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Tom Hart’s transport news notes, 15 November 2015

Published 15 November 2015 by Colin Howden

MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS

The media has given increased attention to the urgency for action to tackle global warming given evidence of a 1C rise in global temperatures, half way to the tipping point of 2C rises which could have very serious implications for rising sea levels, floods, droughts and high winds which could prejudice food supply and a sustainable world economy.  These issues are due to be discussed at an international conference in Paris though there are doubts about the ability to reach, and enforce, agreements on action.

There has also been a sharp rise in coverage of the need for steps to improved localised air quality, affected by NOX and diesel particulate emissions.  This has been intensified by the admission by VW, and other car manufacturers, of action to disguise test emission outcomes.  There is also concern that present tests do not reflect higher levels of CO2 and other emissions under normal driving conditions.  The return of higher growth in carbon intensive air travel is increasing emissions.

Other highlights have included the possible implications for transport of the substantial cuts in public spending expected in the Chancellor’s 25 November announcement.  This will have major implications for spending by the Scottish Government, about to secure increased powers but reduced total funding unless income tax in Scotland is raised or other action taken to increase income and restructure spending. The highest cuts expected are in current account transport spending but with greater efforts to retain levels of capital spend.  There are also doubts about the medium and longer-term economic benefits of higher capital spend on transport infrastructure relative to a changed structure of capital spend and greater appreciation of the merits of selective rises in current spending – including road & pavement maintenance.

The last highlight has been largely favourable media coverage of a reopened Borders Rail, the longest recent rail opening in the UK apart from construction of HS1 from the Channel Tunnel  to London St Pancras.  Coverage has been supportive of more extensive reopening and new construction though with the caveat that increased spending on the existing rail network will be required.  Network Rail has been under pressure from ORR and DfT over cost escalations on ill-defined major projects.

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT & TRANSPORT

The ‘Refresh’ of the National Transport Strategy is due to be published in December.  The principles of the strategy and levels of capital spend on transport are unlikely to change but Transport Minister Derek Mackay is seeking improvements in delivery of an inclusive economy within a difficult overall financial climate.  He put particular stress on faster progress towards low carbon transport and on the widespread introduction of smart, integrated ticketing across rail, bus and ferry modes.  Community Planning needed revision to ensure community empowerment in issues relating to transport and access.  Financial priorities and programmes will be reviewed later in 2016 along  with an update of the National Planning Framework.

AVIATION

A UK government decision on airport expansion in south-east England is expected in December with the SNP indicating that it will support the option offering the best benefits for Scotland.  The Airports Commission has favoured expansion at London Heathrow rather than an extra runway at Gatwick.
Scottish political and business option is divided on this issue with some favouring an increase in flights from Scotland to Heathrow as the principal UK international hub.  Others fear expanded capacity at Heathrow would be used principally to expand long-haul flights with no rise in ‘Scottish’ slots at Heathrow and a risk of lesser expansion in direct flights to and from Scotland.  Extra capacity at Heathrow could expand the attraction of London relative to cities in the North rather than promote the aim of a northward shift in the balance of economic activity.  High growth in air travel also poses a threat to climate change as well as poorer air quality and environmental loss around Heathrow.

Bowing to public opinion, Edinburgh Airport has ended a trial flightpath introducing noise and disturbance over parts of West Lothian.  But the issue may have to be revisited if Edinburgh continues to experience high growth which has also been creating problems for passengers within the existing airport terminal.

Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports are making strong efforts to secure direct flights to China.  From summer 2016, Ryanair is to expand services from Edinburgh to ten European cities.  The airport continues to favour runway expansion at Gatwick rather than Heathrow. The former chief civil servant in Scotland, Sir John Elvidge, (now Chairman of Edinburgh Airport) sees  ‘building a third runway at steroid enhanced Heathrow would be full of risks’ in mortgaging Scotland’s future connectivity to a southern monopoly (H 19 Oct).  Low cost airline Vueling is to introduce direct flights from Edinburgh to Paris, Rome and Alicante.

The idea of replacing Edinburgh and Glasgow airports with a Central Scotland airport, and no runway expansion in the south-east, has been revived but with little backing.  Ian McConnell has urged Prestwick to reduce landing charges to attract low-cost flights from other Scottish Airports becoming more congested (H14Aug).  From January, Prestwick will continue to be the base for a privatised Scottish search and rescue helicopter service based on a new civilian contract rather than the RAF/Royal Navy service.

