Representatives of the Grangemouth Transport Forum have met Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson to discuss Grangemouth transport needs – and what Grangemouth has to offer to Scotland’s economy and Scotland’s climate change strategy.
At a meeting held in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 17th June, the Minister heard presentations from Walter Inglis (Grangemouth Community Council); Kevin Collins (Falkirk Council); David Eaglesham (Road Haulage Association); Tom Curry (Direct Rail Services); Alan Burns (Forth Ports); and summary comments from Cllr Robert Spears.
The issues addressed by the meeting included local traffic and how heavy traffic could be kept away from residential areas through improved motorway access to port and industry; the link to the M8 via the A801 Avon Gorge road; and improvements in Grangemouth’s freight and passenger rail links.
Campaign for better road and rail provision
Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie, who organised the meeting, said:
“The road improvements that we are lobbying for have been agreed in principle, but must now compete for priority with other projects that have also been identified as desirable. We are therefore arguing very strongly that the improvements we seek offer benefits, locally and nationally, that far outweigh their cost. Put simply, they would be a very good investment in Scotland’s future. The rail improvements are also clearly desirable, although they depend to some extent on other developments taking place, and there are some technical issues that need to be addressed.
“The other thing that really stood out at the meeting was that the Grangemouth Transport Forum was able to put forward a very strong case because it has brought together the different interest groups, who have collaborated to look for solutions that benefit everyone. So much so that the Minister commented on the strength of the united front presented to him by the Forum.
“This was never going to be a short campaign, and that’s more true given the current global recession. The meeting with the Minister was a significant step, but it’s not the end of the story. We are going to have to maintain and build the pressure for these improvements, but I am pleased to say that we have a sound basis on which to do so.”
Presentation to Minister
Speaking on behalf of the Community Council, Walter Inglis noted that Grangemouth has a long industrial history in support of the National economy and is proud of its contribution.
“We readily acknowledge the potential environmental benefits for Scotland but want to ensure that the Community of Grangemouth does not suffer from increased noise and air pollution, to meet a national aspiration. We broadly welcome the economic benefit that development could bring to the community but want to ensure that the growth will be delivered in a sustainable way.”
Falkirk Council Transport Planning Coordinator Kevin Collins addressed Grangemouth’s role in the national plans, and the current difficulties that needed to be addressed.
“The Grangemouth Freight Hub needs improvements in road and rail infrastructure to support Grangemouth’s role as Scotland’s largest container port and major freight distribution centre. We need improved railhead access within the port and electrification of the rail link through Falkirk Grahamston; better connections to the M9 motorway; a better link to the south; and improvements to the local road network including separation of community and dock traffic.
“This is acknowledged in the Strategic Transport Projects Review, where project 20 includes upgrades to M9 junction 6, upgrading of the A801 between Grangemouth and the M8, and improved rail access to provide capacity enhancements at and around Grangemouth junction.”
Speaking on behalf of local hauliers, David Eaglesham said that “the RHA welcomed the constructive meeting with Stewart Stevenson. The Association is in complete agreement with the priorities of the Forum – its now time for the Scottish Government to play their part and deliver the funding”
The issue of a rail station was addressed by Tom Curry. He compared Grangemouth to Alloa, noting that with a similar population and lower costs, a station in Grangemouth was likely to be good value for money.
“I believe there is room for passenger services to Grangemouth. If electrification were to be put in place, then we would also be to run freight services direct to continent without a loco change. Tying together these and other projects will give wider benefits, and upgrading the rail facility in the port could see tens of thousands of road movements taken off local and national roads.”
Alan Burns of Forth Ports reminded the Minister that Grangemouth was the main artery for Scottish imports and exports, handling approximately 27% of Scotland’s GDP, and that Grangemouth had a lot to offer to strengthening Scotland’s economy through sustainable connections.
Grangemouth was a “future proofed solution to Scotland’s needs. We can reduce inland transport distances, remove traffic bottlenecks, be a major catalyst for new distribution developments, and create new jobs – and not least, the improvements we seek would allow us to become a better neighbour to Grangemouth residents”.
Summing up, Councillor Robert Spears emphasised the importance of people working together for a common goal.
“It augurs well for the project when everybody is on board. I am asking the Government to get on board too. This work needs to be undertaken sooner rather than later – if the economy is to grow, we need to get things moving with all possible haste.”