Borders Rail

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13 March 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 2:30, 13 March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what commitment it has made to finance the proposed Borders railway. (S1O-6610)

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

For capital infrastructure projects over 10 years, we have £3 billion of investment moneys, within which we have the necessary resources to implement a Borders railway project, subject to the business case being proven.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

That is a rather more heartening answer. As the minister will be aware, £150 million has been committed to the Glasgow airport link, £500 million to the Edinburgh airport link and £375 million to a tramline in Edinburgh. [ Applause. ] They are not clapping in the Borders. Only £2 million has been committed to the railway line that, three years ago, the Parliament debated and voted unanimously to restore. Subject to what he said previously, can he give a further commitment that the proposed Borders line will be paid for, notwithstanding a business case, which he has not demanded from the projects to which I referred?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Christine Grahame is quite wrong, in that those other projects are further down the appraisal process. On the proposed Borders railway, the Waverley railway partnership must produce, as I have said many times, a detailed plan, costings and a suggested funding package. However, that has not happened yet and it is clear that, until it does, it is not possible to commit to the project and to consider it properly.

In my statement last week, I made the point that the investment plan has taken account, within reason, of the possibility of the Borders plan being introduced and seeking development. That is the current position. As I said previously, we provided the £2 million not to hold up the process but to accelerate it.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

How does the minister explain his inconsistent approach to major transport projects? Last week, he stated in the chamber that the proposed Edinburgh tramway system would go ahead no matter what and that he was committing money to it. Why is he applying different criteria to the proposed Borders rail link?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I said that Edinburgh's plan for improvement in public transport would have to go ahead and be progressed. Edinburgh is not only our capital city, but our most successful city and it manifestly needs investment in its public transport infrastructure. I made a commitment to that. However, I also made the point that the parallel projects that make up that improvement plan will have to prove their business cases. However, they are further down the appraisal line than the proposed Borders rail link is.

All that I aim for in this matter is absolute clarity. There is space in our investment plans to progress and deliver on the proposed Borders rail link. The position is that the Waverley railway partnership is working up a detailed plan, with costings and a suggested funding package, and must also promote a private bill. That is what must happen next. There has been no ducking or diving on the issue. The situation is as I have said.

Photo of Ian Jenkins Ian Jenkins Liberal Democrat

Does the minister recall Parliament's unanimous view that the Borders rail link should be restored? Does he acknowledge that there is widespread support throughout the Parliament for the rail link? I acknowledge that a continuing process is involved and I welcome his support for it thus far. However, does he acknowledge that, after the election, my party and other parties in the chamber will still be committed to the restoration of the rail link and that there are political, social, economic and sustainability imperatives for the project going ahead?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I certainly acknowledge the desire throughout the Parliament, to which Ian Jenkins referred and which has been demonstrated on several occasions, for the project to go ahead. However, it remains the case that we have an appraisal process to judge the effectiveness and desirability of individual transport projects and to ensure that we get value for money when investing public funds. The proposed Borders project must go through that process. The core issue is that a detailed plan has not been submitted to me because it is being developed by the Waverley railway partnership. I cannot commit to a project if a detailed plan is not available. However, there is scope in the investment plan for supporting a detailed plan for a Borders rail project if or when such a plan becomes available.