– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th May 2017.
2. To ask the Scottish Government, in light of disruption over the bank holiday weekend arising from the M8, M73 and M74 improvements projects, whether it will confirm the completion date of the work and provide details of how Transport Scotland plans to reduce the level of disruption. (S5T-00569)
Following on from the opening of the new M8 motorway in April and the M74 Raith underpass in February, the final sections of the new and improved M8, M73 and M74 motorways will open fully across the M8, M73 and M74 project over the coming days. More traffic management is being removed across the project each day, with the motorways expected to be fully open by the end of this week.
As is usual for projects of this nature, the contractor will now focus on necessary finishing and snagging works, and local road improvements that have been held back until the new roads are available. Those works will continue until at least September, but they will not affect peak-time traffic flows.
I will be very surprised if, by the end of this week, we can properly describe the road works as having been completed. In the meantime, there are still major problems with the lack of, or inadequate, signage, an issue that I raised with the Minister for Transport and the Islands in February. His response was that he would look into the issue, but since then nothing has been done, particularly to indicate which lane drivers should take for the new East Kilbride underpass layout.
In addition to that, the delays that commuters are experiencing have been exacerbated by new road configurations and totally inadequate signage for diversions. As a result, countless numbers of drivers find themselves completely lost, with all the chaos that ensues. Furthermore, the delays and chaos are being added to by a lack of co-ordination between the works carried out by Transport Scotland and those by the local authority. Will the cabinet secretary categorically commit to looking at those vexing issues with a view to finding an effective solution?
I have responded to every letter that Margaret Mitchell has sent me. If one has been missed out, I am happy to look at that. As she knows, I have had a number of representations from both her and other members. I have sought to respond to them all, and I will look to any that are outstanding to make sure that that happens.
I did not say that the road works would be completed by the end of next week. I said that the major roads will be fully open. I went on to say that the snagging works, necessary finishing and local road improvements will continue until at least September, but that they will not affect peak-time traffic flows.
Let us just remind ourselves that the half a billion pounds’ worth of work on the Raith interchange was promised by the Tories more than 30 years ago, and that for the first time we have a motorway the whole way between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It has taken this Government to do that. Both those improvements opened ahead of schedule, but it is at this stage on such a project that roads have to be tied in. That can cause disruption, for which I apologise—we obviously do not want to see disruption. The contractors have tried very hard to do the work over the quieter period of the bank holiday, and overnight as well.
In relation to the final point, if there are any further issues on signage or other issues on which I have not responded to the member, I am more than happy to look at that.
The impact of the improvement projects does not stop with mere delays and potential chaos. It is also having a seriously worrying adverse effect on businesses in the Lanarkshire area.
For example, a number of businesses in Bothwell and Uddingston have contacted me about a substantial loss of revenue that has resulted in some of them closing or planning to close because of a lack of footfall and cancellations. Some businesses are reporting a staggering 80 per cent drop in turnover. Businesses in the Birkenshaw trading estate in Uddingston report having lost tens of thousands of pounds of turnover over the past few weeks as a result of the M8 no longer offering a turn-off to Uddingston. Similar problems have been reported elsewhere in Motherwell, Hamilton and surrounding districts. In view of that, will the minister undertake to join me in meeting those businesses to hear at first hand their concerns and to find a solution to mitigate the adverse impact that the project is having on their businesses and the local economy?
As I said, I am more than happy to hear representations from the member if a letter has not been answered. She has raised these issues with me previously and I have responded to them. If she has new issues, perhaps she could let me know—I am more than happy to look at them.
I do not deny for a second that there has been disruption. It is simply not possible to have these long-awaited improvements without disruption to traffic, especially in the online sections of the roads. It is remarkable that there is not one word of congratulation from Margaret Mitchell and the Conservatives on a fantastic infrastructure project that will bring major benefits to the central Scotland motorway network. I do not deny that there has been disruption—of course there has, and there always will be in relation to such projects—but it is a tremendous project that should have been done decades ago. Again, it has fallen to this Government to bring forward the improvements that mean that the M8 is now a motorway the whole way between Edinburgh and Glasgow. One would think that main street Scotland would have had a full motorway before now, but it has not. Many people have made representations to me about the Raith interchange dramatically reducing their journey times, but there has been not one word about that from the Conservatives.
Of course, I will look at the issues that Margaret Mitchell has raised, but perhaps, just once, the Tories could commend this Government and the contractors for the work done in bringing forward a fantastic project.
Both the M8 and the M74 are in my constituency. I was on both roads on Friday when I travelled to Glasgow airport. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the £500 million project is coming to an end, with the work that is still to be done being mainly landscape work? Can he personally communicate my thanks to the Scottish roads partnership consortium and to Transport Scotland for dealing with my constituents timeously? Most of the emails that have likely been sent to Margaret Mitchell have also come to me, and I have forwarded them to the cabinet secretary. I thank you for the work that you have done and for the fencing that you are putting up at St John the Baptist primary school, which is long overdue. It was not going to be done, but will now be done because of your work and the transport minister’s work.
The Presiding Officer:
I am not sure that there is a question in there, cabinet secretary. [
.] If you wish to, you can briefly reply.
Richard Lyle makes an important point. He has raised with me many of the issues that Margaret Mitchell has raised, and I have sought to respond to them as well. In relation to the M74, what we have talked about does not include the extension to the M74, another long-delayed project that has brought major benefits to the west of Scotland, right the way through to the airport. I am glad that Richard Lyle can acknowledge that, although there have been problems, there is a major benefit from those infrastructure projects.
I associate myself with Dick Lyle’s remarks. As the cabinet secretary knows, I am full of praise for what is a wonderful project that should be praised for all the work that has been done. I know that it is the biggest project in Europe of its kind.
I want to ensure that the cabinet secretary is aware that most people who use the roads concerned believe that the lack of information is the only weakness. Only yesterday, someone wrote to me and said that they had been queued up for hours on the A8, around midnight. I want to ensure that the cabinet secretary is aware of that. I think that the weakness is in the lack of information and the diversions. If it was not for that, I think that people would feel a lot happier. However, I do not want to detract in any way from the project, which I think is to be commended.
The Presiding Officer:
I am not sure that there is a question there either, but the cabinet secretary can respond.
I thank Pauline McNeill for her remarks. I point out that the project is not even the largest in Scotland, as the long-awaited Aberdeen western peripheral route project is worth £750 million. I acknowledge Pauline McNeill’s point about the disruption that has been caused. She gave an example of disruption at night, which happens because the contractor seeks to close the roads when there is the least traffic on them. I acknowledge that there have been issues with signage and communication, which I have raised a number of times with the contractor.
We are coming to the final part of the project, which is when a lot of very quick changes have to be made in order to tie in all the roads. I will pass on the remarks of both Margaret Mitchell and Pauline McNeill to the contractor for the final few days of the project.