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22 December 2008

South West Scotland gets roads improvements Christmas present

A £27 million investment in three vital road improvement projects is set to bring benefits to road users across the South West this Christmas, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said today.

Two of these projects - on the A77 at Glen App and Haggstone - have finished three months ahead of schedule, and a third project, an upgrade of the A76 near Glenairlie due to be finished in late December, will provide additional overtaking opportunities.

Meanwhile, the de-trunked section of the existing A76 is being converted to a cycleway and finishing works should be complete by the end of January. All three schemes will open up economic opportunities by improving journey times and connections across Dumfries and Galloway. The investment will also bring faster, more efficient access to the important ports of Cairnryan and Stranraer.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"I am delighted that this important work on the A76 and A77 is complete.

"The routes provide economic lifelines, linking central Scotland to Dumfries and Galloway whilst providing vital access to the ports of Cairnryan and Stranraer. To see the work on the A77 being completed so far ahead of schedule is particularly pleasing.

"This £27 million investment will bring improved connections for local communities, businesses, freight and tourists. The efficiency we have seen in the delivery of the scheme shows just how the collaborative approach adopted by Transport Scotland and contractors RJ McLeod and Raynesway can bring real benefits.

"This is more good news for the region following the announcement of our Strategic Transport Projects (STPR) review last week – a review which is at the leading edge of transport planning. This Government has set out our future transport ambitions for Scotland over the next 20 years and made clear that our investment priorities for the South West include vital upgrades to the A75, A76 and A77, dualling of the A77 around Ayr and a new Dalry bypass."

The work at Glen App has delivered just under a mile of new carriageway and was carried out in conjunction with a carriageway widening project at Haggstone, two and a half miles north of the Cairnryan ferry terminal. Both projects were carried out by RJ McLeod.

The A76 Glenairlie project, managed by Raynesway Construction, involved widening just under two miles of carriageway to provide improved overtaking opportunities to both directions of travel.

Meanwhile, another A77 improvement scheme continues to progress as the consultation on the £11 million Symington to Bogend toll project has come to a close. Transport Scotland has received a number of statutory objections for this scheme and, while it will continue to work with objectors to resolve these, it is likely a Public Local Enquiry (PLI) will be held in the new year.

A PLI is always anticipated for a scheme of this significance and the statutory process has already been factored in to the project programme. Work is expected to begin in 2010 with the construction phase lasting approximately 12 months.

For further details see:

19 December 2008

Construction companies to bid for A96 Fochabers and Mosstodloch Bypass

A multi-million pound road improvement scheme for the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness has taken an important step closer to delivery.

Transport Scotland has published the tenders for the A96 Fochabers and Mosstodloch Bypass marking the start of the procurement process for this upgrade to a crucial link for businesses and communities in the North East.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The A96 is a key route for Scotland and this multi-million investment will deliver real benefits for communities across the North East. It will improve journey times, reduce congestion in and around Fochabers and Mosstodloch, whilst making an important contribution to road safety.

"This gives a welcome boost to the construction industry and is more good news following the announcement of our Strategic Transport Projects (STPR) review last week. The STPR identified our investment priorities for the north east, including dualling of the A9, key improvements to the A96 and vital enhancements to rail services across the region."

Two companies, RJ McLeod and Morrison Construction , have been identified in the pre-qualification stage and they now have 26 weeks to submit their tender.

On successful completion of the tender process, Transport Scotland expects to appoint a contractor in late summer 2009. Construction work will begin soon after and the scheme will be open in spring 2011. Meanwhile site clearance works will get underway early in the new year.

This stage follows the ground investigations carried out by contractor Ritchies in summer this year on behalf of national transport agency Transport Scotland.

For further information see A96 Fochabers and Mosstodloch Bypass project

Mobility and Access Committee Scotland (MACS)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson today announced the appointment of a Convener and six new Members to the Mobility and Access Committee Scotland (MACS).

The new convener is:

Anne MacLean is currently the Vice Chair of RNIB Scotland and is a board member of the Cairngorm National Park Authority, which attracts an annual rate of £6,936. She was previously an assessor for the Office of the Commissioner of Public Appointments in Scotland, and was a former National Officer with the National Union of Civil and Public Servants.

The new members are:

John Ballantine is a retired solicitor and member of the Equalities Law Sub-committee of the Law Society of Scotland. He is the Treasurer of the Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance and a member of the Edinburgh Access Panel. He is a member of the Communities of Interest Support Network and of the Edinburgh Disability Equality Forum. These posts do not attract remuneration.

