Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (TEA 1B)

1.  FURTHER WRITTEN EVIDENCE

  1.  During oral hearings in January Agency Chief Executives were asked to provide further written evidence on particular points.

2.  HIGHWAYS AGENCY

2.1  In relation to the introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting (RAB) at the Agency, what advertisements were placed about the original employment of the adviser on RAB in 1994, and how many applicants there were for the position?

  In November 1994 the Agency's Finance Director appointed an external consultant initially to February 1995, subsequently extended to April 1995, to review the Agency's preparedness to introduce commercial accounting. This initial appointment was by invitation rather than competition.

  2.2  An open competition was held in March 1995 in which nine organisations or individuals were invited to tender for the role of Project Director for the Commercial Accounting Project (CAP). (It was at this point that the competition referred to in oral evidence took place). The outcome was the appointment of the consultant who had previously been advising the Agency.

2.3  How much was paid to the adviser who assisted prior to the letting of contracts to introduce RAB?

  A contract was let to CBC & Associates on 2 February 1998. Prior to this contract the adviser was employed and paid for his personal services. Other expenditure was incurred in paying for the management and delivery of a number of projects under the CAP heading.

  2.4  Although the adviser was employed principally on the CAP project he also provided senior management with advice on Private Finance Initiative and institutional issues. Between December 1994 and March 1998 the adviser was paid approximately £420,000.

2.5  Whether that adviser did in fact win the contract that was let?

  Yes, the Project Director, in the form of CBC & Associates, did win the contract, which ran from 2 February 1998 to 2 November 2000. In the event CBC provided the only compliant tender.

2.6  How much was the contractor/adviser then paid?

Financial year
Monies paid to CBC
£000
1998-99
3,310
1999-2000
3,556
2000-01
1,864
TOTAL
8,730


2.7  Whether system introduced was successful or whether further contractors were subsequently employed to implement RAB?

  The work undertaken by the contractor provided many of the building blocks required for a successful system. The CBC contract came to an end on 2 November 2000. The work to integrate the core RAB requirements into the Agency's Strategy for Financial Management (SFM) is the subject of further contracts. The SFM goes well beyond the introduction of resource accounts and is aimed at developing a comprehensive and integrated set of financial accounting and business management systems.

2.8  What has been/will be paid to those further contractors?

  Between 1998 and 2001 approximately £2,668,000 has been paid to contractors, other than CBC. It is anticipated that a further £9 million will be paid to contractors between 2001 and 2004 to deliver the SFM project.

2.9  What were the annual report assessments of the Head of Internal Audit in the two years prior to his transfer from the Agency—or what other questions over his competency were raised?

  This question relates to the Agency's Head of Internal Audit up to September 1998.

  2.10  Information relating to an individual's performance is a matter of confidence between the individual and the Agency.

  2.11  Discussions had been held with DETR Internal Audit in January 1998 about the need to upgrade the post of Head of the Agency's Internal Audit function and for a change in leadership. This built on previous discussions between the Head of Internal Audit and the Agency's Personnel Director in November 1997 about the former's career progression and the weighting of the post. All these discussions took place before the CAP audit commenced. This, taken with the Chief Executive's concern about the management of this difficult CAP audit, led to further discussions with the Agency's Personnel Director. It was agreed that the post be upgraded, to be filled by an existing member of DETR staff, that the Head of Internal Audit would seek a post outside the Agency and that the Agency would use its best endeavours to help him. He is currently employed in DETR(C).

2.12  Figures for spending (in real terms) on maintenance during the past/next few years.

Year
Motorways and Trunk Road—Capital
£ million
Motorways and Trunk Road—Revenue
£ million
1994-95
712
247
1995-96
516
185
1996-97
450
157
1997-98
440
185
1998-99
444
225
1999-2000
458
257
2000-01
435
237
2001-02
411
238
2002-03
405
230
2003-04
396
275


  Notes:

All figures converted to 2000-01 prices using HM Treasury deflator update 21 December 2000.

