Minister transport priorities wrong: Transform Scotland

By David Miller
BBC Scotland transport correspondent

image captionTransform Scotland wants ministers to encourage more people to use public transport rather than cars

The Scottish government's transport priorities have been described as "perverse" in a new report from a campaign group.

Transform Scotland's members include public transport operators, local authorities and voluntary groups.

It said the government was increasingly subsidising road use, rather than investing in sustainable transport.

It also claimed the decision to accelerate plans to dual the A9 showed ministers had their priorities wrong.

The Scottish government announced early this year that a £3bn programme of work to make the A9 dual carriageway all the way from Inverness to Perth would start early.

Transform Scotland said this move by ministers, while cutting investment in rail services in the central belt, demonstrated a "perverse set of priorities".

However, Transport Minister Keith Brown said the government was investing about £1bn in public transport in this year alone.

Mr Brown said a "huge investment" of about £650m was going into improving the main railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, pledging: "We will carry out further phases of that project."

He said there "should really have been much more progress by previous governments, but we are doing that".

media captionKeith Brown: "We believe we are finding the right balance between contributing to public transport initiatives across the country."

But Transform Scotland also warned that "decades of prevarication" by local and national government had left many urban areas facing the prospect of European Union fines, due to their failure to reduce air pollution.

The group's Sandra Wechner said: "The overall picture is fairly bleak, with increases in greenhouse emissions from transport and serious public health problems from air pollution.

"Public transport fares are also rising ahead of the price of using a car, and the government's cuts to bus investment are likely to drive people away from public transport."

But the report did highlight "some positive trends".

It said car sharing schemes were becoming more popular, while there was also evidence that more Scots were choosing to cycle to work.

Responding to the publication of the report, a Scottish government spokesman said: "Scottish ministers are focused on transport initiatives aimed at reducing traffic congestion and increasing the proportion of journeys made by public or active transport as we move towards a low carbon economy.

"In 2012-13 we will invest over £1bn in public transport and other sustainable transport options to encourage people out of their cars.

"The Scottish government's spending on transport and infrastructure projects is a key driver in boosting the country's economy.

"In these difficult economic times, providing hundreds of jobs in the hard-pressed construction industry plays a key part in delivering our vision of a wealthier, fairer and better connected Scotland."

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