Public Transport Projects

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:15 am on 16th March 2006.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 9:15 am, 16th March 2006

Good morning. The first item of business is a statement by Tavish Scott on an update on major public transport projects. The minister will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

When I took office as Minister for Transport and Telecommunications, I took responsibility for the greatest sustained investment in Scotland's transport system in decades. Transport spending has increased substantially since devolution. In 1999, transport spending was £345 million. Since then, as a result of our commitment to and focus on investment and the transfer of new rail powers to Scottish ministers, the transport budget has risen to £1,649 million in 2006-07 and £1,694 million in 2007-08.

The programme of public transport investment has arisen from the major commitments on infrastructure investment in our partnership agreement. It is a major opportunity for Scotland to improve our infrastructure, improve our economy and improve the travel choices for passengers and freight.

We need to be bold to make the projects happen, but we must have realistic and credible delivery plans to turn the plans into reality. I stated in Parliament last year that I wanted our capital transport plan for new rail and road investment to deliver on time and against budget.

I am here today to update Parliament on progress. Before I turn to the programme of major public transport projects, I will say a little about progress on the significant investments that we are making in improving strategic roads. Our major roads programme is aimed at reducing congestion on the network, tackling pinch points and completing the strategic motorway and road links. The investment supports the Government's principal objective of growing Scotland's economy.

We will build the Aberdeen western peripheral road. Detailed engineering and environmental work is now progressing, with the aim of narrowing down the line of the road corridor next month. I understand the obvious worries of local people and can say today that the Stonehaven link will not be an upgrade of the existing Netherley road. Where the corridor reaches Milltimber, we are working hard to reduce the impact of the route. I can confirm that the route will not affect any properties in Peterculter village and that where the route passes Milltimber village no options are being considered to the east of the route that was previously consulted on. We will bring forward draft road orders at the end of the year.

The contract for the new Kincardine bridge was let earlier this month. Construction work is expected to be under way by the summer and we will complete the bridge in 2008. Proposals for upgrading the A8 between Baillieston and Newhouse will be published in the next few weeks.

I expect the major roads programme to hit budgets and be delivered on time.

For our major public transport projects, I am establishing—for the first time—a rigorous baseline against which I expect projects to be delivered. I will today present a programme that is realistic, affordable and deliverable. It is all about delivery. We need to be clear about what stands in the way of delivery and must overcome those obstacles. That is the challenge that I have laid down to Transport Scotland, the promoters of the major projects and the rail industry as a whole. It is a challenge that I expect them to meet.

In presenting the programme today, I tackle one of the perennial problems that face the construction industry as a whole and the rail industry in particular: establishing the expected price of a scheme. By stating today the expected outturn cost of schemes, I will allow all those involved to focus clearly on delivering to budget. Furthermore, our transport and works bill aims to improve the process for the future.

This is an ambitious programme. We must ensure that overall it remains affordable and provides value for money as we move through its delivery. We are committed to applying best practice in procurement, to setting challenging milestones and to making best use of the gateway review process. The focus is not only on individual projects. I have asked officials to consider the affordability of the programme as a whole and how it would be affected if in future there were any changes to the timing or the costs of the individual elements of the programme.

Rail devolution gives us a new option for funding rail projects. It offers an alternative form of public-private partnership, working in strategic partnership with Network Rail. Such an approach makes the best use of Network Rail's expertise in delivering rail infrastructure enhancements. However, as with any public-private partnership project, we need to be convinced that that method of procurement offers best value for money.

I will outline where we are on the individual projects, state what we believe to be a realistic target and highlight any changes from information given to Parliament previously.

The Larkhall to Milngavie rail project has relieved a pinch point on the northern Glasgow rail network and opened up economic opportunities for the people of Larkhall. We have delivered the first new branch line in 25 years by reopening the Larkhall branch. The new line was delivered by a partnership between Strathclyde Passenger Transport and Network Rail. It took a long time to get the project moving, but once we did so the project came in on time and on budget. In the 70 days for which the Larkhall line has been open, 68,749 people have used it, which is 34 per cent above projected passenger numbers. The fact that a new rail line has been opened and passenger numbers have increased shows that the investment is already paying dividends.

