HC Deb 22 July 1998 vol 316 cc561-2W
Mr. Browne

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the Government's transport policy in Scotland. [51819]

Mr. Dewar

I have today published "Travel Choices for Scotland" the Government's White Paper on Integrated Transport in Scotland. The White Paper fulfils our manifesto commitment and sets out the Government's aims for a sustainable, effective and integrated transport system appropriate for the needs of Scotland's people, environment and economy. The White Paper is complementary to the United Kingdom White Paper presented to the House by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on 20 July 1998,Official Report, columns 784–88.

We will encourage each local authority to develop an integrated Local Transport Strategy suited to local circumstances and needs, drawing together all the resources and planning functions of the authority and in co-operation with local public transport operators, the community and business. We will consult on the details of implementation. We will also publish consultative draft planning guidance on Transport and Planning.

We will establish a Scottish Public Transport Fund from which local authorities can bid for assistance for key value for money developments for their local public transport network consistent with their Local Transport Strategy.

For buses, legislation will be brought forward to allow bus Quality Partnerships between local authorities and operators to have a statutory basis. Where these arrangements have been shown to be unable to bring about satisfactory improvements to service levels and quality, legislation will allow for local authorities to introduce Quality Contracts to ensure provision.

To help address the problems of traffic congestion and poor local air quality legislation will be brought forward to enable local authorities to introduce local road user charges and a levy on workplace parking as part of their Local Transport Strategy. An appropriate proportion of the net revenues raised would be available for authorities to invest in value for money improvements to the local transport network, increasing opportunities and choice. We will consult on the details before any legislation is brought forward.

Legislation on road use charging will be framed to allow for charging on motorways and trunk roads. We will establish a new Trunk Roads development budget to fund technical studies and other preparatory work to allow the legislation to be implemented as speedily as practically possible. Net revenues raised from any such charging could be used to help meet cost of improvements and upgrading to the network that might not otherwise have been affordable.

We will assist the development of informal Regional Transport Partnerships to improve and co-ordinate transport planning across individual local authority boundaries. We will consult on the way forward for these partnerships and on the role of the National Transport Forum at a Scotland level. We will also discuss with the National Transport Forum targets for measuring progress in delivering our agenda.

The GB Strategic Rail Authority will be established with the Scottish Executive having a major influence over rail services in Scotland. The Authority will help deliver improvements in terms of fares and the quality and reliability of services. We are committed to improving the opportunities for rail freight.

We will work with transport operators and user groups to produce a Scottish National Public Transport Timetable and to develop better through ticketing arrangements.

We will commission a Scottish Airports and Air Service Study to contribute to the development of a UK airports policy. We will continue long-term support for operation and development of Caledonian MacBrayne ferries and secure the long-term provision of lifeline ferry services to Orkney and Shetland. We will bring forward legislation to extend Freight Facilities Grants to coastal shipping.

We will develop a process to ensure that all new major policy initiatives or changes are consistent with our transport policy. We will also ensure that transport policy reflects policies on health promotion, on increased walking and cycling, on economic development and on social exclusion including exploring the scope to apply discounted fare schemes more widely.

The proposals in the White Paper represent a first critical step in developing a transport system that covers peoples' transport needs across Scotland. It will begin a new chapter in the history of Scottish transport.