HC Deb 05 April 1989 vol 150 cc186-7
10. Mr. Home Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his Department's review of trunk roads in the south of Scotland.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The study by consultants "Routes South of Edinburgh" is in its final stages. When it has been completed and fully considered, which I expect will be in the summer, I intend to make a statement both about the report's conclusions and about our proposed way ahead.

Mr. Home Robertson

I thought that the Minister was going to say that it would be published in a special edition of The Observer. In view of the fact that Ministers feel so strongly about the unity of the United Kingdom, I shall draw the Minister's attention to the missing link on the main Al road which is supposed to link Edinburgh—[Interruption.]—The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) is not there either. In view of the increasing congestion on the dangerously inadequate single carriage way between Musselburgh and the English border, and onwards to Morpeth, in particular, as there were 283 injuries and 25 deaths over three years on the Scottish section of the A1, will the Minister undertake to begin the task of completing the A1 dual carriageway, both to save lives and to improve communications in Scotland and internationally?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The casualty rates over the past three years which the hon. Gentleman mentioned have not been unduly high in comparison with those in other district council areas, although they are certainly a subject of grave concern. Dualling is one of the issues addressed by the "Routes South of Edinburgh" study, and accident rates on the present Al will be fully taken into account. More immediately, a major junction improvement on the Al at Haddington is planned as well as provision for crawler lanes on the Al at Pencraig Hill, which will go ahead as soon as the statutory procedures have been completed and the finance is available.

Mr. Kirkwood

Does the Minister accept the crucial importance of the "Routes South of Edinburgh" review to the border region? When the study is published, will he undertake to meet representatives from the local authorities and Members of the House from East Lothian, the Borders and north Northumberland to consider the detail of that report? Can he cast any light on a report in the Newcastle Journal this Monday that a feasibility study by the Department of Transport was under way into a motorway link between Newcastle and Edinburgh?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I made inquiries this morning and understand that the Lothian and Borders regional councils may already be involved in discussions with a group from seven English counties which are investigating the feasibility of a scheme incorporating private finance. The Scottish Office looks forward to being kept in touch with any findings that emerge. With regard to the area of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), a £7.5 million Al Tower to Dunglass diversion is planned. A bypass of Langholm on the A70 is under investigation, as well as the realignment of the carriageway from Ancrum House to Harrietfield on the A68. Therefore, a considerable amount of work is taking place.

Mr. Beggs

Can the Minister inform us whether his Department, during the review of trunk roads in the south of Scotland, has taken account of the importance to Northern Ireland hauliers of a good road service south from Cairnryan and Stranraer? Will he also bear in mind that although there are those who wish Northern Ireland to be linked with the Channel tunnel through Dublin, Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead, we in Northern Ireland wish to maintain our close Scottish links and have a proper through route through Stranraer and Cairnryan?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am certain that many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Minister of State, share the hon. Gentleman's concern. We see the M74 as the major roads priority of the 1990s, but after its upgrading the Euroroute to Stranraer and the A96 upgrading will be seen as equal next priorities.