Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie called for urgent action on the transport infrastructure of Grangemouth and the surrounding area, including the Avon Gorge.
Speaking in parliament debate on the Strategic Transport Projects Review, published as the debate began she outlined the case for improved road and rail links to Grangemouth as a national priority. The Review was followed on Friday by the publication of the National Planning Framework 2, the draft of which had recognised the important role of Grangemouth as an intermodal freight hub.
The review (see http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/projects/strategic-transport-projects-review) identifies 29 projects across Scotland, which will now be prioritised for expenditure from 2012 onwards.
PROJECT 20 is “Grangemouth Road and Rail Access Upgrades” with the stated aim “To improve rail access to Grangemouth port and the freight hub and road access to and from the motorway network. On the roads, the Grangemouth project will involve an upgrade to Junction 6 on the M9 and the A801 between Grangemouth and the M8. On the rail, it would see electrification of the railway between Coatbridge and Grangemouth, track modifications to improve access from the west and east and an increased loading gauge to allow larger containers to be carried by train. This project will help serve existing and developing industrial and distribution facilities along the M8.” The cost estimate is £100 million – £250 million.
Cathy said “The Grangemouth Transport has been campaigning to get this project onto the agenda, and now we will be campaigning to ensure it is high on the agenda. Grangemouth is crucial to the Scottish economy and the Scottish environment, but will not fulfil its potential unless these improvements are prioritised. We also want to ensure that this is done to the benefit of local people, including reducing the impact of freight traffic on residential areas and improving public transport and routes for cyclists and pedestrians.
Cathy began her speech by declaring an interest …
Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Lab): I declare an interest. I am a Portonian-someone who has lived all their life in Grangemouth-so it is unsurprising that I will start with the issues in Grangemouth and the local campaigns there. In my constituency, it is widely understood that the distance that freight travels by road needs to be reduced and that more freight needs to be transported by sea and by rail. That makes sense for all sorts of reasons-social, economic and environmental. A few differences of emphasis might exist, but almost everybody agrees with the core argument.
Likewise, consensus is at the heart of how we achieve that. We need to make it easier to transfer freight from one mode to another, so Grangemouth has an intermodal hub, where road, rail and shipping meet. The national planning framework recognises that. The Grangemouth freight hub is one of the nine national developments that are listed in NPF 2. So far, so good.
The people of Grangemouth understand why taking traffic away from other people’s roads is a good idea, but they see problems as their roads become busier. Falkirk Council welcomes the jobs and the boost to the local economy, but it is concerned that local infrastructure could be overwhelmed. Businesses large and small-not least local hauliers-welcome the development of a freight hub, but they are afraid of bottlenecks that will undermine development.
Local government, businesses and the community are all worried about the deterioration of the environment in Grangemouth and surrounding areas. We know that the freight hub will benefit the economy and the environment of Scotland as a whole, but we want to ensure that it provides benefits across the board.
Last year, following an approach by Grangemouth community council, I helped to set up the Grangemouth transport forum, which encompasses all those I have mentioned thus far, and many others including Forth Ports, freight transport companies and hauliers, trade unions, the police, Ineos, SESTRANS and Scottish Enterprise. The forum has discussed the issues; we have worked together to present them to Parliament, the Government and transport agencies. I thank everyone who became involved for working together on the basis of common ground and beliefs.
We believe that a solution can be found that will maximise the potential for the growth of Grangemouth as a freight hub without asking local people and the environment to pay the price of improving the economy and business environment in Scotland. The solution involves making infrastructure changes including to Grangemouth, the M9 and the Avon gorge crossing on the A801. Of course, such a solution will require national funding. We need to recognise that there should be no half measures and no quick fixes.
Given that the Grangemouth hub lies at the heart of the sustainable development of freight transport in Scotland, any solution must not affect that sustainability. Many people in Grangemouth will be interested in and appreciate the importance of the documents that the Government has released this afternoon. I look forward to future discussions that the minister will have with my constituents. As other members have said, we cannot debate the documents in full this afternoon. I look forward to putting them to good use as Christmas bedtime reading. I hope that members enjoy the Christmas recess.
Thus far, I have spoken from the perspective of my constituency, which dovetails with the perspective of the best interests of Scotland as a whole. As a member of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, I will consider the Government’s projects and judge them on whether they are good for Scotland, communities, the economy and-more important-the environment. I will ask whether we are focusing on big projects to the detriment of issues such as improvements in public transport and the provision of safe and convenient routes for cyclists and pedestrians.
Much as we cannot afford to rush things through without thorough consideration, we cannot afford to delay much-needed improvements without good cause. At the same time that we are considering the nitty-gritty of Scottish transport appraisal guidance and planning objectives, criteria and policy directives, we must maintain a wider perspective. In addition to asking whether a solution is the best for the next decade, we must ask where that solution will lead, whether it is truly sustainable in a low-carbon economy and how we can tell that for sure when we are still guessing what that means.
In this afternoon’s debate, we can only scratch the surface. However, when we get the detail, we can look more fully at the risks and potential. Over the coming months, there will be lots of digging to be done and discussion to be had. I look forward to that. I hope that people in my community and constituency, and the whole of Scotland, will benefit and that we can move this forward.