Lord James also said that the introduction of private finance into the trunk road programme would allow projects to come forward earlier than could be expected, citing the recently completed Skye Bridge project as an excellent example.
'The upgrading of the A74 to three lane motorway standard, extending Britain's strategic M6 spinal route to promote economic benefits to Scotland, remains a key government priority,' Lord James said. 'The opening of this new section reaffirms this commitment and underlines our objective of completing the upgrading by the year 2000.
'Over 64 kilometres of new motorway has now been completed since construction work on the Millbank to Nether Abington section in the North commenced on April 1990. More than two thirds of the road is now open to traffic which represents a remarkable achievement in such a relatively short period of time.
'This introduction of private finance into the trunk road programme has allowed projects to come forward sooner than would otherwise be the case and has brought with it the benefits of private sector initiatives.
'Within the space of a few weeks we will have witnessed the completion of three major road construction projects in Scotland.
'The secretary of state recently opened the Skye Bridge, built largely with private sector resources and therefore permitting a much earlier start than would otherwise have been possible. The benefits to Skye and the adjacent mainland will be considerable as a result of this unique project and will give a significant boost to economic growth in the area.
'Today's opening ceremony will complete the southern section of the A74 upgrading programme giving motorists over 40 kilometres of continuous motorway between Cleuchbrae and the English border.
'And in two weeks time I will perform the opening ceremony for the M8 Extension project between Newbridge and the Edinburgh City Bypass and in doing so ease one of the greatest bottlenecks in the Scottish trunk road network.
'The Ecclefechan to Eaglesfield project is a shining example of the remarkable success which has been achieved by the innovative Design and Build contract. As a result of the greater degree of design and construction innovation which this form of contract affords, together with the contractors increased responsibility for project management, this project has been completed six weeks ahead of schedule, at the tendered price and with no claims.
'This remarkable achievement is echoed in the M8 Extension project. Another Design and Build construction scheme which will be brought into Scotland's Trunk Road Network ahead of schedule and within budget.
'When the Newbridge to Edinburgh City Bypass extension of the M8 opens to traffic next month, the Baillieston to Newhouse section, built in the 60's as a dual two-lane all purpose road, will be the only section of the present route linking Edinburgh and Glasgow not built to motorway standard. The completion of this final section of motorway to provide the `missing link' in the M8 is vital to the Central Scotland motorway system and economy. In the summer of 1996 tenders will be sought on a Design, Build, Finance and Operate basis for this project.
'In addition to the importance placed in improving the trunk road network for motor vehicles, the government is also acutely aware of the benefits to be derived from public participation in cycling. Next year will see the start of the Trunk Road Cycling Initiative which will begin with a five year programme of works by The Scottish Office, valued at £5m, to provide trunk road sections of the SUSTRANS National Cycle Network. As part of this initiative a dedicated cycleway over the length of the A74 all purpose route will be provided as part of the final contract which is to start next year.
'I would like to acknowledge the significant contributions made by Morrison Construction who carried out the work with great engineering skill; by Carl Bro Group, Designers to Morrison Construction; by Ironside Farrar, Environmental Consultants to Morrison Construction who advised on measures to mitigate the effects of the construction on the landscape, ecology and adjacent communities; by Babtie Group, Consulting Engineers, who carried out the initial design of the route and superintended construction and by the staff of the National Roads Directorate of the Scottish Office Development Department for their project direction.'