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News

Tom Hart’s news notes, 2 March to 9 May 2015

Published 09 May 2015 by Colin Howden

MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
The mass of General Election coverage saw little attention given to transport apart from divergent views on High Speed Rail and some offers of lower rail fares and aid for younger people using buses.  The Conservatives were the strongest supporters of higher infrastructure investment to stimulate early and longer term economic growth but all the main parties were agreed on caution, though to varying degrees, on public spending with priorities for the NHS and education implying greater cuts elsewhere or funding from alternative sources.  As a ‘visionary idea’, the DUP has urged consideration of a tunnel or bridge from Galloway to Northern Ireland.

Elsewhere in the media, two emerging features were a renewed emphasis on greater cuts in carbon emissions as essential for a sustainable economy and pressure, reinforced by a Supreme Court decision to ensure UK government into action to meet EU standards for much improved air quality, especially in cities.  This requires cuts in nitrous oxides and in diesel particulates.  Concern for air quality has also been linked with stronger desires for city and town centres with high air quality, less road traffic and areas restricted to 20mph to create a public realm more attractive for a mix of walking, cycling, shopping and leisure activities.

In a March announcement, Transport Scotland is engaging with key stakeholders to determine future transport priorities.  A report is expected this summer.  This move has been welcomed by Gareth Williams, Policy Director, SCDI and is expected to have a significant freight, as well as passenger, element.  All major industry sectors are being consulted, not just those with a direct transport interest.

AVIATION
With a recommendation from the Airports Commission due, the Scottish business community has continued to favour both expansion of direct flights and an early decision to expand Heathrow as the leading airport for worldwide connectivity.  The Airport Commission Report has been delayed a further few weeks pending deeper assessment of the air quality impacts of expansion at London Heathrow.

Across the UK, Air Passenger Duty for those under 12 was abolished on 1 May but pressure continues for devolved APD to be abolished as quickly as possible by the Scottish Government to encourage a more rapid growth of in-tourism.  Air travel has resumed strong growth which is already increasing APD income.  The risks in abolition would be to find alternative funding and prejudice to the aim of accelerated cuts in carbon emissions.  If APD is abolished, English airports are seeking variable rates of APD to minimise adverse impacts from Scottish abolition.

Charter flights from Zurich to Inverness are to start later this year, bringing an estimated extra £1m to the local economy.  A study for Edinburgh Airport has concluded  that a 50% cut in APD could benefit the Scottish economy by an additional £1 bn by 2020.

Business travellers have complained that the British Airways monopoly of Glasgow-Heathrow routes leads to London flights up to £250 more expensive than from Edinburgh.  Edinburgh Airport is introducing a second departure route for a six-month trial.  This will allow a take-off every minute at busy airport times

Transport Minister Derek Mackay has announced as extra Glasgow-Tiree flight at peak summer times.  Argyll and Bute Council has reached agreement in principle with Hebridean Air Services to continue flights from Oban to Coll, Colonsay, Tiree and Islay for a further three years at a cost around £2m.  The Council is also seeking government support for flights from Oban to Glasgow and Barra.

Scotland’s charity funded air ambulance based at Perth is to upgrade its helicopter with £3.3m announced in the UK Budget.

Prestwick and Machrihanish are both in the running to become the UK’s spaceport

FERRIES & SHIPPING
The phased extension of RET to more Scottish islands plus technical issues affecting vessels are affecting service quality on many CalMac Routes.  There have been particular complaints from Arran, Islay, Mull and Colonsay about disruption of normal timetables and the inability of island residents to find vehicle space at busy times.  Islay residents and hoteliers report a disastrous two weeks over Easter when services were reduced as only one ship was available

The extension of RET to Bute and Mull in October is expected to bring a big rise in visitors by car.  SAPT has suggested that fares policy should include larger fare reductions for passengers  not using cars, especially at busy week-ends.  Work is to start in June on an £18m two berth terminal and expanded car parking at Brodick in Arran

Delays with new linkspans have also postponed full vehicle use of the new German-built Ullapool-Stornoway ferry.  Full transparency is being sought on this Scottish Government private sector contract – there is suspicion that this involves paying over £5m a year to Lloyds Bank for an unstated period – payments seen as reducing the ability to support improved service operations across the network.