Following the Clutha helicopter crash fatalities in Glasgow, it is likely that helicopters will be required to have flight recorders.  Scottish Government is increasing from 40% to 50% the discounts for intra-Scottish air travel given to Scottish rural areas with air services.  SPARA (Smart Peripheral and Remote Airports) has EU funding to ‘decarbonise’ access to rural airports and make rural air services more cost-effective.  Ryanair is in talks with partner airlines to allow through bookings to far-flung airports and ease baggage transfers.

FERRIES & SHIPPING

Scottish Government has announced that all fares and charges on government-supported ferry services will be frozen for 2016-17.  CalMac and Serco Caledonian are competing for franchises to operate 26 Clyde and Hebridean ferry services for eight years from October 2016.  The final award will come at the end of May.
RET was extended to all Scottish Government supported ferry routes in October, 2015, but is expected to increase demand peaks, especially in summer.

A daily direct return summer service between Lochboisdale and Mallaig is to be introduced in summer 2016.  Frequency will also be improved on the Oban-Craignure (Mull) route but there is now a question mark over the future of the trial summer service from Ardrossan to Campbeltown.  Due to work at Wemyss Bay terminal, CalMac  are operating the Rothesay service from Gourock for 24 weeks from 1 October.

CalMac’s Project Ecoship is installing £450,000 of equipment to cut fuel costs and deliver CO2 cuts.  Costs should be recouped within a year.  Kerrara, the island off Oban, it to be brought into the 21st century by a £1.7m scheme to upgrade berthing facilities.

Scotland’s larger and smaller ports and harbours continue to benefit from the rise in the cruise market and in private motorised and sail yachts.  Kirkwall expects to welcome its 750,000th cruise passenger during 2016, up from almost zero in 2000 (apart from visitors using the regular ferry links to Orkney)

The annual Kirkintilloch Canal Festival now attracts thousands of visitors.  Scottish Canals has announced a £35m programme for canal repairs and refurbishment.

The Maid of the Loch has secured £3.8m from the Heritage Lottery fund with another £1.7m needed to allow the vessel to return to operational use on Loch Lomond.  The Queen Mary II (the former Clyde steamer) is the base for a £4m programme to return it from the Thames to be a tourist and visitor attraction at Glasgow’s Riverside.  7,000 have backed a petition to restore Glasgow Graving Docks as a heritage site with potential for 250 jobs.

RAIL

The UK Government has appointed Lord Adonis, former Labour Transport Minister and high-speed rail advocate as Chair of a National Infrastructure Commission.  This will cover all infrastructure but main lean towards transport infrastructure and deal mainly with England. A separate UK/Scottish Government report on HSR is expected early in 2016 but is likely to review HSR costs and strategy with limited new construction in Scotland in the coming decade and reliance on upgrades of existing route north from Preston.  3 hour timings from both Glasgow and Edinburgh to London are probable by 2030 though 2 hours 15 minutes would be possible with new 200/250mph route over the entire distance.   The Institute of Civil Engineers Scotland says the greatest benefit would come from new route over the entire distance (H 2Nov)

Relative to other measures, arguments continue on the importance of high spend on HSR for the overall economy and changes in the balance of economic growth away from London.  Some see London as the main HSR beneficiary while others argue for a shift of spend to rail and tram investment in city regions and, in Scotland, higher priority for improved inter-city times south from Inverness and Aberdeen.  In England, there is growing emphasis on devolution of regional transport strategy to the areas around large cities and to Cornwall.  The Scottish position remains more centralised though with plans for more projects in and around cities.

The volume of rail freight in Scotland will be hit by the closure of Longannet coal-fired power station in 2016 along with the phasing out of coal trains from Hunterston to power stations in England.  However, as argued particularly by David Spaven (S 1 Sept), there are opportunities to expand long-distance rail freight and other bulk freight – including more use of longer freight trains and longer passing loops allowing faster passenger trains to overtake freight on existing routes.

Network Rail and ORR are considering plans for better use of the scarce capacity now existing on the East Coast Main Line.  This points to greater use of longer passenger and freight trains rather than the provision of additional fast London-Edinburgh trains as requested by First Group and Alliance Rail (H 16 Oct)

Responding to a consultation by the Competition and Markets Authority on possible reforms in UK passenger rail services after 2023, Virgin and Stagecoach have proposed a licensing system for inter-city passenger services in place of franchising – though franchising could continue for intra-regional services.
The Labour Party is now seeking a phased return to rail nationalisation though with opportunities for regional public ownership.

