§ Sir Dudley Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received on the effects of the 17-tonne gross vehicle weight limit on passenger coach manufacturers and operators in the United Kingdom; and when he plans to raise coach limit to 18 tonnes to conform with that of other EU countries.
§ Mr. Key
I have received a number of representations requesting an increase to the maximum permitted weight for coaches to 18 tonnes. Unfortunately, it is not practical to increase the gross weight without allowing for a higher weight on the drive axle. The Department is at present engaged on an exercise to assess and upgrade all the bridges in the United Kingdom to accept a heavier axle load. When this assessment is complete I shall be in a position to consider such an increase.
§ Mr. Key
The Department is currently reviewing the full technical and cost implications of the compulsory fitment of seat belts in new coaches. Until this work has been completed and we have considered the full reports of the recent accidents we do not feel that it would be right to take any decisions on this question.
To date, there has not been the support necessary from member states for the EC to make seat belt fitment on all seats a mandatory requirement.