At a time when other parts of the United Kingdom have struggled to deliver enhancements, we have shown that we in Scotland are capable of breaking the mould and getting things done. We must build on that. I want the completion of projects on time and on budget to be the norm, not the exception.

Our investment in the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line will connect Alloa to the rail network; improve the efficiency of the transport of coal to Longannet power station, which generates 20 per cent of Scotland's electricity; and free up space on the Forth rail bridge for additional passenger services between Fife and Edinburgh.

Work began on site last October and continues on schedule. Clackmannanshire Council and TIE have set themselves challenging targets for completing the railway by summer 2007 at a cost within the range of £65 million to £70 million. The range is due to mine workings and land valuation. Those targets are achievable, but they will require the project team to work together extremely effectively. I welcome the team's appetite for the challenge.

The Waverley station project is a flagship that is within Scotland's capital but is for Scotland. The station is already at full capacity during peak times, yet passenger growth is forecast to continue. I strongly welcome that growth, but capacity needs to be addressed. Our investment will add new platforms and allow more trains per hour. The trains will be on time, because punctuality will be one of the key advantages of the investment. The project improves Waverley station for passengers, including the elderly and the disabled. The project was on site in January and will be completed by December 2007, on time and within a budget of £150 million. The Waverley station project, funded from additional resources secured in the rail review, is proof that we can work effectively with Network Rail in Scotland.

Edinburgh's trams are a strategic investment in tackling congestion in Scotland's capital. The interchange at Haymarket station will be particularly important for commuters and for visitors from outside Edinburgh. I have confirmed our commitment to contribute £375 million plus inflation. I expect that to add up to a contribution of between £450 million and £500 million towards the capital cost of the tramline from Ocean Terminal to Edinburgh airport. The challenge for the promoter and construction manager is to deliver efficiencies against that budget. The gas, electricity, water and telecoms diversions needed for the project are expected to start this autumn, with project completion in early 2011. The City of Edinburgh Council's original target of the end of 2009 has had to be moved back as it underestimated the length of the private bill process.

Transport Scotland is working closely with Network Rail to deliver the Airdrie to Bathgate line as a real alternative to car travel on the A8 and M8 corridor. The investment will provide a public transport choice, particularly for people in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian. I am pleased to announce that we reached agreement with Network Rail earlier this week to allow work to begin on doubling the track east of Bathgate at the turn of the year. I am pleased to be bringing the project forward to the earliest possible date so that we deliver benefits to passengers as soon as we can. The project will be delivered within a budget for completion of £300 million to £375 million in outturn prices. Overall, the project is on target for delivery in 2010. That target reflects the significant scale of the project and the parliamentary timetable.

Scotland's airports need to be part of the country's rail network, so the investment in airport rail links will be good for visitors, good for business and good for Scots. They will also be good news for the airports themselves as they will improve their competitive position and provide accessible links to many destinations throughout Scotland. We attach great importance to BAA's co-operation with and contribution to that work and we are taking steps to secure that co-operation and contribution. We hope that a deal on Glasgow airport will be concluded shortly. Further discussions on Edinburgh airport will continue.

The Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill was introduced in January and the Edinburgh airport rail link bill is due to be introduced by the promoter, TIE, today and published tomorrow. The Glasgow airport rail link is on target to cost £170 million to £210 million and the cost for the Edinburgh airport rail link will be £550 million to £650 million in outturn prices. We do not expect any real-terms cost increases on the projects. We expect Glasgow's airport rail link to be delivered by the end of 2010 and Edinburgh's by the end of 2011, but the promoters are working to deliver them up to a year earlier. I welcome and support that drive, but we need to be realistic. We expect preparatory work that does not require parliamentary approval to start early in 2007.

The Waverley railway partnership's objective, and ours, is to reconnect the Borders to the rail network. We will contribute £115 million in 2002 prices and we expect the uplift for indexation on that contribution to bring the figure up to £155 million. Work on the scheme is also expected to start early in 2007 and the rail link is expected to be delivered by the end of 2011, but the Waverley railway partnership is working to deliver it more than a year earlier.

