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Rail Routes (Scotland)

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what recent discussions his Department has had with the (a) Scottish Executive and (b) Strategic Rail Authority concerning the re-introduction of the rail route from Edinburgh to the Borders; [37562]

Mr. Jamieson: There have been no such discussions. This is primarily a matter for the Scottish Executive and the Strategic Rail Authority.


Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what UK Government-supported schemes exist and at what expense to offer terrorism and war risk cover in the aviation and shipping industries; and what representations he has made about extending such schemes. [37284]

Mr. Jamieson: In relation to the maritime sector, a scheme under the Marine and Aviation Insurance (War Risks) Act 1952 has been in place for many years by which the Secretary of State provides reinsurance in return for the payment of a premium which, during periods of low risk, is waived.

In relation to the aviation sector, the Government introduced a scheme in September 2001 to address the withdrawal of third party war risk and terrorism cover by the insurance industry in the light of the terrorist attacks in America. In accordance with guidelines adopted by the European Commission, the UK charges a premium of up to $1 per passenger per flight, depending on the amount of cover requested by the airline concerned. Airports and other ground service providers are charged a proportion of the premium they paid before cover was withdrawn. The total costs to Government are unquantifiable at this time, as they depend on potential claims, if any, made under the scheme. There are also legal costs, the final amounts of which are not known. The Government will consider whether any residual insurance support may be justified after the present arrangements expire on 20 March.

The Secretary of State has received representations from the British Air Transport Association, seeking an extension of the scheme until the insurance market has stabilised or other arrangements have been put in place.


Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what representations he has received about the A3 at Hindhead; and if he will make a statement; [36905]

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Mr. Spellar: We continue to receive a number of representations about the A3 Hindhead scheme covering a wide range of topics. The two most important current issues are the proposal to close the existing A3 across Hindhead Common once the new tunnel is completed and the possibility of additional traffic using local roads in and around Grayshott to access the new A3 route.

The Highways Agency has been carrying out further work on both these issues which is nearing completion. The results will be presented to the Project Advisory and Wider Reference Group meetings later this month. Details will also be contained in a newsletter to be issued shortly.

Subject to the satisfactory completion of the necessary statutory procedures, we aim to start construction on the scheme in 2005–06. Work will take three to four years.

Rural Services

Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent discussions he has had with Town and County Finance Issues Group concerning the additional costs of providing services in rural areas; and if he will make a statement. [36931]

Dr. Whitehead: I met with the Town and Country Finance Issues Group last September to discuss the review of local government finance, in particular revenue grant distribution.

Our aim is to make the revenue grant distribution system fairer and more intelligible. The rural case will be considered carefully, alongside others, before we decide the way forward. Groups representing both counties and districts are on the working groups.

Aircraft Noise

Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking (a) to monitor and (b) to reduce aircraft noise in the Dunsfold vicinity; what representations he has had on this subject; and if he will make a statement. [36909]

Mr. Spellar: Discretionary noise monitoring (in addition to the monitors specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of the departure noise limits) is the responsibility of the relevant aerodrome, in this case principally Gatwick airport, to whom requests for deployment of mobile monitors should be addressed.

The Secretary of State has set requirements for controlling noise from aircraft using Gatwick by notice under s.78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. Recently the Department, together with BAA and others, has jointly issued a code of practice on noise from arriving aircraft.

The Department has received and replied to a small number of representations about aircraft noise near Dunsfold since the Adjournment debate on 11 January 2000.

Health and Safety (Computers)

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many employees

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in his Department who regularly use computers have taken up the provision of a free eye test; and how this service is advertised to (a) current and (b) new staff. [36694]

Dr. Whitehead: The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 require employers to ensure that employees are provided at their request with an appropriate eyesight test. The procedures for such eyesight testing within my Department are publicised periodically in the weekly staff Bulletin. Details are also available on the Department's 'Health and Safety—Good Practice' site on the InfoNet and the Departmental Staff Handbook. Eyesight testing is also covered during the risk assessment process, which is undertaken for all new members of staff and for staff who move or have a major change of hardware, software or workstation furniture. Local line managers' hold budgets for eyesight testing. Information on the take-up of this facility is not held centrally.

Passenger Transport Authorities

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the cost of each PTA in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [36460]

Ms Keeble: PTAs are funded through a levy on constituent district councils and grants from central Government, as in the following table

Cost ofPTAs in 2001–02

PTADistrict Levy Grants Total cost
Greater Manchester102.260.3162.5
South Yorkshire60.713.974.6
Tyne and Wear43.412.956.3
West Midlands111.628.7140.2
West Yorkshire54.135.689.7

Public Transport

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions by what means the relative efficiency of different regimes for public transport provision as between shire counties, unitary and metropolitan authorities, and cities is measured. [36459]

Ms Keeble: The Transport Act 2000 places specific requirements upon all local transport authorities to formulate transport policies and publish them as a local transport plan (LTP). It also requires them to prepare as part of their LTP, a bus strategy containing policies detailing how they will carry out their functions in order to secure the provision of bus services.

Our guidance to authorities on LTPs sets out a range of detailed criteria against which each LTP is assessed. These criteria include the development of a bus strategy and the contribution of passenger rail services. The overall assessment of LTPs forms part of our consideration of authorities' bids for capital resources.

In addition, the Local Government Act 1999 places a specific requirement on local authorities to produce Best Value Performance Plans (BVPP) each year. The BVPP should include a summary of the authority's assessment

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of its performance in the previous financial year with regard to a range of Best Value performance indicators, including those for transport, along with comparisons with similar authorities.

South East England Development Agency

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what account he has taken for planning purposes of SEEDA's decision to seek to alleviate pinch points in respect of traffic congestion in the south east region, as discussed in the Agency's regional Economic Strategy document, and in particular for a bypass around Arundel; and if he will make a statement. [36457]

Mr. Jamieson: The Transport objectives set out in SEEDA's Regional Economic Strategy include selective investment to alleviate pinch points on the road and rail network, pursued within the framework of the Regional Transport Strategy.

A multi-modal study of the transport problems of the South Coast Corridor is currently being undertaken. As well as providing an over-arching strategy for the corridor, the study is required to consider a number of schemes specifically remitted to it, including the proposed bypass at Arundel. The study is expected to report in summer 2002.

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