When the first vehicles rolled onto the new section of the M8 earlier this year, a final piece of our motorway jigsaw fell into place.
The M8, Scotland’s main street – and our busiest road – was opened to traffic and now stretches unbroken for nearly 60 miles, from just outside Greenock, in the west, right across the country to our capital.
For decades, drivers on the east side of Glasgow had been forced to leave the motorway and use the old A8, bringing additional restrictions and delays, particularly at the busiest times.
But on the new M8, journey times are now expected to be up to 20 minutes faster at peak times.
I’ve recently experienced these benefits too, travelling regularly around the country.
And it’s why I will be delighted to formally join the First Minister tomorrow in marking the official opening of this complex £500 million M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project, and thank everyone for their patience whilst the work was delivered.
This investment though was much more than a simple exercise to upgrade a road.
An all-new 7km section of motorway, with three lanes, was created between Eurocentral and Baillieston.
From Eurocentral to Newhouse, the old road was upgraded to motorway standard and a new all-purpose road built to connect with a revitalised A8, making local journeys better.
A notorious bottleneck at the Raith junction on the M74 has been removed with construction of an underpass, improving journeys on the A725 between East Kilbride and Coatbridge. The M74 has also been widened to four lanes in sections to ease congestion and improve the flow of traffic around Glasgow and beyond.
Combined cycle routes and footpaths, stretching over 16 km, have also been built or upgraded to better connect local communities and provide sustainable transport options. These will be fully opened in the coming weeks.
Over time, people will truly start to feel the benefits of this scheme and others in the pipeline with tangible differences to our economy, improved business and connectivity, north to south and east to west.
Other projects being delivered this financial year, representing a £1.7 billion investment in construction, include the spectacular Queensferry Crossing, a long-awaited bypass for Aberdeen, and the next phase of introducing dual-carriageway to the A9, all the way from Perth to Inverness.
This means that, by spring 2018, the total length of new and upgraded roads delivered in Scotland will be 175 km, including more than 61 km of motorway and 75 km of dual-carriageway. In addition, more than 54 km of cycle routes and footpaths will have been completed.
With the completion of these projects, it will mean over 250 km of new roads will have been completed in the last 10 years – that’s the equivalent of a journey from Glasgow to Inverness – representing a total investment in construction of £2.81bn.
The M8, M73 and M74 project is part of our wider commitment to enhancing infrastructure across the whole of Scotland. In doing so, we aim to provide a significant boost to economic development, support the construction industry, reduce travel times, deliver environmental benefits and improve safety.
We made a commitment to create infrastructure fit for Scotland in the 21st century. In delivering that, we are actively enabling sustainable economic growth right across our country.