Question S5W-32992: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Answered: 17/11/20
To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5O-04661 by Mairi Gougeon on 7 October 2020 (Official Report, c. 6), what discussions it has had with the UK Government regarding assisting and promoting the transport of perishable goods by Rail Freight to the continental market.
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity: The Scottish Government has discussed the promotion of rail freight with the UK Government, including arrangements for the continuation of channel tunnel freight trains after Brexit, and the importance of electrification of rail links to ports in England to facilitate the efficient and competitive movement of international freight to and from Scotland by rail.
Question S5W-32884: Kenneth Gibson, Cunninghame North, SNP, Answered: 23/11/20
To ask the Scottish Government whether it is considering proposals such as a period of (a) free bus journeys for all, (b) off-peak rail travel all day and (c) free train travel at weekends to encourage people back into the habit of using transport services.
Michael Matheson: Supporting the resurgence of a vibrant public transport network will be a vital step in the COVID recovery. While physical distancing remains in place capacity will continue to be restricted, and the higher Tiers of the Strategic Framework discourage unnecessary use of public transport. Once the pandemic has passed, encouraging a return to public transport will be a key component of the economic recovery, and a key way to help achieve climate change targets. Over the coming months we will be exploring a range of options for the future of all modes of public transport.
Question S5O-04842: Neil Findlay, Lothian, Scottish Labour:
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is regarding free bus travel for all.
Michael Matheson: The Scottish Government will continue to provide free bus travel for older and eligible disabled people through the national concessionary travel scheme. We will also extend free bus travel to all young people aged under 19 who are resident in Scotland as soon as is practicable, in the coming year.
In addition, we are reviewing the options for extending public transport concessions to people who are aged under 26, including assessing the costs and benefits so that we can fully consider financial sustainability. The review will be completed by the end of this month, and findings will be published early in the new year.
Neil Findlay: The Government resisted providing free school meals until political pressure and a social crisis forced its hand. When will the Government accept that the climate crisis is such that a move to free bus travel is not only desirable, but is an absolute necessity?
Michael Matheson: Public transport plays an important part in meeting our net zero emissions commitment, as set out by Parliament in our climate change legislation. That is why we are extending free bus travel to people under 19, and why we are reviewing extension of the existing concessionary scheme for people under 26. It is important to ensure that we continue to encourage people to use public transport. I assure the member that the Government will continue to encourage people to use public transport. The concessionary scheme plays an important part in supporting that.
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Bill Kidd has a supplementary question.
Bill Kidd, Glasgow Anniesland, SNP: The cabinet secretary just mentioned that the extension of concessionary travel to under-19s has been paused, which is basically due to Covid-19. However, can he provide an update on when work on delivering that commitment will begin?
Michael Matheson: Mr Kidd is correct that some of the work around the preparations for introducing concessionary travel for under-19s was paused earlier in the year due to staff in Transport Scotland having to pivot towards dealing with Covid-19 issues. However, that work was restarted in the summer and we have just completed a consultation exercise on the planned draft orders that are associated with the concessionary travel programme. Now that that process has been completed, we are at the final stages of drafting the regulations, which I hope to introduce in Parliament early in the new year, with a view to introducing the scheme later in 2021.
Question S5W-27450: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Answered 05/03/20.
To ask the Scottish Government how much it has invested in the Highland mainline in each of the last five years.
Michael Matheson: The Scottish Government has invested £57 million on major projects on the Highland Mainline over the last 5 years to improve services and performance along the length of the route. This investment has also delivered a ten minute journey time saving between Inverness and the Central Belt.
There has not been a ten minute journey time saving, and when further questioned by Rhoda Grant, the Minister stated, "The ten minute journey time improvement on the Highland Mainline was calculated to be achieved through a combination of track enhancement and the delivery and introduction into service of all 26 refurbished High Speed Trains (HSTs)."
FoFNL has sent a written request to the Minister asking that the parliamentary record be adjusted to reflect the actual facts of this. We are concerned that the incorrect Answer inadvertently appears as a historical fact in the record. We think the original answer was a simple error; however, leaving the record uncorrected would be deliberate. We are awaiting a reply from the Scottish Government.