There are nagging doubts that EU law actually requires a new round of tendering for the CalMac services to operate from October 2016 (David Ross – Herald Highland Correspondent 4 March).

Campbeltown-based Kintyre Express is to add a summer service from Ballycastle to Port Ellen, Islay, to its existing Ballycastle-Campbeltown 12 seater passenger service.  The Port Ellen timetable is designed to permit day trips from Northern Ireland.  The area still wants restoration of the Campbeltown vehicle ferry which operated until 1999.

Scotland’s love affair with the water is reaching new heights with surveys showing that 6.9% of the population have taken part in at least 1 of 12 boating activities in the past year.

Disney Cruise line is to have its first visit to Orkney in July after the Queen Mary 2 makes a maiden call to Oban in May.  Cruise ships brought as record 401,000 passengers to Scottish ports in 2014 but the trend to larger ships is expected to see this rise to 435,000 in 2015. Some Lothian businessmen are promoting  a £300m cruise terminal at Cockenzie which could bring an extra 500,000 cruise visitors to Scotland but also cater for outwards potential.  Construction could take 10 to 15 years

The Caledonian Canal was closed in March after storm damage to a weir but Scottish Canals were able to have the canal reopened by the end of April.  Highland Council has agreed to limit fare increases on the Corran Ferry to 2%.  It is also considering whether the ferry could be replaced by a causeway also generating renewable energy.  A lock would have to be incorporated for continuing ship access to Fort William and the Caledonian Canal.

There has been some revived interest in establishing a functioning maritime museum in either Glasgow or Greenock.

RAIL
Following the Stagecoach/Virgin acquisition of the East Coast rail franchise from temporary public sector operation, First Group has made an open access bid to run lower fare London-Edinburgh trains in four hours with stops at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth.  The aim is to encourage transfers from air to rail and encourage competition.  Issues of track capacity may influence an ORR decision on this application.

Virgin Trains East Coast have promised an extra Stirling-London service later in 2015 with extra Edinburgh-London services from May 2016.  New Super Express trains will enter service from 2018.

First Group has gained a 1 year extension to 1 April 2016 of its Trans-Pennine franchise which includes Edinburgh/Glasgow-Manchester services via Carlisle. There is also pressure for direct services to Liverpool.

Disquiet has again been expressed about major services disruptions, including the West Coast Main Line, for track renewals over Easter.  Improvements are also sought in wi-fi quality on strategic rail routes

Though the new Caledonian Sleeper franchise is aiming at higher quality and a better range of facilities, new data shows that Anglo-Scottish sleeper usage fell 25% from 274,000 to 210.000 over the past 3 years due to competition from air and daytime rail services.

Further proposals are under consideration to increase the volume of Anglo-Scottish rail freight together with improvements within Scotland.  Hitrans is studying the scope for re-introducing timber by rail north of Inverness as forests in this are mature.  British studies of the possible impact of a 50% rise in rail freight tonne kilometres suggest that, concentrated on routes over 200km, this could cut road freight tonne kilometres 12% with larger falls on corridors presently with high volumes of HGVs

The latest report on HS2 phasing will not be published until after the election.  Labour is cooler than the Conservatives on high priority for HS2 extension north of the West Midlands, preferring a strengthened package for the rail network in the north.  SNP wants priorities to include sections of new line in Scotland as well as in the south. One option is accelerated construction as far north as Crewe by 2027 rather than 2033 with this also including other work in Scotland and across northern England and south from Leeds.

ORR has published the annual report on rail finances to 31 March 2014.  State support for the rail network in Britain has fallen to 28.5% of total passenger income.  Total rail support in 2013/14 was £3.8bn with premiums paid for passenger franchises now almost as large as payments for franchises.

The largest franchise payment, at £506m, was to ScotRail followed by £346m to the Northern franchise in England and £152m to Arriva Wales.  As a percentage of total income, Northern had the largest support at 66.4% followed by Arriva Wales at 62.8%.  ScotRail came in at 57.7%.  This data is presented in ways which makes it difficult to determine the level of support given to passenger service operation as distinct from support from track and signalling maintenance, renewals and enhancements (including Network Rail borrowing costs).  Electrification and network extensions tend to increase track-related costs relative to initial rises in fares income while enhanced frequencies have a similar, though less intense, impact.  On this basis, and taking account of lower population density over much of the country, the Scottish financial performance can be seen as reasonable in relation to the benefits gained. Greater transparency is desirable in   assessing future operational and track programmes.

