§ Mr. McCabe
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he has reached a conclusion about the contribution which the utilities pay to public transport operators in connection with diversionary works. 
§ Dr. Reid
Under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, and the Street Works (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, undertakers with apparatus in the street are required to meet a proportion of the cost of moving or protecting this apparatus ("diversionary works") in connection with major highway works, major bridge works, and major transport works. These terms are defined in the Act.263W
These arrangements replaced earlier ones, under which all the costs of diversionary works were charged to the promoter of the scheme giving rise to them.
The Act allows different proportions to be prescribed in different cases or classes of case, but the existing regulations, the Street Works (Sharing of Costs of Works) Regulations 1992 (SI 1991 No. 1690) and the Street Works (Sharing of Costs of Works) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 (S.R. 1998 No. 156), prescribe a single proportion of 18 per cent. for all cases.
In discussions while the legislation was being prepared, representatives of the highway authorities and the utilities agreed that an 18 per cent. contribution would be appropriate for diversionary works in relation to road works and bridge works. In terms of the definitions in the Act and Order, these include all major highway works and major bridge works, and those major transport works, which are road or bridge works in nature.
However, the Act, the Order and the regulations go further, by including other forms of transport works, for example new light and heavy railways and street-running tramways. The utilities argue that these are different in kind from road and bridge works and should not be included in the cost-sharing arrangements. Against this, public transport operators maintain that the existing arrangements are appropriate, arguing that their works are akin to highway works and may indeed be an alternative to them.
The Government consider that a distinction should be made in this context between road and bridge works, and other public transport works. The utilities derive an operational benefit from the existence of roads and bridges, because these provide a convenient route for their apparatus. The 18 per cent. contribution might be regarded, at least in part, as a form of rent for this facility. The same consideration does not arise in the case of public transport.
The Government have concluded that a lower rate of contribution would be appropriate for diversionary works in connection with public transport works other than road and bridge works, and has decided that this rate should be 7½percent. As a transitional measure, the 18 per cent. rate should continue to apply to any diversionary works in this category which have started on site at the date of this announcement.
Regulations to make the change will be introduced as soon as possible. The contribution in relation to road and bridge works will remain at 18 per cent.