Lord Blencathra Portrait Lord Blencathra (Con)
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My Lords, I support all the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond on disabled access, except Amendment 8. I should say that I added my name to the amendments, but belatedly. I think my name is on them in the online list but not in the printed listed today.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, that I think my disabled access Bill is number 14 or 15 in the Private Members’ ballot yet again. It is a simple little measure that says that if a step is less than 12 inches, it should have a ramp for disabled access. Of course, it will not get anywhere; the equality department will block it, as it has blocked it every single time, because it no longer gives a damn about disabled people.

On automated vehicles generally, I am afraid that I trust no one on their safety—not the manufacturers and not the Department for Transport. The only person I trust on them is Jeremy Clarkson. I remember when he said to the chief of Audi, who was boasting about his new automated vehicle, “If you sit in the back, let your vehicle drive the Bolivian highway of death and come out the other side, then I’ll buy one”. That is my view on automated vehicles.

However, my concern today is about automated vehicles for hire as cabs. I have never used Uber in my life. I believe it is a disreputable company which does not pay its drivers properly. Its untrained drivers do not have a clue where they are going, and, if I may say so carefully, many seem to be recent arrivals in this country; they cannot find their way to the end of the street without a satnav, and then they stop wherever the satnav tells them to stop or pick up, such as on zebra crossings or in the middle of the road—the dropped kerb that wheelchair users use is one of their favourites. My main concern is that if black cabs in London, or converted Peugeots or Fiat Doblòs in the rest of the country, are wiped out by Uber’s Toyota Priuses, we in wheelchairs will never get a cab again. I do not rate Uber Access as credible if you want to hire a car this decade.

Has my noble friend the Minister heard of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee? It is part of his department. I have in my hand a piece of paper produced by the department. It says that taxi services must be fully accessible for all disabled persons. It calls for WAVs—wheelchair accessible vehicles—for all, and commends London cabs, 100% of which are wheelchair accessible. It goes on to say that, in the country as a whole, only 58% of taxies are wheelchair accessible vehicles, as are only 2% of private hire vehicles. I shall quote verbatim one paragraph from the department’s wheelchair accessible committee:

“Concerningly, the situation seems to be deteriorating. The launch of Uber and other app-based systems for booking PHVs has resulted in an increase of over 4% in the number of licensed vehicles. But they are nearly all PHVs and, in London, there has been a reduction in the number of licensed taxis which has resulted in an overall fall in the number of WAVs on the road”.


That is what will happen throughout the country if the Government permit all automated vehicles to become PHVs or taxis without building in a wheelchair accessible requirement.

Just look at the chaos in California and San Francisco in particular. Have noble Lords seen on the news a single wheelchair accessible cab there among the thousands of lovely dinky cars, such as Ford Focuses and Toyota Priuses? The Prius and the Focus are marvellous little town cars—great runabouts—but I cannot get my dodgy legs in the back of them, even when I am not trying to get a wheelchair into them.

I say to my noble friend that I do not support Amendment 8. I hope he will not push it, because it would apply to all cars and that is wrong. People must have the right to buy any vehicle they choose, even if you cannot swing a cat in the back of it. Before Cats Protection issues a fatwa, let me make it clear that I am referring to the cat-o’-nine-tails, not pussycats.

I hope the Government will insist that any new automated taxis are wheelchair accessible. If they make that clear in law now, vehicle manufacturers will design them—not that there is much to design; it has already been done. The new London black cabs are absolutely fantastic. They have excellent wheelchair ramps, there is lots of space and, for the first time, they seem to have added springs to them. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Borwick on making that happen. So we can just stick the automated computer thingy on to those cabs, or the converted Peugeots I found in other parts of the country. The Peugeot Tepee, they are calling it—what a ghastly name that is. There are Mercedes Vitos, Citroën Berlingos and Fiat Doblòs. All have wheelchair access. So with automated vehicles it is a simple matter of sticking a computer thing on to the vehicles that are there already. I do not want the Government saying, “Oh, this is going to be disproportionate cost and it is a burden on the industry”. It is not.

We were slowly getting more and more wheelchair-accessible vehicles across the country. The Government must ensure that the new technology of automated vehicles does not set that into reverse, as is likely to happen unless some of these amendments are made—but not Amendment 8.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD)
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My Lords, perhaps I might add a word for the very large number of people who are not in wheelchairs but who depend, like I do, on a stick. When pavements are so awful in this country, they need a lot of consideration. They walk around at their peril, often due to the irresponsible use of scooters, which are insufficiently regulated by the department.