Transport Scotland, linked with the Abellio ScotRail franchise, has signed a deal for 70 new Hitachi emus for guaranteed use in Scotland for at least 25 years and an option to purchase for £1.  Delivery will start from summer 2017 with completion in 2018.  Glasgow-Falkirk-Edinburgh electrification will be completed in advance of the arrival of most new trains with work ongoing on an interim electric/diesel mix.

Electrification will involve closure of the Winchburgh tunnel for parts of June and July but agreement between Transport Scotland, Network Rail and Abellio will allow major new housing at Winchburgh to be served by a new station by December 2018.

Modifications at Portobello and on the eastern approach to Waverley may be needed to ensure that average trip times on the reopened Edinburgh-Tweedbank railway can be cut to meet the original promise of 55 minute trip times. There are also capacity problems west from Waverley but these will be eased by the £18m resignalling work in progress between Haymarket and the Forth Rail Bridge.

There are similar capacity and ‘network gap’ problems in Glasgow.  These get limited attention in the City Deal plans which say little on rail apart from mention of a tramtrain style Glasgow Airport link.  Labour leader Jim Murphy has supported plans for Glasgow Crossrail development but SAPT is seeking a fuller review of the rail network and frequencies in Glasgow as part of plans for greater shifts from car use, bus/rail co-ordination and an improved air quality and public realm in Glasgow city centre.  Abellio is offering smarter public transport ticketing across Scotland as well as a new Club50 Deal (replacing Club 55) offering cheaper fares for those over 50 travelling at times when spare seats are available.  Others have criticised this new scheme as over-complex and offering less value than Club55.
Midlothian and Scottish Borders residents have been told that present rail discounts for the elderly and disabled will not be available on the new Borders rail route.  The Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance (SATA) has called for concessionary travel by rail to be extended, not curtailed – especially as trains are often far more accessible.

Local pressures for rail extensions are rising with interest shown in Thornton-Levenmouth, Leuchars-St Andrew’s and Tweedbank-Hawick but Highland groups and a Transform Scotland booklet ‘Inter-City eXpress’ have called for greater attention to upgrades of the existing lines north from the Central Belt to Inverness and Aberdeen and also on the important route between Inverness, Elgin and Aberdeen.

A budding graphic designer, Angus Doyle, has produced an attractive London-style diagrammatic design for a future Greater Glasgow Rail Network (Herald 6 April).  Some routes have been seen as over-ambitious but Transport Scotland has agreed that there is potential for improved presentation of a network which has seen improving frequencies and higher usage.

The Forth Rail Bridge has celebrated 125 years in operation and a new visitor attraction, the Forth Bridge Experience, will be in place by 2017.

The Britain wide steam train ban imposed on operator West Coast Rail due to serious safety issues on the Great Western Main Line could affect the start of the popular steam-hauled Jacobite summer trains between Fort William and Mallaig.  But is has been agreed that this service can start at the usual time.

BUS, TRAM & TAXI
Glasgow Subway passengers rose to 12.95m in the past year, entirely due to a 1.2m rise in usage during the Commonwealth Games.  Excluding the Games usage fell 1.1% but smart ticketing, some developments around stations and the higher frequency allowed with driverless trains are expected to boost usage.  City stores now offer Subway card top-ups.  Subway pumps turning waste water into energy are being installed.

70% of Edinburgh tram users are ‘very satisfied’ with the service and Leith residents favour a tram extension there by 2 to 1.   The tram inquiry will take two years to complete, reporting after the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016.  The proposed City Deal also sees tram opportunities in the south-east quarter of the city.

There are complaints that the tram signalling system has delayed buses in Princes St but also opposite claims that too many buses have been delaying trams and affecting the public realm quality of Princes St. Opportunities exist for re-routeing buses or terminating more at the edge of the city centre (with tickets including tram use) or at other interchanges.  Edinburgh is proposing to ban coaches from Princes St yet a Scotsman letter argues that allowing visiting coaches to drive along the street is a popular feature for many visitors before disembarking at their hotels.  Cuts in local buses using Princes St would be preferable.

