You are:

+ Share | Print page

The background to the Motorway network in Scotland - pre 1987

The 1960s - A programme for development and growth

'Development and growth' is a recurring theme in Government White Papers, and investment in infrastructure is invariably seen as a means to facilitate the objective. There was no real opposition to successive Government's investment strategies. Scotland's historic prosperity was founded on traditional heavy industries, but these were in rapid decline. Unemployment was high by post-war standards and there was a sense of physical decay in many of the older industrial areas, steeped as they were in the age of coal, smoke, dirt and overcrowded housing conditions. Against that background there was also optimism about the future. Modern industries, the 'white hot heat of technology' were to provide the new high quality jobs and fuel the rising living standards of much of the populace.

The 1963 White Paper 'Central Scotland - A programme for development and growth' describes the priority given to the development of the main trunk routes within the investment plans for the period until 1969. Infrastructure was seen as those facilities and services each representing a considerable capital investment which are essential to support a healthy and expanding economy. For roads, this included a mix of motorway and dual carriageway construction with the former provision on sections of the Edinburgh-Glasgow-Port Glasgow A8 and the A9 Edinburgh-Stirling road, to build towards east-west links to the Central Belt and the northern link from the M74 to the A80. But motorways were not seen as necessary for all the core routes, and sections of the A80 and A90 in the Central Belt were to be built as dual carriageways.

Of particular importance to the economy of central Scotland was an efficient road link with England and Wales. Three quarters of all traffic passes through Carlisle, and the main route to and from England, the A74, was now being completely rebuilt. The reconstruction of this route which was proceeding south of the border would make an equally important contribution to economic development in Scotland.

The Government also saw the need to upgrade the roads provided by the local Highway Authorities and wished to direct grants to roads in Glasgow, including the inner ring road and the Clyde Tunnel. In all £57m was directed to the trunk road in the five year planning period, and £44m in grants to the Councils, a considerable boost to an already ambitious programme, necessary to speed up and co-ordinate this essential groundwork for prosperity.

The Scottish Economy 1965 to 1970 - A Plan for Expansion

The White Paper presented to Parliament in January 1966 announced expenditure of £82 million for trunk roads and motorways, out of a total roads budget of £137 million over the 5 year period 1965 - 1970. It was anticipated that this expenditure would deliver by 1970 a virtually completed modern main route network between the main industrial areas of the central belt of Scotland and the main connection to the motorway system in England and Wales. Some 209 miles of dual carriageway and motorway were planned to be in use by 1970, with a further 80 miles completed by 1972. Progress towards the 5 year plan was charted by annual reports.

The plan envisaged that by 1970, the motorway and near motorway of the 300 miles of the important industrial trunk roads in central Scotland would be complete and that the emphasis of the road programme would then move towards the reconstruction of roads in towns, especially in the Clydeside conurbation, where a beginning had been made by Glasgow on a system of urban motorways. Concurrently, the programme for the inter-urban routes would turn to the overloaded or sub-standard single carriageway network such as the A82 and A9 routes to the Highlands. It was estimated that some 350 miles of all-purpose road would require to be improved in this second phase.

The delivery programme over the next 15 years remained remarkably focussed on this strategy.

The drive to expand the strategic network was supported by year on year increases in public expenditure on new roads. By 1967-68, total expenditure on roads (excluding expenditure under rate support grant) was some £36 million.

Notable achievements during 1967 included the start of construction of the Erskine Bridge when the Under Secretary of State drove the first pile for its foundation. A £3 million contract for the bridge superstructure was let in December of that year. In November, the Erskine Bridge Tolls Bill was published, under which powers were sought to levy tolls for the use of the bridge. This was in line with the Government's policy of charging tolls on major river and estuarial crossings which provide exceptional advantages for road users in reducing journey times and distance. The inconsistent application of this policy led to difficulties for succeeding Governments, particularly in relation to the Skye bridge project.

By the end of 1967, 151.5 miles of motorway and dual carriageway were open, 42.5 miles were under construction, and 15 miles had to be started to achieve the target 209 miles total.

The 1970s

It is now difficult to recall just how much the investment in roads has changed Scotland since 1960. Journey times from Carlisle to Inverness have nearly halved from a 9 hour average in 1962. No more do children have to dread the holiday car journey on winding single carriageway and single track roads, the ferry crossings at estuaries (or the long drive round), and the inevitable boredom and car sickness!

The improvement to the rural network was a key part of the roads programme in the 1970s. Although sufficient capacity was provided through good quality single carriageway alignments, and so by rights should not be included in the motorway archive, the achievement of the construction of the A9 to Inverness merits particular mention.

