Good transport links have been at the centre of Aberdeen’s success over the years.
Traditional trading links with the Low Countries in previous centuries, depended on good sea links. More recently, Aberdeen was chosen as a base by North Sea oil and gas companies, again because of its transport links. Will the new Forth Bridge ease congestion and provide for future growth?
That is why those of us who have lived and worked in this region for many years are a bit sensitive about the whole subject of transport.
- We have to contend with greater distances to market. So any increase in fuel price hits disproportionately on our economy. It directly damages the competitiveness of our business and industry.
- Time is also a major issue. Delays due to poor transport infrastructure adds hours (and thereby cost) to the time taken for goods to get to market, or people to get to London, Houston, or Kazakhstan.
There is therefore a twinge of concern that I looked at the map of the suggested high-speed train routes in the UK. The lines stopped at Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Not that getting to Edinuburgh or Glasgow in three hours wouldn’t be an advantage for those of us who live and work in the Aberdeen area. But, with a finite pot of money for transport, does it mean that our need to faster train links will sit on the back burner for years longer?
There would be a real irony in being able to get from London to Edinburgh by train, in three hours and then having to spend a further three to get onward to Aberdeen!
On the roads front there are concerns about the replacement Forth Bridge and the Aberdeen by-pass. Both are critical to the economy in North East Scotland and, therefore, vital for the national economy.
I do have reservations about the current Forth Bridge proposal. I cannot work out how replacing a two-lane carriageway bridge with a two-lane carriageway bridge is going to improve traffic. For that amount of money I would be hoping for something that was going to ease current congestion and allow for future traffic growth.
Closer to home there are great concerns about the Aberdeen by-pass.
The SNP Government is committed to delivering the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route by 2012. But that is now only two years away!
Ask a civil engineer if 28 miles of near motorway standard road can be delivered in that timeframe and you will almost certainly get raised eyebrows and a look that speaks volumes.
After 40 years of supporting the industry that has underpinned the economy of the UK, we now need some reassurance that the commitment to investment in our transport infrastructure is real, genuine and will be delivered on time.