NEW Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has been accused of putting the handbrake on improvements to the City Bypass.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said when he highlighted regular gridlock on the A720 road during a debate at Holyrood earlier this year he had been assured by Mr Matheson’s predecessor Humza Yousaf that the bypass was a priority for the Scottish Government.
But when he asked last week for a timetable for the works on the road, Mr Matheson referred to a review of strategic transport projects being carried out within the lifetime of the current parliament.
The Scottish Government has promised up to £120m for a flyover at the Sheriffhall roundabout as part of the City Deal.
But Mr Briggs says more is needed to help tackle the “agonisingly long waits” faced by commuters across Lothian on a daily basis.
He said: “I am very disappointed that Mr Matheson failed to provide a timetable for the Scottish Government addressing capacity issues on the Edinburgh City Bypass.
“I was concerned that a change in personnel of SNP cabinet Ministers would mean that Edinburgh City’s Bypass would be forgotten and this appears to be what has happened.”
When MSPs debated the bypass in May, Mr Yousaf gave an undertaking to look at smart motorway technology in relation to the bypass and report back. He also said he would look at a plea from Mr Briggs’ for a feasibility study on widening the bypass.
And he concluded the debate saying: “The message from Mr Briggs, and from every member who has spoken, is clear and I agree with it entirely. The A720 is part of a trunk road network that is of national importance because of its location, the economy and the sanity of people who are trying to do their everyday commute.”
Last week Mr Briggs raised the issue again, asking the Scottish Government if it would publish a timetable of action it planned to take to address capacity issues.
After referring to the Sheriffhall roundabout project, Mr Matheson - who took over as Transport Secretary in June - told him: “Transport Scotland is undertaking a review of the Strategic Transport Projects Review over the lifetime of this parliament. The A720 is a key part of Scotland’s transport network and will be assessed in its entirety within this Review which will gather robust evidence to enable decisions on investment in strategic infrastructure across Scotland.”
Mr Briggs said he would continue to campaign for bypass improvements. He said: “Edinburgh and Lothian are the fastest growing regions in Scotland and the bypass has been over capacity for many years now.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said detailed design of the Sheriffhall roundabout was still progressing. He added: “We are progressing the National Transport Strategy which will look at transport forecasts and expected usage over the next generation, and the Strategic Transport Projects Review which will set out transport investment priorities for Scotland. The A720 city bypass will be considered fully as part of these reviews.”