Transport

– in the Scottish Parliament at 12:37 pm on 5th March 2003.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 12:37 pm, 5th March 2003

The next item of business is a ministerial statement by Iain Gray on the "Building Better Transport" report.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Before Mr Gray starts, I seek agreement from other members about the temperature and atmosphere in the chamber, which I believe are much improved today. Given the power failure earlier, perhaps the heating has been changed to a different regime. If other members agree, perhaps you will consider the heating arrangements for the chamber.

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

That is an unusual point of order, but I take the member's point and I will look into the matter. I know that members have complained about the heating in the past.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour 12:50 pm, 5th March 2003

Last year, the transport delivery report focused our effort in transport on three main themes: tackling congestion; improving integration and accessibility, including lifeline links; and providing vital missing links in the transport infrastructure. We promised to report on progress and "Building Better Transport", which was published today, is that report. "Building Better Transport" describes progress and the way forward in five key areas: economic growth, accessibility, integration, new ways of working and developments for the future.

Transport is vital to us all and underpins every aspect of our lives, but I begin by talking about its importance to economic development. Economic growth is firmly at the top of the Executive's agenda and I am determined that we will stimulate growth in the economy to generate wealth, to create jobs, to reduce unemployment and to give ourselves a competitive edge in the global marketplace. We have listened to business, which says that it needs a first-class transport infrastructure to support economic growth. We are now investing in exactly that alongside our investment in research innovation and the skills of our people.

The announcement of the Scottish budget in September was a defining moment. The decision to allocate record funding to transport has been the biggest single factor in enabling us to move forward. The budget placed transport at the heart of our strategy for economic growth. It was a budget to stimulate growth in our transport systems, to invest in our public transport and to give businesses better opportunities to access their markets.

The transport budget will rise by more than 50 per cent in the next three years and reach almost £1 billion a year by 2006—an unprecedented increase by any standards. That huge uplift in transport spending has given us the assurance that money is available to fund the major infrastructure projects that business and Scotland need. Securing those resources has given us the confidence to plan and budget for the long term.

With a stable macroeconomic environment, low inflation, low interest rates and increased public spending, we have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in our transport infrastructure, to provide the freer movement of people that our economic development strategy demands and to link the work force to the labour market and Scottish business to the world. With the security of the new levels of funding, we can now plan properly for the longer term. We are developing a strategic investment plan that will enable the Executive to make commitments to major capital projects that extend beyond the standard three-year budgeting cycle, adding up to some £3 billion of transport improvements over the next 10 years.

Combined with that longer-term commitment will be a new approach to active management of financial flows over the longer term, with some additional end-year flexibility for the major capital projects. That means that, over the next 10 years, we will be able to use that £3 billion to invest in the biggest package of transport infrastructure investments that we have ever seen. Although resources are not limitless, I am certain that the transformation of Scotland's transport infrastructure will be well under way by the end of the decade.

For example, yesterday I was able to announce that the Executive would guarantee £375 million for Edinburgh's transport infrastructure. That substantial investment will ensure that funding is available for at least the first new tramline in the city. The investment is also irrespective of any decision that might be taken on congestion charging. Edinburgh's tram proposal will be one of the first public transport schemes to benefit from the new, longer-term approach to planning. The same long-term planning horizon was applied when we committed ourselves to funding the strategic elements of the Aberdeen western peripheral route.

Building on significant investments that were made prior to the spending review—such as the completion of the M74, the M77 and the Glasgow southern orbital route—we have given firm commitments to upgrade the A8 and A80 to motorway status, to build the Aberdeen western peripheral route and to reinstate the Airdrie to Bathgate railway line. We are also pressing ahead with rail links to both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. We have received the report from the consultants and in the next few weeks I should be in a position to make decisions about both airport rail links. We have invested £1 million in the redevelopment of Waverley station and supported the Waverley railway partnership with more than £2 million to develop the case for the Borders railway line and to secure parliamentary powers. All those projects should benefit from our longer-term approach to budgeting and financial planning.