Steven Boyd has recently taken up an appointment as HR Partner for Scotland for the WRVS. He previously held various HR & Resourcing Management appointments for different blue chip Hospitality, Media and Engineering companies. His initial management career was as Recruitment Director for a small niche People Consultancy.

James Cohen currently works as a Social Policy Analyst specialising in disability. He is a Member of the BBC Trust Audience Council Scotland, and was previously Queen Margaret University's Equal Opportunities Officer as well as being a former Member of the NUS Disability Campaign

James Glover
is Head of Equality and Diversity at NHS Lothian. He led on the Disability Equality Duty at the Equality & Human Rights Commission, and its predecessor, the Disability Rights Commission. He has set up and been a committee member for community transport projects and organisations. He originally trained as a research chemist.

Andrew Holmes trained and worked as a civil engineer before becoming involved in the wider area of planning, economic development and transport. Prior to retiring in April 2008 he was Director of City Development for the City of Edinburgh Council. He has served on a number of transport related groups and committees at both a Scottish and UK level.

Susan Wood was previously employed as an Educational Development and Support Officer improving quality in pre-school education in Argyll and Bute. She is Chairperson of the Glasgow Access Panel.

These appointments will be for three years and will run from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2011.

The posts are part-time. The post of Convener attracts remuneration of £150 per day for a time commitment of two days per month. The Member posts attract remuneration of £100 per day for a time commitment of one day per month,

None of the newly appointed members currently hold appointments with other Public Bodies.

MACS was established by Scottish Ministers under the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland Regulations Order 2002. It is responsible for advising Scottish Ministers on the transport needs of people with disabilities in Scotland. It shall consider and make recommendations about other matters if asked to do so. MACS will, for the main part, hold its meetings in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government will be undertaking a further appointment round in the New Year to fill the eight remaining member posts.

These Ministerial public appointments were made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland's Code of Practice.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public.

Anne MacLean has declared that she was an executive committee member of the Scottish Labour Party until March 2004, and is currently the Chair of the Badenoch and Strathspey Branch of the Party.

18 December 2008

Construction Industry lines up for Glasgow Airport Rail Link

Delivery of the new rail link to Glasgow Airport has taken a major step closer with the news that seven of Europe’s biggest construction companies will bid to build a key element of the flagship transport project.

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, has today confirmed a shortlist of: BMV (Balfour Beatty, Morgan Est and Vinci joint venture), Carillion, Morrison Construction and Roadbridge/Sisk has been selected to bid for the construction of the "St James Spur" - the main branch line viaduct stretching across the M8 to the new airport station.

The contract – expected to be worth between £90m and £130m – represents the most significant single element in the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) project and is another boost for the construction industry as part of the Scottish Government’s current infrastructure investment programme.

Transport Scotland took the project over in the summer and following a review and pre-tender consultation with the construction industry, it has taken steps to protect the public purse by reducing the level of cost risk to the contract.

The tender competition will now begin in spring 2009, meaning GARL is now set to be operational in early 2013, well in advance of the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Passengers will start to see early benefits however, with delivery partner Network Rail set to implement a number of improvements to the existing Paisley corridor from 2010, which will benefit passengers to Ayrshire and Inverclyde.

Mr Stevenson, Transport Minister, said:

"I am delighted by the great progress already being made on GARL, which will be delivered well in advance of the Commonwealth Games in 2014 to help Scotland capture the long term economic growth the Games will bring.

"Through Transport Scotland, our continuing investment in major transport infrastructure projects is currently supporting hundreds of jobs in the Scottish construction industry.

"I am particularly pleased that seven major construction companies, either individually or in a consortium, are lining up to bid for this flagship public transport project in the West of Scotland.

"We are committed to delivering the project as efficiently as possible and have listened to the construction industry in order to take the necessary steps to protect the public purse."

As announced in summer 2007, GARL has been combined with Network Rail’s Paisley Corridor Resignalling (PCR) work to avoid unnecessary disruption to the travelling public and avoid the extra cost of duplicated work to the taxpayer.

Following the Office of Rail Regulation’s recent Final Determination of Network Rail’s costs for the period 2009 - 2014, the current estimated outturn cost range for the combined GARL-PCR project is £365.5m to £395m excluding VAT. This figure cannot be compared to the original cost range for GARL as the project is now combined with a significant Network Rail signal renewal scheme (PCR) as outlined to Parliament by the Transport Minister on 27 June 2007.