  Provision for the period 2001-02 to 2003-04 has reduced because of the transfer of trunk roads in London to Transport for London; better procurement practices; a reduction in the maintenance requirement for trunk road and motorway bridges resulting from a reassessment of risk; and research showing that a significant proportion of motorways and trunk roads have a longer life than originlly expected.

2.13  Road resurfacing, specifically the criteria used to assess which roads should be resurfaced

  The road network comprises traditional asphalt surfaced roads and concrete surfaces.

    —  For the former type, whenever a road needs to be surfaced as part of its ongoing maintenance programme (based on whole life cost solutions) the agency would provide quieter surfacing. The agency anticipates at least 55 per cent of asphalt surfaced roads will be resurfaced by March 2011.

    —  Regarding concrete surfaces, the agency wrote to local authorities on 29 December 2000 consulting on the proposed criteria for resurfacing these roads. Responses are invited by 23 March 2001. The letter and appendices containing the proposed criteria are available on the agency's web-site under "news".

2.14  Delay to works affecting a roundabout on the A19 York ring road

  The A19/A 1237 Rawcliffe Roundabout to the North of York improvement is to be jointly funded between the agency and the City of York Council, in recognition that a high proportion of the improvement works are necessary to provide access to the Council's proposed Rawcliffe Bar Park and Ride. As such a legal agreement is required between the Highways Agency and the Council. We have now reached a point where we believe that the details of the agreement as drafted are now satisfactory and we await signature by the Council.

2.15  Width of the hard shoulder (specifically in the Stockport area)

  As a consequence of widening the predominately two lane mainline M60 carriageway between Junction 25 and Junction 1 to three lanes, it has been necessary to provide narrowed hard shoulders and to omit hard shoulder provision at certain locations. This is because additional land for the widening was not available and the extra lanes had to be provided within the existing highway boundary. The additional capacity was required to accommodate increased traffic resulting from the opening of the final section of the Manchester Ring Road between Denton and Middleton.

  2.16  The police were consulted on the proposals and within the constraints of the scheme design, maximum provision was made to allow the use by emergency services of the hard shoulder/hard strip. The loss of some of the hard shoulder provision on this length of motorway was set against the benefits that will result from increased running capacity, in terms of fewer accidents involving standing traffic.

  2.17  We are very conscious of the safety implications of providing narrow hard shoulders and of omitting hard shoulders. Where the hard shoulder narrows to less than three metres there are advance signs warning drivers that there is "No hard shoulder for x yards" and the area adjacent to the running lanes is hatched out. For widths between 3.0 metres and 3.3 metres (our hard shoulder provision) we consider that it is still possible for vehicles to stop safely, clear of the running lanes. Along this length of motorway there is a closed circuit television system operated by the police.

  2.18  As an additional safety measure this system is being reinforced by an accident incident detection system which will be linked to the police control office. This system will automatically alert the police should any vehicle break down or stop on a section of narrow hard shoulder for more than 30 seconds. This will greatly reduce the police response time to incidents. This new system is expected to be fully operational by the end of March 2001.

2.19  Noise insulation, specifically in Marsh Green, Exeter

  When the A30 Honiton—Exeter Improvement contract was let the Agency required to construction of earth banks adjacent to the A30 at certain locations to reduce the impact of traffic noise. 32 households were also offered noise insulation in January 1997. This has now been installed in those properties that accepted the offer. No other Exeter households have been offered noise insulation since the first section of road was opened to traffic in August 1999.

  2.20  The Agency is currently in the process of reassessing all properties within 300 metres to identify any which may now be eligible for noise insulation. This assessment not only takes account of the higher than predicted noise levels, but also updated traffic forecasts.

  2.21  The Government has also made a commitment in the 10 year Plan—Transport 2010—that all concrete trunk roads, including this stretch of the A30, will be resurfaced with quieter materials within 10 years.