We must set out realistic, deliverable and affordable plans to enhance Scotland's railway. We expect the whole of the rail industry—Network Rail, First ScotRail, local authorities, SPT, the new regional transport partnerships, Transport Scotland, consultants and contractors—to work together to deliver enhancements. New engagement is needed to achieve that and this is the industry's chance to show that it has changed. For too long, rail transport has been thought of as the poor cousin. That is no longer the case. Rail transport can be a driver of economic growth in Scotland; it can move people and freight across the country safely, efficiently and affordably.

I have outlined the Government's current committed major transport infrastructure programme up to 2012. The programme can be funded from within our overall budget. All the projects that I have mentioned can be delivered by 2011. That was our commitment in the infrastructure investment plan. Seventy per cent of our investment over the 10-year capital plan will be spent on public transport. So far, one railway line has been completed and two are under construction. We are already delivering.

We look further to the future through the national transport strategy and the strategic projects review. We will consider Scotland's transport investment needs for 2012 to 2022 and beyond. There is no slowing down in our determination to look to Scotland's future. Scotland's rail investment programme is the envy of the rest of Britain. I want Scotland to be the place where people come to see how rail projects are delivered.

I look to all concerned to step up and deliver.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I thank the minister and his office for providing an advance copy of his statement this morning. I also congratulate the Scottish Executive on producing a ministerial statement that does not appear to have been leaked to the press and media in advance. That may be because it has nothing new to say.

There are many projects about which I would like to raise questions, but I will confine myself to one: the Waverley station project. Is the minister's statement significant for what it does not say on that rather than for what it says? Up to this morning, the Executive was committed in principle to supporting work on the project in two phases, but the minister's statement referred only to the work in phase 1. That work will allow an increase from 24 trains per hour to 28, but professionals expect that extra capacity to be exhausted by 2012. Phase 2 is required if there is to be a further increase to 32 trains per hour, but this morning's statement excludes any reference to phases 1 and 2. They have been airbrushed out as though they were former members of Mr Stalin's politburo.

Has the Scottish Executive quietly abandoned its plans for phase 2 of the Waverley station project? In view of the fact that new lines—the Airdrie to Bathgate line, the Borders rail link, the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line and the Edinburgh airport rail link—are to be opened, when does the minister estimate that the increased capacity that will be provided by phase 1 of the Waverley station project will be exhausted? Does he agree that additional capacity can be provided almost immediately through cost-effective measures such as longer trains with selective door openings?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I welcome Mr Ewing's support for the statement. I am sure that it was only an oversight on his part that he did not reflect on the fact that, when I came into post, I said to the Local Government and Transport Committee, which is convened by Bristow Muldoon, that I would bring to the Parliament a full, updated report on the position of the capital investment programme as it affects transport. That is what I am doing and I am surprised that Mr Ewing does not seem to think that parliamentary scrutiny of the Government's capital investment programme is appropriate, because he argued in the committee that it was appropriate. Dear me, he has not leaked his questions in advance to the press, which is unlike the normal state of affairs.

The £150 million that we are investing in Waverley station now is in our capital programme. It is what we said that we would do and we are now doing it. That investment will provide significant enhancements to the rail network throughout Scotland. In particular, it will help the performance of the Fife service and help commuters and other passengers to enter Edinburgh daily. It is an important investment for the future.

The second part of Mr Ewing's question was about what would be done in future. To determine that, we will shortly consult on a national transport strategy and have already begun work on the strategic projects review. I envisage that, in that assessment and in continuing discussions with the rail industry and others, we will consider future investments, the importance of freight and how to tackle capacity issues as they arise. It is also important that we assess the rail network as a whole now, so that we find out where the pinch points are and what investment is needed to tackle those pinch points. That work will be taken forward and we will also inform the Parliament as appropriate.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. Since 1999, we have heard many promises from the Executive about transport projects, but precious little has been delivered. We have had seven wasted years in which not enough has been done and, as a result, we are falling behind with our infrastructure, which is important if we are to grow our economy. The Enterprise and Culture Committee's report on business growth, which was published this week, called on the Executive to ensure that its expenditure is targeted on areas that will deliver maximum economic benefit. The statement seems to contain nothing about the relative priority of the various projects that were mentioned, or of others that were not, and no assessment of their impact on economic growth relative to that of trunk road and motorway improvements. What steps is the minister taking to assess the impact of each of the schemes on economic growth and to prioritise those that will provide the greatest benefit?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

Last night, I read with interest the weighty tome that is the Enterprise and Culture Committee's report and I agreed with much of it. It is a substantial piece of work and a useful contribution to the debate on economic growth within and outwith Scotland. I welcome the report's recommendations on transport, as they have some useful pointers for us all. There is a programme of major transport projects that were noted in the partnership agreement and we are taking those forward to delivery. When they are fully delivered, they will make an enormous impact on the whole of Scotland and particularly on our economic sustainability. The projects have been assessed, and will continue to be assessed, against those criteria. Today's statement provides an update on the projects, because that is what Parliament asked of me.