Ron McAulay, Director Scotland Network Rail, said:

"Network Rail’s resignalling of the Paisley Corridor, on track for delivery in December 2011, is a key enabler of the GARL project and we look forward to playing our role in delivering this major investment in Scotland’s transport infrastructure."

For more information on the project see Glasgow Airport Rail Link

Glasgow Airport rail link

Seven of Europe's biggest construction companies are to bid to build a key element of the new rail link to Glasgow Airport.

A shortlist of BMV (Balfour Beatty, Morgan Est and Vinci joint venture), Carillion, Morrison Construction and Roadbridge/Sisk has been selected to bid for the construction of the 'St James Spur' - the main branch line viaduct stretching across the M8 to the new airport station.

The contract - expected to be worth between £90 million and £130 million - represents the most significant single element in the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) project.

The tender competition will now begin in spring 2009 with GARL scheduled to be operational in early 2013 in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"I am delighted by the great progress already being made on GARL, which will be delivered well in advance of the Commonwealth Games in 2014 to help Scotland capture the long term economic growth the Games will bring.

"Through Transport Scotland, our continuing investment in major transport infrastructure projects is currently supporting hundreds of jobs in the Scottish construction industry.

"I am particularly pleased that seven major construction companies, either individually or in a consortium, are lining up to bid for this flagship public transport project in the West of Scotland.

"We are committed to delivering the project as efficiently as possible and have listened to the construction industry in order to take the necessary steps to protect the public purse."

Following the Office of Rail Regulation's recent Final Determination of Network Rail's costs for the period 2009-2014, the current estimated outturn cost range for the combined GARL-PCR project is £365.5m to £395m excluding VAT.

This figure cannot be compared to the original cost range for GARL as the project is now combined with a significant Network Rail signal renewal scheme (PCR) as outlined to Parliament by the Transport Minister on June 27, 2007.

Ron McAulay, Director Scotland Network Rail, said:

'Network Rail's resignalling of the Paisley Corridor, on track for delivery in December 2011, is a key enabler of the GARL project and we look forward to playing our role in delivering this major investment in Scotland's transport infrastructure."

Ferry to set sail in May

Norfolkline is taking bookings for its new Rosyth-Zeebrugge service. Sailings on the route are due to begin on May 18, 2009.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The launch of the booking service is great news for passengers, tourists and businesses who can now plan their travel with confidence.

"With our year of Homecoming just weeks away, this is a major boost. Visitors from Europe can now make plans to join in our Homecoming celebrations. We have a unique opportunity with Norfolkline to get the ferry off to the best possible start through encouraging friends and family from Europe to travel to Scotland using this new ferry service.

"Maintaining connections with major European markets is vital for Scotland, particularly during these challenging economic times. The route has so far carried nearly one million passengers, 4.2 million tonnes of freight and made a significant contribution to Scotland's tourist industry.

"I am sure the new service will be a great success and I wish Norfolkline, Forth Ports, freight operators and the many passengers who will sail the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route, all the very best."

Greece-based Superfast Ferries ran a service to Zeebrugge in Belgium for the last six years up until the final sailing on September 13. It announced its decision to pull out in May.

Norfolkline is part of the A.P.Moller Maersk Group, and currently employs more than 2,200 people in 14 countries across the European continent, operating out of 35 different locations. In 2007, more than 2.0 million passengers used Norfolkline's ferry service across the English Channel and on the Irish Sea. Norfolkline also carried over 1.3 million freight units between ports throughout Europe.

16 December 2008

STEVENSON HAILS UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS OF FRONTLINE NHS STAFF

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the publication of NHS workforce statistics by ISD Scotland that show a rise in GPs, Dentists, Medical Consultants, Nurses and Midwives across the country. These increases mean that there are now more frontline NHS staff working in Scotland that at any point previously.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The SNP Government is investing more in Scotland’s health than ever before, and we have been able to deliver such unprecedented staffing levels as a result of this. Putting more medical staff on the frontline of the NHS is key to improving the already high standard of care that the NHS provides, and I am delighted that we have been able to make this investment.

“Opposition claims of cuts in the NHS have been exposed as baseless scaremongering by these statistics. I would challenge them to be big enough to now admit their claims were baseless and acknowledge that with more nurses, doctors, midwives and dentists the NHS is in a better place than ever before to support people across Scotland.

