Regional Transport Infrastructure — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:33 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 3:33 pm, 5th March 2019

Thank you, Ms Ryan. To compress the municipal transport system of the entire city of Glasgow into that time will be quite a challenge.

As a cautionary tale for some of those embarking on new devolution projects and city region planning, let me say that it is important to get the balance right because it involves devolving not just financial decision making, but the proper integrated planning of transport policy. Consider the history of municipal transport development in Glasgow. We started 40 years ago with the best urban integrated transport system in the UK, but we now have one of the worst and most fragmented. Why did that happen? Municipal transport structures and planning in Glasgow have been fragmented, partly because of privatisation—including of the municipal bus system and the railways—but also because strategic and regional planning powers were inadvertently taken away by devolution, and such issues became merged with the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. Indicative regional planning of the transport system has failed miserably over the past 30 years or so, and we need a much more robust and integrated way of doing things.

When considering how to create a devolved regional structure, we need the opportunity to rebalance productivity and investment in our city regions. Those are the things that will change our economic promise across the country, driven by our major city regions. Those are the issues we must address, and perhaps Glasgow can stand as an example. We must redouble our efforts to improve the city’s regional planning and transport infrastructure. There has been no major railway expansion in the urban metro railway system over the past 20 years, and there are still no efforts to address that major issue. Bus regulation has not been achieved, and there is a major issue of car dependency, particularly in some of the poorest communities in the UK and Glasgow, where people do not have the average access to car ownership. That is creating a severe problem of social dislocation.

If we invest properly in our city regions, with the proper integrated planning powers associated with that, we will be in a much better position than we are currently. We must reverse the clock and relearn some of the old lessons.