One of my key priorities is to deliver the new Scottish passenger rail franchise. Good progress is being made in partnership with the Strategic Rail Authority to deliver the next franchise. Later this month, I expect to be able to announce the shortlist of those who will be invited to bid for the franchise. However, we are not prepared to hang around and we are investing in immediate improvements to our rail services. We announced in December our single biggest railway investment to date, which will deliver 22 new trains, more drivers and more reliable journeys on the network. That investment will make a real difference to the transport system and the economy of Scotland.

The delivery of Edinburgh Park station, which is at the heart of Edinburgh's financial services sector, threw up the problem of performance penalties, because creating a new station extends journey times, which carries a financial penalty. Working with the rail regulator and the SRA, I broke that impasse and secured agreements that prevented the financial penalties from being levied. In addition, we agreed to fund fully two additional trains to enable new Edinburgh Park trains to operate without creating delays to other services. We will ensure that those and other lessons are learned so that we can improve the speed of delivery of other rail projects.

Sustainable development is fundamental to our transport vision and thinking and is vital to reducing our use of resources, making better use of our energy and tackling congestion. We have committed to freight facilities grants totalling £47 million and have provided £12 million for the new rail-freight hub at Grangemouth. We have invested £11 million in the Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry connection, which has helped to stimulate tourism from and trade with Europe. Those grants and investments are a huge boost to the economy and the tourism industry and will get a greater number of heavy lorries off our roads.

Buses, too, play a key role in our economy. They carry more passengers than any other form of public transport does and the number of bus passengers has increased in each of the past three years. Through the bus service operators grant, the Executive pays grants of £50 million a year to the bus industry. In addition, to increase accessibility to transport and to lessen social exclusion, we introduced free concessionary bus fares, which have enabled more than 1 million older people and people with a disability to enjoy local off-peak bus travel and have easy and free access to amenities.

Safe and reliable transport services are vital, but people also need excellent travel information to make the best use of them. Traveline Scotland was created to meet that need and it now deals with more than 16,000 telephone and online inquiries a week and provides timetable and journey-planning information for all modes of public transport throughout Scotland.

We are investing to make transport more accessible and inclusive. We live in a diverse country where our island and remote rural areas require different transport solutions. We continue to invest heavily in Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, to support the air network across the country and to use public service obligations for the maintenance of key links to remote areas. The new interim route development fund will help to stimulate new routes from the Highlands and Islands to other parts of the country and between various airports and the continent. Having direct links to Scotland from the continent and further afield is crucial for business and for attracting more visitors here from overseas.

Our support for lifeline ferry links is at record levels, which means new ferries for Orkney and Shetland, investment in new piers and harbours and the tendering of the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services. That support will protect fares and lead to important service enhancements. Those key economic and social lifelines remain high on our agenda. We are making real and significant progress in delivering the key transport projects that Scotland needs.

We are doing all that we can to increase the speed of delivery, but it has to be recognised that a detailed and intricate process is involved in taking the initial idea of a new road to the eventual opening of that road. In the case of railways, the number of players involved is greater, the legislative process is more complex and the experience of building new lines is almost non-existent in Scotland. We must consider new ways of working that will bring about real change and move more quickly from inception to completion. That is likely to involve considering the legislative process for rail enhancements and financial planning processes. However, I am determined that we will do whatever is needed to improve transport in Scotland.

The "Building Better Transport" report is about taking a long-term, strategic view. It is about a £3 billion improvement in transport infrastructure. Above all, it is about delivering better transport for the benefit of everyone in Scotland.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

An Executive is judged neither on the number of brochures published, on studies promoted nor on a manifesto for a future period of office; it is judged on its record. After three transport ministers and three years and 10 months in office, with three weeks until the dissolution of the Parliament, can the minister tell us how many miles of road the Executive has built and how many miles of track it has laid?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I am proud to say that the Executive has opened the first new rail line in Scotland for 10 years—the Edinburgh crossrail project.