UK and Scottish media coverage of the reopening in September of Borders Rail from Edinburgh to Tweedbank was almost entirely positive apart from the initial problem of usage of the half-hourly rail service being much higher than officially expected, especially over the entire length of the route.  Construction costs were kept within the £294m limit with delivery on time. There were 125,000 ‘normal’ users in the first month plus 6,200 in special steam trains.  As well as the benefit of easier access to jobs in Edinburgh, the route is already improving prospects for extra housing with clear evidence of a rise in visitors to the Borders.  Shop/cafe takings are up in Galashiels and Melrose plus an18% rise in visitors to the former home of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford.

Some fall in this high level of initial usage is likely in coming months but, even at 80,000 a month, this would be well above the level of 10,000 passengers a week which Dr Beeching saw as desirable to cover rail running costs in the 1960s.  Two correspondents suggested that the overwhelming majority of Beeching rail cuts had been justified and that Borders Rail offered poor value compared to alternatives elsewhere in Scotland (H8 & 11 Sept) but most media comment argued for increased attention throughout Britain to the merits of rail reopening, extra stations on some existing routes and even some new construction.

Calls have been made for an extension of Borders Rail through to Carlisle but with the immediate aim being an extension to Hawick.  Other suggestions now include rail reopening from Dyce to Ellon with a later extension to Peterhead/Fraserburgh and  an interest in reopened passenger services to Levenmouth and Grangemouth.  Falkirk Council is also seeking a station for Bonnybridge while new stations at Kintore and Dalcross (Inverness Airport) feature in £170m Phase 1 plans for upgrades of the Aberdeen-Inverness line.
A Barrhead South station (on the Neilston line) is being examined as part of City Deal Plans for the Glasgow area and there is renewed campaigning for restoration of passenger services on the City Union link from Bellgrove to Shields Road and also serving expanding activities in Gorbals.

The reopening of Borders Rail produced severe overcrowding on the 2 coach and sometimes 3 coach trains available for use on the route.  The continuing rise in rail use, and delays in ordering new electric rolling stock, have aggravated existing problems of overcrowding on commuter trains and on longer-distance routes.  Abellio ScotRail is arranging a modest transfer of leased trains from England but, with most new electric trains not arriving until 2017 and Great Western line electrification delays in England, the ability of electrification to release diesel sets for use in Scotland is being constrained, especially since there is no guarantee that such diesel sets will be available for  Scotland.  Shortage of rolling stock in England is reducing opportunities for transfers to Scotland (H11&24 Aug., H 28 Sept).  With Scottish passenger trips up 35% in the past decade, seating capacity on trains has risen less than 10% (H 17 Oct)  A Glasgow Central-Manchester Airport Trans-Pennine service tops the DfT list of most crowded trains in Britain on arrival in Manchester (S 10 Sept).  Many trains need to be made longer or, within cities, provided with larger but more comfortable standing capacity at peaks.

ScotRail improvements from December will include improved train frequencies between Kilmarnock, Ayr and Stranraer.  The Ayr-Girvan service will become hourly and the Oban line will have an additional Sunday year-round return trip (formerly only running in summer)

The first of the 40 refurbished ScotRail Class 158 diesel trains are now entering service.  Seats are better aligned with windows and there is more luggage and bike space. Passengers will also be able to charge their laptops during journeys.  DfT  is consulting on changes to consumer rights to allow ticket refunds if train operators do not provide adequate seating and wi-fi.

Abellio ScotRail is recruiting 100 extra train drivers with a £24,550 starting salary. This is linked to moves to a seven-day working week.  Over 20,000 applications have been received but with criticism of Abellio for insensitive replies to unsuccessful applicants.

Rail travellers in Scotland enjoy the cheapest fares in the UK for ‘anytime’ journeys plus lower fares for off-peak travel and those who apply in advance.  ‘Anytime’ passengers leaving Glasgow average 33p per mile compared to 56p for those leaving London.   Such fares are substantially higher than the average cost per mile of running a small diesel or petrol car with a single occupant (though parking charges have to be added in for many trips into cities)

Off-peak rail fares in Scotland are frozen for a third consecutive year but peak and cross-border fares are to rise 1% in January.  In the last year of the former First Scotrail franchise, £576,000 was paid in penalties for defects in service quality (£127,000 up on the previous year) but Abellio has paid £265,282 for quality shortfalls in the months July to September.  Transport Scotland will reinvest this sum in rail (H 15 Aug; 7 Nov)

Crimes on the Scottish rail network have risen (by 1.3%) for the first time in a decade. Thieves attempting to steal copper from signalling cabling caused major morning peak disruption for travellers into Glasgow Queen St HL.  Similar attempts disrupted travel into Edinburgh from the west.  Queen St HL is also due to close for 20 weeks between March and August 2016 while the station and approach tunnel is upgraded as part of EGIP.  Details of alternative travel arrangements during the closure period are expected in January.

