Call for minister to 'take charge of rail upgrade'

THE transport minister should take active leadership of a major rail upgrade and provide full details of the work, an MSP says.

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Labour's transport spokes-man said Keith Brown should produce the full timescale of work and the business case for the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme.

Mark Griffin wants Mr Brown to explain which parts of the route will be closed and for how long. He said the project has already been scaled back and delayed and said the auditor general stated there are greater risks associated with EGIP than other transport projects.

Mr Griffin said: "Contracts will be awarded in early 2014 and we are still waiting to find out if the vastly scaled back project represents value for money.

"The SNP promised to invest in rail infrastructure in their manifesto but have reneged on that pledge and presided over cuts to rail projects or in the case of GARL, abandoned them altogether.

"Rail passengers are being short-changed and the SNP didn't even bother to consult them or inform parliament before making the decision to ditch their manifesto promise and slash the scope of EGIP."

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport raised concerns about EGIP earlier and the knock-on effect it would have on other transport services.

It questioned the necessity of the spending on the project and, in particular, a revamp of Queen Street Station if there is to be high-speed rail between Glasgow and Edin-burgh five years after the completion of EGIP.

Mr Griffin added: "It's time that Keith Brown took charge as this project has turned into a shambles.

"It should have been a flag-ship project which improved connectivity and been an incentive for investors to show that Scotland is the place to come and do business.

"Instead it's late, scaled back and a laughing stock.

"Keith Brown needs to get a grip and ensure a business case is produced and a concrete plan for the remainder of the work is brought forward early in 2014."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The EGIP scheme has not been cut. Indeed, the final business case due to be published early next year is predicated on the phased delivery of the full EGIP scheme.

"It is not true to suggest that the minister was not informed or that Transport Scotland did not demonstrate viability, value for money and afford-ability at key decision points.

"Audit Scotland recognise that Transport Scotland kept ministers fully informed and that the reasons for changing the scope of EGIP were 'clear and reasonable'."

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