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Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps his Department is taking to ensure that transport links support regeneration initiatives. 
Mr. Hill: Transport has a key role to play in supporting regeneration. The increased investment of £180 billion set out in our 10 Year Plan for transport will, over the next 10 years, deliver significant improvements for our road, rail and local transport infrastructure. It will provide the funding to implement the transport priorities emerging from the new regional transport strategies, regional development strategies, local transport plans and community strategies. It will deliver significantly better public transport and reduced congestion on our roads, and provide better access to jobs and services. It will contribute to the vision set out in our Urban White Paper, published in November, which looks to make urban areas attractive places in which people want to live, with strong economies, better services and improved local environments.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what mechanisms exist to (a) challenge and (b) review the Strategic Rail Authority's definition of the core proposition for rail franchises; 
(3) what (a) instructions and (b) guidance he has given to the Strategic Rail Authority on the core proposition of the Transpennine Express Franchise; 
(4) what powers he has to order a redefinition of the core proposition for a rail franchise; 
(5) if his Department requires the Strategic Rail Authority to take account of (a) regional development plans, (b) SRB investment, (c) projected future passenger plans and (d) other factors in defining the core proposition for rail franchises. 
Mr. Hill: The Secretary of State will in due course issue new Directions and Guidance to the Strategic Rail Authority under the Transport Act 2000 and in the meantime he has issued Interim Directions and Guidance effectively maintaining the instructions and guidance previously issued under the Railways Act 1993, a copy of which is in the Library. These include criteria for replacement franchises. The criteria do not include the specification of core propositions for the Trans Pennine Express or any franchise. These are matters for the authority.
The instructions and guidance require the authority to consult various bodies, including the Rail Regulator, regional planning bodies, regional development agencies and local authorities on the replacement of franchises. The authority also has a general objective to increase the
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number of passengers travelling by rail. The Secretary of State's consent is required to the award of a new franchise.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if it is his Department's intention that the core proposition for rail franchises should be the level of service once provided by British Rail; 
(3) if he will instruct the Strategic Rail Authority to take account of the possible effect on the tourist industry of reducing the level of rail services. 
Mr. Hill: The Strategic Rail Authority has stated that all new franchises will be based on existing Passenger Service Requirements (PSRs), providing for a specified minimum service level. The existing PSRs are based on the level of services provided by British Rail at the time initial franchises were let.
The Authority expect bidders for the new franchise to surpass the minimum requirements, making proposals for development of services during the course of the new franchise. There are no plans to reduce the level of services. The core proposition for the new Trans Pennine Express (TPE) franchise is all limited stop, inter urban services currently operated by the existing North Western and Northern Spirit franchises. As a guide to the proposals expected, the Authority has produced specific development objectives for the TPE franchise which have been well publicised. The Authority has been consulting widely about the aspirations of key stakeholders.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) on how many occasions officials from Strategic Rail Authority have met representatives from (a) Blackpool council and (b) Barrow in Furness council to discuss the Trans Pennine Express franchise in the last 12 months; 
(3) on how many occasions officials from the Strategic Rail Authority have met representatives from (a) Cumbria county council and (b) South Lakeland district council to discuss the Trans Pennine Express refranchising in the last 12 months. 
Mr. Hill: The Strategic Rail Authority have been consulting key stakeholders about the Trans Pennine franchise for some time. Initial consultation meetings took place in Newcastle (6 June), Leeds (7 June) and Manchester (8 June). Invitees include all those authorities mentioned by my hon. Friend. A specially convened meeting took place on 19 January which included representatives of Blackpool borough and Cumbria county councils. In addition, the authority has met, separately, the North West Development Agency and the North West Regional Assembly. My Department is kept informed of progress on all replacement franchises.
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Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what his Department's definition of the terms (a) large towns and cities, (b) key transport hubs and (c) centres of economic activity is as used by the Strategic Rail Authority in its strategic development objectives. 
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the local transport plan settlement for Blackpool was made on the assumption of maintenance of the current level of rail services to the town. 
Mr. Hill: When assessing the local transport plan for Blackpool, we considered both the current level of rail services and their growth potential. We took account of the proposal to provide a new multi-modal interchange and the fact that negotiations were taking place with train operators and authorities to increase the frequency and quality of rail passenger services to Blackpool.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many applications for funding have been made to the South West Regional Development Agency; how many have been approved; how many are awaiting the release of funds for approved projects; and what the average waiting time has been between approval and release of funds. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: Since 1 April 1999 to date, the South West RDA has received 1,312 applications; 879 have been approved; there are none (0) awaiting the release of funds for approved projects; and there is no waiting time between approval and release of funds.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made by (a) his Department and (b) the European Commission on finding an alternative to the Partnership Investment Programme for brownfield developments. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: My Department and the European Commission have made good progress in finding an alternative to the Partnership Investment Programme. A direct development scheme has now been approved, and the Commission have indicated that a decision is likely to be made by the end of this month on two new gap-funding schemes, and a scheme designed to help local communities participate in regeneration projects. In addition, we are continuing to explore with the Commission the possibility of a new regeneration framework under which State aid would be permitted for the physical regeneration of derelict or disused sites throughout the community.
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authority sheltered housing that their landlords could be forced to raise charges for warden services in order to implement the Supporting People policy. 
Mr. Raynsford: Many local authority and large scale voluntary transfer (LSVT) landlords cross subsidise the costs of support services for their tenants, such as warden services in sheltered housing, from their general rent income. This practice will stop when the Supporting People policy is implemented in April 2003. However, I am pleased to say that the Government will be making additional provision available through the new Supporting People grant in 2003-04 to cover these costs in full.
In the light of this, there will be no need for local authority or LSVT landlords to increase charges to tenants, either now or in 2003-04 when Supporting People is introduced. Draft guidance will shortly be circulated to local authority and LSVT landlords setting out how these cross subsidies should be identified and recommending that these particular landlords freeze the amounts that sheltered housing tenants pay for their support services at 2000-01 levels in real terms.
When Supporting People starts funding these services in April 2003, the local authority and LSVT landlords concerned will retain the savings they make by ending cross subsidies. As a condition of paying the additional Supporting People grant, we will expect these landlords to demonstrate how they will make effective use of these resources to deliver the Government's housing policy objectives more fully and more quickly, for example by improving the condition of their housing stock and the quality of their housing management services.
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