Mr MacAskill has to understand that the Executive inherited a position in which there was no strategic vision of what was required to improve Scotland's transport infrastructure. We have worked through multimodal studies, such as the central Scotland corridor studies, to identify exactly what is required. We have made plain in our transport delivery report what is required and we have identified the resources to deliver it. We have created the financial planning procedures that will allow us to move forward, the net result of which is a commitment to £3 billion of improvements in our strategic transport infrastructure.

Mr MacAskill should not make the mistake of thinking that that is all that is being done in relation to transport. If he examined the public transport fund, he would see what I suspect he already knows but does not want to mention—that £235 million of public transport improvements have already been funded and that, through our rural transport initiative, more than 400 rural transport initiatives have been put in place. We have made real progress. The report is about strategic infrastructure improvements, which is our most important priority as we look forward to the end of this decade and beyond.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

I welcome the fact that the Executive has woken up to the fact that the Scottish economy and transport are inextricably linked. That realisation is four years late, but at least it has come.

Will the minister concede that his predecessor, Wendy Alexander, was correct when she said that, in the first spending review, transport had been sold short? Does he agree that the investment that is now being made is simply part of bringing the funding back up to the level at which it should be? As David Begg has identified, funding is £90 million short of what it would have been if it had kept up with levels in England and Wales.

Yesterday, the minister said that Edinburgh's tram system would depend on the council's business case, but not on tolls. However, the business case is dependent on tolls. Will the minister tell us, once and for all, whether the tram system for Edinburgh is conditional on tolls? Will he also tell us when and from where the money will come for the Waverley project, the most important rail project in Scotland?

Given the minister's commitment to buses, will he tell us why some provisions in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001, such as the bus user complaints tribunal and the quality partnership and quality contracts schemes, are not yet in operation?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I remind members that those comments on Edinburgh's transport come from the party whose main contribution to the debate so far has consisted of dressing up Lord James Douglas-Hamilton as a lollipop man.

I simply do not know how much clearer I can be about Edinburgh's trams. The investment of £375 million does not depend on any decision that is taken on congestion charging. If Edinburgh goes ahead with congestion charging, £375 million will be invested; if Edinburgh does not go ahead with congestion charging, £375 million will be invested. I hope that that is clear enough for David Mundell.

Yesterday, the Tories accused me of speaking with a forked tongue. However, their approach has been to take two different business cases and to swap them interchangeably to suit their rather crass argument. It is absolutely the case that the investment will provide the resources for at least the first tramline in Edinburgh and other public transport improvements. Indeed, the council believes that it is enough for a second tramline. I hope that that is the case, as that would be very good. The business case for the tramlines will, of course, have to be made, but that it is not the same as the business case for the whole Transport Initiatives Edinburgh Ltd project.

Every public transport project that we fund, whatever it is part of, has to prove its business case. The TIE plan is part of parallel projects. The funding secures at least the first tramline and other public transport initiatives, potentially including the second tramline. I say yet again that that is irrespective of road user charging in Edinburgh. I sincerely hope that that is clear enough for the Conservatives.

Mr Mundell asked where the funding is for the Waverley line. The Waverley railway partnership is working up its plans and a funding package, which will include an indication of how much public funding will be required for the line. Like every other project, the business case must be made as part of the plans. However, if the question is whether there is a resource to support the Waverley rail link in the transport investment plan, the answer is yes. I hope that that, too, is plain enough.

On buses, of course the powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 to which Mr Mundell refers are available to local authorities. They choose when and whether to use those powers. The power of quality bus contracts has never been used. I would like to see it used, but that is a matter for the local authorities.

Photo of Ian Jenkins Ian Jenkins Liberal Democrat

I welcome the minister's statement and I was pleased by the remarks that he made in answer to David Mundell about the place of the Borders rail link in his list of priority projects. Will the minister acknowledge and reaffirm the immense economic, social and environmental value of the project for the people of Edinburgh and Midlothian, as well as for the people of the Borders? Will he join me in welcoming the fact that, this morning, Scottish Borders Council passed draft proposals for the private bill that it will introduce in the next few weeks? I hope that he will agree that the parliamentary system for dealing with the bill can and should be sped up.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

As I have made clear on numerous occasions, it is for the Waverley railway partnership to produce the business case and to introduce the private bill that will be required for the new rail link. However, my statement and the investment plan are all about allowing people to move more readily, particularly from where they live to where they work and make their living. I appreciate the argument on Midlothian and the Borders and the links to Edinburgh in particular. Those links are as important for Edinburgh as they are for the economic situation in Midlothian and the Borders.

