Glasgow Airport Rail Link

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 27 February 2003.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 2:30, 27 February 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it will take to advance plans for a Glasgow airport rail link. (S1O-6529)

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

We have recently received the consultants' final report on the provision of rail links to Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. That report is being considered and we will in due course make an announcement on the way forward.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I remind the minister that on several previous occasions feelings of frustration have been expressed about the on-going consultants' reports and recommendations. In light of the production of the final report, I invite him to commit to a time scale to show that the Executive remains committed to the construction of the Glasgow airport rail link. What time scales will be involved?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I have made it clear on a number of occasions that the Executive is committed to rail links to both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. As Mr Brown will know, the final stage of the consultants' work was to consider the short-listed options. It was only on Tuesday that my deputy, Lewis Macdonald, and I were presented with the consultants' full findings on that. Although it will take slightly more than 48 hours to decide the way forward, it will be only a matter of days or weeks before we make that decision.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

The minister will be aware of the British Airports Authority's announcement about bringing forward plans to upgrade Glasgow and Edinburgh airports five years early. Will the minister assure us that the link to Glasgow airport and the crossrail scheme will coincide with the plan that BAA has just announced?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

There is a real synergy between the potential for providing rail links and the potential for expansion at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. The development of that work involves a wide group of stakeholders and a steering group. As the BAA is very much part of that, it is aware of the work on the rail links. The answer to the member's question must be; "Yes."

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

Will the minister confirm that a heavy rail link might not be the only option for Glasgow and that there might be merit in considering the alternative of a monorail link, which has far less expensive capital-cost implications and which would make land acquisition far simpler?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

It would be hard to convince me that a light rail system provided solely as a link to the airport, or any of the other options that have been mooted, would work as stand-alone developments. I know that there has been talk about potential light rail options in Glasgow and, indeed, in Edinburgh and the potential of extending such developments out to the airports has been discussed. The consultants examined light rail options, but their shortlist of four consists of heavy rail options for both airports. On previous occasions, other members have indicated that there is an appetite to proceed on the issue as quickly as possible. Along with value for money, that is probably the overriding consideration.