Toilet charges at Waverley and Glasgow Central have raised £750,000 and £600,000 over the past three years.  NR argue that staffed toilets and upgraded facilities cut anti-social behaviour with any surplus funds reinvested in improved passenger facilities.

40 jobs have been saved at Edinburgh’s Millerhill depot after NR dropped plans to switch work to England.
Virgin trains will also continue to refurbish engines at the Edinburgh Craigentinny depot.

BUS, TRAM & TAXI

Work continues on a £282m modernisation of the Glasgow Subway.  Orders for new automated trains
are expected early in 2016 but the Subway will close for one month in summer 2016 to allow upgrades of the ramps to and from the Govan depot.  Letters to the press have raised the issue of extending the Subway (Underground) to Paisley via Glasgow Airport or, over time, to be a full city Metro network as in Newcastle.  Yet the existing Subway is of non-standard gauge with limited height.  An alternative suggestion has been to raise some existing shorter-distance ScotRail services to Metro standards, including fuller use of the two existing east-west tunnels through Glasgow and some short network extensions.

Of the four options to extend the Edinburgh tram, the City Council has approved the option with the highest capital cost.   A 3 mile extension via Leith Walk to Newhaven is seen as offering best overall value though funding has still to be confirmed.  The expensive Edinburgh tram inquiry, now in progress will not determine whether any one is legally or financially liable but will make recommendations on how failings can be avoided in future projects.

FirstGroup has argued that out-of-date restrictions and competition from major rail improvements have inhibited commercial bus operation across the Scottish Central Belt and especially in the East Central area where First has ongoing problems with bus service viability (LTT 16 Oct)

Stagecoach continues to take the lead in attacking proposals for a compulsory franchise approach to local bus services.  A review board has also rejected as unaffordable and high-risk Tyne and Wear proposals for bus franchising contracts.  SPT continues to support more limited proposals to improve network quality and reduce the overall cost of bus operations (H29 Aug & 4 Nov).

Edinburgh City Council has been criticised for providing new bus shelters with no frontal protection from road splashes and seats that are too high.  Two recent incidents in Edinburgh and Glasgow city centres have involved buses in pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries.

The Bus Fastlink in Glasgow from the city centre to the Queen Elizabeth University will be officially opened by Transport Minister Derek Mackay on 1 December.  Operators had been unhappy at delays in completing the project and a failure of bus priority sensors for traffic lights to work properly (H 2 & 8 Oct).  These issues have since been addressed by SPT and Glasgow City Council but plans to improve bus flows in the city centre will take longer to complete and require further consultation and planning.

Fastlink plans will cut peak bus times between the Hospital and Hope St from 27 to 22 minutes but with only a 1 minute saving on a previous  12 minute onward travel time to Buchanan Bus Station.  In the medium term, trip times for the whole route should fall from 39 to 30 minutes.  Stagecoach has accepted an SPT offer of £1.15m to secure and operate new Euro 6 low emission buses over a 4 year period from 31 August 2015 but McGills have declined a similar offer of £1.3m.  McGills has withdrawn its present frequent F1 service on the full Fastlink route but has improved another local service route 23), using parts of the route, from 4 to 6 buses per hour.  From 16 November, 16 buses per hour operate on Hospital-city centre services.  A recent survey by NHS has found that 65% of respondents felt that bus services (including those not using Fastlink) had improved since opening of the Hospital.

In Edinburgh, few car users are taking advantages of the trial opening of bus lanes to cars outwith peaks but it has been noted that bus stops can cause delays adding to trip times.  Smart integrated ticketing with drivers no longer involved in ticketing could deliver useful cuts in overall bus times in cities, making services both more attractive and cheaper to operate.  Lothian Buses are expanding  the use of electric and hybrid buses but progress has been slower in Glasgow with operators pointing to the higher costs of such operation until further technical advances are made.

