20 May 2015
If you are a regular traveller between Glasgow and Edinburgh be prepared for some new arrangements over the next two years. Both road and rail connections will be subject to some disruption beginning in June this year.
Now it will come as no surprise that the Chamber is an enthusiastic advocate for investment in our transport connections. We pay close attention to our transport system because we want to make it as easy as possible for our members to get to their main markets and for visitors and investors to get to Glasgow.
So we will be welcoming the works being carried out to deliver the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) for our main railway link and the M8/M73/M74 motorway improvement project. EGIP will electrify the Glasgow Queen Street – Falkirk High – Edinburgh Waverley line which in turn promises to give us shorter journey times, more capacity and better trains.
We are also anticipating the complete refurbishment of Queen Street station, changing it from a pretty dowdy and low-key welcome to the city into something more appropriate for one of Glasgow’s most important gateways.
To get there though, two of the tunnels – at Winchburgh in West Lothian and at Queen Street itself – will have to be closed for repair and improvement works. Winchburgh closes between the 13 June and the 27 July this year and Queen Street for a full twenty weeks from around March 2016. Fortunately we have alternative connections using the Glasgow Queen Street – Airdrie – Bathgate – Edinburgh low level line and the Glasgow Central – Motherwell – Edinburgh line.
Both of these lines will mean longer journey times and the trains will me much busier with the prospect of queues and standing room only. We will be getting as much information as we can from Transport Scotland, Network Rail and Scotrail to clarify the options.
At the same time Transport Scotland is delivering major improvement works to the M8, M73 and M74 throughout 2015 and 2016. The remaining A8 section of the Glasgow-Edinburgh road is being brought up to motorway standard and the Raith Junction on the M74 will be improved to reduce congestion.
Again these are welcome improvements but there is obviously a risk that both our road and rail systems will be operating below par simultaneously. And of course this is when we want to start seeing all those new visitors arriving in the city following the city’s Commonwealth Games success.
It came as a surprise to us at the Chamber that all these works were in the pipeline and we don’t want the next two summers to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
So we raised the issue with Keith Brown in his role as the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, and Transport Scotland duly offered to brief the Chamber’s directors on the two programmes. We are relying on Transport Scotland to co-ordinate both the practical traffic management and the communications.
We do want people to be aware of the works and why they are being done, but we don’t want to scare people away from the city because they expect the transport to be a nightmare. City centre businesses are looking for a steady increase in summer trade, not an unwelcome and unexpected dip.
We asked for reassurances that everything possible was being done to minimise disruption, and amongst many replies we noted the intention always to keep two lanes running in either direction on the M8 at peak times.
We also welcomed a commitment to keep the dialogue open during the works so that if we begin to see an impact on trade we can ask Transport Scotland to review how traffic management or communications are being delivered. We will maintain that dialogue throughout.