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Transport: Responsibilities of Scottish Parliament

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Following the opening of the Scottish Parliament on 1 July, the Minister for Transport will retain the functions exercisable in relation to the matters set out in Head E of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998 in respect of Scotland as follows:



    "rail transport" with certain exceptions, the provision and regulation of railways;


    "marine transport"--with certain exceptions, the regulation of merchant shipping and navigation; navigational rights and freedoms; financial assistance for shipping services which start or finish, or both, outside Scotland;


    "air transport"--with certain exceptions, the regulation of aviation and air transport; arrangements to compensate or repatriate passengers in the event of an air transport operator's insolvency;


    "other matters"--the transport of radioactive material; technical specifications for public passenger transport for disabled persons; regulation of the carriage of dangerous goods.

Other transport functions for which the Minister is currently responsible in respect of Scotland will be devolved to Scottish Ministers from 1 July, as follows:


    regulation and subsidy of local bus services;


    payment of bus fuel duty rebate;


    regulation of the orange badge parking scheme (currently jointly exercised with the Secretary of State for Scotland);


    regulation of school crossing patrols;


    remaining responsibilities for the ports industry;


    regulation of certain works in tidal waters;


    certain executive functions in relation to airports and railways.

DETR Ministers and Scottish Ministers will have concurrent powers in relation to the promotion of road

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safety information and training and grants to bodies other than local authorities for such promotion.

Scottish Ministers will also have responsibility for certain other railways functions on the basis of timing still to be determined.

M4: Traffic Load between Junctions 4 and 2

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many cars travel on the M4 between Junctions 4 and 2 on an average weekday; and how is that number spread over the day.[HL2863]

Lord Whitty: Monitoring of vehicles was undertaken for several months before the recent opening of the bus lane between Junctions 3 and 2 of the M4. Total traffic counts are available at 500m intervals between Junctions 4 and 2 but traffic counts by vehicle class are only available for the section of carriageway which incorporates the bus lane between Junction 3 and Junction 2.

On average some 74,000 vehicles travel between Junction 4 and Junction 3 each weekday. Some 54,000 vehicles travel between Junction 3 and Junction 2 each day, and of these about 44,000 are either cars or short wheelbase vans.

During the morning peak period eastbound flows between Junction 3 and Junction 2 are up to 65 cars per minute, with up to 60 cars per minute during the evening peak. Between peak periods the eastbound flow varies between 30 and 50 cars per minute.

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the average time taken for a car to travel between Junction 4 and Junction 2 of the M4 at weekday peak time before the introduction of the bus lane; and what it is now.[HL2862]

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Lord Whitty: Vehicle speeds have to be measured over a period of time before a meaningful average journey time can be calculated. Monitoring was undertaken for several months before the opening of the bus lane and continued after the bus lane opened. Information on average speed is not available for different classes of vehicle.

Before the introduction of the bus lane the average journey time for a vehicle joining the M4 at Junction 4 and travelling in lane 2 before leaving at Junction 2 was estimated as 12.4 minutes over the periods 06.30 to 09.30 and 17.30 to 20.30 hours.

Figures for average journey time with the bus lane in operation will be made available when sufficient data have been collected to obtain consistent results.

Nitrogen Fixation: Transfer between Crops

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research they are aware of on the ability to transfer the gene that fixes nitrogen in the soil, known to be present in maize and clover, to wheat, barley and oats.[HL2865]

Lord Whitty: An early goal identified by many engaged in agricultural biotechnology was the transfer of genes responsible for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in plants like clover to cereals which lack this capability.

Research to understand the biology of the intimate association between the bacterium responsible for fixing nitrogen in plants such as clover has been intensive over the past 30 years. Many of the genes involved (both in the plant and the bacterium) have been identified and isolated. One of the principles that has emerged from this work is that this trait is very complex and the transfer of nitrogen fixation between crops has proved to be technically difficult. I understand that, to date, the transfer of nitrogen fixation to cereals (or any other plant) has not yet been achieved. No applications have been received to release plants modified to fix atmospheric nitrogen.

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