§ Mrs. Browning
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he will review the bus service operating tolerance guidelines introduced on 2 April. 
§ Mr. Jamieson
The guidelines were introduced by the Traffic Commissioners and any review would be a matter for them.
§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many more buses there are on UK roads since 1997; and what improvements in bus travel have been made. 
§ Mr. Jamieson
Figures for Great Britain from the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) show that there were 78,577 buses and coaches with nine or more seats registered on 31 December 1997. On 31 March 2002, the equivalent figure was 89,867, an increase of 11,290.
In the same period, 31,386 buses and coaches were newly registered. The average age of the local service bus fleet has fallen from 9.4 years in 1997 to 8.4 years in 2001 and the bus industry is committed to reducing it to 8.0 years and maintaining it at that level in line with the Government's 10-year plan for transport. From 31 December 2000 all new buses used on local or scheduled services have been accessible to disabled people including wheelchair users.
Bus service provision in rural areas has been enhanced since 1998 by additional funding to local authorities in the form of Rural Bus Subsidy Grant (RBSG) and Rural Bus Challenge (RBC). RBSG funding for 2001–04 is £138 million and is supporting 1,800 new and enhanced services in rural areas. The RBC competitions have provided £69.8 million to enable 213 innovative local authority schemes for rural communities to be introduced. Since 2001 the Urban Bus Challenge, targeted at urban communities suffering from high levels of deprivation, has resulted in awards of £15.3 million to 32 schemes in 24 local authority areas.148W
Local authorities are encouraged to consider installing bus priority measures where they are feasible and sensible. The local transport settlement for 2002–03 will help fund up to 110 bus priority measures.