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25 February 2010

(S3O-9629) A92 Road Orders (Public Local Inquiry)

6. Iain Smith (North East Fife) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive when it received the report of the public local inquiry on the proposed A92 road orders in relation to the A92 east of Newport-on-Tay in Fife, and when it expects to announce its decision. (S3O-9629)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The report of the PLI into the proposals for the A92 east of Newport-on-Tay in Fife was received on 28 July. As I indicated to Mr Smith in a written parliamentary answer, the matter is still under very active consideration and I will announce my decision as soon as possible.

Iain Smith: The target date for the decision, according to the website of the directorate for planning and environmental appeals, was last August. We are now in February—some seven months since the Government received the report. Does the minister really think that that is acceptable?

There have been a number of accidents at that location since the inquiry report, including one last week which, fortunately, did not result in any serious injuries. Local people think that speeding is the main concern on the road: speeding is clearly not a problem within the department.

Stewart Stevenson: The member will be aware that some of the safety response related to closing central reservation gaps. We have tried, through the promotion of a traffic regulation order, to make the trunk road safer for all users, but that has prompted a significant number of objections. We have to respect the rights of objectors, but we are on the brink of making an appropriate decision.

Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): The minister will be aware that I have raised other concerns with him about the A92, particularly in relation to the section at the Balfarg junction in Glenrothes and the upgrading of the Parbroath junction. Will he comment on those in relation to the proposed A92 road orders?

Stewart Stevenson: I really do not think that I have anything more to add to what I have said previously on the matter. I indicated that I understood the issues at both the junctions. We are continuing actively to consider them.

(S3O-9584) Major Road Projects

3. Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what legal protection is available to local residents during major road projects. (S3O-9584)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

There are various forms of legal protection available to cover local residents dependent on the particular circumstances.

Cathie Craigie: Does the minister agree that residents should not expect to be kept up until 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock in the morning by noisy road works? What action will he take to ensure that contractors comply with permits that are issued by local authorities?

Does the minister also agree that traffic management on the A80 is not working for residents or road users? I have written to him on those important matters, but will he agree to meet me as a matter of urgency to discuss them?

Stewart Stevenson: I am always happy to meet members to discuss such matters, which affect constituents. If Cathie Craigie contacts my office, I will of course ensure that I meet her.

We are in the process of constructing noise barriers and bunds. We have not completed that process, but we have seen significant improvement through the work that has been undertaken so far.

On complaints about night-time working, I accept that there appear to have been such activities. For the moment, the work on the sites of greatest concern has moved elsewhere. The local authority has not yet taken enforcement action—it is for it to do so. However, we have ensured that we have in place a proper process by which we can contact contractors out of hours. Some of the difficulties that might have arisen in the past when complaints have been made have been around establishing, in a timely fashion, the facts of the matter and intervening immediately, as appropriate. I hope that that gives immediate comfort to the member, although I am happy to meet and to discuss the matter further.

Jamie Hepburn (Central Scotland) (SNP): What responsibilities do contractors for road projects, such as HMC at the A80, have to communicate local residents' rights to them, including their legal protection rights?

Stewart Stevenson: That is not a direct obligation on contractors. In working up the details of the project, Transport Scotland has sought to engage with the local communities to the extent that it can. Part of that process certainly should have been to answer questions on legal rights. Of course, it would not really be for the construction company or Transport Scotland directly to provide legal advice—we are not really in a position to do that. However, if there are shortcomings and members wish to put further matters to me, I will of course respond in the usual way.

(S3O-9571) A82 and A83 (Improvements)

2. Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to improve the A82 and A83. (S3O-9571)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

We are continuing to improve and maintain both the A82 and the A83. On the A83, we plan to carry out measures to improve safety on the route and undertake structural maintenance works to improve the condition of the road, while on the A82, we are taking forward schemes including major projects at Crianlarich and Pulpit Rock.

In the longer term, the strategic transport projects review has recommended an upgrade of the A82 route to reduce accident severity and cut journey times. That review also recommended a series of route-management initiatives for the A83 to maintain the physical condition and safety standards of the route.

Jamie McGrigor: The minister has not given time schedules for that work. On the A82, will the minister give a firm and detailed time commitment on the road widening, climbing lanes and junction improvements that are planned for between Tarbet and Fort William?

On the A83, what guarantees can the minister give that the current work that is being undertaken at the Rest and be thankful will prevent a repeat of the closures of that key trunk artery road, which proved to be so damaging to the Argyll economy? Specifically, what action will he take to remedy the appalling physical condition of stretches of the A83 near Tarbet that my constituents feel make it currently very dangerous to drive on?

