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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 12 December 2006


A303: Stonehenge

Robert Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he will announce his decision on the A303(T) road improvement project at Stonehenge; and if he will make a statement. [105028]

Dr. Ladyman: We are carefully considering the inter-departmental review group's report on the options for improving the A303 past Stonehenge, and will make a further statement in due course.

Buses: Fuels

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the cost per litre to bus fleet operators of (a) bioethanol, (b) biodiesel, (c) liquid petroleum gas and (d) diesel. [108662]

Gillian Merron: The price operators pay for fuel is a commercial matter for each operator, and varies according to each operator's supply arrangements and fluctuations in international commodity prices.

Operators of local bus services benefit significantly under the Department's Bus Service Operators Grant scheme (BSOG), which helps to keep fuel costs down by reimbursing fuel duty paid on the fuel. The current rates of BSOG, increased following the pre-Budget report on 6 December, are as follows:

Pence per litre





Liquid petroleum gas


Diesel (ultra low sulphur)


In the case of the first three fuels listed the rate is equivalent to 100 per cent. of fuel duty; in the case of ultra low sulphur diesel it is equivalent to 81 per cent. of the duty.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures have been taken by his Department since 2001 to encourage (a) local authorities and (b) bus companies to use low-emission buses; and if he will make a statement. [108663]

Gillian Merron: The Reduced Pollution Scheme provides reductions in vehicle excise duty for buses and heavy goods vehicles that meet particulate emissions standards that are more stringent than those required at the time of manufacture.

We have introduced through the Bus Service Operators Grant scheme a 100 per cent. rebate of the
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fuel duty paid by bus operators when they use biodiesel. Bus operators who use gas-powered buses also receive a 100 per cent. rebate of fuel duty.

On 12 December the Government published a document on bus policy: Putting Passengers First, which sets out the Government's proposals for improving bus services. This considers, among other things, whether and how support for bus services might be changed to focus on performance and environmental outcomes.


Jim Dowd: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consideration he has given to the improvement of local rail services in south-east London following the transfer of Eurostar services to St Pancras in 2007. [108433]

Mr. Tom Harris: Once Eurostar services transfer to St Pancras in November 2007, the train paths previously used by the international services will be used by Southeastern to provide additional capacity on the network. Thirty-four additional trains will operate between London Victoria and Beckenham Junction on weekdays, and 48 additional trains will operate over the same route on Saturdays.

Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the performance of (a) Thameslink and (b) First Capital Connect on the Bedford to Brighton route over the last two years. [107904]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Thameslink Franchise Agreement contained an incentive regime setting required levels of punctuality, reliability and Public Performance Measure (PPM) against which it was obliged to report to the SRA/Department on a period by period basis.

Since the Rail Review, Network Rail is responsible for improving the performance of the rail industry, but my officials and I continue to monitor the performance of train operators through the mechanisms in the Franchise Agreement.

The First Capital Connect (FCC) Franchise Agreement contains Performance Benchmarks for Service Delivery, Cancellations and Capacity against which FCC is obliged to report to the Department on a period by period basis.

FCC has achieved all of the Benchmarks for the first eight periods of its Franchise, up to 12 November 2006. The most recent Public Performance Measure result for FCC as a whole was 88.37 per cent. of trains arriving on time, an improvement of 5.8 per cent. on the same period last year. The Moving Annual Average was 88.9 per cent., an improvement of 1 per cent. on the same period last year.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects railway stations at (a) Crystal Palace, (b) Anerley, (c) West Wickham, (d) Penge East, (e) Birkbeck, (f) Shortland, (g) Penge West, (h) Eden Park, (i) Beckenham Junction, (j) Lower Sydenham, (k) Elmers End, (l) Kent House, (m) Clockhouse and (n) New Beckenham to be made
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compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 under the Criteria for Access for All funding. [105719]

Mr. Tom Harris: None of these stations is currently part of the Access for All programme. In due course, we will assess stations for inclusion in the programme to be delivered after 2011. The stations mentioned will be assessed as part of this process.

The Government are committed to making the rail network more accessible. Earlier this year we announced £370 million to deliver access improvements at stations up to 2015 and, to date, we have announced 92 stations in England and Wales which will benefit from this funding by 2011.