3.  DRIVING STANDARDS AGENCY

  3.1  The administrative staff Terms and Conditions Agreement specifies a ratio of 80:10:10 in terms of permanent, casual and fixed term appointments in the Agency's five Area Offices. At the end of December 2000, DSA employed 48.9 (full time equivalent) staff on casual contracts and 11.6 (full time equivalent) staff on fixed term contracts. These represent 24 per cent and 6 per cent of the total administrative staff in the Area Offices respectively.

  3.2  As explained in oral evidence, the Agency is seeking to reduce the number of casual contacts. The Chief Executive has had discussions with the Union about the staffing levels and plans to recruit a further 20 (full time equivalent) permanent Administrative Assistance (AA) staff in the Newcastle Area Office before the end of the financial year and up to 10 at Administrative Officer (AO) level. A further review of the administrative staffing requirements in the Area Offices will be made against the agreed 2001-02 Business Plan figures.

Appeal arrangements for approved driving instructors

  3.3  Any applicant refused registration as an Approved Driving Instructor, or a person whose registration is revoked, may appeal to the Secretary of State. Similar provisions apply in respect of licences issued to trainee instructors who wish to offer paid instruction whilst preparing for the final part of their qualifying exam.

  3.4  Appeals are considered by a panel who make recommendations to the Secretary of State. He is responsible for making the final decision. DETR have decided that it would be more in tune with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights if appeals were determined by an independent tribunal. Powers have been granted by the Transport Act 2000 to transfer jurisdiction for appeals from the Secretary of State to the Transport Tribunal.

  3.5  In parallel, DSA intend to improve the way the Registrar's decisions come into effect, in order to provide for more timely and effective enforcement action. Currently, where an instructor appeals against removal from the Register, the Registrar's removal decision is automatically suspended until the end of the appeal process. This means that an instructor can continue to offer driving lessons, notwithstanding the standards of conduct or professional competence that led to the Registrar's decision. Learners are often vulnerable youngsters, and we think the current position undermines the personal security and safety reasons for having a statutory register of instructors.

  3.6  We therefore intend that the Registrar should be able to decide that his removal decision should come into effect after 14 days. If the instructor appeals, he or she will have 10 days to ask the Transport Tribunal to be allowed to continue instructing while the appeal is being considered, and the Tribunal will decide that request within the original 14 days.

  3.7  We also wish to strengthen the redress available to professional instructors. We are aware that some have expressed concerns that their check-tests have not been properly conducted. The magistrates' courts (Sheriffs courts in Scotland) already have the power to review the conduct of qualifying exams. Again, amendments made by the Transport Act will give those courts the powers to review the conduct of the full range of tests and assessments that instructors can take.

  3.8  These changes will help us to deliver on the commitments in the Road Safety Strategy to improve the supervision and appeals arrangements for instructors. We hope to complete the transfer of the appeals functions to the Transport Tribunal within the next two years.

4.  VEHICLE INSPECTORATE

Inspections carried out at the request of a Traffic Commissioner or Traffic Area Office

HGV Operator Assessments

  4.1  New entrants to, and those already established in, the haulage industry must satisfy the Traffic Commissioner (TC) that they will keep their vehicles fit and serviceable at all times. The Vehicle Inspectorate (VI) Examiners check operators' compliance with "O" Licence conditions and that the vehicles are fit for service by periodically carrying our maintenance assessment comprising either:

    —  Maintenance Investigations which involve a check of a sample of the vehicles in an operator's fleet as well as on his premises, and safety inspection records, these are usually carried out:

      —  when the TC or Licence Review Board asks for a full investigation;

      —  for all new operators joining the industry;

      —  where evidence exists of unsatisfactory maintenance arrangements; or

    —  Maintenance Appraisals which are carried out where the Examiner feels there is sufficient evidence available to him without inspecting the vehicles eg from the operator's maintenance file, from vehicle spot-check records on VI's roadworthiness database, and/or his own local knowledge to make a positive report that maintenance arrangements are satisfactory.