“The SNP is determined to support the magnificent work that the NHS does in looking after Scotland’s health, and we are investing more than ever before to achieve this.”

Views on road safety

'Worrying attitudes towards road safety' among some young people have been revealed in new Scottish Government reports.

The latest research, commissioned to help inform the development of a new Road Safety Strategy for Scotland, explored the views of young people aged 16 to 25. A further study was also undertaken on rural road safety.

The research revealed:
  • Driving at speed was seen to be a source of enjoyment by some young drivers
  • Some young drivers are prepared to take risks with speed on rural roads, testing their driving skills in an environment where there is seen to be lower risk due to fewer vehicles and pedestrians
  • Young people were unsure about the legal limit for drinking and driving. Many had examples of travelling in a car with a driver who had been drinking, or of friends driving while over the limit
  • Young people rarely thought that an accident would ever happen to them
Young people put themselves at risk through inappropriate levels of trust in friends as drivers
Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"Our concern is to ensure the safety of all road users but today's reports find that some young drivers are still prepared to take risks with their own lives, and the lives of others.

"Road accidents are at their lowest level for more than 50 years. However, young drivers continue to be over-represented in road deaths and we cannot and will not be complacent.

"There appears to be a prevalent attitude among some young people in these reports that serious accident and injury is something that happens to someone else, something that happens to other people.

"Sadly, the statistics tell us that it can and often does happen to you.

"You only need to listen to the harrowing experiences of our emergency services or the families of those affected to see that tragedy can strike at any place and at any time.

"Driving at excessive speed is dangerous, it is reckless and if young drivers think that rural roads are safe places to take risks they only need to look at the statistics. The most common factor contributing to rural road accidents is loss of control and driving at an inappropriate speed. It can result in the most tragic of consequences no matter what your level of ability or experience.

"My message to young people is simple - listen to the road safety messages from the police, fire services, road safety organisations and others. It could save your life.

"We are currently working with leading experts on road safety to develop a new 10 year road safety strategy for Scotland. Today's research was commissioned to help inform our new strategy and we will be looking at what more we can all do to improve road safety across the country. We will publish our new strategy in the New Year."

'Qualitative Research with Young People: Road Safety' was undertaken in 2008 to help inform the development of the new Scottish Road Safety Strategy.

'Rural Road Safety: Drivers and Driving' was undertaken in 2007 to investigate the causes of rural road accidents and to gain insights which could be used to tackle the problem.

The Scottish Government wished to ensure that the views of young people were taken into account in developing the new Road Safety Strategy.

The research included analysis of police accident reports (STATS 19), a face-to-face survey of over 1000 current car drivers on rural roads, and focus groups with young drivers and non-drivers, including younger males who drive on rural roads.

Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has already written to the UK Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly asking her to reduce the drink driving limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood and introduce random breath testing to further crack down on drink driving.

10 December 2008

STEVENSON WELCOMES NEW AGREEMENT TO TACKLE COD DISCARDS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed an historic deal between the EU and Norway over measures to tackle the practice of discarding perfectly good fish as a result of fishing quotas. As a result of the fishing discussions, it has been agreed that there will be:

  • A ban on the dumping of marketable fish
  • A 30 per cent increase in the Total Allowable Catch for North Sea cod - the biggest TAC increase in over 20 years
  • Additional measures to help fishermen make their cod quota last all year
  • An extension to other Member States of the innovative Real-Time Closures scheme pioneered in Scotland

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that this round of negotiations has resulted in much needed good news for Banff & Buchan’s hard pressed fishing communities. The fishing industry here has led the way in adopting innovative new measures, such as real time closures, that will now be adopted by the rest of the EU.

“The increase in Cod quotas represents a fitting reward for the efforts and sacrifices of the fishing industry here. Although there are further challenges for the industry in order to keep fisheries sustainable, I am confident that the industry in Banff & Buchan will lead the way in meeting them.

“This is a real vindication for the approach taken in Scotland towards creating a sustainable fishing industry and with the rest of the EU now following Scotland’s lead, it only goes to underline what Scotland could achieve with a distinctive, independent voice in Europe.”

STEVENSON DELIGHTED AS FINANCE COMMITTEE BACK SNP BUDGET

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the publication of the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee’s report on the SNP’s proposed budget, in which general backing is given to the SNP Government’s handling of the economic crisis and its future plans. The committee has put forward no alternative spending proposals.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that the SNP’s budget proposals have received this support as a result of what were by all accounts more consensual discussions within the committee this year.

