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Major infrastructure investments recommended to improve Scotland’s transport network | New Civil Engineer

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Recommendations for major rail and road projects as well as fixed links between islands and the Scottish mainland have been featured in Transport Scotland’s Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR2).

The STPR2 will guide the Scottish Government’s transport investment programme for the next 20 years. The performance of Scotland’s strategic transport network – across walking, wheeling, cycling, bus, ferry, rail and the trunk road network – was assessed for this review. The result was 45 recommendations for transport investments covering the period 2022-2042 to be considered by Scottish ministers.

These recommendations would improve modal shift; help the Scottish government achieve its net zero emissions target; improve affordability and accessibility of public transport; boost economic growth; and increase the resilience and reliability of the transport system.

“STPR2 aims to prioritise interventions that increase the modal share of shorter everyday trips by walking, wheeling and cycling; short- to medium-length trips by public transport and longer trips by rail and low emission vehicles,” the report states.

Several rail projects were included in the recommendations, one of them was Clyde Metro aimed to serve and improve connectivity within the Glasgow conurbation. This scheme would improve connectivity between areas of deprivation and education, employment and leisure opportunities. It would also create a link between major transport hubs, such as Glasgow Central and Queen Street railway stations and Glasgow Airport.

The STPR2 recommended that Transport Scotland continues to work with Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and other regional partners for the development of this scheme including the business case, design and governance.

The review also recommended rail corridor enhancements across different sections of the Scottish rail network. For the Highland Main Line rail corridor it suggested a programme of enhancements, including new and longer passing loops as well as infrastructure investment to enable journey time improvements.

It also recommends a programme of improvements for the Perth-Dundee-Aberdeen rail corridor such as junction upgrades and permissible speed increases to achieve journey time improvements. Same was recommended for the Edinburgh/Glasgow-Perth/Dundee rail corridor with the addition of infrastructure to enable the removal or reduction of lower differential freight speed limits where possible.

The re-development of the Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central, Perth and Inverness stations are also part of the transport investment proposals for the next 20 years, alongside the decarbonisation of key rail routes.

Among the recommendations are also infrastructure upgrades across the trunk road and motorway to improve road safety, reliability and resilience. A Specific recommendation was made to address the resilience of the A83 at the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’.

“Ongoing closures of the A83 due to landslides at the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ or on other sections of the road in Argyll and Bute due to accidents, flooding or roadworks have a significant negative impact on the region and its economy. Closures at the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ can add detours of up to 80km for residents, businesses and visitors. Accidents or incidents occurring on the A83 in Argyll and Bute means that for periods of time there is no continuous strategic road in the region connecting it to the rest of the country,” the review states.

A new or improved road infrastructure is needed to improve the reliability of the route. The STPR2 recommendation is for work on developing a more reliable route to continue. It states that a preliminary assessment of 11 route corridor options has been completed, with the Glen Coe corridor emerging as the preferred corridor. It adds: “Public feedback has stressed the need to move quickly in relation to improvements in the vicinity of the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’.”

The STPR2 also recommended fixed links – such as bridges, causeways and/or tunnels – to replace ferry routes on the Sound of Harris, Sound of Barra and between Mull and the Scottish mainland. “A Sound of Harris fixed link would improve connectivity between the Uists and Lewis/Harris, whilst a Sound of Barra fixed link would improve connectivity between Barra and the Uists. The provision of these fixed links would also allow for the reconfiguration of transport provision within the Outer Hebrides and to the Scottish mainland.”

The provision of a fixed link between Mull and the Scottish mainland was also recommended as the ferry service is facing capacity challenges.

The review states: “The STPR2 recommends that further work is undertaken on business cases to better understand the benefits, costs and challenges associated with these interventions. These studies would further consider the feasibility of improving island connectivity through additional fixed links by replacing existing ferry services currently delivered by CalMac Ferries Ltd as part of the CHFS contract. These studies would also analyse in further detail the potential long-term savings associated with the public sector funding required to maintain the ferry services and involve input from communities that may potentially be affected.”

It clarifies that there are no specific priorities within the list of recommendations, as each component is important in addressing the transport needs of Scotland. The STPR2 emphasises that these interventions are not the sole responsibility of Transport Scotland to deliver and that many will rely on collaboration with other parties in order to go ahead.

“However, by including these in the STPR2, Transport Scotland has confirmed its commitment to supporting and working in partnership with others to develop the recommended interventions,” the review highlights.

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