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6 Jan 2004 : Column 218W—continued

Bristol/Bath to South Coast Study

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the reasons for the delay in completing the Bristol/Bath to South Coast Study; and what estimate he has made of the likely completion date. [145226]

Mr. McNulty: The study, which was commissioned to address the concerns of Bath and North East Somerset Council and the South West Regional Assembly over the proposed de-trunking of the A36/A46, has been further delayed because it has taken longer than anticipated for the consultants to complete the modelling and firm up their conclusions. It is now anticipated that the revised Final Reports will be cleared by the Steering Group by late January 2004. Once approved, they will be submitted to the South West Regional Assembly for comment and possibly additional brief consultation with their partners, in particular regarding the de-trunking issue which gave rise to the study being commissioned.

Following receipt of the study report and comments from the Regional Assembly, I will be in a position to make a response.

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Congestion Charging

Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the use of satellite technology for congestion charging. [145381]

Mr. Jamieson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement to the House on 9 July 2003, Official Report, columns 1175–95, announcing a feasibility study into the potential for road charging in the UK, which is expected to report this summer. The Terms of Reference were published on 9 July in "Managing our Roads", which is available on my Department's website.

Heathrow Airport

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department made of the need to widen major roads into and out of Heathrow, in the event of a third runway at Heathrow being built. [145447]

Mr. McNulty: The South East and East of England Regional Air Services Study (SERAS) included an assessment of the road and rail infrastructure enhancements that would be needed to support a third runway at Heathrow. The results of this appraisal were summarised in Chapter 7 of "The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom: South East" consultation document.

The White Paper, "The Future of Air Transport", recognised that the further expansion of Heathrow will place pressure on already congested road and rail networks. It stated that the Government have no plans for further motorway widening in this area beyond that which we announced in our response to the Thames Valley and Orbit multi-modal studies in July 2003, and that the solution would need to be based on improvements to public transport.

North Downs Tunnel

Jonathan Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the thickness was of the invert of the North Downs Tunnel approved by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996; and what change there has been in the specification. [145977]

Mr. McNulty: The Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 contains no specifications of the tunnel lining thickness. The specifications relating to such details in the North Downs Tunnel were first drawn up later. The tunnel has a concrete lining with a relatively flat invert and reinforced concrete base slab, which supports the ballasted track. The concrete is about 1 metre thick in the invert and the average ballast thickness is 600 mm.

Railways (Disabled Access)

Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received from the Strategic Rail Authority concerning the ability of railway stations to conform to the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. [145089]

Mr. McNulty: The SRA is considering how best to prioritise a programme of works to meet the accessibility requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act and will be consulting on draft criteria this year.

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Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of whether the Strategic Rail Authority will be liable for prosecution if railways do not have disabled access by the required date in 2004. [145403]

Mr. McNulty: With effect from 1 October 2004, providers of services will be under new duties to take reasonable steps to ensure that a disabled person can make use of a service, pursuant to section 21(2)(a)-(c) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Section 19(2)(b) of the Act defines a provider of services as being a person concerned with the provision in the United Kingdom of services to the public or a section of the public. Interpretation is a matter for the courts, but the Strategic Rail Authority's assessment is that the section 21 duties will apply to train operating companies that lease stations, and to Network Rail in respect of the stations it operates itself.

The SRA is working with the rail industry and disabled people to ensure a more accessible transport network, with the greatest possible choice for disabled people within the available resources.

Road Crossings

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance he has recently issued to local authorities on the number of road crossings to help people who are (a) disabled and (b) partially sighted; and if he will make a statement. [145379]

Mr. McNulty: Local Transport Notes 1/95 and 2/95 cover the general assessment and design of road crossings, respectively. The latter includes guidance on installing audible and tactile signals to help disabled pedestrians at signalled crossings. In addition, we have issued specific guidance on meeting the needs of disabled people, including blind and partially sighted people, in "Guidance on the Use of Tactile Surfaces" (1999) and "Inclusive Mobility" (2002).

Traffic Calming

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many deaths he estimates have resulted from delay caused by speed humps and traffic calming preventing the emergency services reaching emergency incidents since 2000. [145822]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department has received no evidence that speed humps cause additional deaths.

Transport Infrastructure (South Bedfordshire)

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the impact of planned future house building on the transport infrastructure of South Bedfordshire. [145873]

Mr. McNulty: The London to South Midlands Multi-Modal Study took account of the likely scale of growth that is now proposed in the Milton Keynes South Midlands draft strategy. Following the multi-modal study we were able to add three major schemes which serve South Bedfordshire to the Targeted Programme of Improvements.

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Government Information andCommunication Service

25. Norman Baker : To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how much has been allocated this financial year to the Government Information and Communication Service. [145861]

Mr. Alexander: Mr. Speaker, the budget for the Government Information and Communication Service Centre in the Cabinet Office for the current financial year is £2,458,395.

Members of the GICS as a whole are employed and their work funded by individual Departments. The overall figures are not collected centrally.

Better Regulation

26. Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many personnel are working on the better regulation brief in the department. [145862]

Mr. Alexander: The Regulatory Impact Unit leads on the better regulation agenda in my Department. The unit had 58 full-time equivalent staff as at December 2003.

Internet Use

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what proportion of internet users have transacted with a government department online in each year since 1997; and what steps are being taken to increase this proportion. [146132]

Mr. Alexander: The Office for National Statistics (ONS) measures the use of e-government services on a quarterly basis. Currently 8 per cent. of internet users claim to have transacted with government online, where transaction is defined as submitting a form, making a payment or booking an appointment. Many more visit web sites for information—50 per cent. of the internet population. These figures are based on a question recently added to the ONS Omnibus Survey and data exists for 2003 only.

To improve the take-up of online services the Cabinet Office is working with departments to ensure that online services become more focussed around customer needs rather than following the structure of government. An enhanced customer offering for the delivery of electronic services will also be piloted which will present, service information in a consistent useable way clustered around topics and audience groups.


Mr. Barnes: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when he will respond to the correspondence to his Department containing the Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Trust's Legacy Project study. [144453]

Mr. Alexander: I have written to the organisation concerned today.

I responded to the Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Trust on 30 December 2003.

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