21 June 2006

S2M-4515 Highland Transport Links

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 21 June 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

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Highland Transport Links

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S2M-4515, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on main road and rail transport links to the Highlands. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,
That the Parliament believes that the main trunk roads connections to the Highlands of Scotland, namely the A9 from Inverness to Perth, the A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen and the A82 from Inverness to Glasgow, should be the subject of major improvements, to be carried out in accordance with a long-term transport projects plan; believes that the rail links to Inverness are inadequate and should be improved; considers that a national consensus should be established to agree these objectives, and, in the case of the A96 and the A9, believes that the ultimate objective should be to dual these trunk routes.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I hope that the Presiding Officer will also allow me to go 68 seconds over the allotted time.

I am the only member—bar one—who has no railway in his constituency. The Minister for Transport has at least five licensed airports and I have none of those either. I say to Eleanor Scott that I also do not have a cinema in my constituency. Even though the roads mentioned in the motion do not come to my constituency, they are nonetheless of vital interest to my constituents and to me. My wife used to commute on the McBraynes bus to Inverness along the A82. The road might have been resurfaced since she used to make that journey, but it certainly has not been straightened.

The A96 is an important road for my constituents as it links us to Inverness. Aberdeenshire is statistically 2 per cent more rural than the Highlands and Inverness is an important hub to which many of my constituents travel. The A9 is an important road when one wants to avoid Aberdeen. We are waiting for the bypass; we will get it eventually. Indeed, I come to the Parliament by the A9 from time to time.

There are 107.49 miles of A9 between Inverness and Perth; 26.09 miles of that is dual carriageway, which is just over a quarter. If the remaining 81.4 miles of the A9 were dualled, that would have some interesting effects. The speed that a heavy goods vehicle can travel at rises from 40mph to 50mph on dual carriageways and the speed at which a smaller goods vehicle can travel rises from 50mph to 60mph. That means that, in the same time, an HGV can travel 15 miles further. The important point is that that extends how far a commercial driver can travel within the time limits. It reduces the number of overnight stops and increases the distances that buses and lorries driven by commercial drivers can go. That is one illustration of the important commercial benefits—besides all the safety benefits—of dualling our roads. The dualling of the road would benefit towns north of Inverness as well as, in my case, towns to the east of Inverness.

Ultimately, I hope that I am currying favour with those more fortunate. I say to the minister that I hope that we get the dualling of those routes into the programme. Then we can start to negotiate about the needs of other parts of Scotland, which include, of course, not a dual carriageway to Fraserburgh, but a motorway.


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