Business

Entrepreneurs call for ‘Elon Musk-type thinking’ on Scotland’s future transport needs

SCOTLAND’S 20-year blueprint for future transport investment “lacks ambition” and needs “Elon Musk-type thinking”, the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey heard yesterday.

High-profile entrepreneurs Sir Tom Hunter and Lord Willie Haughey said that the Scottish Government’s second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), which includes 45 recommendations that ministers hope will make transport in Scotland more sustainable, should have been bolder and more ambitious.

Sir Tom, founder of The Hunter Foundation, admitted that he was “not impressed” with STPR2. “There was nothing that really grabbed me – where was the Elon Musk-type thinking? I think it lacks ambition and I am not impressed.”

Labour peer Lord Haughey described the Clyde Metro project, a multi-billion-pound scheme aimed at better connecting the 1.5 million people living in the Glasgow region, as “regurgitated” and something that had been talked about “for years”.

It could include light rail, bus rapid transit and metro rail, and would complement the services currently on offer.

In addition, it could see existing rail lines turned to metro or light rail and there would be a link to Glasgow Airport.

The owner of City Facilities Management Holdings said of STPR2, which was unveiled earlier this month: “I agreed with Tom – this is our chance to be bold and ambitious.

Citing the vision of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, whose ambition is to create a “hyperloop” transportation system that would move passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in California in less than 30 minutes, Lord Haughey said: “When Elon Musk first mooted his idea, he was told that he would have to spend hundreds of millions on research.

“So he advertised and 1,000 very clever people in America offered to work for free in their spare time to help him with the concept on the premise that if it came to fruition there would be something in it for them. These are the things you have to do.”

Scotland’s transport links, he said, could be improved “with not too much money”, adding: “We should start by widening the M8 to four lanes each way.”

Asked about the importance of infrastructure by Go Radio Business Show host Donald Martin, the editor of The Herald and The Herald on Sunday, Sir Tom said: “It is all about connectivity and as we have seen with the lack of HGV drivers, when it is slicker and you have less friction … that is better for business.”

Sir Tom, who has previously described HS2, the project to create high-speed rail links between London and major cities in the Midlands and north of England as “an analogue answer in a digital world”, called for more innovative thinking on transport and infrastructure.

“Where is the green agenda, the Elon Musk-type thinking? I am fed up with stuff being regurgitated,” he said.

“Come on – we can do better,” he added, referring to the M8 as “that monstrosity between Scotland’s two biggest cities”.

Lord Haughey, meanwhile, pointed to the 4.7-mile extension of the M74 which opened in 2011 as a prime example of a successful infrastructure project in Scotland.

“It is absolutely superb,” he said, adding that it meant one of his regular journeys now takes 12 minutes rather than 45 minutes, reducing pollution.

The M74 extension and the Hydro at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, Lord Haughey noted, are two major infrastructure projects that have been worthwhile in terms of GDP (gross domestic product) uplift.

“They should be put up as the selling point for other projects,” said Lord Haughey.

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