Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in order

Ken Macintosh argues Scotland needs to get its infrastructure in order to send out a clear message it’s a good country to do business in.

Ken Macintosh MSP (Labour, Eastwood) is a candidate for the leadership of Scottish Labour

Edinburgh Airport was put up for sale last week. Its operation is of vital importance to the Scottish economy yet its ownership is likely to pass from one unaccountable private company to another with little heed paid to our needs or wishes other than as they affect future profitability. I believe it is time for the public to take a greater interest in who owns, operates and runs so-called public transport here in Scotland.

The privatisation of our rail system is widely accepted now as one of the most ill-conceived, ineffective and impractical decisions of the Conservative administration of the 1980s. The decision to create a fragmented series of operating companies was supposedly taken to promote competition but has simply produced a frustratingly complex and expensive rail system across the UK completely lacking in transparency and accountability.


Meanwhile, we tax the paying public, pay millions of pounds in subsidies to the shareholders of private companies for the dubious privilege of paying exorbitant prices to travel on a disjointed national network.

The Scottish government set aside £300m for the ScotRail franchise in the 2011/12 budget and the annual payout will jump to over half a billion pounds by 2013/14. At the next opportunity this franchise should be taken back into public ownership to be run by a mutual or other not-for-profit operation.

Not only will that improve accountability and our ability as a country to plan public transport strategically, it would save millions either for the tax payer, the commuter or most probably both.

We should also begin to implement the integrated public transport system we have so often talked about and which is so important to a successful modern economy.

In parallel with our action on rail we should be taking steps to regulate our bus services. I am always struck by the number of people who come to see me about unhelpful changes to bus timetables or the removal of services altogether and who believe our buses are still owned by “the corporation”.

We pay millions more to support free bus travel for older people – one of the best moves a Labour administration in Scotland ever made – and further direct payments to support routes which the public want, but which the bus companies decide are not profitable enough.

At the very least we need to get a better return for our investment and more control over where and when our buses run. With an integrated system we could make progress on such simple proposals as through ticketing which has been talked about now for decades with little progress. More importantly we could provide services that meet our needs, help the economy and maybe even make a difference in helping us reach our climate change and emissions targets.

As for Scotland’s airports, they are essential for our economic competitiveness and crucial to the experience of so many visitors to our country, yet they seem to operate with little or no public accountability and with little in the way of public support.

We need to send out a clear message that Scotland is a good country to do business in, but I doubt that was what people heard when the SNP cancelled the Route Development Fund and both the Edinburgh and Glasgow airport rail links.

We need to do more to ensure Scottish public transport operates in the interests of the Scottish public. Let us have a national transport strategy that recognises and fully supports our air, sea, road and rail links. I believe the strategic interests of our country, the economic prosperity of our businesses and the public transport needs of each of us would all benefit.

See also:

The challenges facing new transport secretary Justine GreeningRichard Hebditch, October 17th 2011

Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independenceEd Jacobs, October 17th 2011

Alexander outlines harsh truths for Scottish Labour as his own seat is axedEd Jacobs, October 13th 2011

Scottish Labour needs a new Donald DewarEd Jacobs, September 26th 2011

Former Tory minister “in the pay of the Libyans” claims Labour MPEd Jacobs, September 12th 2011

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14 Responses to “Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in order”

  1. Ed Jacobs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in order http://t.co/n1RAVa4s

  2. Political Planet

    Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in order: Ken Macintosh argues Scotland needs to get its infr… http://t.co/teP6a7oz

  3. Peter Swindon

    Scotland's railways should be put under public ownership, says @KenMacintoshMSP in @theheraldpaper and @LeftFootFwd http://t.co/L026sRP5

  4. Holibags Glasgow

    Airport News: Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in order – Left Foot Forward http://t.co/oKAsunVD

  5. Holibags Edinburgh

    Airport News: Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in order – Left Foot Forward http://t.co/vP497BzJ

  6. John Park

    Scotland's railways should be put under public ownership, says @KenMacintoshMSP in @theheraldpaper and @LeftFootFwd http://t.co/L026sRP5

  7. D M Gordon

    Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in order: I believe it is time for the pu… http://t.co/HVCRuvaK #News #Scotland #UK

  8. Mark McGeoghegan

    Scotland's railways should be put under public ownership, says @KenMacintoshMSP in @theheraldpaper and @LeftFootFwd http://t.co/L026sRP5

  9. Jenny Duncan

    Scotland's railways should be put under public ownership, says @KenMacintoshMSP in @theheraldpaper and @LeftFootFwd http://t.co/L026sRP5

  10. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Ken

    You need to sharpen up your act, transport is a huge issue but you have only scratched the surface of Wee Eck’s incompetence.

    The big issue now is how will Scotland come to terms with high speed rail?

    If we are independent then we will find ourselves with a 120 mile gap between HS2 to Manchester / Liverpool and the Scottish border. So unless we want to build it ourself we are up a creek without a paddle on that front.

    As for the issues over the cost of the Scotrail subsidy, why are you so shy about the SNP’s sweetheart deal to extend the contract by 3 years with no public scrutiny as to the figures involved or the value being offered to the public?

    Next up would be the shambles of the A9 upgrade seemingly the jewel in crown of SNP transport policy and what have we got after nearly 5 years of effort? A couple of second rate overtaking lanes and a huge potential bill, £3bill in some estimates to dual the gaps in a largely modern road. It is just another example of transport projects in Scotland costing way over the odds to the extent that the country is now a global laughing stock, see the second Forth Road crossing for confirmation.

    Finally we need to aim for better more copulate solutions, the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) as currently envisaged is a cul de sac to nowhere. Better to spend the money on a high quality link between Paisley Gilmore Street rail station and the airport using appropriate technology – bus lane / cable hauled people mover / Heathrow style pods – and use the savings to build the full version of the Glasgow Crossrail scheme. Gilmore Street is the key, 16-20 trains per hour covering the whole of West Central Scotland rather a cheap knock off copy of the Heathrow Express.

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