Lord Hampton Portrait Lord Hampton (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 8, 18 to 20, and 27, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, to which I have added my name. In Committee, I was struck by the powerful speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, whom we have often heard in your Lordships’ House talking so powerfully about her lived experiences.

This is not a once-in-a-generation nor a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it is a new, unique opportunity for disabled people to be front and centre of the development of a transport system. A great friend of mine is blind and when we first met, he had a clunky old phone with Braille on it. As soon as the iPhone came out, he had a phone with perfect accessibility built in. There was nothing new there. He has the same iPhone as everybody else. It just has the features to work for him, and I think this is what we can do with automated vehicles.

Elderly or disabled people, who have never dreamed of owning a car, can now look to the near future and see that this is a possibility—but only if they are included in all stages. As a design and technology teacher, I am all over inclusive design. This is not a bolt-on. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said he wanted this bolted on to existing stuff, I want this designed from the ground up. It is a unique—and I mean unique—opportunity to give disabled people a level playing field. It must not be squandered. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2021

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Tuesday 7th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure once again to address your Lordships’ Committee following a long absence. I have, however, kept fairly well abreast of what has been going on here while I have been away.

What I would like to know is this: because many drivers of HCVs come from Europe, how many have registered for the visas which allow them to work in this country? This is not strictly relevant to this SI but it is important in the context of the amount of traffic which is likely to need regulation under this order. If drivers from the continent are not coming here, it is unlikely that many of these provisions will be needed anyway.

I would also like to know what the effect has been on the volume of traffic passing through the channel ports which would in fact amount to pressure on the roads in Kent. The information available to us suggests that there are a lot fewer drivers from the continent coming here, so that should manifest in there being less flow through Kent.

Transport Decarbonisation

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Monday 19th July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Unfortunately the noble Lord is pushing me beyond my knowledge, but I will write to him about shore power points, how many there will be in future and who will fund them. On maritime as a whole, it is worth saying that the conversation has only just started. We must work with stakeholders on a course to zero for the maritime sector. We will increase our ambitions at the IMO, particularly when there is a review of greenhouse gas strategy in 2023. There are all sorts of things that we can do. This is the start of the story, not the end.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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In view of what is likely to be a chronic shortage of HGV drivers that will persist for years, will the Government urgently look again at investing in rail-freight schemes, particularly electrification schemes, which would replace road-based journeys with rail?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Government recognise how important rail freight is and we will be doing more work on it. We will be looking to introduce a greater target for rail freight. The noble Lord will know—we have had this conversation many times—that the Government have already invested significant sums of money in rail-freight building, and we will continue to build on the £235 million that we invested in the strategic freight network in the five years to 2019. Work is under way and there are already grants to help the shift from road to rail where road has a slight financial advantage.

Lorry Drivers

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Wednesday 7th July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I have said that this is a partnership between the industry and the Government. We will do what we can and we need industry to step up to the plate. I reiterate that the HGV levy has been lifted until mid-2022. That is a huge saving for the sector. It has the money that it could now invest in skills, and I very much encourage it to do so.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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The railways are very hungry for traffic. The Minister has a list that I gave her of simple modifications that could be made and there are resources available. Will she use the idle resources on our railways to better advantage to move freight?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The noble Lord will know that I am a great fan of rail freight and where it is appropriate to shift freight to rail we certainly should do so. However, one thing that we should be setting up with the industry is a clear and transparent charter that sets out good practice, decent minimum standards for our professional drivers and a commitment to initial and ongoing training. It is time to put the “professional” back into professional drivers and I would be happy to support the industry in working towards such a charter for hauliers and their customers.

International Travel

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Thursday 1st July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are working extremely closely with all parts of the travel sector, and we recognise that it has been a very difficult time for it. Significant support has already been given to the sector, and indeed there has been sector-specific support for airports. We will, of course, continue to work closely with them in the medium term.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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International travellers all have to pass through the border security at airports. This has not had a good reputation for efficiency in the past, so can the Minister give us some reassurance that matters are improving?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I hope that I can provide some reassurance, although we accept and have been very clear that wait times at the border may be extended due to biosecurity checks. However, the PLF system—the passenger locator form—has now been further automated such that you cannot submit it until you have fully completed it, which makes it easier for carriers and Border Force. Secondly, we are rolling out an upgrade to the e-gates; they will be able to recognise the PLF once it is completed. We reckon that 51% of e-gates will be updated by the end of July.

