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9 December 2010

(S3O-12243) A977 (Safety)

10. Elizabeth Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what progress has been made to improve road safety on the A977. (S3O-12243)

I note that the A977 does not intersect with the roads that have previously been mentioned.

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

The A977 is primarily a local road and is, therefore, the responsibility of those local authorities through whose area the route runs.

Elizabeth Smith: The minister will be aware that the A977 has experienced a significant increase in traffic—particularly in heavy goods vehicles—since the opening of the new Clackmannanshire bridge. What mitigation measures are being put in place to deal with the increase in volume of that heavy traffic and to limit its speed, so that there is improved road safety for the smaller communities on that route?

Stewart Stevenson: The previous transport minister, Tavish Scott, offered a contribution of £250,000 towards a package of works comprising a series of improvements to public transport, pedestrian and cycle facilities and signalised crossings, which were, at that time, expected to cost £1 million. It was made clear that that was the maximum contribution that the then Executive would make. It was noted that the council was being provided with substantially increased road funding and that funds were also then being provided to the regional transport partnerships.

(S3O-12282) A76 (Action Plan)

7. Elaine Murray (Dumfries) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what consideration it will give to the A76 five-point action plan that was launched in November 2010. (S3O-12282)

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

In the past three years, we have invested more than £11 million in managing and maintaining and improving safety on the A76 trunk road. That included spending £5 million on the major upgrading of the section at Glenarlie, which was completed in December 2008. Transport Scotland will work with the A76 corridor partnership on the proposals that are identified in the action plan, which are consistent with the Government's aims for the A76. Those aims were set out in the strategic transport projects review, which was published in November 2008.

Elaine Murray: The minister is referring to the former action plan. If there are significant changes in capital spend and projects are not going ahead, there is now an opportunity to review. Upgrades to the A76 are necessary to improve the safety of that trunk road and for the development of the local economy. Campaigners were very disappointed when the minister cancelled the improvement to the Ellisland stretch, on which many accidents have already happened. Will the minister meet representatives of Dumfries and Galloway Council and East Ayrshire Council who have worked hard on the project over many years—possibly on site so that he can see the problems on the road—to discuss how the new action plan can be progressed?

Stewart Stevenson: I always believe that working with local interests is far and away the best way in which to make progress on such issues. A review of the costs and benefits of the Ellisland scheme showed that it would not provide value for money. We now propose to investigate alternative improvement options for that section of the A76 that will deliver value for money.

Alasdair Morgan (South of Scotland) (SNP): I commend the plan to the minister. It is not just an unrealistic wish list, which is often what is produced in such cases; it is a modest and well-thought-out plan as to how the key problems on that important route should be addressed. I urge the minister to give it full consideration when capital becomes available.

Stewart Stevenson: We have worked up a range of plans across Scotland that await capital allocation. In response to Dr Murray, I said that I would be happy to meet local interests. If we can work up something that is affordable and which addresses the issues at Ellisland, we will be happy to see whether capital can be made available.

John Scott (Ayr) (Con): As the minister is aware, the delivery of vital safety works on the A77 at Bogend toll in my constituency—the A77, of course, intersects with the A76 at Kilmarnock—has been delayed for many years and the works are now scheduled to be completed during 2011-12. Can the minister provide an update on that project and give an assurance that every step possible is being taken to meet that completion date? If possible, will he give an estimate of when construction work will begin?

The Presiding Officer: That is about as tenuous as it gets.

Stewart Stevenson: Following the innovative approach to parliamentary questioning that has been taken by our friend, Mr Scott, I am happy to respond that I am pleased that we have those works in our programme. I will write to him with further information on that subject, which will come to hand shortly.

Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Clearly, this is A76 day.

A recent study demonstrated that signalling alone will not solve the congestion on the Bellfield interchange, which links the A76 with the A77 and the A71, which is a major access road for Kilmarnock. Will the minister ensure that Transport Scotland works with East Ayrshire Council to address that issue, which is a real constraint on local development and on the economy of Kilmarnock and Loudon?

Stewart Stevenson: A traffic simulation study has been undertaken in consultation with East Ayrshire Council and Strathclyde Police, and Transport Scotland has determined that there is no potential for directly increasing the capacity of the Bellfield interchange, within the existing infrastructure. Given the constraints of the existing footprint at Bellfield, a significant infrastructure upgrade will be required.

In September, we wrote to East Ayrshire Council recommending that the impact of future developments to be determined offered an opportunity to seek from developers a contribution towards upgrading the infrastructure. We will continue to work with East Ayrshire Council to bring improvements to the interchange.

George Foulkes (Lothians) (Lab): As a regular visitor to Ayrshire, I ask when the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change expects the New Cumnock bypass to be given the go-ahead. Also, will he confirm whether the officials who are advising him on the matter are the same ones who advised him on Sunday evening?

Stewart Stevenson: I prefer to rely on my roads officials rather than, perhaps, the difficult situations that we had on Sunday.

I am sure that it is always a pleasure for the member to visit Ayrshire, just as it is for us to have him there rather than here. We are, of course, keeping the situation at Cumnock under review.

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