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9 Mar 2006 : Column 1648W—continued

First Great Western Trains

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many complaints his Department has received since January 2005 about First Great Western Trains' service performance; and how the Department responded to such complaints. [56051]

Derek Twigg: Until July 2005, complaints of this nature were dealt with by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA). Since then, the Department has dealt with 33 complaints about First Great Western Train's service performance. The complaints included a range of issues, each of which was dealt with according to the points raised.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the punctuality of services on First Great Western Trains Ltd. up to December 2005. [56077]

Derek Twigg: Network Rail, are responsible for monitoring the performance of the train operating companies. Joint action plans are in place between Network Rail and First Great Western to address performance and these are monitored monthly. In addition, I have held meetings with Network Rail and First Great Western to discuss performance issues.
 
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Free Travel (Swindon)

Anne Snelgrove: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what estimate he has made of the funding required to fund free off-peak travel for (a) older and (b) disabled persons on buses in Swindon; [51285]

(2) how much funding the Government are providing to Swindon local authority to provide free bus travel for (a) older and (b) disabled persons. [51286]

Ms Buck: The Government are providing an extra £350 million for 2006–07 through the Formula Grant system which will be sufficient to fund the cost to local authorities. This funding is unhypothecated; therefore it is not possible to identify the concessionary fares funding for individual local authorities to local authorities.

Heritage Railways

Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will assess the merits of exempting the heritage railway sector from the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006. [56493]

Derek Twigg: I had a constructive meeting with representatives of the Heritage Railways Association on 1 March to hear their concerns about the draft Railway and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations which have been proposed by the Health and Safety Commission. I am currently considering the options on how best to address their concerns.

M11

Mr. Newmark: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the decision to close the M11 motorway on Saturday 25 February. [56962]

Dr. Ladyman: At approximately 05.50 hours on Saturday 25 February, a recovery vehicle was called to assist a stranded lorry on the hard shoulder of the northbound carriageway of the M11 between junctions 6 (M11/M25) and 7 (Harlow) that had caught fire. Due to the intensity of the fire, both vehicles were quickly engulfed.

Although the fire was safely extinguished, the recovery vehicle was carrying oxy-acetylene cylinders. Acetylene gas is a highly volatile substance that can explosively decompose if exposed to extreme heat. The fire service instructed an immediate 200 m exclusion zone around the accident scene and this necessitated the closure of the M11.

As drivers attempted to leave the motorway, the local road network quickly became overwhelmed with the traffic demand placed upon it. As a result there was a rapid build up of traffic on the M11 leading to severe congestion.

The Highways Agency is engaging with the fire service, the police and Essex county council to establish the facts of the events of 25 February and to assess what lessons can be learned for the future.
 
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Manchester Metrolink

Mr. Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions his Department has had with the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority since 1 January 2006 regarding Metrolink Phase 3. [56765]

Derek Twigg: Since 1 January 2006, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has discussed expansion of the Manchester Metrolink network with members of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority in the context of the wider transport needs of Greater Manchester and the North West.

Officials from the Department have had a number of discussions about Metrolink Phase 3 with members of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive since 1 January 2006.

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received in the past six months regarding the proposed extension of the Metrolink network in Greater Manchester. [56609]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 7 March 2006]: Since 1 September 2005, 11 letters including four from hon. Members were received by the Department in relation to the proposed extensions to the Metrolink system. 12parliamentary questions directly relating to the subject (including this question) were asked during the same period.

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had since 1 January on the proposed extension of the Metrolink network in Greater Manchester. [56615]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 7 March 2006]: Since 1 January 2006, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has discussed the proposed extension of the Manchester Metrolink network with members of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority and others in the context of the wider transport needs of Greater Manchester and the North West.

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to make an announcement about the proposed extension of the Metrolink network in Greater Manchester. [56617]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 7 March 2006]: An announcement will be made in due course, once we have received and considered the full business case from the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive.

National Speed Survey

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will place in the Library the 2002 National Speed Survey. [57142]

Dr. Ladyman: A copy of the 2002 Survey of Traffic Speeds in English Urban Areas is already in the Libraries of the House.
 
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Rail Regional Planning Assessments

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the revised timetable is for issuing the rail regional planning assessments. [56599]

Derek Twigg: The East of England Regional Planning Assessment (RPA) was published on 16 February. I am currently considering the draft of the North East England RPA with a view to publication shortly. An updated programme will be published after the publication of that RPA.

Rail Services

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on developing more accurate methods of measuring train punctuality. [54950]

Derek Twigg: Measuring standards for reporting train times are laid down in Rail Industry agreements. The accuracy of the recordings used to measure punctuality is an operational matter for Network Rail, and is subject to industry procedures and checks, and in some cases to external audit.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answers of 20 December 2005 and 1 February 2006, Official Report, columns 2914W and 562W, on train services, how many train services in each train operating company were partially cancelled in 2005; and what the reason was for each cancellation. [54953]

Derek Twigg: The information is not held in the form requested.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many national rail services have been replaced by bus services in each year since 1997. [54990]

Derek Twigg: National rail services are regularly replaced by bus services as a result of planned engineering works or in response to incidents. The Department does not keep a central record of the number of such services put in place. In only one case since 1997 have alternative services been put in place as a result of a formal station or route closure; this being the 1998 closure of Sinfin North and Sinfin Central branch when an alternative taxi service was put in place.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what standards in relation to (a) staffing, (b) policing and (c) CCTV are to be incorporated into franchise contracts and invitations to tender. [54995]

Derek Twigg: The invitation to tender for each franchise includes a requirement for bidders to set out their approach to identifying risks, upgrading existing systems and installing new measures to reduce the level of risk to passengers. Evaluation will take into account proposed station staffing levels, CCTV coverage and operational relationship with British Transport and the Civil Police, when determining to whom the franchise should be awarded.


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