Laying out the delivery timetable has been important. The business community has raised justifiable concerns with me about our ability to say when projects will come on stream, how they will tackle pinch points in the road and rail networks, and how they will help the movement of freight on road and rail. We have therefore laid out the timetable as clearly as we could, using rigorous guidelines and rigorous assessments of budgets, and describing the direction of travel and the milestones we have reached.

I make the same point to Mr Fraser that I made to Mr Ewing: the strategic projects review will include an economic assessment of projects. It will look to the future and will continue to consider the pinch points in Scotland's transport corridors and how we can make the best and most strategic investments to assist the growth of the economy.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

I welcome the minister's statement and the continued record investment in transport infrastructure.

I firmly welcome the news that the minister has reached agreement with Network Rail on twin-tracking the existing Bathgate to Airdrie line. That will make a substantial difference, but does the minister have a completion date for that part of the project?

In relation to the Edinburgh airport rail link, I understand that BAA has expressed concern to the promoter on engineering issues and on costs. Have those concerns been resolved?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I will answer the question on the Edinburgh airport rail link first. Discussions continue on the points that Mr Muldoon raises. I hope that all parties—in what is, by any standards, an extremely complex project—will come together with their particular sets of skills and expertise.

The construction of the T5 terminal at Heathrow is also complex, as it involves tunnelling and various other construction issues. More than 40 companies have been brought together in a strategic approach to project management that has been essential to delivering the project on time and—as far as I know—on budget on an extremely difficult site. That is no mean achievement; I want to bring similar skills to bear in what will be an important and strategic investment in Scotland's future.

I do not have the answer today to Mr Muldoon's question on the timescale for the Airdrie to Bathgate line, but I will be happy to write to him with an answer. I certainly hope that we can make progress as quickly as possible.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

I welcome the minister's update on public transport projects, underlining as it does the Scottish Executive's commitment to improving travel options.

Two weeks ago, the minister made a statement explaining the importance of improved public transport to easing congestion on the Forth road bridge. Will he consider supporting an expansion of the park-and-ride scheme to go further up the M90 to include Halbeath, Kinross and even Perth, and to go east to Kirkcaldy?

In relation to improving rail transport, will the minister use his good offices to bring to an early completion the extension to the park-and-ride facility at Kirkcaldy station?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I will be happy to look into both those issues. In addition to making improvements to connections and capacity—including increased platform lengths and the provision of trains of a size suitable for peak times—it is essential that we improve the ease of access to stations and alternative facilities if we are to ensure that more passengers can use rail and therefore move away from using their cars. With Network Rail and First ScotRail, we plan to provide an enhanced park-and-ride programme. I will also be happy to consider the points that Mr Arbuckle made about park-and-ride facilities on the motorway network.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The minister will be used by now to hearing criticisms of his transport policies from this quarter. Our criticisms are generally that investment in public transport is nice but not enough if it happens alongside ever-increasing road traffic.

Given the ever-increasing road traffic in Glasgow and the ever-increasing air pollution that results, and given the Executive's reputation as an advocate of Europe's biggest urban motorway project, in Glasgow, does the minister understand the sense of disappointment that many people in Glasgow will feel because his statement contained not one word about the Glasgow crossrail scheme? Many people in Aberdeen will be similarly disappointed that there was not one word about the Aberdeen crossrail scheme either. When can we expect the minister to get to his feet to tell us that he backs those projects with the same enthusiasm with which he backs the M74 extension?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

The biggest sense of disappointment comes from Mr Harvie's question, which is always the same. He never gives the Administration any credit for investing 70 per cent of our transport moneys, over a 10-year plan, in public transport. Not once have the Greens ever given any credit to the Government for what it is doing. I am disappointed that a party that claims to care about the environment—although the claim is pretty hollow at times—never gives any credit to a Government that both cares and delivers.

