: Licensing

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Angus of 16 January 2014, Official Report, column 643W, on driving: licensing, what proportion of driving licences surrendered voluntarily following a health-related incident were restored within the 90 day target in each of the last five years.

Stephen Hammond: The information the hon. Member has requested is not readily available. I have asked officials at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to collate the required information and I will write to the hon. Member when it is available. I will place a copy of that letter in the Library of the House.

For more information click here.

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