Public Transport Spending

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

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Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 2:30, 27 February 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive how much of its committed spending on public transport projects will be spent directly on public transport infrastructure and how much will be spent on public transport feasibility studies. (S1O-6537)

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Of the sum of about £300 million that has been committed from the public transport fund and the integrated transport fund, about £274 million will be spent directly on public transport infrastructure, about £3 million will be spent on a range of public transport feasibility studies and nearly £23 million will be spent on preparatory work on various public transport projects.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

January's ministerial announcement on the central Scotland transport corridor studies committed the Executive to reopening the Bathgate to Airdrie railway. Will the minister make a commitment that, rather than shifting responsibility for delivering that key project on to local authorities, the Executive will lead on its delivery, so that it does not end up being just another feasibility study of a feasibility study?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

There has been some speculation in this week's press about what an engineering study is. An engineering study for a rail link that we are committed to opening is not a feasibility study—it represents stage 1 in the construction of the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link. Anyone who thinks that a railway can be built without first doing an engineering study has little idea of how a rail network operates.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

Does the minister share my concern that, in spite of a significant and welcome investment in the public transport infrastructure at Lockerbie station, Virgin Trains intends to reduce the number of services that it operates from that station and has gone back on a commitment to provide an early-morning service to Glasgow and Edinburgh?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Order. That has nothing to do with feasibility studies.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

It does, because a feasibility study was carried out.

Members:

Ooh.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

I am asking the minister about public transport infrastructure investment and the feasibility studies that have previously been carried out in relation to providing an early-morning service between Lockerbie and Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the fact that Virgin Trains has now gone back on its commitment to provide that service, despite the Scottish Executive's welcome investment in the station.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Mr Mundell will be aware that the Scottish Executive does not have responsibility for cross-border links. We have said before that it is disappointing to see a reduction in services, although more reliability would be welcome. I am happy to accept Mr Mundell's endorsement for the Executive's investment in Lockerbie station.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

I welcome the minister's endorsement of the reopening of the Bathgate to Airdrie line, which was the subject of some doubt among the nationalists in West Lothian. What will be the impact of the investment in public transport infrastructure, such as the expansion of the existing Bathgate to Airdrie line that was announced earlier this week by the minister's deputy, Lewis Macdonald?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The extension to the platform at Bathgate means that when the new rolling stock begins to arrive later in the year, rail users from Bathgate will have the advantage of far less overcrowding in the trains that they use; indeed, overcrowding should be eliminated.

Yet again, we made a good-news announcement of £100 million for new rolling stock and an attempt was made to undermine it by suggesting that it had not occurred to us that we had to extend the platforms—of course, it had. Later in the year, the benefits will be seen by passengers in Bathgate and elsewhere.