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Written Answers

Volume 706: debated on Tuesday 9 December 2008

Written Answers

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Government Departments: Websites

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 20 November (WA 224–5), whether they intend to mark any festival of the Church of Scientology on the Communities and Local Government website. [HL1]

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 20 November (WA 224–5), who are the stakeholders to which that Answer refers. [HL2]

Ministers and officials send paper or electronic Christmas cards to a variety of people. A list of recipients is not held centrally and could only be compiled at disproportionate cost.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Andrews on 20 November (WA 224–5), why Christmas cards are to be used to convey Christmas greetings rather than a goodwill message on the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government as in the marking of non-Christian religions. [HL3]

This year my department will mark Christmas both by the sending of cards and the posting of a goodwill message on its website.

Railways: Eurostar

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to prepare Eurostar international rail services for sale. [HL110]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the timescale for the prospective sale of (a) the Channel Tunnel Rail Link; (b) Eurostar (U.K.) Limited; and (c) property associated with London and Continental Railways. [HL111]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations have been received from other shareholders regarding the sale of Eurostar. [HL112]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what form of offer for sale is being planned in respect of Eurostar. [HL113]

In the recent Pre-Budget Report, the Government stated:

“Following the passing of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Act 2008 last July it is the Government's intention (depending on prevailing market conditions) to proceed with the restructuring of London and Continental Railways Ltd and eventual sale of key assets such as High Speed 1, the rail link between London St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel to deliver best value for the taxpayer”.

This restructuring work continues and HS1 is currently consulting the rail industry on prospective terms and conditions of access for the railway. No decision has been reached on the timing of sale of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, nor in relation to the form or timing of any sale of other London and Continental Railways Ltd (LCR) assets apart from the sale of some surplus land in connection with the HS1 project.

The Eurostar services are an unincorporated international joint venture comprising Eurostar (UK) Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of London and Continental Railways Ltd) and SNCF and SNCB respectively. The Government will continue to have discussions with LCR and the joint venture partners in relation to Eurostar.

LCR has had for a number of years a programme to realise value from the sale of land acquired for the project that is now no longer required. This programme is continuing. LCR has completed the sale of certain land holdings at Stratford to the Olympic Delivery Authority and to its development partner Westfield. Other realisations of value from LCR's land interests, principally those at Kings Cross, are expected over the medium term.

Railways: Wheelchair Users

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 20 November (WA 227) on arrangements train operators must make for accommodating wheelchair users, what is meant by “reasonable steps”; and whether any written guidance is available. [HL12]

It is for each station operator to decide policies in this area and compliance will vary depending on the circumstances of individual stations. There is no prescribed definition of “reasonable”. Ultimately this is a matter for the courts to decide, taking into account the individual facts of any case brought by a disabled person who feels that they have been discriminated against.

Guidance on this issue, Avoiding Disability Discrimination in Transport: A Practical Guide for Rail Services, was produced by the Disability Rights Commission. The commission also produced two statutory codes of practice on Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act. These are the Code of Practice—Rights of Access: Services to the Public, Public Authority Functions, Private Clubs and Premises and the Code of Practice: Provision and Use of Transport Vehicles.

These publications are available from the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 20 November (WA 227) on arrangements train operators must make for accommodating wheelchair users, what is meant by “will provide”; and whether disabled passengers are obliged to give notice of their travel to the station. [HL13]

Where a disabled person's journey starts from or finishes at a station that is inaccessible to them, there is an obligation upon the train operator to supply, at no additional charge, some form of accessible transport from the start station to the next accessible station along the route, or from the final accessible station to the destination station.

This obligation is usually subject to operators being given reasonable prior notice of the need for alternative transport, and to the availability of suitable alternative transport.

Information about these arrangements should be well publicised in information material aimed at passengers who have some form of disability.

Roads: Dartford Crossing

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will hold a referendum in Essex and Kent on the continuation of the Dartford crossing tolls; and whether they will ring-fence future income for transport investment in the two counties. [HL7]

The charges at the Dartford crossing were introduced in 2003 after toll revenues had paid the costs of the QEII Bridge. Parliament agreed the enabling powers for the charge in 2000, and the introduction of charges was the subject of a consultation exercise. The Government have recently implemented a revised charging regime at the crossing following two consultation exercises. There are no plans to hold a referendum.

By law revenues from the crossing must be invested in transport. Until this year a proportion of revenues was made available to support integrated transport projects in the local area. Following our consultation on the local discount scheme this arrangement has now ceased and there are no plans to reintroduce any local earmarking of revenues. However, revenues from the crossing add to the resources available to the Department for Transport to support projects across the country, including investments in Kent and Essex.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will trial the removal of the Dartford crossing tolls and assess the subsequent impact on congestion levels. [HL8]

The Government do not plan to undertake such a trial. The toll plazas fulfil an important traffic management function, especially going northbound into the tunnels, and allow the queues to be managed before the tunnel entrances rather than in them. The evidence indicates that the tunnels cannot accommodate more traffic than the toll plaza can process. Further, the barriers allow traffic to be held back while fuel tankers and other dangerous loads are escorted through. To undertake a proper trial it would be necessary to remove all the toll infrastructure, ie the booths and the steel and concrete protection surrounding them as it would not be safe to allow free-flow traffic to negotiate the narrow lanes past the toll booths.