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Transport - Don't You Just Love It?
Check Out both Sides Of This..............................

COSLA fully agrees with Transport Minister Nicol Stephen's aim of an accessible Scotland, with a modern, safe, efficient and sustainable transport system, but does not believe there is any evidence in the consultation paper launched today that demonstrates there will be a guarantee of improvement through the creation of an Executive Agency.

COSLA also pointed out that any existing problems boil down to underfunding and lack of strategic planning at a national level and that Local Government has already set up regional partnerships to develop local strategies and these have been established to best serve local circumstances.

Commenting on Wednesday 17 May 2003 COSLA's Roads and Transportation Spokesperson Councillor Alison Magee said:  "I am extremely disappointed.  I fully expected to be welcoming today's consultation paper as I thought we had been in mature discussions with the Executive on the matter but this is obviously not the case.

"Whilst we welcome the debate on the future of transport planning and delivery in Scotland and the commitment to 'a strategy for Scotland to underpin investment at all levels' that is about as far as our welcome goes.

"COSLA has long argued for an integrated Scottish Transport Plan, with priorities and commitments for all forms of transport for at least the next 10 years therefore I am disappointed that there is still a lack of integration in the proposals.  The paper is like re-arranging the deckchairs on the titanic, and is full of contradictions making it difficult to see how things can be improved through these proposals.

"We don't believe there is any real evidence in the paper to demonstrate that there will be a guarantee of improvement through the creation of an Executive Agency."

Councillor Magee continued: "There is no new funding being announced today all that is being done is that current monies are being redistributed.  "There is no evidence of how the new agency will better be able to integrate its activities with other key parts of the Executive such as Planning and Enterprise.

"There is particularly muddled thinking on the boundaries of future regional partnerships and how they might relate at a local level to local authorities, community planning partnerships and other key bodies.

Backing Councillor Magee, COSLA President Pat Watters added: "I am extremely angry that challenge funding will probably be key to regional partnerships' obtaining finances in future.  Also, the Proposal appears to mean that local elected representatives would have to apply to an agency, run by a Chief Executive, for funding.  This breaks the democratic link with elected councillors.

"I also find it difficult to see how this improves service delivery in transport within our communities.  Since re-organisation in 1996 it is difficult to see what civil servants have delivered in this area.  Indeed local authorities are still awaiting guidance from them for the drafting of the second edition of our local transport strategies."

Councillor Magee concluded:  "To finish, on the possible reapportioning of powers and responsibilities, we will provide an evidenced argument for our position. Indeed, over the next three months, we will provide an evidenced response to the proposals on behalf of local government, setting out our thoughts on how we see transport in Scotland being better planned and delivered in future."

Alison Magee is also Convenor of Highland council since 1 May 2003

Transport Scotland Takes Shape
A new Executive agency, Transport Scotland, is to be created to take responsibility for delivering improvements in road, rail, air and water transport.

Providing better services for passengers will be at the heart of its work, Transport Minister Nicol Stephen said today.

The Minister unveiled a consultation document, Scotland's Transport: Proposals for a new approach to transport, which outlines proposals for the new agency.

As set out in the Partnership Agreement, the new agency is intended to:
Advance and co-ordinate delivery of improvements to Scotland's transport infrastructure such as rail links to Glasgow and Edinburgh airports and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route Promote reliable and efficient services for transport users, with better information for passengers and integrated ticketing. Co-ordinate a free national concessionary fares scheme for the elderly and those with disabilities Develop close links with regional transport partnerships and local authorities

Mr Stephen said:
"The focus of the new agency will be to make certain we deliver. After decades of under investment, we now have the resources in place to make a real difference to the quality of transport in Scotland. The focus of the new agency will be to make certain we deliver.

"The people of Scotland deserve a high quality transport network. We must get goods to market quickly and move passengers safely and reliably. An integrated transport network connects our communities and drives the economy. People are at the centre of our transport vision."

Mr Stephen launched the consultation during a visit to the Ferry Toll Park and Ride at Inverkeithing where the Executive has invested more than 8 million to double the number of parking spaces to 1,000.

He added:
"By 2006 we will have 1 billion a year to spend and we need to make sure that it is spent effectively. Our focus must now be on delivering the benefits of that investment for passengers.

"The new agency will be a centre of excellence with the staffing expertise and experience needed to manage large and complex projects such as new rail links.

"Over the next few months I look forward to hearing the views of transport operators, providers, local authorities and members of the public on how we will best do this.

"Working together will be crucial to our success. Local authorities, the regional transport partnerships and the Executive will all have an important role to play in bringing these improvements forward."

The consultation will close on Wednesday December 17. A number of public meetings and workshops will be held throughout Scotland with a national transport conference to be hosted by the Executive in November.

A new email address will also allow respondents a direct say at transport@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

The consultation proposes that Transport Scotland is set up as an Executive agency, with a chief executive directly accountable to Ministers.

Examples of other Executive agencies include Historic Scotland, the Scottish Prison Service and Communities Scotland. It is expected that the new agency will come into effect in April 2005.

The Executive awarded 8.075 million to Fife Council to allow doubling the amount of parking spaces available at Ferrytoll park and ride site (from 500 to over 1,000). The project forms part of a successful bid by SESTRAN to last year's Public Transport Fund.