Balfour Beatty is starting work on the £25m Edinburgh Gateway station close to Maybury.  This will provide a major interchange hub, possibly with some buses from the west terminating there.  However, rail with a 10 minute trip time to the city centre may attract more passengers than a 20 minute tram ride.

Herald editorial on 1 April welcomes joined up thinking by Abellio and SPT to create an Oyster-type Scotland wide ticketing system encouraging rail/tram/bus co-ordination.  The new Scottish Transport Minister Derek Mackay is ‘open-minded’ about Labour proposals to re-regulate Scotland’s bus industry despite strong opposition from operators.  After the Supreme Court ruling , bus firms are under pressure to reduce localised air pollution in cities with the added gain of cuts in carbon emissions (H 29&30April).  CPT Scotland responded that better bus services attracting more people from cars can cut carbon but that low or zero emission buses involve higher costs in return for cuts in nitrous oxide and diesel particulates.

Scottish Government grants have allowed operators to introduce hydrogen buses on two routes in Aberdeen but they have had several breakdowns.  Battery buses also continue to have a limited range, especially if used on hilly routes.  But the number of hybrid city buses is rising.

SPT says the Glasgow City Deal includes £30m of bus investment – including improvements to Buchanan Bus Station and a new bus hub on the south edge of the city centre. A full business case is being developed but there is dispute between SPT on high priority for a Bus Fastlink extended west through the Glasgow South Hospital hub and an agreed action programme for fewer but better loaded and more reliable buses across the city centre.  Revenue to Glasgow City Council from penalties for using the Nelson Mandela Bus Gate has risen 22% to £4m a year.  Fines are now falling due to motorists getting the message not to use the bus gate though better publicity is being sought to cut the number of fines.  In Glasgow, an amnesty has been granted to motorists using bus lanes at Christmas and on New Year’s Day.  More bus lanes are likely to be reduced to 7am to 7pm operation.

SPT and Glasgow City Council have agreed a statutory Quality Partnerships ensuring higher standards for bus operators using the City Centre-South Glasgow Hospital Fastlink .  Peak services to the new transport hub in the hospital will rise to 68 buses per hour, all provided commercially.  Additional services from other parts of the city are being provided through Kickstart arrangement by SPT aided by NHS transition funding. There are still fears of extra congestion close to the hospital , influencing the potential early withdrawal of services by operators unhappy with the added running costs of a ‘dogleg’ into the hospital rather than a more convenient east to west route through the hospital hub.

Borders Council may cut bus charges for use of the new Galashiels transport interchange in order to encourage full use of this bus/rail facility.

Lothian Buses has introduced free bus travel for children in care for a six-month trial.  Scottish Labour has promised free bus travel for apprentices.  Lothian has raised by 50p present £3.50 fares for day travel and £4 for airport singles.  The Scottish Government has tightened rules on free bus travel for the disabled.

Around 9 in 10 bus users in Scotland are satisfied with services.  Stagecoach Tayside had the highest score at 93% with First North-east having the lowest overall satisfaction at 83%.  Fares in the north-east were considered too high but 83% considered Lothian fares good value.  McGill’s of Greenock was poorest for punctuality.

Users are unhappy with the lack of shelter and longer walks to taxi ranks at Waverley and Haymarket stations.  A new taxi app, Get Taxi, in Edinburgh is offering £5 taxi rides for every passenger in the city centre.  150 drivers have already signed up and there are claims that this could ‘finish’ established black cab firms in the city.  GetTaxi already operates in 30 other cities.

The Court of Session has upheld a Glasgow City Council decision not to allow rickshaw (pedicab) operation due to safety issues.  But such cabs already operate in Edinburgh.

Freak winds have been blamed for a coach accident injuring 19 on the A83 near Rest and Be Thankful.  The coach stopped within yards of a loch.  Motherwell-based MCT Group Travel has been banned due to lack of evidence of sufficient funding.  Ralph Roberts, McGill’s Bus manager, reports that it is still difficult to recruit drivers.  Too many people were not ‘work ready’.  Environment campaigners are calling for zero tolerance of buses idling at the kerbside, especially in low air quality parts of Glasgow city centre.