Mr Harvie just was not listening. I made it clear that the programme that I spoke about today was the programme that was in our partnership agreement, that was in our 10-year capital investment plan and that was in the infrastructure plan that will take us up to 2012. We are delivering on the programme and we were asked to report to Parliament on where we were on budgets and timescales. That is what we are doing today.

If Mr Harvie wants to ask about Glasgow crossrail and Aberdeen crossrail in the context of the strategic projects review, that will be fine—but that is where those projects will be considered. We have always said that that is how those projects will be taken forward.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I ask the minister for some joined-up thinking on Glasgow. He will be aware of the plans for a new children's and maternity hospital within the campus of the Southern general hospital, which will create one of the largest hospital campuses in Europe, never mind in Scotland. Given the present woefully inadequate transport links, will the minister give a commitment today to consider plans to create dedicated travel links for the public to and from that super-hospital? Does he agree that that type of project would be effective and would be much more welcome in Glasgow than the spending of £500 million on an unwanted motorway link on the M74?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I do not agree with Mr Sheridan's final point on the M74, but I certainly agree with his point about integrated transport planning for primary health care facilities and new hospitals. The Minister for Health and Community Care and I have already had some discussions and the national transport strategy will ensure that the planning of health services is considered from a transport point of view. Mr Sheridan makes an entirely fair point about that. Different Government portfolios will plan how transport solutions for local people can tie in with major investments in our health service, such as the one that Mr Sheridan describes.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

I welcome the commitment in the minister's statement to take forward a number of transport proposals. However, just to show that we notice the budget figures, I point out that since previous ministerial statements there has been a change on the Borders rail link—indexation was introduced last March by Nicol Stephen—which has taken the price to more than £150 million, for a project that is highly marginal in its cost effectiveness. It is also fair to point out that the initial commitment to the trams was £375 million for two trams, but now we have £400-odd million for one tram. The task for the minister is to convince us that budgets are being managed effectively and that projects are being considered effectively.

On Mr Sheridan's point, there are two practical propositions to improve links to the Southern general hospital: extend the Glasgow underground system by establishing two extra stops, one north of the river and one south of it, or link the Golden Jubilee hospital with the Southern general. I put in my bid beside those of others. The minister will know of my interest in the north Clyde development route.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

All I can say is that we will seriously scrutinise budgets, whether they be in the east or the west of Scotland. I am sure that Mr McNulty, as the convener of the Finance Committee, would expect me to say that.

On budget scrutiny and the process that we now apply to the project management of major capital transport projects, quarterly reviews of project progress against cost and time targets have been established, which identify actions that are needed to ensure projects' success. All of the projects have been reviewed over the past couple of months and, as Mr McNulty would expect, they must continue to represent value for money. The business case for each project is re-examined each time to ensure that there is a need to commit significant expenditure.

In addition to quarterly reviews, projects are subject to the Scottish Executive's gateway reviews, which examine projects at critical stages in their life cycle to provide assurance that they can progress successfully to their next stage.

We have put in place a number of processes and, quite appropriately, shared details of them with the Finance Committee. They are designed to ensure that projects meet our targets for them.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I welcome the minister's statement, particularly the parts about the progress that has been made on building the new Kincardine bridge and the progress of the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine rail link. However, as the minister is aware, there are concerns about the cost overruns on both of those projects.

With regard to the Forth road bridge, on 10 November the minister issued a press release in which he said that a

"full engineering technical study into the condition of the bridge cables" would be

"complete by summer 2007".

In November, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority received a report from the bridge master stating that there would be a feasibility study into replacing or augmenting the cables and that a further tender report would be brought before the board. In his statement to Parliament on 1 March, the minister repeated his promise that the work would be done by 2007.

Is the minister as concerned as I am that there is still no sign of that important tender report, despite the fact that 18 weeks have elapsed since it was said that the full engineering study would be completed by the summer of 2007? During that time there have been two FETA board meetings, and another is due on Monday. I know that the minister is concerned about the issue—it is hugely important. I seek assurances from him that the engineering study will be completed by summer 2007.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I will deal first with the points that Mr Crawford made at the start of his question about the two transport projects that he mentioned.

