This Scottish Executive research project took place in 2005-06. The aim was to establish how long-term investment in new transport infrastructure and services could contribute to economic regeneration in Ayrshire.
The backdrop to the research was a recognition that the Ayrshire economy was not moving as quickly as it might from traditional manufacturing industries to the new “knowledge economy”, in line with national economic strategy. In response to Ayrshire’s poor GDP, business start-up and unemployment rates compared to the rest of Scotland, the National Planning Framework and Ayrshire Structure Plan both emphasise the need for improved transport links if Ayrshire is to be economically successful.
Our job was to establish what those strategic transport improvements might be, how they might support economic development and regeneration, and to test those investment proposals against the Scottish Executive’s Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG). The outcomes of the research would then feed back into national and strategic planning policy development for the region.
Transport consultancy MVA led our consultancy team, with additional specialist input from David Simmonds Consultancy on statistical forecasting, Natural Capital on sustainability, and myself on planning and strategy.
Our approach to the work contained three strands of analysis:
Gaining a thorough understanding of the existing transport infrastructure and operations (road, rail, public transport, sea and air) – particularly where the constraints lay, such as bottlenecks on the rail and road networks.
Statistical modelling of transport accessibility for passengers and freight throughout Ayrshire
Analysis of existing strategic planning and economic development policy landscape, both by reviewing documents and having discussions with local authorities, Scottish Enterprise, passenger and freight transport operators, and rail, port and airport infrastructure operators.
During this analysis, it quickly emerged that there were a number of constraints in the transport network outwith Ayrshire that were inhibiting the performance of the regional economy, such as:
Congestion on the M8 in Glasgow, at both Kingston Bridge and Hillington.)
Congestion at the Raith Interchange in Lanarkshire, where the A725 connection from Ayrshire joins the M74.
Capacity constraints on the Glasgow-Paisley-Ayr railway line, particularly between Paisley Gilmour Street and Shields Junction and also platform capacity at Glasgow Central.
Poor standard of the Carlisle-Dumfries-Kilmarnock railway line, and limited rail capacity on the West and East Coast Main Lines.
Connectivity from Prestwick Airport and the ports.
This work culminated in a series of proposals – for strategic road, rail and public transport improvements, within Ayrshire and further afield. You can see a one-page PDF document of the full list of the proposals by clicking here.
What was the outcome of all this?
In their simplest form, our conclusions were contained in a matrix which scored each potential scheme against the various STAG criteria. You can see that matrix on page 108 of the Final Report of the project (below), with commentary on each scheme on subsequent pages. We also went a stage further to rank how the schemes performed, particularly in terms of their contribution to economic regeneration. You can see that table on page 114 of the report.
(Click on the image of the report to read it on screen – or download a copy to read later.)
As you’ll see in the report, the top-performing schemes were improvements to the Glasgow-Ayr railway line and extension of the M77 southwards to Ayr – reflecting the importance of the Glasgow city-region as an economic driver for Ayrshire, and as a gateway to the Central Belt by road and rail.
Now it’s over to the government to feed these results into their national policy and spending plans, and filter them down to the regional level. At the time of writing, just after publication of the Scottish Government’s 2007 Spending Review, there was no sign of commitment: but I know these things can take time, so let’s wait and see.