The Scottish Government continues to invest heavily in transport infrastructure across the Central Scotland region. Recent and on-going commitments include the completion of the £500 million M8-M73-M74 motorway improvements project, the Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement programme on the rail network, the Shotts electrification project, the refurbishment of the Kincardine bridge and continued investment in the canal network and in active travel infrastructure through our community links and community links plus programmes.
The Twechar bridge over the Forth and Clyde canal is now out of commission, which means that my constituents who live in the Auchinstarry marina can no longer travel west.
The Twechar bridge might not be as grand as the Falkirk wheel, but it serves exactly the same purpose of opening the canal network to travel. If the Falkirk wheel broke down, we would expect to see immediate action. My constituents expect the Twechar bridge to be repaired and the central Scotland canal network, which successive Governments have committed millions of pounds to, to reopen permanently.
Mark Griffin has raised an important issue. I should make a couple of points. The first—perhaps it is obvious, but it is worth reiterating—is that the reason for the closure of the Twechar bridge is safety, which must be paramount. Where there are problems or failures of assets, we cannot risk people’s lives, which is why we have taken the action that we have taken.
The Government increased the budget for Scottish canals in the most recent budget. At the moment, there are restricted hours of operation for the Bonnybridge and Twechar bridges. I should say that the last time the Twechar bridge was open, only about half a dozen people took advantage of that.
To give Mark Griffin some reassurance, I can say that Scottish Canals is continuing work to identify potential solutions in order to restore full operation of the Twechar bridge. If he has not met representatives of Scottish Canals recently, I will ensure that we facilitate that meeting.
It is, of course, worth saying that the overwhelming majority of users of the canal are on foot and cycling, using active travel, which will continue to be the case. Notwithstanding that, I will ensure that Mark Griffin is kept up to date.