SESTRAN Chair Russell Imrie sees smart ticketing and good publicity as vital for sustainable transport where people can hop off buses, trams and trains as they please – and linked with encouragement for walking, cycling and more use of electric vehicles

Rather than a Stagecoach contract, Dundee City Council is to fund the Friendly Bus scheme through a Public Social Partnership from July

WALKING & CYCLING
Walking and cycling groups and sections of the general public have shown greater common interest in more rapid moves to 20mph limits on most urban streets.  Lower speeds and fewer vehicles link well with air quality, safety and public realm objectives (S20Feb & H30Apr)  Longer times are being sought for pedestrian phases at traffic lights (S10Apr)  ECC is proposing 20mph limits on 80% of city streets by 2017.  The Scottish Government has committed to spend a further £10m on cycling and walking infrastructure is the coming year bringing the total active travel budget to £36m.  Scottish Greens claim that is a £3.1m fall in 2014-15 spending.  Dundee City Council is reconsidering its opposition to 20mph limits.

Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil has announced plans to extend the National Walking and Cycling network by 500 miles by 2020.  There will be 30 new long-distance routes. Nestrans claims that too many bodies involved in active travel and hampering progress.  RTPs and local authorities need a larger role with a stronger focus on action to influence behaviour change.

On the other hand, London has reduced targets for increased cycling and the Scottish Government has been criticised for unrealistic targets to increase cycling to 10% of urban trips by 2020 when present cycling in only just over 1% of trips.  New research has indicated that Scots are shunning jogging outdoors and making greater use of indoor facilities, including swimming.

The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park in half-way through an £8.7m plan to improve paths, cycle routes and other outdoor activities.  A new path has opened from Callander to Inversnaid on Loch Lomond.

On Edinburgh trams, May will see an experiment allowing cycles on trams until 7.30am and from 9.30 to 4 pm on working days though with only two allowed on board at any one time.  Also in Edinburgh, work has started on a £1.2m scheme to link the Innocent path cycleway in the east via the Meadows to the Union Canal towpath.

ECC is in talks with T C Decaux on a bike-hire scheme while Abellio will also introduce schemes at Waverley and perhaps Haymarket.  Gordon Casely has called on Abellio to give more attention to increased cycle space on trains. Glasgow is increasing bike-hire points from 31 to 41.  49th hires have been recorded since the scheme was introduced in late June 2014.

Keith Irving, the new Chief Executive of Cycling Scotland has extolled the benefits of cycling in a 13 April Herald feature.  This follows a Scotsman feature by Jim Eadie on 23 March.

ROADS & PARKING
A worsening of broken wires on the Forth Road Bridge has been reported but Bridgemaster Barry Colford says there are no safety problems for users.  Starting from June, Transport Scotland is to pay £31.8m to Amey over five years to manage the Queensferry road crossings.  A five year extension may follow. Construction costs of the new road bridge are now expected to be £1.35bn rather than £1.4bn

Users of the Skye Bridge continue to complain of excessive closures due to high winds.  Thresholds for closure are to be reviewed.

A TomTom survey has found Edinburgh to be the third most congested city in the UK with congestion rising in 2014.  Neil Greig of the Institute of Advanced Motorists says that trams have increased delays with ‘the only solution being to try to make trams more attractive to car drivers’.  But congestion has also been rising at Gogar and Newbridge.  Columnist John McLellan says the time may have come to reconsider the congestion charging rejected in 2005.

Lower speed limits on urban streets could aid a reduced use of irritating speed bumps.  The rate of serious and fatal traffic collisions in Scotland remains above the English average with particularly poor outcomes on roads in rural areas  – especially in north-east Scotland.  Police are cracking down on careless rural driving.

On the 80th birthday of the Driving Test, the Institute of Advanced Motorists has called for stricter tests related to modern road conditions.  Accidents on the Dunblane-Perth-Inverness A9 continue to fall following the introduction of continuous speed monitors.

Transport Scotland had selected a Preferred Option for improvement on theA737 Beith Bypass.  Opened in 1933, this was one of the first bypasses in Scotland but it now sub-standard with various junction and access problems.   Transport Scotland is also seeking views on 15 options for the A9 junction at Dalwhinnie  Construction of the first section of new dualling on the A9 between Perth and Inverness is expected to start this summer.  Roadshow exhibitions are also being held on the Inverness-Aberdeen A96 with a design contract already awarded for the first 18 mile section of A96 dualling between Inverness and Nairn, including a Nairn Bypass.

