Ministerial Statements: 13th-17th October
Rail Passengers’ Rights and Obligations Regulation
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): I am today announcing a consultation to consider the future of exemptions from the EC Regulation 1371/2007 on Rail Passengers’ Rights and Obligations Regulations.
The regulation sets out a number of obligations which the rail sector must comply with in full by 2024, including on transferability of tickets, assistance for disabled people, complaints processes, industry IT systems and information for all passengers. The aim of this consultation is to gather evidence to enable us to gain a better understanding of where the rail industry is already meeting, or exceeding, the EU standards, and to help us identify where we may be able to bring certain provisions into force earlier than the 2024 deadline required by the EU regulation.
The Government are committed to raise standards for rail passengers across the country. The Government seek to do this in a way that secures the maximum benefit to fare payers and taxpayers. Currently the Government are seeking to use the franchising programme to drive up standards for rail passengers, while at the same time securing cost efficiency savings that can then be passed onto fare payers and taxpayers.
When deciding on which exemptions to remove, we therefore want to ensure the right balance is struck between the benefits this would give passengers, the cost impact on taxpayers and the rail industry, the industry’s ability to meet the requirements, and Government’s wider commitments to the principles of better regulation for an industry.
No final decisions have been taken on the issues covered in the consultation and the important evidence we gather during this process will help us take robust decisions on the removal of exemptions. At this stage, the indications are positive and we are proposing the removal of close to two thirds of the exemptions.
Nevertheless, it is important that we take the time to consider the benefits of removing exemptions, as well as any regulatory or cost burdens. The current exemptions in place expire shortly, and in order to allow further consideration of these important issues, we are first taking the step of renewing all exemptions in December, to provide a holding position to allow the additional time for that detailed consideration.
The consultation will run for 10 weeks from today and all relevant documents are available here: https://www.gov.uk/dft#consultations. The consultation document and associated consultation stage impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, as in due course will copies of the statutory instrument, explanatory memorandum, and impact assessment related to the renewal of the exemptions.
Further information is available here on the parliamentary website.
EU Transport Council
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I attended the first Transport Council under the Italian presidency in Luxembourg on Wednesday 8 October.
The Council adopted a general approach on the ports services regulation. Following intense negotiations with other member states and the Commission, the UK secured an important competitive market exemption clause, ensuring that, where effective competition demonstrably exists, this regulation would not impose additional unnecessary burdens on ports. In the main, ports in the UK fit this criterion.
Despite concerns from some member states that the proposed regulation does not go far enough, particularly with regards to scope and financial transparency, all member states voted in favour of the proposal apart from Lithuania, who voted against, and the UK, who abstained. Looking ahead to their upcoming presidency Latvia indicated that they would look to sustain momentum on this dossier.
The Council also reached a general approach on the revised directive on the cross-border exchange of information on traffic offences. I fully supported the road safety objectives of the proposal but simultaneously expressed concerns that we had not been given enough time to analyse the detail and reserved the right to examine whether future proposals in this area contained justice and home affairs content. As a result I formally tabled a joint minute statement with Ireland setting out these concerns and abstained.
In the Council’s first discussion on the fourth railway package market pillar, I strongly endorsed proposals to liberalise the domestic rail passenger market. I emphasised that the effects of competition in the UK over the last 20 years had delivered a thriving rail industry. Some member states supported market opening in principle but the Council was clearly divided with many favouring investment over market opening as a more effective means of securing rail’s future. The Commission emphasised that investment alone was not the solution to combating rail’s declining competitiveness and loss of modal share and that the market pillar was an essential complement to the technical pillar to deliver rail’s full potential. The presidency agreed it was inconceivable to consider the fourth railway package without the market pillar and restated its ambition to reach general approach at the December Transport Council.
The Council went on to discuss the opening of the market to the civil use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). There was unanimous support to integrate RPAS into European airspace but member states stressed the need for a gradual approach which ensured the primacy of safety and sufficient time for the development of associated technologies. I strongly pressed that any future regulatory proposals should avoid stifling innovation and provide a framework proportionate to the risk. Latvia stated that it was keen to progress political discussions on RPAS during its presidency and would host an event in Riga in March 2015.
On the single European Sky II+ progress report, the presidency reported that good progress was being made on this challenging file and invited Ministers to a policy discussion on the single European Sky in Rome on 6 and 7 November 2014, with a view to reaching general approach at the December Transport Council.
The presidency presented its paper on elections to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council. I urged EU member states to support the ongoing consensus-seeking process among the pan-European 44 states of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) to decide this matter. The Council took note.
The Netherlands spoke movingly on aviation safety and the follow up to the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, and informed Council on the preliminary findings of the investigation by Dutch Safety Board with expert support from the UK, Ukraine, the USA, Malaysia and Netherlands. The interim report concluded that the aircraft had been penetrated from the exterior by a number of high energy objects which led to a loss of structural integrity and the break-up of the aircraft. The investigation was expected to issue its final report by July 2015. A concurrent criminal investigation had been launched. The Netherlands asked member states to contribute to the ongoing ICAO taskforce which aimed to review procedures for civil flights over conflict zones with a view to better exchange of information. The Commission added that its external action service would be working with EU member states to determine a mechanism for information sharing with EU airlines. I expressed our sincere sympathy and solidarity with the Netherlands and stated that we would continue our active engagement in the ICAO taskforce.
In a wide range of any other business, the presidency summarised the outcome of the informal Transport Council held in Milan on 16 and 17 September, which had focused on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). The discussions on planning, governance and financing of infrastructure would feed into the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy. In his last Transport Council, Vice-President Kallas reflected that he was proud of his achievements in reshaping TEN-T and urged Council to ensure transport secured an appropriate share of President Juncker’s recently announced €300 billion investment programme.
