27 March 2008

S3M-1529 Elgin Bypass

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 27 March 2008

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Elgin Bypass

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-1529, in the name of Mary Scanlon, on an Elgin bypass. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament supports the need for a bypass for the city of Elgin; recognises the efforts of Moray Council, Elgin Community Council, the Elgin Bypass Steering Group and many other individuals and groups who have campaigned for this bypass for many years; notes that 26,000 vehicles pass through Elgin on a daily basis; further notes that four successive ministers with responsibility for transport have visited Elgin since the formation of the Parliament, all of whom have been supportive of the proposal; notes that Moray is the base of many world-renowned companies that distribute their produce globally but feel restricted in Elgin where traffic slows considerably; also notes that the Moray 2020 strategy recognised that local transport links needed to be transformed in order to enhance the area and to attract inward investment, government dispersals and growing businesses, and notes the need for bypasses for other towns along the A96 corridor.

... ... ...

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): I add my thanks to Mary Scanlon for lodging the motion and giving members a fourth opportunity since 2002 to engage in a debate about a bypass for Elgin. I thank all members for their contributions to the debate. I have at my elbow Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, who lives in Elgin and is the local member. Members can be sure that although protocols prevent his direct participation in the debate, his regular attendance at the Elgin bypass steering group and his engagement on the issue show that he shares their concerns.

It is opportune to debate this subject in the year in which I look forward to receiving the results of the strategic transport projects review, which, as all members must know by now, will shape our transport investment plans for 2012 to 2022. The review will produce a plan that is not determined by geographical fairness but which addresses the needs of different parts of Scotland. Each part of Scotland has needs and future investment will be needs-driven, which is the correct way to proceed.

As other members have mentioned, I recently visited Moray, where I benefited from a presentation by Moray Council on the traffic problems affecting Elgin. I had the opportunity to meet and have discussions with the Elgin bypass action group. In a private capacity, I am a regular visitor to Elgin, as I live within a short distance of the city.

On the subject of Nairn, members can be confident that the local member, Fergus Ewing, is in regular contact with me and that I am entirely aware of the issues there.

The local member with Inveramsay bridge in his constituency occasionally draws to my attention the need to address that issue. I am well aware of the issues that affect people right along the A96 corridor and of the need to respond to them.

No transport minister could be ignorant of the local aspirations to solve the problems in Elgin town centre. Such steadfast, cross-party campaigning over a significant period deserves a response. I acknowledge Peter Peacock's extremely well made point that it is not simply about the bypass. The council needs to work with any upgrading in the trunk road network to ensure that local roads make their contribution. I engaged with the council on that important point during my visit. I know that a study by Moray Council in 2003 concluded that a bypass for strategic traffic would not be the appropriate short-term solution for Elgin because much of the traffic was local. Mr Peacock developed that point. However, events have moved forward. Moray Council commissioned consulting engineers to develop a transport model for Elgin that would inform a fresh STAG appraisal. That new STAG report identified three potential route options but, unfortunately, shows that all three routes offer relatively poor value. I have just been made aware that the cost benefit outcomes are in the range of 0.50 to 0.53, which would mean that we would not get our money back for the investment.

I understand that Moray Council has taken the position that the bypass options should be allocated to the council's medium-term delivery programme, as they are not the whole answer. Nonetheless, and despite the disappointing benefit cost ratios for the options in the council's report, my officials in Transport Scotland have been in touch with Moray Council to request a copy of the new STAG report so that we can consider it alongside other information and evidence that will help us to identify the future investment priorities for the A96 corridor. One of the things that encouraged me when I spoke to the council and campaigners was that there is considerable interest in developers who want to develop in Elgin contributing. That gives us some insight into the ways in which we can close the gap that there appears to be in the current STAG appraisal.

Peter Peacock: I understand the technical points that the minister is making about the STAG appraisal. Earlier in his speech, he mentioned that the future investment priorities for Scotland will be based on need, and I understand that point too. However, do opportunities as well as needs feature in his considerations? There is an area of Scotland in which there are huge economic opportunities, but we require investment to exploit them.

Stewart Stevenson: I absolutely accept what Peter Peacock says. That is precisely the point. The economic hot spot of Scotland is in Inverness and extends east along the Moray Firth to Elgin. We have to capture and make the best of the potential there. It is not just about roads. Reference has been made to rail, and we want to get an hourly service on the route. As a Government, we have increased the money that is available for improving cycling and supporting walking.

All those are issues that we wish to consider in relation to Elgin and the A96 corridor. We will resolve the tension between longer-distance traffic and local traffic by the STPR process, and will identify how we can improve journey times and increase the reliability of public and private transport. There is great access to the area, but we need to discover the right way to proceed. We are fortunate in having considerable resources ready that help us to understand how we might proceed. The work that has been done over a considerable period has been worth while.

Many communities would benefit from improvements in Elgin; it is not simply a local issue. We are looking at a 10-year programme, and I expect that that will include projects that relate to the A96, although we have not as yet finalised which ones to take forward.

We are looking to have a significant number of projects in that period, and we also have a planned programme of 40 major projects in the period to 2012, so we are not simply standing still. I hope that Mr McGrigor will have noticed that we have included the Newtongary to Adamston climbing lane in 2004—which was under the previous Administration—and the Coachford climbing lane in 2005. There has been some investment, which has made some contribution. However, the major project is the Fochabers to Mosstodloch bypass during 2010-11. We have to deliver the projects that are in the queue. One aspect of transport is that we need a portfolio of projects to ensure that we do not lose a sense of pace.

Mr Peacock said that he would not be surprised if I did not announce a start on the Elgin bypass today, and I do not want to disappoint him. The right time for that work is in the context of the STPR. We expect to start engaging with stakeholders in local communities over the summer. I have given many answers in response to parliamentary questions and correspondence: the STPR is the best way of making progress and building our new investment programme for the 10-year period.

We are deploying Scotland's resources for the benefit of people throughout Scotland and we are committed to doing that in a way that is equitable for the whole of Scotland. That means recognising the needs in every part of Scotland.

Meeting closed at 17:36

Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP