Edinburgh City Bypass (A720)

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

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Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

Absolutely. That is why it is important to assess such schemes and look at examples elsewhere in the UK. Of course, we have to look carefully at any safety implications of, for example, using the hard shoulder during peak times, but such options must be looked at. We cannot simply build our way out of congestion.

It would be helpful to know what happened to the proposals for an Edinburgh orbital bus route. They seem to have been parked somewhere despite the fact that increased public transport must be at the heart of any solution to the current congestion on the bypass.

I confess that when I travel into Edinburgh I do everything that I possibly can to avoid bringing my car, and I take the train from Lockerbie. However, despite the fact that they are only an hour apart by train and the route is an important commuter one, there is no direct early-morning rail service from Lockerbie into Edinburgh. The transport minister will be pleased to know that, for once, he is off the hook on that one, because the franchise rests with the UK Government. Perhaps Miles Briggs can have a chat with the Secretary of State for Transport who handed out that franchise and have it changed. Better still, the route could be nationalised, because, as we have seen in relation to the east coast main line, the UK Government has a taste for that particular policy. [

Interruption

.] Members are saying that we should support that, and I say absolutely—let us extend that.

A key part of tackling congestion on the bypass must be to invest in alternatives to the car, such as a railway system in which passengers—and, frankly, not profits—are the priority. The Borders rail link has shown that when we build railways, passengers will come. Instead of making people drive along the A1 and the A7 to Edinburgh, adding traffic to the bypass, let us extend that rail link to Carlisle, through Langholm, and reach more passengers. Alternatively, imagine how many cars we could take off the bypass if, for example, we reopened the Penicuik to Edinburgh Waverley rail link or we revived the Edinburgh south suburban railway.

We also need to invest in our bus network and regulate it properly. In this city, Lothian Buses is a good example of what our bus services can do and can be. Therefore, let us aim to replicate municipal bus ownership across Scotland and avoid decisions such as the recent one from the Conservative-run Borders Council to cut funding to the Dumfries to Edinburgh bus service, which is putting that very service at risk and, in turn, could add more cars to the Edinburgh bypass.

Road improvements are badly needed on the bypass. I hope that we will see more than just what is proposed for Sheriffhall. However, we also have to accept that we will not be able to build our way out of congestion. Better buses, trains and improved active travel opportunities also need to be at the heart of any solution.