“The report has raised concern about the looming threat of £500 million of budget cuts at the hands of the UK Government and has broadly praised the way in which the Scottish Government has taken action to help Scottish businesses.

“However, Labour must now explain why they failed to back the small business bonus and council tax freeze, measures that will put real money back into people’s pockets when they need it most, without offering any alternative suggestions as to how they would help Scotland through the current economic situation

“It seems they are bereft of both ideas and any willingness to help businesses and individuals that are going through difficult times”.

9 December 2008

STEVENSON BACKS ANTI-DRINK DRIVING CAMPAIGN

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has given his backing to the Scottish Government’s new road safety campaign, aimed at curbing drink driving this festive period. The campaign will focus on drivers who get behind the wheel the morning after a heavy night’s drinking.

Grampian Police, along with the rest of Scotland’s eight police forces, have pledged to target early morning drivers who may still have too much alcohol in their system. As well as police checks, all motorists involved in a road traffic accident, even if they are not to blame, will be breath tested.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is an important and needed initiative from the Scottish Government and I welcome its launch today. Drink driving claims too many lives on Scotland’s roads every year and it is important that people get the message: if you drive whilst under the influence, you will be caught.

“Drivers are not just putting their own lives at risk, but those of family, friends and strangers. It is important that friends, family members and work colleagues do not turn a blind eye to those intending to drive whilst still under the influence, but instead stand up and urge them to make use of alternative transport.

“You should enjoy yourself at this time of year, but there is no excuse for risking your own life and the lives of others Banff & Buchan’s roads. If you think you are over the limit, don’t risk it.”

2 December 2008

STEVENSON DELIGHTED BY MORE POLICE ON BANFF & BUCHAN STREETS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that the number of police officers in Grampian has increased by almost 100 since the SNP came to power in 2007. Figures show that in the Grampian police area the number of officers have gone up from 1,374 in the quarter ending March 07 to 1,473 under the latest figures ending in September – an increase of 99 officers.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Since the SNP came to power, people across Banff & Buchan have seen a more visible police presence in our communities, helping to drive down crime and make people’s lives safer.

“”The SNP pledged to put 1000 more police officers on Scotland’s Streets, of which our target was to have recruited 450 by March 2009. 440 have already been recruited, meaning that we are well ahead of schedule in delivering on our promise.

“I am delighted that the SNP Government is once again delivering so effectively on our promises and I know that people across Banff & Buchan will welcome the increased police presence on their streets”.

1 December 2008

East Ayrshire commuters to gain from rail infrastructure enhancements

More seats and more trains are just some of the benefits rail passengers in south west Scotland will gain from a £28.5 million package of rail infrastructure enhancements Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson announced today.

Network Rail is already carrying out extensive engineering works, on behalf of Transport Scotland, to double a stretch of existing track to create a new second line between Stewarton and Lugton.

This means from next year rail users travelling between Glasgow and Kilmarnock will not only have more choice, they will have an additional off-peak express which calls at Stewarton. This will reduce journey times by up to six minutes and give added benefits by speeding up connections across south west Scotland, to Carlisle and onto all parts of England.

During peak periods, commuters in Kilmaurs and Dunlop will be able to take advantage of a half hourly service that offers more seats and increased capacity.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The rail network in Scotland makes a significant contribution to the Government’s key purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth.

"With over 1500 additional seats on a daily basis, communities will have more choice and a real alternative to the car. We can encourage economic growth and offer commuters across south west Scotland better access to the rail network by maximising this mix of peak local and off-peak express services."

Ron McAulay, Network Rail’s director Scotland, said:

"Network Rail is delighted to be delivering a project which will have real benefits for both existing and future rail users on this route and allowing Transport Scotland to increase the frequency and quality of services. We are committed to growing the country’s rail network and this investment will create new opportunities for business and leisure travellers alike."

Network Rail’s other engineering works on behalf of Transport Scotland include extending existing platforms, renewing and strengthening bridges and enhancing the signalling capacity along the route.

Engineering works should be complete by October 2009, with the new services starting in December 2009.

Steve Montgomery, First ScotRail’s operations and safety director, said:

"We welcome these enhancements. Demand for our services continues to accelerate, and these improvements will bring many benefits to our growing number of customers."
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