Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 19 June 2013.

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Photo of Hanzala Malik Hanzala Malik Labour

8. To ask the Scottish Government when the first phase of the Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement programme will be delivered. (S4O-02269)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

As I told Parliament during the rail debate on 30 May, our electrification programme is making good progress. The electrification of the Whifflet and Cumbernauld lines will be completed in time for the 2014 Commonwealth games. The electrification of the main Edinburgh to Glasgow line will be completed by December 2016, and will be followed by the electrification of the Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa lines by December 2018.

Photo of Hanzala Malik Hanzala Malik Labour

Does the minister agree that, after cutting one third of the budget last July, to describe the continuing Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement programme as being “on track” is a little misleading, particularly given the recent statement that passengers will not benefit from shorter journey times and longer trains until December 2018, which is a full two years after electrification? I press the minister to give assurances that he will make every effort to ensure that the programme catches up so that it can be delivered on time.

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

As I tried to draw out in my earlier answer, in important respects we are actually well ahead of schedule. We are some four years ahead of schedule for the Whifflet programme and we have said that we will complete the Cumbernauld line before the Commonwealth games.

A substantial amount of work has already been done. Members who go through Haymarket station can see the work that has been done there. On the Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa lines, which are in my area, bridges in Alloa have already been lifted in preparation for electrification. We are doing everything that we can to progress the programme as quickly as possible.

On the point about cutting the budget by a third, there is no point in spending money for no particular purpose. The £650 million that we are spending on the Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement programme is a substantial sum of money. Consultants have had a hard look at the issue and we are confident that we are spending the right amount of money. The sum represents a huge investment in the infrastructure between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the benefits of it will arise well before 2016, whether that is from the Cumbernauld line for the Commonwealth games, the Whifflet line, the improved environmental performance of the railways, or improved stations. Progress will happen throughout the project. Of course, we will try to ensure that it happens as quickly as possible.