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Petitions

Volume 714: debated on Tuesday 10 May 2022

Petitions

Tuesday 10 May 2022

OBSERVATIONS

Transport

Derwent Walk

The petition of residents of the constituency of Blaydon.

Declares that the Derwent Walk is under significant threat of destruction or irrevocable change through the proposal of a permanent transport route linking Consett and Gateshead and/or Newcastle; notes that the walk lies on the former track bed of the Derwent Vallet Railway, opening in 1867 and closed in 1962 under Beeching proposals, due to underuse; notes that the walk has since developed, enveloping C2C cycle routes, the National Cycle Network (No 14) and a country park, and is also the site of a Scheduled Monument, with a vast area covered by the protected status; and further that the proposal of a permanent transport route does not properly account for access for the disabled or the importance of walking and cycling routes.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to accept the concerns of residents, to commit to maintain the integrity of the Derwent Walk, and reject the feasibility study for the above reasons. And furthermore, to discuss the current proposal with members of the ‘Save Our Derwent Walk’ group.

And the petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Liz Twist, Official Report, 27 April 2022; Vol. 712, c. 844.]

[P002729]

Observations from The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Wendy Morton):

I thank the residents of Blaydon for expressing their concerns about the proposal to improve connections between Consett and Newcastle. The scheme is promoted by Durham Council and Gateshead Council, and sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden).

Durham County Council received up to £50,000 early development funding from the second round of the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund, which provides early development funding to reopen rail lines and stations to reconnect communities.

Using this £50,000 funding—and £18,000 of their own money—the county council developed a strategic outline business case (SOBC), which examines a number of ways to enhance connections between Consett and Newcastle, including bus, cycle and light/heavy rail options, with new track to be built for the rail options; with the aim of enabling local residents to sustainably access a greater number of services and opportunities and to help to stimulate inward investment.

The council’s final SOBC was submitted in November 2021, and is currently being reviewed by the Department. The Secretary of State for Transport and the Rail Minister are considering next steps for schemes, including Consett and Newcastle, with a decision on the next tranche to progress anticipated later this year.

The Historical Railways Estate (HRE), currently managed by National Highways (NH) on behalf of the Transport Secretary, has regular discussions with the devolved administrations, local authorities and other stakeholders including the National Trust on the possible re-use of parts of the estate to support walking and cycling wherever possible.

We expect restoring your railway proposals to evidence local views in their business cases and, if taken forward, consult with local stakeholders and fully consider environmental impacts.

We also expect the industry to meet current accessibility requirements at new and existing stations whenever it installs, renews or replaces station infrastructure as mandated in the ‘Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations: A Code of Practice’. Failure to comply with the code could be a breach of their license to operate and leave train operating companies open to enforcement action by the Office of Rail and Road.

Road safety

The petition of residents of the constituency of Batley and Spen,

Declares that the issue of road safety within the constituency must be urgently addressed; notes that there has been a significant rise in the number of speeding offences, incidents of reckless driving throughout and inconsiderate parking in the constituency; declares that sympathy should be extended to the victims of road incidents and their families; declares that this issue has had an enormous impact in our community and demands urgent action be taken at a National, Regional and Local level to improve the safety of our local roads.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to provide dedicated resource to Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Police to clamp down on dangerous driving and consider a review into the impact of high-performance cars rented and driven recklessly. The House of Commons should also urge the Government to explore what legislative measures should be taken to improve the safety of roads in Batley and Spen.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Kim Leadbeater, Official Report, 26 April 2022; Vol. 712, c. 733.]

[P002727]

Observations from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton):

The Government believe that any form of dangerous or inconsiderate driving behaviour is a serious road safety issue. All available research shows a link between excessive speed and the risk of collisions.

We expect all drivers to observe the speed limit and follow The Highway Code. Generally, it is for the police to enforce road traffic legislation and investigate road traffic incidents using their professional judgement. Chief officers will consider the role that roads policing and motoring law enforcement has to play in improving driving standards, promoting road safety, deterring careless and dangerous driving and reducing deaths and injuries on the road. It is important that at all times the chief officer, the constables, and staff remain operationally independent.

It is also the function of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to make forces truly accountable to their communities by representing all those who live and work in their area. It is for PCCs to identify local needs and, in consultation with the chief constable, draw up a five-year Police and Crime Plan which sets out the local policing priorities. The chief constable, retaining operational independence, will then deploy resources according to the priorities agreed in the policing plan. Local residents, their elected representatives and the police can discuss these matters together.

The majority of central Government funding for local government is not ring-fenced. This is so that local authorities can make the best decisions relating to local priorities, which could include spending decisions on speed cameras.

Local authorities with civil parking enforcement powers (CPE) are responsible for parking enforcement on the roads under their care. Over 98% of local authorities in England, including Kirklees Metropolitan Council of which Batley and Spen is part of, have CPE powers and can issue Penalty Charge Notices to vehicles that are in contravention of parking restrictions. Councils with CPE powers can enforce against contraventions listed in Schedule 7 of the Traffic Management Act 2004.

Many reputable firms which rent out high performance vehicles adhere to the codes of practice set out by the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association vehicles and already place restrictions upon drivers. These can include a minimum driver age limit of 25 or 30 to be able to rent, or a requirement to have had a driving licence for at least three years.

Many high-performance vehicles are fitted with telematics devices, such as black boxes. It may be possible to use data from the telematics device if the vehicle is involved in a collision.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 provides for various offences of dangerous and careless driving, and the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 specifies the penalties for such offences. Also, under the Police Reform Act 2002, officers can seize vehicles being driven carelessly or inconsiderately, or off the road, and in a manner causing, or being likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public. Under the Sentencing Act 2020, the police can ask for a Criminal Behaviour Order to be imposed in addition to a sentence other than an absolute discharge.

Step-free access for Chinley Station

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that the lack of step-free access at Chinley Station denies access to public transport for many local residents with disabilities.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to note the need for step-free access at Chinley Station and reallocate funding to complete this project following Network Rail’s completion of a viability survey of the station.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Robert Largan, Official Report, 27 April 2022; Vol. 712, c. 844.]

[P002730]

Observations from the Minister of State, Department for Transport (Wendy Morton):

The Department for Transport is committed to improving accessibility at railway stations. However, many stations, including Chinley, date from a time when the needs of disabled customers were simply not considered. Since 2006, the Access for All programme has installed accessible, step-free routes at over 200 stations. Around another 1,500 stations have also benefited from smaller scale access improvements, including at nearby Hadfield station.

The Department is currently in the process of setting the funding envelopes for the next control period 2024-2029. We therefore hope to be able to seek industry nominations for the next tranche of stations shortly.

If funding for the 2024-2029 period does become available, any station, including Chinley, without an accessible route into the station and to all platforms will be a potential candidate. I would therefore recommend that the petitioners engage with the train operating company, Northern, with a view to them submitting a nomination once the nomination period begins.

As in previous tranches, the criteria used to select stations is likely to include: annual footfall, weighted by the incidence of disability in the area, the availability of third party funding for the project, and the priorities of the rail industry itself. We also take into account local factors such as proximity to a hospital. Stations will also be selected ensure a fair geographical spread of projects across the country.

The Government are committed to improving access at all stations and will continue to seek further opportunities and funding, to provide more improvements. The Department for Transport is making strides to ensure a safer network for disabled passengers and improving accessible rail journeys for all passengers.