On the cost of building the new Kincardine bridge, the figure of £70 million was estimated four years ago, which represented the expected tender price at that time, excluding VAT. The successful tender bid was £93.5 million, plus VAT. Some of the press comment was somewhat excitable. One of the major reasons for the additional costs was the effect of the large increase in the price of untaxed petrochemical product—that is, blacktop. We should bear in mind the fact that 6.4km of road are involved in that project. That gives some context to the issue.

On the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway, we have been able to get the project team and the processes that I described a moment ago to Mr McNulty to focus closely on some of the cost issues. Work is now at a stage at which we can have confidence in the forecasts. The prospect is positive with regard to the remaining risks. We look forward to progress continuing to be made.

Mr Crawford made a number of serious points with regard to the Forth road bridge. As is patently obvious, I cannot tell the FETA board what to do. However, I know that the board has started initial work on dehumidification. It has let two contracts for early work and it is working on the tender documents for the cabling element. I will write to Mr Crawford with further details in relation to the contracts. I am focused on the need to ensure that we keep to the timescale that has been announced.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

Some members have given a grudging welcome to the minister's proposals, but I welcome them whole-heartedly, particularly his on-going commitment to the Executive's top priority, which is the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link. Will the minister reassure me that there will be no further slippage in the timetable for either the private bill or starting the work? Given his earlier comments on alternatives to car usage, will the minister comment on the development of new stations on the line, particularly at Blackridge, in my constituency, and at Plains, in Karen Whitefield's constituency? Although I welcome the proposals to double-track the Edinburgh to Bathgate line, does the minister agree that, in the meantime, measures should be put in place to alleviate the problems that my constituents are experiencing because of the cancellation and early termination of trains on that section?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

Mary Mulligan has raised a number of practical issues to do with the project, which is of strategic importance not only to her constituency but to the whole of Scotland. I recognise those points and would be happy to discuss them with her.

I appreciate the points that she made in the latter part of her question about the challenges—if I may put it euphemistically—that people are facing. We must do better in that regard and find ways to deliver better services. I would be happy to talk about that with those who are responsible.

I hear Mary Mulligan's concerns about slippage in the timetable. It is why we have put in place the processes that I have outlined to Parliament today. The partners who are involved in the project must focus more on meeting the timescales, in terms of the bill and the agreements that have to be reached on the project.

The initial investigation and the review process that I described earlier concluded that some benefits could be delivered early if work to double-track east of Bathgate were separated from work that relies on the bill being passed. As I have said, we have reached agreement with Network Rail on that point. The promoter's work plan needs to include milestones for the submission of the bill, and the design needs to be reviewed from an operator's perspective. We look to all of that work coming together as quickly as possible.

I will write to Mary Mulligan with further details on those important points.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative

I welcome the minister's assurances on the Aberdeen peripheral road, particularly his assurance on where the western leg of it will not go and on the aim to narrow down the route of the road corridor next month. However, I stress the importance of taking an early decision on the exact route in allaying the concerns of the many local residents who currently feel threatened by the road.

What is the anticipated timescale for the completion of the road?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I understand Nanette Milne's point about the concerns of local people: many members of all parties have made that fair point. I hope that we will narrow down the route by April, and thereby alleviate as many of the concerns as possible.

It is inevitable that when a major road of this nature is constructed in residential and business areas some people will encounter disruption. That will be the case regardless of the route that is chosen. Most rational people would accept that observation in the context of the road that we are discussing. However, we will do what we can to achieve the spirit of what Nanette Milne said.

It is our intention to meet the timescale that I outlined on 1 December.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

There is much to be welcomed in the minister's statement, particularly the Airdrie to Bathgate line, which will benefit my constituents. However, the minister did not say anything about buses, which are a particularly important form of transport for women. Has the Executive considered the specific public transport needs of women? Does the minister have any plans to consider operating bus services via public provision? The private profit system that we have in many areas at the moment is simply not working.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I suspect that those questions would be more appropriately raised in the consultation on the national transport strategy, which will take place soon. It would be entirely legitimate to raise those matters in the consultation. However, we seek to ensure that we are designing and committing to the delivery of an approach to transport that meets the criteria that Elaine Smith mentions. I take her point about buses, but my statement was on our programme of capital investment in rail. We are working with First ScotRail and Network Rail on enhancements to station design to improve people's safety and security, which is why the roll-out of closed-circuit television and other such measures are important. We will continue to work on those enhancements.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

The minister is aware of the anxiety of many of my constituents about the Aberdeen western peripheral route, in particular the Stonehaven spur road. His announcement today will be a relief to those who live on the Netherley road.