Scottish Roads in the 1970s

By 1970, work had started on the last sections of the 209 miles of trunk road dual carriageways and motorways whose completion had been promised in the White Paper of 1966. The stage had now been reached for setting out a policy for the next generation of road schemes for construction during the 1970s.

The White Paper 'Scottish Roads in the 1970s' therefore represented a strategic plan. It was designed to ensure greatest effort was devoted to the most important long term schemes, and to maintain a balance between roads serving different purposes such as relief of traffic congestion, stimulation of industry and commerce, and road safety.

By 1971, the trunk road network included most of the dual carriageway and motorway described in the White Paper on the Scottish Economy, the Clyde had been bridged at Erskine, much progress had been made with the Glasgow inner ring road. In relation to the traffic volumes on the rural inter urban routes, it was considered that a highly efficient base network was now in place, and that the expenditure objectives of the 1960s programme had been largely met. Between 1962/63 and 1969/70, Government expenditure on the main road building programme increased by an average of 14% compounded annually against an average of 7% annual traffic increase. This rate of increase in expenditure was now planned to reduce significantly. A total investment programme of some £480 million in 1969/70 prices was envisaged.

The priorities were seen as the busiest trunk roads, the progressive improvement of other trunk roads, ands on principal roads the massive improvements required in and around large towns, the development of new towns and other expanding areas. Instead of about 60% of expenditure being devoted to trunk roads, which was the 1965-70 pattern, about 60% was planned for principal (mainly urban) roads.

Within the trunk road programme, greater effort was devoted to the rebuilding of roads mainly along their existing corridors to good single carriageway standard. Previously only a quarter of expenditure had been devoted to this purpose, the remainder being required for motorway and dual carriageway construction. It was clear that the Scottish Office envisaged that the motorway and dual carriageway programme was substantially complete, at least until the mid 1980s on their traffic forecasts of the time.

The expenditure programme was broken down as follows:

Planned investment 1971/72 to 1980/81

Trunk Roads

£m

Completion of programme in the White Paper on the Scottish Economy

40

Large scale new construction or reconstruction

100

Other bridges and smaller schemes

50

Total - Trunk Roads

190

Principal Roads

Urban

120

Inter-urban

145

New towns

25

Total - Principal Roads

290

Grand Total

480

 

Roads in Scotland 1980

This White Paper set out the Government's policy for roads investment in the 1980s. For perhaps the first time, the growing tension between the development and growth strategy founded on an improved road infrastructure and growing traffic, and the environmental impact of increasing traffic growth was reflected in the paper. It was stated that proposals for new or improved roads must therefore be conceived in their wider planning and environmental context.

The influence of tourism - recognised as one of the major service industries in Scotland - was also recognised. The ability of tourist traffic to move freely and quickly was seen as an inducement to many visitors to Scotland.

The trunk road priorities included for the completion of the central Scotland motorway network, the improvement of communications to the oil rich north-east, the upgrading of the A9 between Perth and Ardlullie in Easter Ross.

Work on the central Scotland motorway/dual carriageway network was seen to be proceeding well. Schemes to complete the M9/M876 links in Stirlingshire and the Baillieston Interchange, which provides the link between Glasgow's Monkland Motorway and the A8/M8 from Glasgow to Edinburgh, opened in 1980. The final stage of the M90 Inverkeithing to Perth also opened. It also noted plans to upgrade the A8 from Baillieston to Newhouse to motorway standards and for a Stepps Bypass as the first section of the M80 from Glasgow to Haggs. On completion of these, it was thought the trunk road network in central Scotland would be complete. However, after the success in delivering the 1965-70 plan and steady progress through the 1970s, progress on these larger motorway schemes became decidedly patchy. Indeed no progress has been made on these sections during the past 20 years beyond the completion of the Stepps Bypass.

Overall, following the public expenditure constraints imposed following the 1979 general election, expenditure on trunk roads was planned to fall over the period to 1983-84. Planned expenditure was:

Year

Total

New construction

Maintenance

 

£m

£m

£m

1980-81

67.6

54.9

12.7

1981-82

69.6

56.9

12.7

1982-83

62.4

49.7

12.7

1983-84

61.4

48.7

12.7

 

The motorway schemes due to start were:

 

 

M74 New sections of M74 Draffan-Millbank Stages I and II

M74 Maryville to Glasgow City Boundary

M8 Baillieston to Drumpark

M80 Stepps Bypass

M8 Newbridge to Edinburgh

 

Roads in Scotland Reports for 1981 to 1983

Apart from the gaps in the M8 and M80, construction of the central Scotland motorway network was virtually finished by the end of 1980 and no major schemes were in progress between 1981 and 1983 . The most notable event of 1982 was the opening of the Kessock Bridge over the Beauly Firth by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 6 August. The bridge carries a dual carriageway and shortened the route from Inverness to the Black Isle by some 14 miles. It forms part of the reconstruction of the 127 mile A9 between Perth and Ardlullie in Easter Ross, took a little over 4 years to build, and cost over £30 million.

