Driving: Disabled

Transport written question – answered on 7th June 2007.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Transport

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department and the Highways Agency are taking to ensure that the (a) Dartford Tunnel, (b) Mersey Tunnel, (c) Blackwall Tunnel, (d) Rotherhithe Tunnel and (e) Tyne Tunnel can be used safely by people with disabilities.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

holding answer 6 June 2007

Only the Dartford crossing is the responsibility of the Highways Agency and all drivers are informed, through signage at the entrance to the tunnels, to remain in their vehicles for their safety if there is an incident.

Both tunnels at the Dartford Crossing have 100 per cent. CCTV coverage, which is constantly monitored in the control room located in the adjacent compound. In addition the crossing has its own dedicated traffic officers and regular patrols are made through each tunnel. These measures allow Crossing staff to attend an incident within five minutes to assist all drivers and passengers.

In 2005, an Accessibility Audit Report was prepared for the crossing as a whole looking at the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Various improvements relating to the tunnels have been identified which will assist in improving safety conditions for all users. A programme of improvement works, taking into account the constraints of the tunnels, is being developed in conjunction with the EU Directive on Tunnel Safety.

In addition a live exercise is planned for later this year to test the logistics of evacuating disabled people from the tunnels. Any lessons learnt will be reviewed and if possible incorporated into improvement works.

With regard to the other crossings mentioned, these are the responsibility of (b) Merseytravel, (c) and (d) Transport for London and (e) Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority. As public authorities, all these bodies are subject to the Disability Equality Duty and must ensure that the needs of disabled people are taken into account throughout all their functions and services, including provision of highway infrastructure.

The operators of these tunnels also have additional duties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as service providers. In particular, we would expect them to have developed detailed plans covering all eventualities in their tunnels.

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