The minister confirmed that he hopes that the scheme will be finalised in outline by April, but can he confirm that there will be a full public consultation on both routes and an opportunity for people to object to them? Given that there will almost certainly be objections to the two routes, can he tell me the timescale for a local public inquiry?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I confirm that we hope to narrow down the options for the route during April. I take the member's point about public consultation. As I said in my statement, draft road orders will be published by the end of the year and there will be public consultation on them. It is fair to assume that there will be some objections during the consultation. We cannot predict what will happen, but I suspect that that will lead to a local public inquiry, probably in autumn 2007. Some of Mr Rumbles's constituents might wish to avail themselves of those opportunities to express their views.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

I thank the minister for his statement, in particular for the additional information on the Edinburgh airport rail link that he gave to my colleague Bristow Muldoon. My constituents in Stirling will welcome that link, as will others.

As the minister knows, I continue to have discussions with a group of visually impaired people in Stirling and Mary Dickson of First ScotRail about tactile walkways and ways in which barrier systems could be made more accessible for the visually impaired, particularly at Waverley station, but also at other busy stations, including those in the west of Scotland. What progress is being made on the plans for such innovations and the negotiations on them?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

Those innovations are the responsibility of First ScotRail and Network Rail. One of the main advantages of the devolution of rail powers—the additional powers that Scottish ministers now have and their accountability to Parliament—is in this area. Practical enhancements can be made by Network Rail as the owner of stations and by First ScotRail as the operator. That will bring improvements to facilities for people who use the rail system. As passenger numbers increase, it is eminently sensible to ensure that we have a range of appropriate facilities that meet the needs of the group that Sylvia Jackson mentioned.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I welcome the minister's rhetoric about Waverley station being a flagship for Edinburgh and Scotland. However, as Fergus Ewing pointed out, the Waverley project has two stages and, as Murdo Fraser said, the plans have been in place since 1999-2000. In his statement, the minister made a commitment only to stage 1, which includes work on platforms and disabled access. The plan was available in 2000 and the work could have started then. Why do we need further consultations, given that we have been consulting on Waverley since 1999? Continual consultation appears to be a characteristic of the Executive.

Will the minister match his rhetoric to the reality and make a commitment to stage 2 of the Waverley project?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I have to be blunt: there have been many discussions about stage 2, but I do not yet have on my desk an agreed programme from the various partners and the local authority that are responsible for the project. Mr MacAskill criticises me for not agreeing to something that I have yet to see and that has not even been agreed by the partners who are responsible for promoting it. When they agree to a programme I will be interested to see it, but I am focused on delivering what we said we would deliver, which is a £150 million package of enhancements at Waverley station. I repeat the point that I made to other members: the national transport strategy and the strategic projects review represent an important opportunity to look to the future and consider what further enhancements are appropriate.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

Improved and additional park-and-ride facilities are essential if we are to encourage rail travel. I ask the minister to comment on three points. First, the Scottish Executive made a considerable amount of money available to Strathclyde Passenger Transport for park-and-ride facilities at Croy station. What is the Executive doing to encourage SPT to spend that money? Secondly, Network Rail needs to improve Croy station by working on the gap between the platform and the trains, which causes great difficulties. The Executive should press Network Rail to do that work. Thirdly, there was a proposal for a park-and-ride facility at Castle Cary and improved rail links in the Cumbernauld area. I am disappointed that the minister did not mention that this morning.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

Those projects are important, but they do not come within the capital transport programme. I am happy to write to Cathie Craigie about the details. I share her frustration that the improvements at Croy station are not yet in place. I agree that money was earmarked for the project and that it should be spent on the enhancements that she and I want to see. We have made it absolutely clear that the money is in place and that we expect the work to proceed.

I will write to Cathie Craigie on her other two points because I do not have the details with me today.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

That concludes questions on major public transport projects.