Falkirk's Tory/Labour administration knocks back STAG report on Grangemouth rail station for fourth time

Only the SNP are standing up for Grangemouth

An opportunity to progress plans for a Grangemouth Rail Station were scuppered by the ruling Tory/Labour/Aligned-Independent administration in Falkirk Council yesterday when they voted against a STAG report twice at Monday’s Special Full Council meeting. Last year the SNP had previously attempted to instruct Falkirk Council transport officers to undertake a STAG report, however these attempts to move the rail stations for Grangemouth and Bonnybridge forward were also blocked at the time.

A STAG report would have allowed Falkirk Council to argue that there is a local need for a rail station in Grangemouth (and Bonnybridge) and would give weight to any attempt to alter the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR).

However the plan hit the buffers when the ruling Tory/Labour/Independent administration, on a motion by Councillor Billy Buchanan, knocked back the SNP’s call for a STAG report on both stations. This disappointing action followed calls by the SNP for STAG reports in April and October last year.

On a second attempt to move the Grangemouth project forward, the SNP moved that a joint STAG report be undertaken, with the Scottish Government being approached to cover half the expected £50,000 cost, however this was again defeated by the ruling Tory, Labour and Independent Councillors.

Speaking during Monday’s debate, Grangemouth SNP Councillor and SNP Transport spokesperson Councillor Angus MacDonald said:

“Before I start Provost can I say that I came across the ultimate of ironies this morning while stuck in traffic on the Beancross Road at the Fouldubs bridge.

“There I was sitting thinking about this morning’s Full Council meeting when I noticed a large Network Rail billboard proclaiming the benefits of the new Airdrie to Bathgate rail link, which is taking loads of traffic off the M8.

“It’s kind of ironic don’t you think?

“It got me to thinking how pro-active the SNP-led administration in West Lothian is compared to this lack-lustre administration that we are saddled with here.

“So, here we are again another year down the line and still squabbling over Grangemouth & Bonnybridge rail stations when all the people want is this Council to deliver.

“I have to say Provost, I’ve heard mention made in this chamber in the past of lazy motions and lazy amendments, but this motion takes the biscuit.

“It is inaccurate, in fact it is not even true. In fact it should be ruled as incompetent because it is an outright lie.

“Councillor Coleman has made mention of the letter from the Transport Minister to Michael Matheson MSP in which he states that a “case unmade is a case unwon” with regard to the Bonnybridge station.

“He also goes on to say that “where it appears that a local need has been identified, I would certainly expect that local interests would take the lead in preparing that case”.

“The Minister goes on to say in the final paragraph that the door is not closed and that “any further work such as a STAG appraisal undertaken by, for example, Falkirk Council that showed a need to re-visit previous conclusions would be given very careful consideration.”

“That doesn’t sound to me that the Scottish Government is “opposed to railway stations at Bonnybridge and Grangemouth”

“In fact I would say it is quite the contrary.

“So let’s have an apology from whichever genius drafted this motion, which is clearly factually incorrect.

“Turning specifically to the Grangemouth station, as you should know if you recall our debate this time last year, Jamie Hepburn MSP (SNP, Central Scotland) conducted a survey of 8,000 households with the result that:

95.3% of respondents said they supported a new rail station

A massive 95.6% said they would make use of a rail station in Grangemouth

And 67.4% indicated they would use the station on a weekly or regular basis.

Now I recall the Depute Provost saying at our debate a year ago, and I quote,

“Just because a community wants a new rail station is not a good reason to give them one.”

“With that kind of logic Provost it’s no wonder this administration is regarded by the public as having lost its way, if it had any direction in the first place.

“So, we are faced with an Administration that is more interested in creating hurdles than actually getting on with the job.

“A can’t do attitude as opposed to a can do attitude.

“This attitude is in stark contrast to the positive comments made by Alex MacAulay, Partnership Director at SESTRAN, who said last year that he would:

“Further explore the prospect of undertaking a wider exercise in the spirit if STAG for improving (passenger) transport links to Grangemouth.”

In August of last year in a letter to Jamie Hepburn MSP he said that “SESTRAN funding for such an exercise could be made available for the 2010/11 financial year.”

“Then, in addition, there was a letter from David Middleton, Chief Executive of Transport Scotland who last year said that:

“Transport Scotland will consider proposals for rail interventions that would contribute to the objectives of the Scottish Government.”

“Such interventions would obviously be of relevance to the next High Level Output Specification and future franchises.

“Now, clearly in Grangemouth, NPF2, the Scottish Government’s national planning framework has a major bearing on future transport projects in Grangemouth.

“Now, I believe that Transport Scotland was carrying out a GRIP3 (Guide to Railway Investments 3. Option Selection) about a year ago into the provision of an eastbound chord from Grangemouth to Polmont.

“Can I ask the Director, or Mr Angell, if SESTRAN and Falkirk Council approved the necessary budget allocations for that work, and if so has that work been completed?

“As I understand it the conclusion of a GRIP3 study could influence Transport Scotland and Sestran as to whether a rail station is possible in Grangemouth.

“It is therefore clear that this motion is factually incorrect

So, in closing, let’s not forget that the former Labour-controlled Central Regional Council prioritised a Grangemouth Rail Station, and we’re still waiting.

“We know the idea is popular, it is practical, and it is possible to make a reality.

“All that is standing in the way is the intransigence and lack of political will amongst the administration.

“Its time we moved this forward – support the amendment”

Sadly, the amendment was defeated by 16 votes to 11.

Following the meeting, Grangemouth Councillor Angus MacDonald, who is also the SNP Candidate for Falkirk East at the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections said:

“It is extremely disappointing that the current ruling Tory/Labour administration in Falkirk cannot bring themselves to support the SNP requests for a STAG report. We even gave them a lifeline in the second vote, which would have seen Falkirk Council approach the Scottish Government for 50% funding of the cost of a STAG report. Unfortunately they rejected that proposal as well.

“When you look at the results of the poll conducted by SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn, which showed 95.3% of residents in Grangemouth supported a new Grangemouth rail station, it is beyond belief that the ruling Tory and Labour councillors are so intransigent and unwilling to bow to the people of Grangemouth’s wishes.

“I am sure the people of Grangemouth will not forget this when next they visit the polling station.”

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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