Great British Railway Plans

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My noble friend should not read too much into media reports on the front page of—I think it was—the Yorkshire Post. The Government continue to consider all options for Northern Powerhouse Rail as part of the integrated rail plan. Once that plan is published, we will work with Transport for the North to finalise a business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail. This will need to be consistent with the IRP’s policy and the funding framework.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the East West Rail link, certainly between Oxford and Bletchley, needs to be electrified from the outset because of the heavy freight traffic from Southampton to the west coast main line passing through Bletchley? It would be a crying shame if electrification were postponed until after the passenger service started.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The case for electrification of East West Rail is being considered. A review is being undertaken by EWR Co, looking at all the options, including full electrification along the whole route as well as the various options for partial electrification, including battery-electric hybrid rolling stock.

Britain’s Railways

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Monday 24th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Speaker (The Earl of Kinnoull) (CB)
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The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I believe it is very important that a clear distinction is made between what Ministers do and what Great British Railways does. It is important that they do not tread on each other’s feet, because that will lead to disputes and trouble. A clear financial target, preferably for three or five years so that the industry can make trade-offs without constant Treasury interference, will give the freight railway a chance to do what it does best. An electrified freight railway will make huge inroads into the amount of fuel we burn with lorries. Lastly, we need to follow best practice in using data to improve the passenger experience. Do not level down to the standards of the worst performer; rather, level up to the standards of the best.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Those were some very interesting observations from the noble Lord, who is clearly well versed in the railways. He is right that we need to make sure that Ministers’ responsibilities are separate from those of Great British Railways, which is why we are proposing strong levers to hold them to account, but will not meddle in the day-to-day running of the organisation. So there will be statutory powers and the ability to issue binding guidance in specific areas, which will be important.

The noble Lord mentioned planning, and I have already pointed out that there will be five-year business plans within the 30-year strategy. He also mentioned freight, which is a very important part of this. It is often a forgotten area of the railways, and we believe that it will benefit from the national co-ordination that Great British Railways will bring. His last point was on data, which is one of the key areas where we feel that we can improve customer satisfaction. Historically, data has been held by the train operating companies and not shared as well as it should have been. By putting all this data and responsibility for revenues within Great British Railways, we will necessarily bring together all the data. We believe that from that we will not only simplify tickets but think of better ways to use that data to provide more value-for-money services for passengers.

Hitachi Rail: Rail Travel Disruption

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Wednesday 19th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I commit to the noble Lord that the ORR will produce a report on the safety lessons from this incident and on how passengers have been impacted.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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My Lords, is it not a fact that 95% of GWR trains ran on Monday? In fact, the company expects to run an extremely high proportion of services. Would the Minister do something to stop all these prophets of doom, who seem to make public transport a kicking boy and put people off resuming their journeys?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I absolutely agree with the noble Lord. GWR is operating an amended timetable, and passengers need certainty nowadays, so that they can plan when to travel. GWR has every confidence that its amended timetable will run. Of its 93 class 800 trains, only 21 remain out of service. I therefore encourage passengers to travel and travel safety.

Railway Industry Association Report

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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The Great Western electrification programme is now substantially complete. However, I recognise that some parts of the network will still need to be electrified. As with all projects within the rail system, each one is looked at from the bottom up, and analysis is undertaken and development work done. If it meets value for money and is affordable, it will go into the RNEP system and therefore be done in due course.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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When the Minister’s colleague Chris Heaton-Harris met the Rail All-Party Group, he was presented with a package costing less than £100 million which would enable 2 million train miles a year to be hauled by existing electric locomotives instead of diesel—the equivalent of decarbonising 80 to 100 million HGV miles a year. Has any progress been made with this?

Rail Disruption: Social and Economic Impacts

Lord Bradshaw Excerpts
Thursday 13th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the question of compensation arises here. Is there a liquidated damages clause in the agreement between the Government and Hitachi about these trains? If not, can Hitachi be pressed to make some ex gratia compensation payment for the huge damage that this delay is inflicting on both passengers and railway staff, through no fault of their own?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Of course, we are in conversations with Hitachi, and we welcome its decision to put safety first and take the trains out of service while we properly understand what is going on. As noble Lords will be aware, 122 Hitachi trains are procured via the intercity express programme, while the remaining 60 are under conventional rolling stock leases. We will look into what potential compensation may be forthcoming from Hitachi, but the train operating companies are offering refunds to their passengers for cancelled services.