I am pleased to hear that progress has been made. The next stage in the process is for the private bill to be introduced, which I hope and expect the partnership to do very soon. One thing that we have done to support the Waverley railway partnership in recent times is to increase its resources to just over £2 million to speed the process up. I look forward to the introduction of the bill to Parliament.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

I welcome the minister's statement. Will he assure me that thinking about transport in Edinburgh and the Lothians is integrated? Will he also assure me that the proposed south-east tram system will be able to link into the Waverley line's proposed route?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

There is no doubt that integration is key to our planning. Perhaps one of the great mistakes that was made in transport infrastructure improvement in Scotland in past times is that such integration was an afterthought rather than part of the planning process. Transport Initiatives Edinburgh is focused on the integration of its trams with heavy rail and other public transport interchanges. It recognises the importance of Waverley and Haymarket stations in that. I would expect the detailed planning on that to take into account the points that Rhona Brankin raises.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing Scottish National Party

The minister strongly stresses the importance of the strategic transport infrastructure. In that context, I wish to ask him about the Fochabers and Mosstodloch bypass on the A96. The public inquiry on the bypass has been postponed for 10 months, apparently because objectors are saying that they do not have enough time to marshal their arguments. In fact, the campaign has lasted for decades and permission has already been granted for the bypass to go ahead. There is a lot of anger and frustration in the two communities over the slippage.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I appreciate the points that Mrs Ewing makes. In the journey of a new road from its inception to its construction, 90 per cent is taken up with preparation. By that I do not mean feasibility studies; I am talking about the necessary engineering work. We are already considering how to streamline the process, as I undertook to do. Building roads involves disruption and the compulsory purchase of property and we have an obligation to ensure that any objections that are made by the public are properly considered. I understand that the public inquiry on the case that Mrs Ewing raises will take place later this year. The objectors have to be given the opportunity to make their objections and to have them considered.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I welcome today's statement from the Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning. The new spending regime that he has outlined brings us significantly closer to having a level playing field between long-term road investment and public transport investment, which must be welcomed.

On the allocation of £375 million for trams in Edinburgh, will the minister confirm the procedures for the approval for the schemes involved, with regard to the route and the project's completion dates? I welcome his commitment to integration but I ask him to ensure that an integrated approach to the tram includes car users—in respect of park-and-ride facilities—as well as cyclists and bus users. If that approach is taken, the new trams will truly benefit the whole city and we will have an integrated approach to improving public transport throughout the city.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Sarah Boyack makes a powerful point about the balance of the investment plan. On the increase that we propose over the three years of the next spending review period, transport expenditure overall is to rise by 50 per cent, while expenditure on public transport is to rise by 70 per cent. That will produce a shift in expenditure so that, by 2006, 70 per cent of the transport budget will be spent on public transport. I know that the order in which we have been able to make announcements in recent days has sometimes made it look as though there has been more investment in roads than elsewhere, but I point out that yesterday's announcement on transport in Edinburgh and the pending announcements on airport rail links relate, of course, to public transport.