Stewart Stevenson: Jamie McGrigor has asked a complex set of questions, so I will write to him to ensure that I address fully all his points. However, I record at this stage that in relation to the work on the A82 to the south of Fort William, we held a public information exercise to discuss the public effects of the works. It has been agreed that the works will commence after Easter on 11 April and will last for 14 nights. The works will finish before the Scottish six days trial world championships motorcycle event.

In relation to the Rest and be thankful, we intend to have in place by the end of spring 2010 a £750,000 permanent solution to the problem at that part of the hill. The improvement scheme will involve, among other things, a new culvert under the road, strengthening of the embankment below the road and installation of new drainage above and below the road. I will answer the member's questions more fully when I write to him.

Dave Thompson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): The Inverness bypass stakeholder group that was set up by the minister and Highland Council is considering connecting the A96 and the A9 to the A82. Will the minister outline the timetable to which the group is working and the contribution that the Government might be able to make to the cost of the project?

Stewart Stevenson: We now have a very effective partnership with Highland Council. There have been a substantial number of meetings involving officials. I had a meeting by audioconference with Dr Michael Foxley in recent weeks—we were very much of one mind. Although responsibility for the A82 to A9 connection lies with the council and responsibility for the A9 and A96 connection lies with the Government, we are working together to ensure that there are economies of scale and that the designs fit each other.

It is clear that some of the benefits of the council's work will accrue to the trunk-road network. At the appropriate time, we will discuss the appropriate respective responsibilities for financing that part of the road improvements.

My next meeting with Dr Foxley is planned for May. We are making the progress that we hoped we would make and we are delivering for the people of Inverness and the surrounding areas in a way that has not happened in the past.

(S3O-9663) Strathclyde Partnership for Transport

1. Sandra White (Glasgow) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether recently reported concerns regarding the use of public funds by members of Strathclyde partnership for transport had previously been brought to the attention of Audit Scotland. (S3O-9663)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

Audit Scotland is a statutory body that is independent of the Scottish Government, and which provides services to the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission. The commission is responsible for appointing the external auditors of local authorities in Scotland, including Strathclyde partnership for transport. Such questions should be addressed directly to the commission or to Audit Scotland.

Sandra White: Will the minister seek Audit Scotland's views on extending its investigation into the governance arrangements of SPT, with a view to achieving party-political parity, given the recent revelations that Labour councillors replaced Labour councillors as chair and vice-chair of SPT without the board's meeting to discuss the matter?

Stewart Stevenson: As we know, Councillor Graeme Hendry has been pursuing that subject diligently. I congratulate him on his efforts. It is clear from what has emerged that a greater sense of balance in the running of SPT would likely benefit all political parties and people in Strathclyde. However, at the end of the day, it is a matter for the authorities that make up SPT and not for ministerial direction. We will watch with interest the decisions that are made about the future leadership of SPT.

11 February 2010

(S3O-9491) Dangerous and Antisocial Parking

6. Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what action it has taken to address dangerous and antisocial parking since May 2007. (S3O-9491)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

Enforcement of parking restrictions that are imposed by local authorities under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 is a matter for the police or, where decriminalised parking enforcement has been introduced, for parking attendants who are employed by or under contract to the local authority.

Cathy Peattie: The minister will agree that, in fact, that is not working. Pavement parking creates a risk for children, parents with buggies and people with disabilities who have wheelchairs or scooters. Will he consider how the measures can be strengthened and perhaps how local authorities can introduce byelaws to end pavement parking?

Stewart Stevenson: Local authorities have powers to promote traffic regulation orders under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. That allows them to cover wide areas and hotspots where such unhelpful and unsocial parking takes place. I encourage them to do so. My officials will be happy to advise, if that is of assistance.

4 February 2010

(S3O-9408) Public Service Vehicles (Shared Fuel Depots and Management Systems)

3. Brian Adam (Aberdeen North) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will consider encouraging users of public service vehicles to share fuel depots and fuel management systems to reduce costs and spills as part of its approach to achieving climate change targets and efficiency savings. (S3O-9408)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The Scottish Government welcomes and encourages any collaboration and shared services ventures that are undertaken across the public sector, including the use of shared depots and collaborative fuel procurement contracts by public service vehicle owners.

Brian Adam: The minister might well be aware of one public sector organisation that by taking such an approach has managed to recover its capital costs in one year. Will he take every possible step to encourage the police, fire and ambulance services to adopt that approach, which can result in significant savings and improvements not only to the environment but to safety?

Stewart Stevenson: The member makes a very good point. I understand that one fire service has made what appear to be very substantial savings through taking a new approach, and I will raise the matter in the meetings that I have with public sector bodies.

With regard to the environment, road safety will be improved if the number of diesel spills is reduced, and I will take a close interest in any technology, form of collaboration or approach to depot sharing that helps to address that issue.

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