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Automatic Train Protection

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Serious railway accidents are relatively rare and there has been a significant improvement in railway safety in recent years. Accidents involving signals passed at

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danger, overspeeding and buffer stop collisions, which ATP would prevent, are infrequent and account for about 3 per cent. of fatalities and injuries (excluding trespassers and suicides). The trend in the number of serious incidents where signals have been passed at danger (SPAD) has been downward in the last five years. But there is no room for complacency about the need to pursue cost-effective measures to reduce the risk of accidents to the lowest reasonably practicable level.

The British Rail (BR) report on ATP examined the technical feasibility, costs and benefits of two pilot ATP systems. Copies of the report were placed in the Library of the House last July. The HSC and Railtrack have concluded that the report was thorough and sound. We welcome that conclusion.

On the basis of advice we have received from the HSC, we have concluded that applications of ATP, other automatic devices or measures giving protection against ATP-preventable accidents may be justified on parts of the network. In particular, the HSC has asked the Health and Safety Executive to explore with Railtrack the options for tackling ATP-preventable accidents, and the criteria that might be used for identifying parts of the network where such measures could yield value for money, with a view to receiving a proposed strategy from Railtrack by June 1995. In addition and in the longer term, the HSC has advised us that ATP or Automatic Train Control (ATC) should be adopted as standard on new high speed lines including the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and that full consideration should be given to installing ATP functions within future major resignalling works, such as modernisation of the West Coast Main Line.

BR and Railtrack have advised us that network wide fitment of ATP as piloted is not justifiable because the costs far outweigh the benefits. The HSC has endorsed this view and, furthermore, considers that there are alternative safety investments which would be likely to yield greater effectiveness in terms of lives saved, and better value for money. The BR report on ATP has demonstrated the importance of assessing the costs and benefits of all investment aimed at improving safety to ensure that funding goes to schemes which maximise the benefits for rail users. Copies of the HSC's full advice, which we accept in full, have been placed in the Library of the House.

British Rail and Railtrack remain committed to a coordinated programme to reduce the risks associated with signals passed at danger, overspeeding and buffer stop collisions. As part of this programme, the feasibility of a drivers' reminder device is being researched which will help prevent drivers stopped at danger signals from inadvertently starting against these signals when the train is ready to move, for example at a station. This is one of the more common type of SPAD leading to serious consequences and such a device could potentially deliver up to 25 per cent. of the benefits of network-wide ATP. An early trial of this device is proposed.

A further project is examining enhancement of the present Automatic Warning System (AWS) so that the

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brakes are applied automatically if a train approaches a red signal at excessive speed indicating an impending signal passed at danger or over-speeding incident. A detailed specification is being drawn up.

Risk analysis is also being applied to track layout and signalling design, to ensure that safety factors are taken into account quantitatively in the design of the network. Protective signalling measures have already been introduced at a number of vulnerable locations and examination of other vulnerable locations is ongoing.

Railtrack is giving high priority to the development of appropriate techniques for quantifying the costs and benefits of all these projects and considering their application at individual locations.

ATP and other devices are not the only way of preventing or mitigating certain risks. The human factors involved will continue to be addressed through driver selection, training, motivation and supervision programmes. This includes close attention to driver familiarisation when new rolling stock and signalling is introduced, and a rigorous alcohol and drugs policy.

The Chiltern Line and Great Western pilot ATP installations will continue in service, and ATP will be extended to the new Heathrow Express Link in due course. The scope for improvement in the cost/benefit ratio of ATP will continue to be examined through these schemes.

We have asked the HSC for an overall progress report in July.

NHS Expenditure on Private Medical Consultants

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money they spent on outside consultants during the financial year 1993–94; whether this represents an increase or decrease in comparison with the previous year; and whether they consider that the sums so spent represent value for money.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): I understand that the question refers to the use of private medical consultants. This information is not available centrally.

Emergency Treatment: Charging Policy

Lord Bramall asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why prescription-paying patients have to pay for dressings and some other items personally administered by their general practitioner, when the same emergency treatment obtained from a hospital casualty department or dressing clinic is free; and whether they have any plans to amend paragraph 44.5 of the "Red Book" so as to treat such items as personally administered.

Baroness Cumberlege: All emergency treatment is free of charge to patients whether provided by general

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practitioners or hospitals. There are no plans at present to change paragraph 44.5 of the "Red Book".