Landslides have affected the A82 Fort William-Inverness road near Invermoriston

ECC has allocated an extra £10m for road repairs but the estimated backlog for repairs is £260m.  More towns and cities are securing savings by replacing orange street lights with brighter, energy-saving bulbs.

Petrol prices are edging back up to 120p a litre.  The Chancellor has cancelled the inflation-related 0.54p per litre increase due in September.  AA says that UK road fuel tax continues to be the highest in EU.

A policy decision to minimise staff parking at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the new Glasgow South Hospital has attracted strong protests as public transport is seen as an inadequate alternative by many.
NHS policy is to give priority to parking for patients and their visitors allied to improvements in staff public transport or active travel modes.  However, plans include possible staff parking further from hospitals but with high frequency or on-demand links between such car parks and hospitals.  Controls over parking in streets adjacent to major hospitals are also being intensified.  NHS Lothian has agreed to allow staff to pay up to £7 a day for staff parking but space is not guaranteed.

East Lothian Council is to introduce £2 charges using pay and display machines at 10 beach car parks later this year but is relying on Police Scotland for enforcement rather than traffic wardens.  However, this could increase police costs when overall police spending is being cut

PLANNING & PROPERTY
Aberdeen, Inverness are being considered by the Treasury for inclusion in a similar City Deal to that agreed for Greater Glasgow.  Edinburgh is also pursuing the concept.  Such ‘Deals’ have been criticised as part of scheme-based plans towards stronger and more sustainable city regions yet involving only limited transport proposals rather than a fuller review of options for the coming twenty years.  Each element requires further business case assessment before release of funding rather than a substantial devolution of city region decisions on issues related to transport, land use strategies and both economic and social development.

An Edinburgh City Deal could assist tram extensions to Leith, towards Newbridge and into the developing south-east quarter out as far as Penicuik or even Peebles (EN 3Apr). Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire are evaluating options for major sustainable transport improvements related to medium to longer-term growth in housing and employment.

Developers of the 4,000 new home community at Chapelton south of Aberdeen are seeking an easing of requirements to pay into a local authority Strategic Transport Fund to help bankroll infrastructure serving the new town.

Ten Scottish groups with interests in planning and conservation have urged action to rebuild trust in the planning process.  Issues include a right of appeal against major development decisions and greater transparency, impartiality and fairness in the planning process. However, town planners consider that the present system works well while housebuilders complain of excessive delay and lack of a strong strategy to accelerate home-building approvals (H2Mar).

Town centre bosses have launched a campaign against retail park plans in Port Glasgow.   At the same time, the leading supermarkets have announced plans to cancel further major stores and are closing some sites.
Stores are also being affected by greater use of email ordering with choices between home delivery and ‘click and collect’.  Ocean Terminal shopping centre in Leith is to have a £6m expansion. It attracts 5m visitors a year.

Leading architect, Prof. Alan Dunlop has attacked ‘crass’ plan to build a glass atrium in front of the Glasgow Concert Hall as part of an enlarged entrance to the expanded Buchanan Galleries.  The scheme has city council approval as it could unlock £310m of private sector investment and create 1,500 jobs.  The £25m new eastern terminal at Edinburgh Airport has been dubbed Scotland’s worst building.  ECC has been criticised for allowing demolition of the B listed Scottish Provident building in St Andrew’ s Square.  Cities are being called to pay more than lip service to public realm improvements.  Similar issues have affected the Marischal Square city centre redevelopment in Aberdeen

The former 31 acre Jordanhill campus in Glasgow is to be adapted for new housing.  The Scottish Government has dismissed an appeal against a decision by South Lanarkshire Council to refuse permission for a 3,200 home community development near Rigside.  Outline consent has been gained for 2000 homes on the Heartlands regeneration site close to the M8 near Bathgate.

