SCOTLAND'S long-promised motorway link with England and vital European
markets could be delayed indefinitely following the Department of
Transport's decision to downgrade completion of the final six-mile
Loading article content
section of the M6 -- just over the Border -- to a ''long-term'' project.
The CBI in Scotland and the RAC were dismayed that the strategic road
connection north of Carlisle was a victim of yesterday's Government
announcement of a drastic slowing down of its #2000m a year
CBI Scotland's director, Mr Lex Gold, described the decision to reduce
the project from grade one to grade three status as ''a disgrace and
breach of commitments'' made by the then Scottish Secretary Malcolm
Rifkind during the 1987 General Election campaign.
He said: ''Just as the end of the Scottish upgrading of the A74 to
motorway status is in sight, with 80% of the 70-mile route between
Glasgow and the Border complete or underway, the ship is being spoiled
for a ha'penny worth of tar.''
Mr Gold said that if the Cumbrian scheme between Carlisle and
Guardsmill was sacrificed, it would jeopardise the concept of
transforming an upgraded A74 into the M6 running from Glasgow to near
He added: ''We are very disappointed indeed by this part of the
programme revision. This will mean that for now and many years, road
users will face a six-mile dual carriageway between an excellent
Scottish motorway and before the road widens for the existing M6.''
This was unacceptable to the CBI in Scotland and the business
community as a whole, frustrating the plan to have a three-lane link
between central Scotland and increasingly important European markets,
via the Channel Tunnel.
Mr Gold added: ''We will be taking this matter up with the Government
and seeking reinstatement of what could be a glaring missing link with
Scotland's communications and transport infrastructure.''
RAC Scotland's spokesman, Sue Nicholson, described the decision as
''crazy and hopefully an aberration''. She argued that when the road was
eventually completed, its cost would be far higher than existing
The RAC official said: ''This is another case of being penny wise and
pound foolish. I doubt if it has anything to do with being sensitive to
green issues. It is part of the Exchequer's broad brush approach, an
administrative decision which overlooks strategic and national Scottish
Both the RAC and AA are concerned that traffic funnelling north and
south from modern motorway systems into a six-mile deregulated dual
carriageway is a recipe for potential road safety hazards.
Completing the Glasgow-Carlisle motorway link was a central part of
the Tories' 1987 election platform in Scotland and rapid progress with
creating a motorway connection with England has been sustained at almost
break-neck pace, north of the Border.
The irony that a Department of Transport strategy is bound to
embarrass both Scottish Secretary Ian Lang and Roads Minister Lord James
Douglas-Hamilton. They will not escape Tory supporters and Opposition
Meanwhile, the Scottish Office's list of road building priorities
should be unveiled within two weeks with politicians, the Scottish
business community, and transport analysts keen to discover if funding
for the M74-M8 Clydeside link is put at risk. It is considered by CBI
Scotland as a top priority and ripe for ''shadow tolling'' with the
Exchequer paying the contractor on the basis of traffic volume.
It is believed that Transport Secretary John MacGregor warned his
Scottish Office colleagues about the downgrading of the English part of
the A74 motorway project during a visit to Scotland last Friday.
Meanwhile, the upgrading to dual carriageway of the Perth to Aberdeen
road, first promised by the Government 15 years ago at the height of the
oil boom, was completed yesterday with the opening of the four-mile
The next stage in the dualling of the A1 south of Edinburgh, on the
7.5-mile stretch from Bankton roundabout to Haddington was approved