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Latest news | Modernising the UK’s transport infrastructure

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Modernising the UK’s transport infrastructure

Decent transport does not just help people to get around. It opens up opportunities. It provides access to education, jobs and other communities.

The UK Government’s National Infrastructure Plan says we should aim to create a national transport strategy fit for the 21st century, and it is in Scotland where we are seeing a huge drive towards a modern transport infrastructure.

The UK’s current infrastructure plan includes a £15 million investment towards road enhancement, but this is not due to be fully completed until 2021 and the 25-year target of getting the nation’s Strategic Road Network back in the top ten globally is risible.
In comparison, the SNP Scottish Government, having already invested £15 billion in transport since 2007, are committed to the largest transport investment programme that Scotland has ever seen, despite relentless Westminster cuts. That includes significant investment in the road network as the Scottish Government have committed to spend £820 million on motorways and trunk roads in 2016-17 alone, including the completion of the Forth Replacement Crossing project.
In rail, the National Infrastructure Plan says the Government will take targeted action on rail fares to ease the burden on consumers, while ensuring the railways remain financially sustainable. Yet rail fares have continued to rise above inflation for more than a decade. The latest annual rise increased regulated fares by 1.1 per cent and some workers across the UK are being forced to spend 13 per cent of their monthly wages on rail travel.
But in Scotland, we are seeing major improvements to the rail network. ScotRail have introduced new low-cost fares, starting from just £5, for travel on routes across Scotland. The company’s planned upgrade will also result in 75 per cent of trains being either brand new or newly refurbished, while 346 more trains will be equipped with free Wi-Fi providing consumers with more affordable, modern and comfortable trains.
On HS2, we want to see Scotland connected to London and to the great cities of the north because London is our closest world financial capital. Currently, HS2 will link eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities, but nowhere in Scotland and the route will serve only one in five of the UK population. We want Scotland, the north and London to benefit from greater connectivity. We want the UK to up its game so that we can have a high-speed network that serves the whole of the British Isles and not just a small part of them. We need to catch up with France, Spain and China and we need to take the high-speed debate seriously
And what of air travel? The National Infrastructure plan says the UK Government believes a competitive aviation market is the most effective way to meet the interests of air passengers and other users. But late last year, the UK Government delayed a decision to expand runway capacity at Gatwick and Heathrow airport, as recommended by the Airports Commission.
While the UK Government continues to dance around making a decision on a new runway for the South East, compromising their own infrastructure plan, the Scottish Government is pushing ahead with its own plans to create a competitive and attractive aviation market. The SNP in Scotland plans to slash Air Passenger Duty in Scotland by 50 per cent which will encourage tourism, create nearly 4000 jobs by 2020 and stimulate £200 million of economic benefits each year.
The decisions which the SNP Government has made around transport contributes to more jobs, slashes journey times, creates greater access to key markets for our businesses and across the world and helps to create a better quality of life for everyone.
The Scottish Government has made significant steps in modernising its own transport infrastructure. It is now vital that the Department for Transport does the same. I would urge ministers to engage with the Scottish government to see what lessons can be learnt and to level the playing field across these islands. This issue is about more than transportation. It is about connecting people – jobs, the wider economy, the environment and more. Ultimately, we can either choose to remain stalled in traffic or we can get on board a modern transport infrastructure.

Read the original article here in Politics First

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