RESEARCH & STATISTICS
Glasgow Airport had a 14% rise in passengers in March.  European and long-haul traffic rose 22.3% with an 8.2% domestic rise.  A new service has been added to Carsassone and Bournemouth is now twice daily.  Flybe will add flights to Cardiff in June and Wizz Air is adding new services to Budapest and Lublin.  A daily WestJet service to Nova Scotia and Thomas Cook Las Vegas flights start in May.  Edinburgh Airport rose 8.7% with international growth at 4.7%.  High domestic growth was helped by new four times a day services to Stansted.  Affected by oil price falls, Aberdeen Airport passengers fell 1.5%

CalMac report a 1.3% rise in passengers to 4.65m in the past year with cars at 1.1m, the highest since 2009.
Commercial vehicles were up 0.16% but coaches fell by 0.54%

ScotRail passenger trips in the SPT area have risen from 51.8m in 2011-12 and 57.6m in 2013-14 to 62.6m in 2014-15. The latter figure was affected by a 2.1m ‘wash-up’ Zonecard adjustment made prior to the start of the Abellio ScotRail franchise.  British data shows that, in the past two years, intra-regional trips have been rising faster than longer-distance travel

Scottish population has hit an all-time high at 5.3m but growth is much lower than in England.  Midlothian had the largest rise in population at 1.8% on the previous year.  The largest fall at 0.6% was in Inverclyde.
Scottish Government data shows a 15.6% rise in ‘accessible rural’ areas since 2001 but with over 60% of residents spending over £100 a month on car fuel compared to 47% in the rest of Scotland.

Visa UK Expenditure survey shows a 1.1% rise in recreational spending early in 2015 with spend on transport and communication up 0.8%.  Visitor numbers to Scotland’s main tourist attractions rose by 1.7m to 55m in 2014, aided by Commonwealth Games & Ryder Cup (Moffat Centre: Glasgow Caledonian University)

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are among the top six UK cities expected to show strong growth in hotel use over the next two years

A new app to aid the blind and visually impaired has been launched by Lothian Buses

Committee on Climate Change has called for stronger policies in the transport, renewable heat and agriculture/forestry sectors if targets for reduced greenhouse gas emissions are to be met.  Transport emissions accounted for 21% of total Scottish emissions and the Scottish Government should consider other options to drive the figure down – including congestion charging and other measures to influence behaviour change.   Road speeds should be cut while cuts in APD risked further rises in emissions (H24Mar)

RAC Foundation study has found a total of 1100 electric cars in Scotland with most of these being in Edinburgh which has the largest number of charging points

Emissions from new cars have reached a new low but EU is requiring further cuts by 2020.  Which? has found that official fuel consumption figures for new cars under-estimate actual average consumption by 13%. There has been some rise in the introduction of all-electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles but absolute levels remain low. In other places, around 40% of charging points are not used at all in some months.

New car sales in Scotland in April fell 3% to 15,401 but March had been a record month

Xerox Urban Mobility Survey shows that public and private transport in Edinburgh is running neck and neck in terms of use.  Residents average around 13 miles a week on each mode.  Public transport costs average £14.95 per week compared to £13.11 for car use.

First annual report on Scottish Cycling Statistics shows that twice as many commute by bike in Edinburgh as in Glasgow.  5.6% of Scots now cycle regularly with the highest rate being 12.2% in Edinburgh.  Inverness also had a good performance. Data is based on 2011 Census and SHS sources.  Keith Irving, Chief Executive of Cycling Scotland, considers that the real level of cycling is higher than official data suggests

A study by the University of East Anglia has shown that people lose more weight if they change from car commuting to public transport, walking and cycling (H8May)

LTT and other sources are giving more attention to the impact and possible growth of driverless cars.  This will be influenced by the legal framework, costs and public attitudes. The largest immediate impact, after rather than before 2020, is expected to be on taxis followed by demand responsive bus services.  High frequency shorter-distance bus, tram and rail services are likely to be less affected with little impact expected on longer-distance travel modes.  There could also be public realm and spatial issues if too many people sought to use driverless road vehicles in busy town and city centres (LTT 20 Feb, 6 Mar & 20 Mar)

Scenarios for Passenger and Goods Movement LTT has commended DfT for an ongoing shift from technical road traffic modelling to a scenario approach also associated with a reassessment of the benefits attached to time-savings and the greater use of already available sources on actual movement.  Tom van Vuren of Mott MacDonald, John Allan of Systra, David Connolly and Prof. Phil Goodwin have all contributed to the growing debate. Tom Hart has published a review (on the STSG website) comparing late 20th century official Scottish forecasts of movement and modal share with his  1999 publication on possible Scenarios to 2020.  Actual outcomes have been closer to the Scenario ensuring almost stable overall movement in Scotland rather than the official indications of continuing, but lower, growth.  However, shifts in modal share towards public transport, walking and cycling have been somewhat lower than in the postulated Sustainable Scenario.  Likely Scottish outcomes to 2030 are considered.