  The majority of maintenance assessment requests are issued by the Traffic Area Office when an operator's five-yearly review of his suitability to hold a licence falls due or when a variation to the licence is requested. However, Traffic Commissioners can request a maintenance assessment at any time.

  4.2  During 1999-2000 VI carried out 35,637 HGV maintenance assessments which involved 39,048 inspections of vehicles in operators' fleets. For 1998-99 the figures were 35,702 and 39,425 respectively.

Traffic Enforcement Requests

  4.3  VI Traffic Examiners follow up a variety of other requests from Traffic Commissioners which result in a report being submitted for TC consideration. The types of request and the number of reports generated (according to our records) are shown in the table below.

Activity
1999-2000
1998-99
Specific drivers' hours investigations where there is concern that an operator and/or his drivers are breaching the legislation
1,294
958
Retrieval of a vocational driving licence instances where a driver's conduct or continued fitness to hold a vocational driving licence has been called into question and the Traffic Commissioner has revoked or suspended the licence
10
4
Information as to the environmental suitability of a site used as an operating centre where vehicles are/will be based
657
982
Investigations into reports of illegal operation
555
513
Retrieval of an operator's licence
162
288
Investigations into reports of illegal parking of goods vehicles
227
355
Speeding investigations
51
61
Specific requests for roadside checks often aimed at certain sectors of the industry
4
130
Other general goods vehicle investigations not falling into the above
663
847


  Note:

  The figures are for HGV requests only.

  4.4  The above is a good indicator of what happens. For historical reasons, different Traffic Area Offices and Traffic Commissioners have taken slightly different approaches when requesting work from VI. VI and TAN have set up a liaison group to iron out, to some extent, these inconsistencies but more specifically aimed at improving both the effectiveness and efficiency of our support for the "O" Licence regime.

Details about the number and type of foreign heavy goods vehicles stopped and inspected (by comparison to domestic vehicles) each year

  4.5  The following table shows the numbers of UK and foreign vehicles stopped at roadside checks.

  
1999-2000
1998-99
1.Roadworthiness Spot Checks
a.UK vehicles examined
70,775
  
66,220
  
b.Immediate prohibitions issued
5,681
(8 per cent)
5,800
(8.7 per cent)
c.Delayed prohibitions issued
8,970
(12.7 per cent)
8,496
(12.8 per cent)
d.UK trailers examined
24,046
  
23,683
  
e.Immediate prohibitions issued
1,914
(8 per cent)
2,013
(8.4 per cent
f.Delayed prohibitions issued
2,658
(11 per cent)
2,625
(11.1 per cent)
g.Foreign vehicles examined
3,684
  
3,498
  
h.Immediate prohibitions issued
314
(8.5 per cent)
301
(8.6 per cent)
2.Traffic Enforcement Checks
a.UK vehicles examined
144,277
  
148,231
  
b.Drivers' hours convictions
11,710
  
9,750
  
c.Overloading prohibitions issued
2,818
(2 per cent)
3,284
(2.2 per cent)
d.Foreign vehicles examined
13,790
  
13,027
  
e.Drivers' hours prohibitions issued
853
(6.2 per cent)
757
(six per cent)
f.Overloading prohibitions issued
504
(3.6 per cent)
614
(4.7 per cent)


  Notes:

  i.  Data on foreign lorries is not split by vehicle type.

Roadworthiness

  ii.  The Foreign Vehicles Act does not provide for the issue of delayed prohibitions to foreign vehicles.

  iii.  It is not possible to split out the motor vehicles and trailer prohibition rates.

  iv.  Only one prohibition notice is issued per vehicle although it may contain a list of defects where more than one has been found. The most serious defect determines whether an immediate or delayed prohibition is issued.

  v.  Roadworthiness fleet check vehicle inspections are not included in the above table as these are in support of the UK operator licensing system and are conducted at an operator's premises or at a local HGVTS and not at the roadside.