The funding has been allocated nationally to ensure that it delivers the greatest benefit. Stations have been chosen on the basis of the number of passengers who use them weighted by the incidence of disability in the area. A proportion of the funding has also been allocated to ensure a fair geographical spread of stations around the country. This approach was supported by the consultation responses to the draft Railways for All strategy.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what response he has made to the findings of the National Rail Review for Quarter Two regarding the condition and availability of facilities and services at small and medium-sized rail stations. [106776]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Department has noted the comments made in the Review.

The Department has initiated a working group with Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies and Passenger Focus to use passenger research to provide guidance to the industry stakeholders on the range of facilities that passengers expect at stations. Network Rail is developing a prioritised delivery plan for improvements to local stations. To expedite this, operators will be encouraged to sign up to the Office of Rail Regulation’s new “Stations Code”, which simplifies and strengthens contractual responsibilities between Network Rail and train operating companies for station maintenance and renewal works.

At many smaller stations, locally initiated schemes will deliver further improvements through partnerships between operators, local authorities and third parties. This has been achieved by the “Riviera Project” in Devon and Cornwall and “Carnforth Connect” in Lancashire.

The “Access for All” investment programme for improving accessibility at stations is progressing, with 92 stations in England and Wales being named to receive assessments for making them fully accessible. Work has been approved at an additional 418 stations as a part of the “Small Schemes” programme for station accessibility improvements.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of how many miles of main and branch line track have been converted to light railway use in each of the last 10 years. [107727]

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Mr. Tom Harris: This is an operational matter for Network Rail, as the owner and operator of the national rail network. The hon. Member should contact Network Rail’s Chief Executive at the following address for a response to his question.

Ship-to-Ship Oil Transfers

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of ship-to-ship oil transfers which take place outside harbour areas in the North Sea. [107900]

Dr. Ladyman: The current situation is that, in UK territorial waters (outside harbour authority areas), the Department’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency has non-statutory arrangements and procedures under which ship owners and operators are expected to notify the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the intention to carry out a ship-to-ship transfer, and to carry out such transfers according to best practice. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency monitors the conduct of such ship-to-ship transfers.

For the future, secondary legislation which will regulate ship-to-ship transfers within the limits of the UK’s territorial sea remains in preparation. The Department expects to be in a position to consult on it early in 2007, with a view to its coming into force in late spring/early summer 2007.

Trade and Industry

Credit Card Companies

Jim Dowd: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make representations to UK credit card companies to cease the practice of issuing unsolicited cheques to account holders. [108435]

Mr. McCartney: The DTI carried out a consultation to look at whether specific regulatory measures were needed to govern the marketing and issuing of credit card cheques at the end of last year. At this stage we do not believe banning is a proportionate response. The important point is that consumers get the information they need and are not misled into using the product when it might not the best form of credit for them to use.

We welcome the additional information that credit card issuers have agreed to provide for customers following the consultation. This will come in the form of a summary box and will include information about how to opt out of receiving cheques. This requirement will form part of the new banking code when rewritten in 2007, with all APACs members likely to comply by the end of this year. We will keep this matter under review.

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Departmental Staff

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many staff were employed through employment agencies in (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies in each of the last five years for which information is available; and what the (i) average and (ii) longest time was for which these temporary workers were employed in each year. [102955]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Departmental policy is that agency staff are engaged where it is not possible to source the skills for the task from within the Department, but the expectation is that the appointment would be time-limited.

Further information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

I have asked the Chief Executives of the Executive Agencies to respond directly to the hon. Member.

Letter from Desmond Flynn, dated 12 December 2006:

Letter from Tim Moss, dated 12 December 2006:

Financial year Number Average time?estimate (weeks) Longest period (weeks)





















Letter from Iain MacGregor, dated 12 December 2006:

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Staff employed


1 person (for 3 days)


1 person (for 6 days)


3 people (longest = 95 days, average = 47 days)


1 person (for 90 days)


2 people (longest = 7 days, average = 6.5 days)

Letter from Ron Marchant, dated 12 December 2006:

Number Average (weeks)
















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