Sort our transport system say energy capital business leaders

Today’s Press and Journal, BBC, Northsound and Original are leading on reports that business leaders in Aberdeen have written to Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson demanding urgent action on delayed transport projects in and around Europe’s Energy Capital.

I concur with their frustration.

Soon after the SNP Scottish Government took power, as chairman of IoD Aberdeen, I received a phone call from the Transport Minister. He had just announced a one-year delay in the opening date for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

He explained that there had been problems with some of the notices not complying with EU law and that they were having to be redrafted. But, he assured me that 2012 was a firm date for the opening of the by-pass.

Aberdeen trunk road
Until Transport Scotland actually deliver the Aberdeen by-pass, this mediaeval bridge is the only trunk road connection into Europe’s Energy Capital and North Aberdeenshire!

That promise is looking decidedly shaky, now.

To meet the 2012 deadline would mean completing 28 miles of dual carriageway in just 18 months! Bear in mind that not one patch of ground has yet been broken to start that work!

I sincerely hope it’s not a case of the current Scottish Government reckoning it will be the next government’s problem (after the May elections) to explain why this critical project has been allowed to slip so drastically?

But, while the AWPR is the headline issue, there are a considerable number of other transport projects that are either stalled or moving forward at a snail’s pace, including:

  • The horrendous and critical Haudagain roundabout has been discussed, analysed and reviewed until we are all utterly frustrated. Yet again, talk and no action.
  • The A96 Aberdeen to Inverness and A90 Aberdeen to Peterhead trunk roads are inefficient and dangerous. Yet again there have been promising words but little action. Even the Inveramsay bridge, with its huge peak time delays stands as testament to the neglect of our key transport arteries.
  • In an era when people are talking of three-hour rail journey times from Edinburgh to London, it still takes almost three hours from Aberdeen to the Central Belt. Our continental neighbours must be laughing at us!
  • The Kintore station re-opening, scheduled by Nestrans, for 2009 is.... well, nowhere to be seen!
  • Aberdeen Airport has planning permission for a runway extension to accommodate larger aircraft on direct flights. That is good for business (and by direct connections meaning one flight instead of two) good for the environment. The government should be pressuring BAA to commit to the work.
  • When you arrive at Aberdeen Airport, you find that the rail link is ‘way over on the other side and bus services to the station and to the city centre are difficult to find.

The contrast between Aberdeen and its energy counterpart in Norway could not be more dramatic.

In Stavanger new infrastructure and new roads provide a transport network designed to add the competitive edge to Norway’s burgeoning energy industry. Most impressive is the Rennfast undersea tunnel that cuts journey times from Stavanger to Rogaland by 30 minutes!

No by-pass
This camera phone picture graphically illustrates the dangers as artics squeeze along narrow B roads in the absence of a by-pass.

Switch back to this side of the North Sea and Britain’s energy capital and the whole of North Aberdeenshire is expected to compete despite being 87 miles from the motorway network and tenuously connected to the European Trunk Road network over a mediaeval bridge with a seven-foot width restriction!

No surprise then that the managing director of a Norwegian oil services group called our transport network “a joke”, recalling how a colleague actually missed his flight due to the congestion.

When you consider how vital the business in this area is to the Scottish and UK economy (oil and gas is the single largest industrial investor in the UK economy). The current paralysis is economically damaging for the entire UK.

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