Poland presented an information paper on the situation of road hauliers in the context of the Russian import ban on certain EU products, calling upon member states and the Commission to help mitigate the effects of the Russian import ban on the road haulage sector. Three member states echoed these concerns and called for measures to be taken at an EU level. The Commission expressed sympathy with those member states but underlined the importance of the wider political context and stated that it was not planning to amend legislation at this stage.
Finally, the Commission updated the Council on the recent Galileo satellites incident, indicating that the most likely cause was a mechanical fault and a full report was due by the end of October. The launch planned for December would be postponed until the root cause was established and corrected. This was likely to be within the first half of 2015
More information is available here on the parliamentary website.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I am today publishing a draft cycling delivery plan for informal consultation to seek views from interested parties on its content.
On 12 August 2013, as part of a wider announcement on cycling, the Prime Minister set out his ambition for a cycling revolution. He committed the Department to publishing a cycling delivery plan which would set out a long-term 10 year strategy on how his ambition will be realised. Since then, my officials have been working with relevant Government Departments as well as with key stakeholders to develop a draft delivery plan which incorporates a number of Government commitments and actions to increase levels of cycling. The plan has also been extended to include commitments and actions to increase walking, across England. The delivery plan is also a key strand of the Government’s moving more, living more campaign to secure a physical activity legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The delivery plan issues a call to action to local authorities, offering the opportunity to establish partnerships with Government that will open up access to a range of incentives. The plan also includes a number of specific actions for the next 10 years focusing on infrastructure developments, cycle-proofing our roads and wider transport infrastructure, and for facilitating behaviour change across the country by promoting cycling and walking as alternative sustainable travel choices. The key features of the draft plan include:
An aspiration to work with local Government and businesses to explore how we can achieve a minimum funding packet equivalent to £10 per person each year by 2020-21 – and sooner if possible – a focus of our engagement on the delivery plan over the next four weeks;
Quantified national ambition for increasing cycling – to double cycling by 2025 and a quantified ambition for increasing walking – to increase the proportion of school children aged 5 to10 that usually walk to school to 55% by 2025;
Responding to the recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling report, and addressing many of the transport-related recommendations of the All- Party Physical Activity Commission.
As well as setting out Government’s ambitions for walking and cycling, the delivery plan is also a call to action for local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to formally commit to driving up walking and cycling across the country. The plan calls for expressions of interest from local authorities who would be interested in setting a long term ambition for walking and cycling in their area, and who, as part of that ambition would like to work in partnership with Government to secure its delivery.
The consultation will last four weeks, due to the prior engagement that has taken place. Interested parties can attend one of our six regional consultation events during October and November in Manchester, Birmingham, Bedford, Exeter, York and Durham or respond with comments electronically via: Walking.Cycling@dft.gsi.gov.uk.
We expect to be in a position to publish a final delivery plan on 27 November at a summit to be hosted by a senior Cabinet Minister.
I will be placing a copy of the draft delivery plan in the Library of both Houses.
This was posted here on the parliamentary website.
Agricultural Tractors and Trailers (Weight and Speed Limit)
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): Today I will be announcing my intention, following public consultation and the recommendations from the farming task force, to increase the weight and speed limits of agricultural tractors and trailers and to develop detailed proposals for a roadworthiness test for these vehicles. These changes will apply to Great Britain and will be introduced in two distinct phases from spring 2015. I intend to update these regulations to better reflect the capabilities of modern machinery, improve the efficiency of the farming sector and help to boost the economy.
The regulations governing tractors and trailers are outdated and the limits were set in the 1980s and do not reflect the significant advances in technology that have been made in this sector. As well as having improved braking systems today’s tractors are heavier.
Current weight restrictions to the total combined weight of tractors and trailers offer farmers a perverse incentive to use smaller tractors to pull large trailers, in order to maximise the amount of produce that they can carry within the maximum weight allowed. Larger tractors pulling trailers laden to the same weight will tend to be better matched to the loads. There would also be fewer journeys and hence less risk of incidents.
Initial changes to weights and speed limits will be introduced by March 2015 through amendments to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations. I expect these changes to generate almost £62 million in deregulatory benefits to farmers per year and bring our farmers more in line with their international counterparts.
I intend to increase the maximum combination weight limit for tractors and trailers from 24.39 ton to 31 ton. This will allow farmers to have more flexibility in sizing their combinations, allow larger tractors to haul the same maximum loads that smaller ones do already and will offer some farmers a modest increase in the amount of produce they can carry in each journey. The maximum laden weight of trailers will remain unchanged (at 18.29 ton) and the maximum axle weights for tractors and trailers will not change.
An effective speed limit of 25mph will be applied for conventional tractors. Modern tractors are designed to safely travel at speeds of up to, or over 25mph, but current regulations restrict their speed to 20mph, lower than many other EU countries. We are therefore unnecessarily restricting our farmers, adding time and cost on to their operations. Those tractors allowed to exceed 25mph will continue to be subject to tighter design and regulatory requirements.
Phase 2 is planned for introduction before harvest 2016 and it includes the consideration of further increases in weights and speeds, including maximum laden trailer weight limits and a roadworthiness test for some agricultural tractors and trailers.
I am also publishing today the summary of responses for the consultations into examining the maximum weights of agricultural trailers and combinations and examining the maximum speed limit of tractors on public road, as well as the Government’s response and the impact assessment which cover both measures. I shall ensure copies are placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Information was obtained from the Parliamentary Website.