Roads in Scotland 1984

The 1984 policy document noted that a substantial proportion of the work proposed in the 1980 policy document was completed or under construction and set out to re-examine the policy framework in light of achievements to date and other factors.

It set out proposals and priorities for trunk roads and an indication of relative timescales as follows:

Short term (S)

Where construction should commence by 1986

Medium Term (M)

Possible starters in the period 1986-89

Long term (L)

Unlikely to commence before 1989

 

Given the belief that the central Scotland motorway network was almost complete, only a small number of schemes designed to extend the network where appropriate or to fill gaps were included.

The extension to the M8 to tie into the Edinburgh City Bypass was proposed (S), as was the upgrading of the A8 Baillieston to Newhouse section (M). North of Glasgow was the proposal for the Stepps Bypass (M) and the longer term upgrade of the A80 from Stepps to Haggs (L) where it would tie into the existing M80 to Stirling. The Government had no further plans to upgrade or add to the motorway network.

This policy was to change however. After many years of public pressure to upgrade the A74 to motorway, the Conservative party included a commitment to this in its 1987 Scottish General Election Manifesto. On winning that election, this commitment was to shape the effort of the Scottish Office over the next 10 years.

A further impetus to road building was given by the Department of Transport's 1989 White Paper 'Roads for Prosperity'.

1989 also saw the appointment of John Dawson as Director of Roads and the subsequent creation of the Roads Directorate within the Scottish Office Development Department. John's enthusiastic management style together with the increased political profile and resources made available for road building resulted in a period of very high profile and interest in the Directorate's work.

Roads for Prosperity

This White Paper announced a greatly expanded motorway and trunk road programme to relieve congestion on the major roads between cities and towns in England. Schemes worth over £6 billion were added, more than doubling the size of the programme.

This was the response by Government to the growth of traffic, which had increased by 35 percent since 1980, with particularly high growth on motorways where traffic had nearly doubled. This was a result of the economic boom of the latter part of the 1980s. The programme was not of course implemented in full, boom turning to bust in the early 1990s. Nor did the paper extend to Scotland. However, it did give impetus to the plans for the A74 upgrading and for a new means of financing road improvements.

New Roads by New Means

By the late 1980s the Government had delivered the start of its privatisation programme. It sought to continue to push back the boundaries of the public sector to give scope for private enterprise to deliver better service to customers and a better deal to taxpayers. Transport was seen as no exception. The privately financed Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford-Thurrock was seen as the starting point for a new means of delivery. The aim was to extend the traditional role of the private sector to include the promotion, financing and operation of roads. Such roads were to be additional to and complement the existing and proposed public network.

The issue of additionality was to be a source of contention as the later Private Finance Initiative (PFI) developed. However, at the time of New Roads by New Means, the Government was looking for genuine private sector ventures. There was seen no place for financial devices, disguised Government borrowing or guarantees. Shadow tolls, for example, where the Government makes payments to the private sector operator according to the number of vehicles using the road were ruled out for that reason. This severely limited the scope of the initiative.

Given the belief that the central Scotland motorway network was almost complete, only a small number of schemes designed to extend the network where appropriate or to fill gaps were included.

The extension to the M8 to tie into the Edinburgh City Bypass was proposed (S), as was the upgrading of the A8 Baillieston to Newhouse section (M). North of Glasgow was the proposal for the Stepps Bypass (M) and the longer term upgrade of the A80 from Stepps to Haggs (L) where it would tie into the existing M80 to Stirling. The Government had no further plans to upgrade or add to the motorway network.

This policy was to change however. After many years of public pressure to upgrade the A74 to motorway, the Conservative party included a commitment to this in its 1987 Scottish General Election Manifesto. On winning that election, this commitment was to shape the effort of the Scottish Office over the next 10 years.

A further impetus to road building was given by the Department of Transport's 1989 White Paper 'Roads for Prosperity'.

1989 also saw the appointment of John Dawson as Director of Roads and the subsequent creation of the Roads Directorate within the Scottish Office Development Department. John's enthusiastic management style together with the increased political profile and resources made available for road building resulted in a period of very high profile and interest in the Directorate's work.

The issue of additionality was to be a source of contention as the later Private Finance Initiative (PFI) developed. However, at the time of New Roads by New Means, the Government was looking for genuine private sector ventures. There was seen no place for financial devices, disguised Government borrowing or guarantees. Shadow tolls, for example, where the Government makes payments to the private sector operator according to the number of vehicles using the road were ruled out for that reason. This severely limited the scope of the initiative.