AS we approach the final stages of the Scottish Government's budget, we are concerned that John Swinney appears determined to slash by a third the already modest spending on walking and cycling.
We presented evidence to parliament's Transport Committee showing the importance of active travel, and they endorsed our views in their report to the Finance Committee. However, Mr Swinney is determined to spend billions on building roads that will not make Scotland's economy grow, at the expense of much less expensive local projects whose delivery would employ many more people per pound spent.
New calculations show that spending on active travel is being cut by 32 %, falling from an already meagre 1.03% of transport spending to just 0.67%. This makes a mockery of the Scottish Government's manifesto promise to increase the proportion of the transport budget invested in sustainable and active travel.
More concerning is that the budget proposes a 15% increase for trunk roads, partly on grounds of economic improvement. It is almost impossible to find any clear empirical evidence that investment in transport infrastructure increases wider economic growth or improves the competitiveness or overall performance of the economy. Instead, there is a lot of evidence that this investment simply moves economic activity from one place to another. In terms of the jobs created directly in actually building new transport infrastructure, a body of published research shows that smaller and more local projects – such as pedestrianisation, or cycling schemes –generate more jobs per pound spent, and that more of these jobs are local, because smaller projects are more labour-intensive and are more easily carried out by local companies.
The consistent message that emerges from the evidence on transport investment is that large projects are the wrong priority focus, if we are serious about the economy and delivering economic development benefits quickly. We should seek to boost the number of small projects, such as investment in active travel, first. It is imperative that, at a minimum, Mr Swinney introduces a budget line that restores spending on sustainable transport to the level at which it has stood until now.
Professor of Transport and Mobility Management, Edinburgh Napier University,
Senior Lecturer, The Centre for Transport Research, University of Aberdeen.
THE plans for the new high-speed railway (HS2) from London to Birmingham and later to Manchester and Leeds seem to show a very long time between work starting and line completion ("MP's bid to allay Scots fears on high-speed rail link", The Herald, January 10). One of France's most recent LGVs (equivalent to our HS1 and 2) from just east of Paris to Strasbourg is being constructed on a much shorter time scale. Phase 1, 300 km (190 miles) was started in 2002 and completed and open to TGV train services in 2007 and phase 2, 106 km (62 miles) started in 2009 and will be completed by late 2013/ early 2014. Trains will travel at up to 300 km/hour (220 mph).
How can the UK Government justify such a prolonged construction period as that announced? Our railway modernisation must be the laughing stock of the major European railway systems: the French, Germans, Italians and Spanish must look on our slow approach to modern, high-speed railway construction with absolute amazement.
The HS2 line is only going to benefit the southern half of Great Britain. The distance served will be very much smaller than those of most European LGVs. Compare that with the much greater nationwide coverage of the systems of mainland Europe. Once again our UK Government appears to be out of step with the rest of Europe.
23 Cawdor Crescent, Bishopton.
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