17 April 2008

S3M-1251 Glasgow Crossrail

Scottish Parliament
Thursday 17 April 2008
[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

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Glasgow Crossrail

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-1251, in the name of Bill Butler, on Strathclyde partnership for transport's report on Glasgow crossrail. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,
That the Parliament notes the final report, Glasgow Crossrail Appraisal and Economic Case, endorsed by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) on 25 January 2008; recognises that the Glasgow Crossrail project is strategically one of the most significant rail projects in Scotland; acknowledges the wide-ranging and cross-party support for the proposed Crossrail project as highlighted on; supports the submission of SPT's appraisal of the Crossrail project to Transport Scotland for inclusion in the Strategic Transport Projects Review and the National Planning Framework, and anticipates a positive decision from the Scottish Executive on the early implementation of Glasgow Crossrail.


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The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): As other members have, I thank Bill Butler for lodging his motion on the Glasgow crossrail project, which gives me an opportunity to set out how the proposal fits with our strategic priorities and with our wider aim of improving rail services throughout Scotland. As other members did, I note the presence of Alistair Watson and Bob Wylie. I wondered when somebody was going to mention Bob—the poor soul was looking a wee bit neglected. I welcome them to the chamber to hear our consideration of the issue.

I say to George Foulkes that my great-uncle was a councillor who represented Gorgie 100 years ago and had a close association with Heart of Midlothian Football Club. The Jambos in the Stevenson family will no doubt be interested—as will that well-known Jambo, the First Minister—in the prospect that Hearts supporters will benefit from the development of the project.

Before I move on, I thank Alistair Watson and SPT for the sterling work that they have done on the Glasgow airport rail link. Their stewardship of and preparation for that project enabled Transport Scotland, which is now the authorised undertaker, to take on board in good heart a project that is important for the 2014 Commonwealth games.

The Government is committed to creating a more successful country with opportunities for all areas of Scotland to flourish through increased sustainable economic growth. We set a number of strategic priorities and will focus our investment where it can make a tangible difference. We will develop connections throughout Scotland and improve reliability and journey times to maximise opportunities for employment, business and leisure. We will provide sustainable, integrated and cost-effective public transport alternatives to the car, that connect people, places and work throughout Scotland.

This is an exciting time for rail in Scotland. I acknowledge what Robert Brown said. Of necessity, there is a degree of continuity that crosses the boundary between a Government of one complexion and a Government of another. If it is about anything, transport is about a long-term commitment to take things forward. On that basis, it is helpful that there is a degree of unanimity in the chamber tonight. We have our continuing disagreements on transport matters, partly for theatre and partly for substance, but there is a general consensus that we must invest in Scotland's transport infrastructure.

As I said last September in my statement to Parliament about Edinburgh to Glasgow rail services, we want faster, more frequent, more reliable rail services than we have today. As a minister, I have used the railway on more than 270 occasions so far, so I walk the walk as well as talk the talk. I experience some of the service let-downs that other passengers experience, but that gives me the opportunity to give feedback on how improvements might be made.

We have a long-term programme of investment that will result in, among other things, electrification of the Glasgow to Edinburgh via Falkirk line—and of other routes—leading to a fast journey time between Edinburgh and Glasgow of about 35 minutes. We will also make significant improvements to the number of services from Glasgow Central station to Edinburgh, which will improve connections from the south and west of Scotland and Prestwick and Glasgow airports across central Scotland and beyond.

That work is all part of the strategic transport projects review, which is the long-term vision par excellence. The review was started by the previous Administration in 2006 and it will deliver a programme of interventions for surface transport for the period 2012 to 2022. It focuses on contributions that will have a major national impact.

The review will look at a wide range of possible interventions, and I am pleased to confirm that it will consider not only the Glasgow crossrail proposal but the Clyde fastlink and proposals involving the subway. My Transport Scotland officials look forward to receiving the final business case for the crossrail project from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport. The phased approach will very much assist our consideration of the proposal.

Given that rail in Glasgow and its surrounding area account for two thirds of rail services in Scotland, with 50 million journeys a year, and that the Strathclyde network is the most heavily used commuter rail network outside London, it is right that we seek to enhance provision for future generations. We aim to deliver substantial parts of our investment programme in time for 2014 to allow visitors to move around Glasgow and make onward connections with ease.

Members have referred to the Government's commitment to what has been called a "public transport games", and it is right and proper to hold Government to account in delivering on that. Progress will be made. Moreover, the strategic transport project review will provide a key opportunity to examine the Government's plans, and ministers will receive emerging conclusions in the summer and engage with key stakeholders thereafter.

Our portfolio of investment in Glasgow's transport infrastructure is impressive. Members have referred to the M74, the A8, the A80 and the reopening of the Larkhall line, which provides a new north to south-east cross-Glasgow service. Furthermore, the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link and the Glasgow airport rail link are both well under way.

The STPR process that was begun under the previous Administration provides the right framework for considering such matters. I have found it to be very useful; indeed, in that respect, I must thank Bill Butler for inviting me to, and facilitating, a meeting of the cross-party group on Glasgow crossrail to engage with people of all political parties. Des McNulty also referred to a range of projects.

I am confident that our future investment choices will ensure that Glasgow is seen not only throughout Scotland and the United Kingdom but overseas as an increasingly attractive place to live and work. We are determined to provide the right mix of transport services fit for a great Scottish and Commonwealth city in the 21st century.

Meeting closed at 17:42.

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