The Deputy First Minister has promised a transport revolution for Perth to help drive the economy forward.
The SNP manifesto answered long-running calls to merge rail and bus facilities by pledging to invest in “redeveloped station hubs” in cities including Perth.
But one Conservative councillor warned the SNP’s vow could still see them wriggle out of building the fully integrated hub demanded, paving the way for yet more “tinkering around the edges” of the existing sites.
John Swinney, the Deputy First Minster, told The Courier he was looking forward to seeing plans for the “integrated transport hub” progress.
“The commitment to invest in redeveloping a station hub in Perth is extremely good news for the city and will mean a better, joined up local transport network for rail passengers and people connecting to local bus services,” the Perthshire North candidate said.
“It’s good news for active travel too, with more facilities for cyclists and easier access for pedestrians. By transforming the accessibility of local rail stations we can encourage more people onto public transport with the huge environmental benefits that entails.
“Development of a station hub doesn’t just bring day-to-day benefits for people in Perth, it has the potential to encourage greater visitor numbers to the city and surrounding area, lifting the local economy.”
Alexander Stewart, a Conservative councillor on Perth and Kinross Council, is sceptical of the plans. He said: “They [the SNP] say they will invest in a ‘redeveloped’ station hub which suggests to me it is not a new integrated station. We have had tinkering around the edges at both stations but no real investment.
“What we need is a brand new, properly integrated station. If it’s not a ‘hub’ in the true sense of the word then it’s not much use.”
Ian Miller, the SNP leader for Perth and Kinross Council, was pleased to see a commitment from his party colleagues in Edinburgh.
“The council has had an ambition for many years to have an integrated station for Perth to make it easier for passengers to connect between bus and rail services,” he said.
“I very much welcome that we are going to get the investment to make this happen.
“It’s something that has been badly needed and we have wanted to do it for a number of years.”
Other plans to get Perth moving again
The long-mooted transport hub is just one of several major traffic infrastructure projects planned for Perth. Linking the train and bus stations with the harbour was a long-standing ambition which has ultimately proved fruitless.
Higher hopes have been held for a freight transport hub somewhere on the outskirts of the city which would draw heavy traffic from the centre.
The consolidation of such activities at an industrial park such as Inveralmond would help ease congestion and pollution in the Fair City’s streets.
One project closer to getting the green light is the proposal to run water taxis along the River Tay from the Carse of Gowrie into the centre of Perth.
Pontoons would be erected at stops along the way with a starting point at Willowgate, under the Friarton Bridge.
In the longer term, the council has ambitions to build another crossing across the river from the A9 to near Scone.
It is a cornerstone in transport policy of coming decades, although a lack of available resources could prove to be a stumbling block.