First Glasgow is closing the Parkhead bus depot with operations concentrated on the new Caledonia Road depot.
City Sightseeing Glasgow is amending its 28 stop open-top city bus to omit the less-used Duke St stop close to Tennents brewery.  Other stops will still be available in the area.  The 10 minute peak summer frequency had proved extremely popular. The overall length of the route had been trimmed, making it easier to improve frequency within the buses available.

Lothian Buses introduced substantial changes in bus routes and frequencies in Edinburgh on 4 October.  The four No 49 buses per hour which run between the Royal Infirmary and Rosewell via Dalkeith are reduced to 2 per hour beyond the Sheriffhall Park and Ride.  A new peak limited stop X33 service is introduced from Mayfield and Dalkeith to the city centre.  To improve journey times, X29, X31 and X33 have fewer stops on trips to and from the city centre.

SPT is spending £950,000 to improve staff quarters at the highly commended Buchanan Bus Station.  This will allow My Bus and other hospital/community transport staff to relocate to Buchanan Bus Station.  As part of Transport Refresh, the Scottish Government is being asked to accelerate costs savings and improved quality through integration of community, school and hospital transport provision.  The quality and safety of Stagecoach owned Ayr Bus Station has come under attack along with suggestions for a new site adjacent to the rail station.

Health Boards have been criticised for spending more than £12.5m on taxis over the past four years.  Taxi app Uber was launched in Scotland on 16 October with Uber also winning a High Court action ruling in favour of the controversial minicab-hailing app – but seen as a threat by black cab operators.  At the request of Police Scotland, Glasgow City Council has withdrawn the licences of three private cab drivers but, on cost grounds, licensing officials have refused to tell councillors the number of cabbies with criminal convictions (H21Aug & 19 Sept)

ROADS & PARKING

Transport Scotland is consulting on future arrangements for trunk road management.  Local authorities are already considering alliances for regional roads management and see value in steps to integrate  trunk and local road maintenance at a regional level (LTT 16 Oct)

Construction has begun on a five-mile £35m initial section of A9 dualling between Kincraig and Dalraddy.  Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities says Perth-Inverness A9 dualling will bring enormous economic and social benefits.

A contract is imminent on £50m of appraisal and design work on options for dualling the 29 miles of the A96 between Auldearn and Fochabers.  This could include a bypass or other relief for Elgin.  Aberdeen is to have £18m for a third Don crossing plus £30m to upgrade the notorious Haudagain roundabout.  A Nestrans study has found that increased housing on the corridor north from Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh is putting extra pressure on roads further increased on completion of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road.  Suggested solutions include dualling to Peterhead, reopening of the former Dyce-Ellon railway or use of this as a busway.

The £415m M8 M73 M74 improvements in Lanarkshire should see completion in spring 2017.  Pinstripe argues that improvements on the M8 corridor are inadequate but, given tough limits on present sources of public funding, serious consideration should be given to electronic road tolling with priority for a 3-lane M8 (H 24 Aug).  Reform Scotland has proposed an alternative view to reduce road congestion by the introduction of tolling with revenue used primarily, but not exclusively, to improve public transport.

New data from the Scottish Government has found that more than 1 in 10 driver journeys were delayed by congestion in 2014 with road vehicle kilometres, at 44.8 billion, reaching their highest ever level taking road traffic slightly above the pre-recession 2007 peak of 44.7billion.  However, the share of trips delayed by congestion is below the 14.3% peak in 2007 with government policy still seeking shifts away from car use.  Trips to work by public transport or active travel are down from 30.7% in 2013 to 29.8% in 2014.  The rail and cycling share of trips to work is showing clear indications of growth (H 27Aug)  Congestion has led to pleas for provision of an extra Clyde crossing between the present Clyde Tunnel and the Erskine Bridge.

RHA has warned that a shortage of drivers is threatening Christmas deliveries.  Large numbers of lorry drivers are due to retire with an ongoing British shortfall of at least 40,000 drivers.

Glasgow and Edinburgh Councils are both becoming more active is seeking to cut emissions from buses , lorries and cars contributing to poor air quality.  Bus builder Alexander Dennis says ‘it is only a matter of time before hybrid buses become the norm’ with the zero emission mode operating in city centres and busy approach roads. The Green Bus Fund – funding 80% of the price differential between hybrid and diesel vehicles – has helped introduce 209 buses in Scotland.  Low emission taxis are also being developed.

