23 April 2009

S3M-3938 Transport Infrastructure (West of Scotland) (Closing Speech)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 23 April 2009

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

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Transport Infrastructure
(West of Scotland)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3938, in the name of Des McNulty, on west of Scotland transport infrastructure. ... ... ...

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Stewart Stevenson:

It has been a pretty good debate. A great deal of ground has been covered one way or another, and it is clear that, in my remarks, I will not be able to address every detail that members have raised today. However, members should be assured that we will examine the Official Report afterwards and, if it is appropriate, write to them on matters that I do not manage to cover in my eight or so minutes.

Des McNulty said that the improvements to the Baillieston to Newhouse stretch of the A8 should be in the NPF. That, of course, would delay that project. We want to deal with the planning issues that are associated with it in a shorter timescale than the NPF would allow but, ultimately, communities that have issues with transport interventions of whatever nature have an absolute right under the planning system to make their views known and ensure that their issues are dealt with.

I warmly welcome Des McNulty's acceptance that the minister does not have the money to do everything—ministers of whatever political complexion will always find themselves in that position. That is a genuine issue with which ministers must always engage when deciding spending priorities, and the STPR is primarily about identifying key priorities.

Let me turn to the west of Scotland strategic rail enhancements. A number of people, including Sandra White, referred to the work that is going on between the Scottish Government and SPT, which I think is going well. We are looking to have a delivery plan for project 24 in the STPR by the summer. It is genuinely important that we understand the long-term implications because they involve not just the stations but the network capacity, particularly to the south of Glasgow Central. A range of projects, some initiated by us and others by previous Administrations, will load into the network capacity and reduce the number of paths that are available for further update. We could choose to have a short-term fix, but that would create long-term problems. It is important that the constructive dialogue continues.

Des McNulty: Does the minister accept that, while station improvements, the fast-link scheme and some parts of the crossrail scheme could be achieved in advance of the Commonwealth games, crossrail as a full scheme is unlikely to be in place before the games come to Glasgow?

Stewart Stevenson: The interventions that we are considering will happen over a long rather than a short time. As I said in my opening remarks, they will have to take account of high-speed rail as well, because we need somewhere effective for that to land when it arrives in the west of Scotland.

I think that Mr McNulty made the point that car use in the west of Scotland must not rise because it is a climate change issue. Glasgow has one of the lowest figures for the number of cars per households—I am prepared to be corrected, but my recollection is that the figure is 47 per 100. Of course, in many socially deprived areas, one of the first aspirational things that people wish to do if their circumstances improve is acquire a car. I acknowledge that we must capture those people for public transport rather than have a rise in car ownership, but we should not underestimate the nature of that challenge. The different tiers—local authorities and central Government—must work together on it.

Gavin Brown and others highlighted the A82 as a key part of the west of Scotland's transport infrastructure and, indeed, of that of the north of Scotland. Of our major roads in Scotland, it has the highest rate of people who are killed and seriously injured. It comes in at number 1 in the top 20, as would be shown by a reworking of the numbers that I gave in an answer to John Scott some months ago. We are very much focused on that issue, although road engineering is only one way in which to reduce deaths on our roads, because about two thirds of deaths are down to drivers and one third could be attributable to the roads.

Gavin Brown referred to there being plans for six trains an hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but that is only for the route through Falkirk High station. When we take all the different routes into account, there will be 13 trains an hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow. I am not sure that prioritisation has anything to do with whether projects come in on time and on budget; I think that that is a different discipline, but we will look at it.

Robert Brown's speech focused on Dalmarnock station, and in his intervention later in the debate he asked us to look at financing its development. His amendment to the motion is a bit more prescriptive, so I say to him that, because we are still discussing the issue, we will abstain on his amendment but vote for the motion, whether amended or not, thus reflecting the fact that we are not yet in a position to commit but have sympathy with the point being made.

Longer trains were talked about in the context of a variety of options—I think that Jackie Baillie made that point. We are looking at having 23m coaches, which have greater capacity, and trains with up to eight coaches, so we are making the changes that will increase capacity. Incidentally, there is already a train between Helensburgh and Edinburgh, but it leaves Edinburgh at 4.45 in the morning and involves a seat on the sleeper. The Airdrie to Bathgate line will perhaps benefit those commuters who wish to travel during more normal hours.

Christina McKelvie: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry, but I do not have time.

Incidentally, it is not quite four decades since men landed on the moon; that will not be the case until July 2009. I am a geek, Presiding Officer, and I just cannot help it.

Ross Finnie: Hear, hear!

Stewart Stevenson: The figure of 3 per cent growth in the rail network grossly understates the growth that we have seen in recent years, so we must be conscious of that.

On water taxis in the Clyde, we need to get the balance right because the CO2 cost per passenger mile on water is the highest for all transport modes. In order to balance that higher CO2 cost, we must ensure that putting people on the water reduces the overall length of the journey. Nonetheless, the principle of water taxis is sound.

I congratulate Stuart McMillan on his active engagement with local interests on the issue of the A78. Patrick Harvie made various points about transport. I hope that one thing that the RTPs will do over the next while is work hard to ensure that bus lanes are better enforced because that would deliver terrific benefits at relatively low cost.

On Bill Aitken's reference to regulation, we should use the options available in the powers for statutory bus partnerships. I say to Jackson Carlaw that we are looking at hard-shoulder running. There are significant safety problems—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am afraid that the minister's time is up.

Stewart Stevenson: Thank you, Presiding Officer.


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