Traffic

  vi.  For the periods shown VI had no powers of prohibition for UK drivers' hours offences. The power of prohibition is contained in the Transport Act 2000, and VI will commence using it in February 2001.

Carriage of excess fuel by foreign hauliers

  4.6  It is not an offence for a vehicle to be fitted with supplementary fuel tanks, although all tanks have to meet the same standards as the main fuel tank. The size of fuel tanks is not specified in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations. The Regulations require only that "tanks be constructed and maintained to prevent leakage, be made of metal and that they are fixed in such a position and so maintained as to be reasonably secure from damage". Vehicle Inspectorate examiners would not therefore take enforcement action (such as the issue of an immediate prohibition) unless a vehicle exhibited roadworthiness defects, for example if the tank was likely to fall off, if it was leaking enough (either through the tank itself or from pipes or the filler cap) to cause a hazard to the vehicle and/or other road users, or if the cap was missing altogether.

  4.7  It is possible that additional tanks might attract the attention of HM Customs and Excise if, for example, they believed fuel was being imported in a vehicle for other than direct use by that vehicle

Vehicle Crime Bill

  4.8  Further information about a role now planned for the Inspectorate under the Bill is as follows:

    —  The Agency will carry out vehicle identity checks (VIC) on PLG class vehicles in VI test stations. The vehicles involved will have been notified to DVLA as written off by insurers and some will have applied to re-register them under the original identity. The check is to ensure that the vehicle is not constructed from stolen parts or is not a stolen vehicle disguised as one previously written off.

    —  VI is assisting DVLA with the creation of an HGV (trailer) computer register—to help track stolen trailers.

5.  DRIVER AND VEHICLE LICENSING AGENCY

Bar coding of number plates

  5.1  Miss McIntosh introduced her question about the display of bar codes on number plates in the context of their use on plastic photocard driving licences. It should be noted that the bar code displayed on the photocard licence simply provides a link for production purposes between it and the paper counterpart on which driving convictions are recorded. No information relating to the licence holder is recorded on this bar code.

  5.2  The Vehicles (Crime) Bill will provide DVLA with the power to set up a mandatory register for all number plate suppliers. It will also provide for the inclusion of additional security features on number plates as part of the manufacturing process. Legislation will introduce measures to make it more difficult for criminals to obtain number plates to which they are not entitled and to link number plates to the vehicle for which they are intended making it difficult for plates to be produced by unregistered suppliers.

  5.3  Suppliers will be required to make a series of checks before selling a plate and keep records of transactions to establish an audit trail for inspection. These measures will be underpinned by the introduction of new criminal offences and will come into effect by early 2002.

  5.4  The inclusion of security features on number plates eg bar codes, microchips or visible vehicle identity numbers will play an important role in assisting the police to trace a plate back to the supplier. Whilst it is currently technically feasible to include bar codes on number plates, their use will require police officers to carry the necessary equipment in order to read the information contained within them.

  5.5  DVLA is working closely with the police and other interested parties on the introduction of a more secure number plate and will take their views fully into account in designing the new system. It is anticipated that security features such as bar codes will not therefore be introduced until 2004.

6.  MARITIME AND COASTGUARD AGENCY

Coastguard staff turnover

  6.1  Staff turnover at Coastguard Stations between 1 January to 31 December 2000:

Coastguard Station
Complement
Resignations
Per cent
Dover
36
2
5.6
Solent
36
3
8.3
Portland
31
4
12.9
Brixham
31
2
6.4
Falmouth
31
1
3.2
Swansea
31
1
3.2
Milford Haven
26
0
0
Holyhead
28
1
3.6
Liverpool
25
0
0
Clyde
36
3
8.3
Stornoway
31
0
0
Shetland
25
2
8.0
Aberdeen
32
3
9.4
Forth
23
1
4.3
Belfast
25
1
4.0
Tyne Tees
25
1
4.0
Yarmouth
27
0
0
Humber
26
0
0
Thames
31
3
9.7
Average across Coastguard
556
28
5.0




 
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