As for the process in Edinburgh, Sarah Boyack knows that private legislation must be introduced for light rail schemes. The City of Edinburgh Council's plans are for the first tramline to be completed by 2009. That will be important for integration with other modes of transport, not just with rail. As I said to David Mundell, the funding allocation will allow at least the first tramline to be put in place, as well as other public transport improvements. Those will include park-and-ride schemes around Edinburgh. The fifth and final round of the public transport fund is already funding park-and-ride improvements in Edinburgh. Those are exactly the up-front public transport improvements that Edinburgh wants and needs.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I welcome what the minister has said about the mechanism to forward-fund major infrastructure projects beyond the three-year cycle. I want to press him on the slightly different way in which he has handled the Borders railway line compared with how he has handled Edinburgh's tramways. Given his answer to Ian Jenkins, it is clear that the minister knows that the bill relating to the Borders railway line will shortly be with us. In the case of Edinburgh, he has committed an explicit sum in an explicit year, before there is a draft bill, before there is a business case and before there is any clear knowledge of what the funding deficit might be. Will the minister commit an explicit sum in an explicit year to the Borders rail project, or will he do so when the bill is introduced?

Secondly, I urge the minister to address David Mundell's second point, which I took to be about the funding of the Waverley station project rather than about the Waverley railway.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

For a number of good reasons, I will not make an explicit funding announcement with an amount of money attached. One reason for that is that the Waverley rail partnership is still to present to us what it believes to be the funding requirement for the line. I repeat in part the assurance that I gave to Ian Jenkins: there is funding available to develop the Waverley rail line to the Borders.

Why is there a difference in treatment? Anyone who, like me, was born and brought up in Edinburgh and has lived in Edinburgh all their life knows well that the way in which mass transit and public transport issues have been addressed is the one area in which Edinburgh has not been a success story. It is important that we give guarantees that Edinburgh can move forward on that. Today's announcement is very much about supporting Scotland's economic success. The cities review recognised that our cities must be the drivers for economic success. We need to support Edinburgh's economic success particularly in the area of public transport, where there has previously been some difficulty.

I am sorry if I misinterpreted part of Mr Mundell's question. Waverley station was one of the priorities in the transport delivery report. The situation is that we are supporting the technical studies that are currently being carried out to allow us to develop a proper plan for the redevelopment of Waverley station. The SRA, which chairs the steering group that is taking the matter forward, recently made it clear that it will support the redevelopment of the station. We expect that the SRA will be very much involved. Nonetheless, we have taken cognisance of the key necessity of the redevelopment of Waverley within the envelope of the investment plans that I have outlined today.

Photo of Elaine Thomson Elaine Thomson Labour

I welcome the minister's statement. I know that the people of Aberdeen, especially my constituents, are delighted with the commitment to build the western peripheral route as part of Aberdeen's integrated modern transport system. That is a real example of delivery by the Executive for the people of Aberdeen.

What progress has been made on accelerating the construction schedule for the western peripheral route, which will include a third bridge over the River Don to tackle the peak-hours congestion that is faced by people who come from the north of the city?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Since announcing our commitment to the strategic sections of the peripheral route, we have reached agreement with the local authorities in that part of Scotland that they will work to provide the local elements of the road. Intensive discussions have taken place between my officials and council officials. Within a matter of what must be two or three weeks, I expect that we will be able to make announcements on what can be done to accelerate the construction of the road and on the division of the funding responsibilities and the split between local and strategic elements.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I want to pick up on two points that the minister mentioned: his announcement of £375 million for Edinburgh and his statement that he will make another announcement next week on the Glasgow airport rail link. The minister will be aware that half of that £375 million would have guaranteed both the Glasgow airport rail link and a crossrail link for Glasgow, so I want to know why Glasgow has received no money whatever. Will next week's announcement be a positive announcement? Will we be guaranteed moneys for the rail link and for crossrail? Will we be given a time scale that will at least start this year, rather than simply another report?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I simply cannot begin to comprehend why anyone should think that providing funding for transport improvements to which we are committed in Edinburgh should be connected in any way to funding or otherwise transport improvements to which we are committed in Glasgow. There is no such connection. Time and again we have made it clear that we are committed to rail links to Glasgow airport and to Edinburgh airport.

Why have I not made an announcement? I explained in my statement why I have not made an announcement. It was only last Tuesday that Lewis Macdonald and myself were presented with the consultants' final detailed recommendations. Since then, we have been working hard to use those recommendations to reach a decision about the routes on which the consultants have provided us with significant information. I have said that I will be able to make an announcement about how we go forward in a matter of days rather than weeks.