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, given the full review of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens carried out by a team under the Dame Jennifer Jenkins' chairmanship three years ago, which was widely discussed and approved, it has been thought acceptable by the Government that the Royal Parks Agency should now commit up to £180,000 on work by "consultants" on "what visitors want in the way of facilities" and "what improvements they would like to see" in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, when there are already such urgent calls on their funds as traffic-calming measures and the reinstatement of grass on the Serpentine car-park, for which no date is given.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Agency, Mr. David Welch, dated 3.4.95:

The Secretary of State for National Heritage has asked me to reply to your question about why the Royal Parks Agency is undertaking a market research study, when the Royal Parks Review Group has already carried out a review of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

The study, which is being undertaken on behalf of the agency by the University of London, commenced in January 1994 in all the Royal Parks and was introduced following the review group's recommendation—in its first report on Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens—that "market research should be carried out at regular intervals".

One of the agency's aims—set out in its Visitor's Charter—is to ensure that the Royal Parks are "managed with efficiency and effectiveness and in accordance with the principles of public service as set out in the Citizen's Charter." The market research is providing valuable advice to the agency on what our visitors think of our parks and is assisting in our aim of providing the best service possible for our visitors.

Special Areas of Conservation

Viscount Mersey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will commence consultations on Special Areas of Conservation to be designated under the EU Habitats Directive.

Viscount Ullswater: I am pleased to announce that on Friday 31 March 1995 the Secretaries of State for Environment, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland launched a wide-ranging public consultation on a list of areas which have been proposed as qualifying for designation as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)

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under the EU Habitats Directive. The proposals constitute the advice of English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland (DoE(NI)), co-ordinated through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to ensure UK-wide consistency.

The Habitats Directive requires member states to submit national lists to the European Commission by 5 June 1995. The SACs will build on our existing framework of designations. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is looking at a simplification of that framework in preparing the rural White Paper. In Scotland, the Government have asked Scottish Natural Heritage to carry out a review of designations and look forward to receiving its advice.

The Government are committed to full and effective public consultation before deciding which areas to include in the UK national list. The consultation will be at both national and local level. My colleagues have written to national organisations inviting comments on the proposals. At the same time, site by site consultations of landowners and occupiers and other interests, including local authorities, are being undertaken at local level by the appropriate country nature conservation agency and DoE(NI). The views expressed in the consultation will be considered fully before any decisions are made about the list of sites to be put to the Commission.

The Habitats Directive, adopted in 1992, was one of the most important milestones for nature conservation in Europe. The Government played an active part in its negotiation and we have pursued implementation in accordance with its requirements. This latest step is the next phase of implementation, which identifies those sites considered by the nature conservation agencies and DoE(NI) to represent an appropriate contribution from the UK to the Union-wide Natura 2000 network.

The consultation package, which I have made available in the Library of the House, includes a document which explains the way the scientific advice has been formulated. The directive requires that sites selected as SACs should be significant in terms of the biogeographical region. The habitat types and species listed for site protection are amongst the rarest or most threatened in Europe. The aim of the SAC network is to maintain or restore these habitat types and species at a favourable conservation status. The sites eventually selected will be those which make a significant contribution to that aim, to the coherence of the network or to the maintenance of biological diversity. The Natura 2000 network will therefore consist of sites which are the most precious in the European Union and these proposals should be considered in that context.

The sites on the list cover both land and marine areas. All land-based sites in Great Britain which are included in the consultation are already notified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and in Northern Ireland all land-based sites are, or shortly will be, declared Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs).

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The nature conservation agencies advise that there are some habitat types and species for which SACs will in due course be recommended which are not yet SSSI. Further SSSI notifications are planned to cover, in particular, certain rivers and riverine species, active raised bogs and blanket bogs and some inter-tidal areas. This notification work will be undertaken before consultation on possible SAC designation for them takes place. The consultation list is also incomplete for certain species. Further scientific information is being sought on the freshwater pearl mussel, the great crested newt and the otter before a full range of possible sites is

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proposed and consulted on for these species. The Government also await further scientific advice on an additional estuarial site.

The Government look forward to receiving comments on the proposals. There is already a constructive dialogue between landholders on the one hand and the country agencies and DoE(NI) on the other. There is similar discussion between these statutory bodies and users of the marine environment. This present consultation continues and reinforces the dialogue which is fundamental to the cooperation and consensus we must have to secure effective and lasting conservation.

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