Question S5O-04929: Patrick Harvie, Glasgow, Scottish Green Party
To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to redirect investment from unsustainable modes of transport and into modes that are considered more sustainable, including rail infrastructure.
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity: We are investing more than £1 billion in bus priority and active travel infrastructure. We provide more than £1 billion every year to support public transport provision and, over the course of the pandemic, we have committed £692 million of additional support.
Since 2007, we have invested more than £9 billion in rail infrastructure, and we continue to invest record levels in this Control Period, including funding to support our commitment to decarbonise the network by 2035. Decisions on future transport investment will be made through the second Strategic Transport Projects Review and will prioritise investment in line with the sustainable investment hierarchy.
Patrick Harvie: The cabinet secretary might have seen the "Rail For All" report, which the Scottish Greens published recently. Among many other recommendations, the report calls for a streamlining of the Scottish transport appraisal guidance - STAG - process, which is extremely complex, time consuming and costly, and which places a barrier to rail development. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the process needs to be shortened and aligned with the overarching aim of rapidly delivering low-carbon transport infrastructure, and that the change should begin immediately?
Michael Matheson: I am aware of the report to which Mr Harvie refers, which makes a number of interesting suggestions that will be taken into account as we make decisions through STPR2. In our national transport strategy, which was published just last year, we set out a clear commitment to review the STAG process. I am conscious that there are some issues relating to the length of time that it takes and the costs that are associated with it. For that reason, we have already committed to carrying out a review over the next couple of years.
Mr Harvie will recognise that it is extremely important that, before we undertake any major transport investment, we have an assurance that it will deliver the intentions behind the scheme. That is why the STAG system is important. However, I recognise the need to reform it, which is why we have committed to doing so.
Question S5O-04935: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Conservative
To ask the Scottish Government when the Edinburgh to Perth railway line will be upgraded.
Michael Matheson: Record levels of investment continue to be made on the rail network in the current Control Period, including to the routes linking Edinburgh to Perth. Improvements include electrification from Edinburgh to Dunblane, the new Blackford freight terminal and the new high-quality Inter7City service.
Scottish ministers are committed to ensuring that the railway meets future growth needs for passengers and freight. For example, work to implement the Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan includes consideration of electrification options for the routes to Perth.
Liz Smith: I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer, but he knows that, in relation to the green recovery and addressing climate change, the Scottish Government's own experts have advised that infrastructure development and greener transport are essential. He also knows that the timescale for a journey between Perth and Edinburgh is exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. What priority is the Government placing on the upgrade? What is the exact timescale for any improvements that will be made?
Michael Matheson: The member should be aware that we are investing record amounts into our railway during Control Period 6, and that we are the first part of the United Kingdom to commit to decarbonising our rail network by 2035. That will involve significant investment not only in electrification but in new zero-carbon-emitting rolling stock. All that investment is a significant recognition of the importance that rail has in helping to achieve our climate change objectives.
Regarding the line between Perth and Edinburgh, as I mentioned we have already electrified the line to Dunblane, and we are considering the potential for further electrification, which delivers faster services and increases capacity on the route network. Alongside that, we are looking at improving the existing signalling system and the timetable; again, that would help to improve journey times between Edinburgh and Perth.
FoFNL wrote to Michael Matheson in November to request that two incorrect answers given by him in March and April 2020 be corrected in the record. On 2 March we received a gracious letter from Mr Matheson confirming that the requested changes had been made, concluding with "In closing, may I thank you for bringing this matter to my attention and for the continuing and much appreciated support of the FoFNL to Scotland's Railway."
We believe that an accurate record is vital as parliamentary answers may well be referred to in future discussions.
The changes made are as follows:
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.
Answer changed to:
The Scottish Government has invested £57 million on major projects on the Highland Mainline over the last 5 years. This investment will contribute to our aspiration of a ten minute average journey time reduction between Inverness and the Central Belt.
The 10 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).
Answer changed to:
Our aspiration is for an average 10 minute journey time improvement on the Highland Mainline delivered through a combination of track enhancement, operational improvements and the delivery and introduction into service of all 26 refurbished High Speed Trains (HSTs).