Will it be a positive announcement? It will be an announcement when I make the announcement. We are committed, and I have repeated that more times than I care to remember.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

I welcome the minister's statement and agree with Sarah Boyack's earlier comments, welcoming the increased role for public transport in the Executive's transport priorities.

In his statement, the minister referred to Scotland's economic success depending on our major cities. In what way does the minister believe that the transport vision that he has set out and the projects to which the Executive is committed will allow all our major cities—particularly Edinburgh and Glasgow—to continue to grow? In what way will other parts of Scotland share in the fruits of that economic success?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

The improvements contained in the investment plan will link powerfully our Scottish people and their skills with the labour markets where those skills can best be used. That is why, when I became minister, I spent so much time resolving the impasse surrounding Edinburgh Park railway station, for example. Edinburgh Park is the centre of Edinburgh's financial services sector and is the most successful business park anywhere in Scotland. The impasse prevented us from putting in a railway station that everyone agreed was required and we have worked to solve that problem. Of course, that is about making the job and career opportunities in that part of Scotland available to those who might wish to travel there from the west, Fife or indeed other parts of Edinburgh.

In all the discussions that I have with businessmen, they talk about transport infrastructure improvements and how the key priority is moving the people they need to the places where they are needed so that they can do the work. We are making powerful improvements that will help Scotland's economic development.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

The minister has been generous with taxpayers' money today—£3 billion plus the Borders rail link.

Is the minister aware of the delay in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's budget announcement? Does he recognise that the chancellor's budget forecasts that growth and tax revenue receipts have fallen well behind? Will he comment on how important it is to the programme that he has announced today that the chancellor meet his commitment to funding such schemes in Scotland through the Barnett formula?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

It is true that our ability to look forward to capital and infrastructure improvements depends on a reasonable assumption of economic stability. If there is one thing that would destroy that stability, it is the long period of constitutional wrangling that separating Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom would create. I am in no doubt that the Executive's commitments would be jeopardised by such a move.

I have a couple of more detailed points to answer Mr Gallie's question. I did not say that there was a commitment to £3 billion plus Waverley. I said that for capital infrastructure projects over 10 years, we have £3 billion of improvements. Within that envelope, we have the necessary resources to implement the Waverley rail project if and when the business case is proven.

I also said in my statement that, by 2006, the transport budget—excluding capital charges for the trunk road network, which are unavailable for spending—will be £1 billion a year. Therefore, a considerable resource is available for other projects. If Mr Gallie is asking whether those projects would be jeopardised if there is an economic downturn and resources are reduced, the honest answer is yes, if there is enough of a downturn. However, a considerable safety margin is included. That is underpinned by the kind of economic stability from which we benefit at the moment, which would be jeopardised by any move towards independence.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

Will the minister assure me that there will be an early start on the improvement of motorway links at Larbert, so that there is better access to the nearby business parks and the proposed new hospital?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Having made those commitments, I am concerned to proceed with them as quickly as possible. If the member considers the M80 completion for example, he will find that we have already progressed on the work that must be done on the Auchenkilns roundabout. I assure Mr Canavan that we will do whatever we believe we must do to proceed with all the commitments as quickly as possible.

The only caveat that I put on that is to repeat the point that I made to Mrs Ewing: there is a process whereby those who object must have their objections heard. We must give those people due consideration. That is a matter of common justice. That aside, we will proceed as quickly as possible.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

I apologise for missing the beginning of the minister's statement, but I welcome the work that he has done on Edinburgh Park station, which is important. I urge him to encourage, in the fullness of time, the establishment of a stop there on the Glasgow to Edinburgh line, if that is possible.

My question relates to the welcome injection of £375 million into tramlines in Edinburgh. The Executive seems to be suggesting that the money will fund more than the first line. Like me, the City of Edinburgh Council believes strongly that it will also make possible the second line in west Edinburgh.

