HL Deb 25 February 2002 vol 631 cc194-5WA
Baroness Thornton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the reports will be made available of the working groups set up in response to the road/rail accident at Great Heck, near Selby, on 28 February 2001. [HL28981]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

The reports will be published today. Both reports emphasise how rare this accident was and responses to the risks of a similar accident must be measured. The reports of the two groups contain 19 separate recommendations. We have accepted all of them and, in one case, have asked the Highways Agency to adopt the recommended approach more widely and, in another, have asked for the recommended work to be expedited. I must stress how important it is that highway authorities and rail infrastructure providers work together to assess the sites on their networks where vehicles might get on to the rail network and to take what action, if any, they consider necessary to try to prevent this. We commend to them the risk assessment framework prepared by the CSS and Railtrack to prioritise any necessary work at local roads over rail bridges. This framework will be developed to cover other circumstances where vehicles might get on to the rail network.

We accept the conclusion of the Highways Agency report that there are no serious shortcomings in the current standards for safety barriers, but nevertheless commend its plans to convene a technical project board to take forward any necessary changes to barrier standards for national roads. We welcome the recommendation of the working group for a clearer and more open procedure for updating the standards relating to safety barriers and have asked the agency to adopt this more open approach for all standards.

We have asked that the HSC's recommended timetable for the development of a protocol to apportion responsibility and costs of improvements made at locations where roads meet, cross or run close to railways should be expedited. This is so as not to delay the carrying out of any necessary work. We have, therefore, decided that the protocol should be developed for England by June 2002. We will review the working of this protocol, as recommended by the HSC, once action on the other recommendations is underway. The work necessary to implement the 19 recommendations of the two reports will be steered by the department and we have asked for a report on progress by 25 July 2002.