Rail costs ‘must not hit road budget’

The Borders railway, due to be completed in 2014, must not be allowed to suck money away from improving roads and maintaing bus routes, according to John Lamont, the Conservative candidate for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.

Mr Lamont was commenting after touring the newly drawn Holyrood constituency with deputy Scottish Secretary and Tweeddale MP David Mundell at the weekend.

Mr Lamont said: “I am a firm believer in old fashioned politics; knocking on doors and hearing what local people have to say about the important issues of the day. I was delighted that David was able to join.

“Whether it is the availability of affordable housing, investment in roads and bus network, protecting frontline services such as the NHS and policing, or the need for local jobs, a wide range of local issues were raised with us by the voting public.

“One of the main issues on the doorsteps has been the state of our roads and availability of local bus services.

“If our region is to recover quickly from recession and attract the investment that we need, it is vital that we have good transport links across the Borders.

“The other political parties seem to think that once the railway to Galashiels is open, all of our transport problems will be solved. The reality is that for residents in many parts of the Borders, the railway will make little difference.

“It may help people in and around Galashiels, but the new railway must not be allowed to suck money away from improving our roads and maintaining vital bus routes. We need an integrated transport network helping every community in the Borders.”

Mr Lamont went on: “Another issue that comes up time and time again is social housing. There is just not enough to cope with demand and many people in the Borders are having to wait for months and sometimes years before a suitable property becomes available.

“Although it is a basic problem of supply, there are changes that could be made to make things slightly easier for local people. For example, many people believe that local connections should be taken into account when a house is being allocated. This would mean that people would find it easier to remain closer to family and friends.

“A common complaint is that it seems much easier for people from outside the Borders to secure properties than it is for local people.

“I am pleased the Scottish Conservatives are proposing to change the allocation rules to allow local connections to be taken into account.”