We have been told that congestion charging is required to cut congestion. Does the minister agree that by providing tramlines in Edinburgh, we will cut congestion? If so, does that undermine the argument for congestion charging?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Margaret Smith makes an important point—that the purpose of congestion charging as planned by the City of Edinburgh Council is to cut congestion. Whatever happens with congestion charging, there needs to be investment in Edinburgh's public transport system. That is why we have made the decision to which the member refers.

All the research shows that although improvements in public transport will lead to far greater use of public transport, they will not produce a commensurate reduction in congestion. That is not a reason for not investing in public transport. However, the research suggests that if the citizens of Edinburgh want congestion to be cut to the levels that the City of Edinburgh Council plans, it will be necessary to introduce congestion charging. We have made it clear to the council that, before it takes such a step, it must demonstrate to the Executive that there is public support. The council has decided that it will do so by means of a referendum. At that point, the citizens of Edinburgh will have a choice. That is an entirely fair and appropriate way of going about things.

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

I said that there were a dozen members on my list, but now four more members have indicated that they would like to ask questions. With the minister's agreement, I will take four short questions together.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

Welcome as the announcement of funding for the western peripheral route is, that is not the only element of the integrated transport system that the north-east Scotland transport partnership proposes. Will the minister indicate when we are likely to hear proposals for the rest of the modern transport system developments? What progress has been made on the route development fund? In particular, have any proposals been made for routes out of Aberdeen airport?

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I warmly welcome the shift in emphasis from roads to public transport and the minister's commitment to congestion charging in Edinburgh. I will restrict myself to a couple of observations. I would love cycling and walking to be mentioned more in transport policies. Does the minister agree that, along with the priority of connecting our airports to rail, a more important priority is doing everything that we can at this end to speed up rail links between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, to make a more sustainable form of transport fully competitive with air travel?

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Does the minister have on the table any outstanding applications from Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority—the only passenger transport authority in Scotland—for funding of public transport proposals? If not, has he discussed with the SPTA proposals on light rail or park-and-ride facilities? As I have said, some frustration is felt that, despite the SPTA's existence, not too much is happening on the vision for Glasgow's public transport.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The minister is aware of the significant increase in the number of people who use Prestwick airport, 30 per cent of whom travel there by rail. Does he have plans to invest further in rail infrastructure between Ayr and Glasgow to accommodate the projected growth in the number of passengers who use Prestwick airport?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I will try not to forget anyone. We are aware that work on the western peripheral route is only one part of addressing Aberdeen's congestion. We expect to discuss soon further plans for the modern transport system. We have borne that in mind in developing the investment plan. We are in negotiations—which I will not go into, for reasons that I hope members understand—with several airlines on routes that the route development fund could support. I assure Mr Adam that Aberdeen airport is considered as part of the work on the route development scheme.

I take Robin Harper's point about cycling and walking. It is fair to say that they tend to be overlooked in infrastructure improvements. However, only two or three months ago, we made the largest-ever grant—£1.4 million—to Sustrans to complete the national cycling network, so it has not been forgotten, even if it was not mentioned in the statement, for which I apologise. I agree that it is important to improve rail services, in addition to providing links to airports. That is why we are investing in new rolling stock for the Glasgow route. That will not make a significant difference to the travelling time between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but it will increase reliability and cut overcrowding on trains. We continue to work with my colleague in the Department for Transport on cross-border links with England.

Robert Brown asked about light rail in Glasgow and whether Strathclyde Passenger Transport has made any transport improvement proposals to us. We discuss constantly with SPT improvements and enhancements to the public transport networks for which it is responsible. No proposals on light rail are on the table. A couple of possibilities are being discussed, but they are at an early stage. We are interested in the development of light rail anywhere. In Edinburgh, plans are at an advanced stage.

Mr Scott asked an interesting question about Prestwick. Perhaps I will return to it in the next couple of weeks.

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

That concludes questions on the statement. As announced, the Procedures Committee's debate has been delayed until after the debate on the Homelessness etc (Scotland) Bill this afternoon.

Meeting suspended until 14:30.

On resuming—