South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has used a speech in the Scottish Parliament to highlight the growing anger that the south west has become the forgotten region when it comes to investment in infrastructure.
The local MSP called for the Scottish Government to commit to creating an integrated transport strategy for the south west that covers roads, rail and active travel. He wants the strategy to include:
· investment to improve local roads such as the A75 and A77, and the A7 and A76
· better rail links to Cairnryan ferry terminal and between Dumfries and Lockerbie
· the re-opening of railway stations at Eastriggs, Thornhill and Beattock
· more frequent rail services to the central belt
· bus times to railway stations that link up with train times
· a strategic active travel network in the south-west
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament during a debate on South West Scotland’s transport infrastructure on Wednesday (October 7), Colin Smyth said: “There is a real feeling, and a growing anger, that the south-west is the forgotten region of Scotland when it comes to investment in infrastructure.
“It is no wonder—of the £10.5 billion that has been spent by the Scottish Government on road upgrades since 2008, just £70 million has been invested in the south-west.
“There is now a genuine worry that the emphasis in the Government’s national transport strategy and draft infrastructure plan on repurposing what we have—after the Government has committed to spending £3 billion on dualling the A9 in the north but not a penny more on roads in the south-west—will mean that the region will lose out once again.
“If it does, not only will we continue with substandard infrastructure, but the already fragile local economy will be weakened. It is not just an issue about roads or other forms of transport infrastructure; it is fundamentally an issue about the economy.”
Colin Smyth also highlighted the need for proper investment in trunk roads such as the A7, A76, A75 and A77, which are of crucial strategic importance not only to the south-west of Scotland but to all of Scotland, the north of England and Northern Ireland.
He added: “Whether it is better rail links to Cairnryan, a rail link between the Glasgow south-western line in Dumfries and the west coast main line at Lockerbie, the reopening of railway stations at Eastriggs, Thornhill and Beattock, or just smaller changes such as more frequent rail services to the central belt and buses that link up with train times, for the south-west economy, we badly need an integrated transport strategy that covers roads, rail and active travel.
“Political leadership from the Government will be required to make it happen, but, so far, the omens are not good.”