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Regional Agenda: the nitty gritty

ICE news

Last week the ICE launched a major lobbying campaign in Scotland and Wales ahead of the May elections.

NCE asked the executive secretaries what they hope to achieve.

AT THE end of this week the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly both go into recess as campaigning gets into full swing ahead of elections on 1 May.

The ICE is determined to be a key player in the campaign process. Damning end of term report cards spelling out an 'Agenda for Change' for the two devolved governments have been presented to candidates (News last week).

'Must do better' is the central message of the report cards, which call for a massive increase in infrastructure spending in both the devolved regions. In Wales a tenfold increase in rail spending is demanded, while in Scotland the ICE reckons that roads now need at least £1bn to bring maintenance and repair up to existing targets.

Although neither ICE region expects changes to happen overnight, there is a belief that, with persuasion, the necessary investment can happen.

'The Scottish Parliament has proven that when it comes to practical legislation it can be delivered far more quickly than when time has to be found in a crowded Westminster timetable, ' says ICE Scotland executive secretary Wylie Cunningham.

'However, the ICE's report does illustrate how much more needs to be done to overcome the problems which are apparent and to meet the demands of the people of Scotland.

'So in the Agenda we have identified issues which we believe we can move on comparatively quickly in political terms, ' says Cunningham.

The ICE has marked the Scottish Parliament and Executive's first end-of-term report card as: 'A promising start, but must do better. There is a clear need to concentrate on the essentials.'

On transport, Scottish roads now need at least £1bn spent on them to bring maintenance and repair up to existing targets. Rail services have suffered a sharp fall in passenger confidence post-Hatfield and there is no doubt that promised service improvements have yet to be delivered to the satisfaction of the travelling public, says the report.

Scotland is a net exporter industrially, so providing dependable, integrated transport links to its main markets, whether by road, rail, sea or air, is seen as a top priority.

Particularly vulnerable are more remote areas of the country such as the Highlands & Islands, the borders and the south west, where many routes are commercially fragile, says the report. A key issue here is that Scotland is a comparatively big country, with a third of the UK landmass but less than 10% of its population.

In Wales calls for transport improvements are focused on rail. 'The rail infrastructure investment needed in Wales is around £250M, 10 times what is currently on offer and even this is now threatened by the Strategic Rail Authority rescheduling and re-franchising, ' says ICE Wales executive secretary Denys Morgan.

Public transport in Wales accounts for 8% of peak hour travel, rising to only 14% in Cardiff. 'These figures must be driven up to continental levels [60-70%], ' says Morgan.

The ICE wants to see a commitment to segregated second generation public transport, based on guided bus and light rail transport, along every major transport corridor in Wales.

'If it can't be afforded immediately there ought at least to be planning restrictions to protect the routes so that we are able to do it when the money does come along, ' says Morgan.

It also wants to see a firm commitment for the creation of a flagship rapid transit link to Cardiff Bay and its developments.

On flooding, the ICE is calling for the creation of a flood agency for Wales, reflecting the differences in geography between Wales and England.

'With the Environment Agency, Wales is very much a clip-on to England, ' says Morgan. 'But we have some very different rivers to England. We don't have rivers meandering all over East Anglia, but rivers flowing down the valleys giving us very quick floods.'

In waste, the ICE highlights differences with England to drive investment.

The Welsh Assembly is unique in having a legal duty to undertake all development in a manner recognising environmental sustainability. The ICE hopes to use this to gain support for the setting up of five multi-purpose disposal sites across the country, where all waste would be handled and all available methods used to maximise recovery.

Both Scottish and Welsh Agendas call on the respective assemblies to take action on the skills shortage in civil engineering, and call for positive discrimination 'to attract and train the civil engineers who will shape the future'.

The ICE also wants to see better recognition of civil engineering in the national curriculum, and a radical change in funding arrangements for civil engineering courses in higher education to fulfil society's need for engineering expertise.

It is calling for the abolition of student loan debt for students entering and remaining in the civil engineering profession, and greater recognition of women in engineering by careers advisors in schools and colleges.

The ICE has called for:

WALES

A tenfold increase in spending on rail infrastructure.

The creation of a flagship rapid transit link to the Cardiff Bay development area.

Increased funding to implement the Wales Waste Strategy.

An urgent assessment of longterm air and sea links.

A strategic assessment of the needs of Welsh Airports over the next 30 years.

The creation of a flood agency for Wales.

Effective exploitation of Wales' great potential for wind and wave power generation.

SCOTLAND

Urgent completion of the motorway network into Glasgow and Glasgow Airport.

Completion of the M6 at the 'Cumberland Gap' (just south of the Scottish Border).

Upgrading of the A1 from Newcastle to Edinburgh, linking into an improved network to support the new ferry link at Rosyth to Zeebrugge

An integrated policy to improve road and rail transport links from south west Scotland and the borders, areas which have suffered serious neglect over many years.

A reversal of under-investment in the rail industry.

Urgent completion of the audit of Waste Management Plans.

Better use of the Landfill Tax.

No more development on flood plains.

Immediate delivery of an asset management plan for river and sea defences.

A legally binding commitment to meet and maintain a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas levels from 1990 figures by 2010.

Co-ordinated action to develop Scotland's potential for sources of renewable energy - hydro, wind and wave power.

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