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30 Oct 2002 : Column 857Wcontinued
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 23 October (ref 74930), what provisional estimates his officials have made of the proportion of take-offs from the possible Cliffe Airport that would take-off towards the east, with reference to wind direction patterns. 
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made on the EU Bus Directive; and if he will make a statement on the future use of double decker buses in the UK.[Transferred] 
Mr. Jamieson: The Directive was adopted on 20th November 2001. Officials at my Department are in the process of completing an initial consultation requesting views on the proposed method of implementing it into UK legislation. We are proposing to integrate the requirements of the directive into a consolidation of existing bus and coach regulations to make them simpler and easier to understand. It is hoped to implement this consolidation in the latter half of 2003.
The Directive will have no effect on the use of existing double-decker buses operating in the UK. Our regulations will permit the current design of low floor, accessible double deck buses to continue to be produced.
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Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what procedures exist to check the driving documents of overseas drivers entering the UK to see if they are involved in outstanding road traffic offences from previous visits; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: Enforcement of road traffic law is an operational matter for the police. I understand from the Association of Chief Police Officers that the police do not make any specific provision for checking the driving documents of overseas drivers entering the UK. Police require drivers to produce their driving documents routinely after most police stops and following road accidents and traffic offences. The nationality of a driver does not make any difference to this process: all drivers are subject to the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts.
Details of endorsable road traffic offences committed in Great Britain by all drivers are maintained by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and may be accessed by the police (via the Police National Computer) in cases where such drivers are stopped at the roadside.
Additionally, my officials are currently pursuing the ratification of the European Union Driving Disqualification Convention which was adopted and signed under the United Kingdom presidency by all member states. This convention will ensure that a driving disqualification imposed on a European Union citizen in any member state is recognised across all other member states.
Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 29 October 2002]: The Transport Act 2000 guaranteed that from 1 June 2001 all pensioners have been entitled to a free bus pass allowing half-fare travel on local buses, as a minimum. From 1 April 2003 the concession will also be extended to men aged between 60 and 65. We have no plans to extend these provisions, but the legislation does not prevent local authorities from providing concessionary fare schemes which are more extensive than the statutory minimum.
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Official Report, column 711W, on railways, how many miles of new rail track, excluding repairs to existing track, have been constructed since May 1997. 
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what recent discussions have taken place between his Department, the Strategic Rail Authority and the Treasury into the role of bonds as a financing mechanism within the railways; and if he will place copies of related correspondence in the Library; 
(3) what representations have been received by (a) his Department and (b) the Strategic Rail Authority on the role of bonds as a financing mechanism within the railways; and if he will place copies in the Library. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Department has not commissioned any research on the issue of bond financing of railways. It has received a number of representations on rail finances, some of which touch on matters relating to bond financing. The Department would generally expect to seek advice as necessary on such issues from the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA).
For completeness, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear to the House on 27 June 2002, Official Report, column 976, Network Rail plans to replace its short term bridge finance through longer-term loans securitised against its future income.
Mr. Jamieson: All the #20.5 million awarded to projects successful in the Rural Bus Challenge competition held in 200102 remains allocated to those projects. Challenge projects are typically designed to last for 2 or 3 years and expenditure is spread over the relevant financial years.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which is the competent authority to determine the requirements for (a) the fitting of and (b) the use of seat belts in buses and coaches in the UK. 
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Mr. Jamieson: Regulations on the fitting and use of seat belts in coaches and buses are prepared by the Department for Transport and approved by Parliament in accordance with Directives agreed within the European Union.
Mr. Jamieson: During any industrial action by the Fire Brigade Unions, it is expected that passenger and freight services will operate nearly normally through the Severn Tunnel. The exception will be the transport of some hazardous materials which will be re-routed around the Tunnel.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the (a) condition of and (b) need for infrastructure schemes on the West Coast Main Line north of Preston. 
Mr. Jamieson: The SRA's West Coast Strategy document describes, principally in Appendix A, the main infrastructure measures which are expected to be involved, both for the route as a whole and for specific sections.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment his Department has made of the feasibility of asking train and freight operating companies to purchase cheaper rolling stock than that envisaged in the Strategic Rail Authority's consultation document West Coast Strategy; 
(3) what estimate his Department has made of the likely final level of compensation that will be paid to (a) each passenger train operating company, (b) each freight train operating company and (c) the Royal Mail as a result of (i) the proposed decision to establish a fast line speed maximum of 125 miles per hour rather than 140 miles per hour and (ii) the proposed rolling stock requirements outlined in the Strategic Rail Authority's consultation document West Coast Strategy; and from what sources such compensation would be paid. 
Mr. Jamieson: The SRA's West Coast Strategy sets out a package of proposed measures, including infrastructure works and rolling stock changes, which together would deliver the benefits from the upgrade and provide good value for money. The detailed specifications for replacement rolling stock have yet to be fully worked up. The SRA are continuing to discuss these issues with the passenger and freight operating companies and with Network Rail. The cost implications will depend on the final service specification which is agreed, and the terms of the new or revised access agreements which will need to be
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entered into between the SRA and the train operators. These agreements will also be subject to the Rail Regulator's approval.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the cost of concentrating possessions in periods close to public holidays outlined in the Strategic Rail Authority's consultation document on the West Coast Strategy to the tourist industry in (a) the North West and (b) Blackpool. 
Mr. Jamieson: The proposed engineering programme set out in the SRA's West Coast Strategy has been designed to minimise the impact on all passengers and in particular to reduce the need for weekend and Bank Holiday possessions. For much of the time that works are taking place, trains will continue to operate between London and the north west without interruption. The alternative to total closure of certain sections of the route for limited periods would be considerably more weekend possessions, with an adverse effect on the leisure and tourist industry. However, if the industry has specific concerns about these proposals they should respond accordingly to the SRA's consultation.
Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the signalling arrangements envisaged in the Strategic Rail Authority's Consultation document West Coast Strategy will have to be replaced with ERTMS technology to meet EU requirements. 
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