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Congestion Charging

General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 16th September 2004.

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Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 2:00 pm, 16th September 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive whether congestion charging can assist in improving public transport options. (S2O-3171)

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

The Scottish Executive recognises the potential benefits of congestion charging. It can reduce congestion; allow faster and more reliable public transport; raise revenues for transport infrastructure; reduce journey times; and improve the environment.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

Does the minister agree that the provision of a reliable rail service between Airdrie and Bathgate would go a long way towards relieving congestion on the M8? Does he further agree that it is essential that the scheme is established and operational to ensure that the people of Lanarkshire and West Lothian can leave their cars at home and not have to face congestion charging?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I agree that the Airdrie to Bathgate rail scheme is an important project and I would like to see it proceed. As Karen Whitefield knows, the Executive supports the scheme. The work that is being done at the moment has been valuable in laying the ground for the development of the line. In due course, there will have to be a bill in the Parliament and consideration of whether the business case for the scheme offers value for money.

It is important to encourage more people to use public transport, and the proposed new service could help to reduce congestion on the M8—whether it would relieve the M8 of congestion is another issue. We need to do all that we possibly can in public transport to first contain and then reduce the numbers of cars on our roads. That will be a long-term initiative that requires long-term investment, but if we do not make the commitment to that investment in public transport now, we will not make progress.