Edinburgh City Bypass (A720)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 31st May 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

I am pleased to speak in this afternoon’s debate on improving the Edinburgh city bypass, and I thank Miles Briggs for bringing the debate to the chamber. I remind the chamber that I am the parliamentary liaison officer for the rural economy and connectivity portfolio, and I thank members for their contributions so far.

I agree with the wording of the motion that

“good transport links, including trunk roads ... are key to future economic development”.

Members have mentioned being stuck in traffic. Nobody wants to be stuck in congestion, delays or lengthy tailbacks on any road, especially when we all have places to be—we all have to get to work, to commute, to attend to business or even travel as visitors or tourists to our country, our region or our capital city. I have experience of driving in Los Angeles, where there are five lanes on each side of the 405 freeway network that is sometimes known as the giant car park. Sometimes it took me two and a half hours to drive 18 miles to work. That meant that I avoided driving during the rush hour, which often lasted many hours. I am not suggesting that everybody should avoid the rush hour—it was just the way in which I was able to achieve a 35-minute commute instead of one of two and a half hours—but I empathise with people who are stuck in traffic.

Today’s motion focuses on improving the A720 Edinburgh city bypass. As a member of the Scottish Parliament for the South Scotland region, I am frequently on the bypass, depending on which northbound road I use to approach the capital on my way to Parliament. I am also quite familiar with the Sheriffhall roundabout, although I avoid it. With its six entrances and exits, it is quite challenging to navigate the lanes, and, as the motion mentions, the roundabout is busy, especially at peak times.

When reading the background papers from Transport Scotland on the Sheriffhall roundabout improvements, I noted that there has been a consultation that started with eight proposals, which were reduced to three. The agreed option—option B—was to introduce grade separation, which involves overpasses and underpasses. On grade-separated roads, junctions are typically quite space intensive, complicated and costly, which might be due to the need for large physical structures such as tunnels, ramps and bridges. The height can be obtrusive, which, combined with the large traffic volumes that grade-separated roads attract, tends to make them unpopular with nearby landowners and residents—hence the need to consult with road users, businesses and residents to ensure that any infrastructure proposal is optimal. The proposed grade separation for Sheriffhall roundabout will consist of two bridges so that bypass traffic is separated from local traffic.

I note that there are unique design challenges for the work. The area sits on top of historical mine workings and a geological fault zone with possible mineral seams. Although mining has long ceased in the area, the work that is still to be carried out needs to take into account the ground conditions, which are complicated. The Borders railway, which goes through the South Scotland region—right past your area, Presiding Officer—is also very close to the Sheriffhall roundabout, which is about 300 metres away.

In the Scottish Government’s programme for government, a commitment was made to review the national transport strategy and carry out a second strategic transport projects review. STPR2 will examine the strategic transport infrastructure interventions that will be required to support the delivery of the national economic strategy and it will ensure the delivery of a transport network that is fit for the 21st century and for future economic development.

It is interesting to note that everyone is lobbying the minister, and I am one of those people. He is well aware that STPR2 in the South Scotland region is looking at the A75, A76 and A77. We all have infrastructure needs that we are asking for, especially regarding the roads to Cairnryan and the ferry port near Stranraer, and I warmly welcome the review of the roads in the South Scotland region.

I welcome the progress that has been made by the Scottish Government on infrastructure improvement across Scotland and I look forward to hearing from the minister on progress on innovative long-term solutions that will keep traffic moving, especially on the Edinburgh city bypass.