The new DfT revised road traffic forecasts for England to 2040 use five Scenarios suggesting growth in the range from 19% to 55% – with the former figure having higher population as the main reason for traffic growth.  All Scenarios are emphasised as tentative in view of changes in the understanding of links between income growth, population growth and behaviour change.  There is now a less clear link between growth in population and real incomes and growth in car use though van and lorry use may remain more buoyant.  There is ongoing reappraisal of the actual links between transport, well-being and sustainable economic growth.  Growth in car use to 2040 is more likely to be between 9% and 33% even under conditions of rising  population and real incomes.  Car use could continue to fall in the inner areas of large and compact cities – and also on routes between such cities.  Prof. Goodwin concludes  ‘we should focus less on forecasting the future and more on deciding what sort of future we choose – and the key point of that is that there may be a rather wider choice than we had thought’. (LTT 6 & 20 Mar; 1 May)

Phil Goodwin feature in LTT 3 April queries an over-emphasis on transport capital investment when increased revenue support may offer greater benefits.  He argues for greater flexibility in shifting funds between capital and revenue.  This would make transport spending more efficient and increase total welfare.

BUSINESS & PERSONNEL
Stagecoach is planning further Megabus expansion in continental Europe aided by a more liberalised market.  Underlying yearly pre-tax profits are expected to be around £183m.  Outside London, UK bus revenue was up 2.7% and volume up 0.4%.  West Coast Main Line income was up 6.7% with good results expected from the new East Coast franchise.  London bus revenue was up 9.8%

In the third quarter of 2014-15, First reports a 7.3% rise in rail revenue and a 2.7% rise in UK bus income.
It lost the ScotRail franchise from 1 April but has an extension of its Great Western franchise to 1 April 2019 and a 1 year Trans-Pennine extension which includes Scottish Central Belt to Manchester services.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has become The Office of Rail and Road Regulation with an overview role for both rail and road.   Due to a widened focus, Passenger Focus has been renamed Transport Focus. with Theo de Pencier, former FTA Chief Executive joining the Board.

Prof. Stephen Glaister has retired from the Oxford Transport Studies Unit and as Director of the RAC Foundation but will now Chair the Roads Sub-committee of ORR.

Network Rail (Scotland) and Abellio ScotRail have relocated to work jointly from 151 St Vincent St, Glasgow.

South African, Phil Verster, currently route managing director at Network Rail, has replaced Steve Montgomery as MD of ScotRail (Abellio)

Sharon Currie is the new business development manager at Forth Ports

The Virgin Trains East Coast team is to be headed by David Horne, formerly with East Midlands Trains

Tony Depledge has become interim Chair of Lothian Buses with Jim McFarlane appointed as interim General Manager following the phased and controversial departure of existing chief officers.  Ian Craig, former Lothian Buses MD, continues as Chief Executive of Transport for Edinburgh

Former Scottish Transport Minister Stuart Stevenson has become SAPT President replacing retiring President Tom Hart.  Malcolm Reed, former SPT Director-General and Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, becomes a Vice President.

Systra has appointed three new staff to their Edinburgh office – Jeff Knight, Archie Burns and Euan Hamilton-Rigg

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce has chosen Gordon Dewar of Edinburgh Airport as business leader of the year. Stagecoach’s East Scotland business has won Express Operator of the Year at the annual UK Coach Awards.  Judges were impressed with the quality of its Express City Connect Network from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

Tom Carbery, a former professor at Strathclyde University, has died aged 90.  Among other roles he was Vice-Chair of the Scottish Consumer Council, Chair of the Transport Users Consultative Committee for Scotland and an early Chair of the Scottish Transport Studies Group.