This paper sets out how we might transform the transport system in Scotland by creating a truly integrated network of road, rail and air links feeding into a central hub around Edinburgh Airport.
This would be a genuine investment in our future prosperity as an efficient transport network is an essential component of the right framework for economic growth. Although our transport system has improved, we have not introduced the revolutionary change seen in some other countries and if we are serious about catching up with the leading world economies then we need to do so.
The potential benefits of high speed links have been seen in Denmark, France and Spain where they have provided the catalyst for economic growth by bringing cities and city regions together to foster greater specialisation and integration which in turn promotes greater productivity.
There are four main elements to our proposals. The first is the creation of a central transport hub around the airport at Ingliston which is well-positioned to be the focal point within the central belt for a properly integrated network of road, rail and air transportation. The trunk road network and high speed rail would link into this hub which would be the main airport and railway station for Scotland as a whole. To recognise this, they would be named Grand Central Airport and Grand Central Station.
The second is the creation of high speed rail links to dramatically reduce journey times from Grand Central Station west, east and north to Scotland’s main cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness as well as south to link into the new high speed links proposed in England increasing access to key markets in other parts of the UK.
The third is an improvement to the trunk road network to recognise the importance of road transportation to the Scottish economy. In particular, there should be proper road links into the proposed central transport hub in the form of a ring road linking into the M8, M9 and Forth Road Bridge. In addition, vital roads between our cities such as the A9 and A96 should be turned into dual carriageway to speed up journey times.
The fourth is further investigation into how a Scotland-wide road pricing scheme might be implemented as evidence from other countries such as Singapore and Norway shows that by reducing congestion on our roads such schemes could lead to shorter journey times and increased reliability.
These proposals are expensive – £25 billion for the high speed rail links alone – but they can be done in stages over a number of years starting with the high speed link connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh to the central hub at a cost of under £3 billion. By the time we start construction, the economy should be more buoyant and there are different ways of funding such projects including borrowing, as proposed by the Calman Commission, and other ways of levering in private capital.
Road pricing is a longer-term solution to Scotland’s transport problems as the necessary technology for a Scotland-wide scheme is not yet ready. In addition, the Scottish Parliament does not have control over taxes such as Vehicle Excise and Fuel Duties which would have to be reduced to show that road pricing was a different and more effective way of paying for the use of roads and not a means to raise additional revenue.
Taken together, these proposals are a blueprint for the transformation of the transport system in Scotland as well as a bold economic policy. We think this is exactly the vision that Scotland requires at this time.