Maybole, Largs, Biggar, Langholm and Oban are to be trial areas for 20mph speed limits on the trunk roads through their centres.  The Maybole pilot started in September.  The A909 Kelty-Burntisland road has been found to be the most dangerous in Scotland while the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness, aided by 50mph speed cameras is one of the safest roads as is the busy Glasgow-Edinburgh M8 (H16 Sept)

From March 2016, Glasgow City Council is introducing schemes to widen 20mph limits and reduce the number of motor vehicles in the city centre.  The Council is also considering decking over the M8 in the Charing Cross area allowing creation of attractive public space above the motorway cutting (H 6Nov)

There is a need for review of practices where drivers having had blackouts can have driving licences returned after relatively short periods or can escape loss of licences by failure to be assessed for relevant conditions.  The Scottish Parliament is considering a Bill to ban smoking in cars with children.

After a rise in spending on road maintenance, Edinburgh Council is proposing controversial cuts in spend along with tougher action to ensure that third parties ensure full and timeous reinstatement of roads dug up for utility purposes.  Other Councils are also looking for savings in road maintenance already constrained by other pressures on local authority budgets road maintenance.

Opportunities arise from seeking extra income parking but this can be even more controversial – especially if the issue of reintroduction of charges for hospital parking is raised (at present, PFI contracts still allow parking charges at Edinburgh Royal, Glasgow Royal and Ninewells, Dundee).  Edinburgh City Council is considering a one-third rise in parking charges and a £1m a year rise in income.  There is some concern about loss of spending on shopping and entertainment to  areas further out from city hotspots yet several city centres are now prospering (and gaining more employment) under policies reducing peak access by car and the related demand for long-stay parking in, or close, to city centres.  Demand for shorter-stay parking can also be reduced if there is high quality access by public transport, by cycle or on foot.

Glasgow Fort, the outer Glasgow shopping complex close to the M8, is building an additional free 600 space car park.  Digital entrepreneurs are developing a parking app showing where parking spaces are available in city centres – either helping car-drivers to find a space or encouraging them you to look more quickly at alternatives, including park and ride further out from city centres.

DfT has announced a consultation, including Scotland, on steps to secure rapid removal of ‘temporary’ road signs and a reduction in the number of permanent signs wasting cash and causing distraction (S 29 ug).

Motor fuel prices are edging down with petrol prices again below diesel.  Proposals have been made for driving offences to be ‘spent’ after one rather than 5 years.  This could mean higher insurance costs for motorists with entirely clean records.

WALKING & CYCLING

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone claims that the Scottish Government and many local authorities are out-of-step with public views in failing to provide more support for walking and cycling

Dr Andrew Murray, GP and President of Ramblers Scotland and Stuart Hay of Living Streets, Scotland make pleas for action to make walking more attractive and improve overall health.  Too many areas still have a poor walking environment, congestion and air pollution.

The rural north-east of Scotland has the highest annual casualty rate for pedestrians in Britain with the worst rate being in November after the hour change. In-vehicle death and casualty rates are also high.  Action is called for on speed awareness and on persuading walkers (and cyclists) to wear brighter colours at night.  Edinburgh is extending test areas for car bans around schools at the beginning and end of the school day as part of measures to encourage walking, scooting and cycling to school.

A £200,000 path restoration scheme for Suilven is to be carried out by the John Muir Trust and the Assynt Foundation.  Upgrade of the Great Gen Cycleway between Fort William and Inverness has been completed.
It takes cyclists largely off the busy A82 and makes more use of local roads and canal towpaths.  Edinburgh people are being consulted on a new £9m ‘family-friendly’ cycleway between Roseburn and Leith Walk. It will include sections of segregated lanes on main streets and it likely to include George St in association with measures to reduce other through motorised traffic, wider pavements and an increase in low emission buses.  In Edinburgh, 16.5m cycle trips are now made annually with cycling to school also increasing.

A new cycle lane into Waverley station has opened and the City Council now has 17 new bin lorries with special technology to detect cyclists.  An analysis of brain trauma patients has confirmed that cycle helmets cut the risk of severe head injuries or death by 60%.  A poll by Sustrans and Edinburgh City Council has shown that three-quarters of capital residents would like to see more spent on cycling infrastructure.  The survey included similar results from six other UK cities (none of them in Scotland).

PLANNING & PROPERTY

Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils are collaborating to secure an Aberdeen City Region Deal including improved connectivity.  The first £12m of projects in the Glasgow Metropolitan City Deal have been approved.  They include a new slip road off the M77 in the Newton Mearns area serving 1000 new houses and other developments, a water sports facility at Darnley Dams and improvements in Glasgow city centre and at Glasgow Airport.  Longer-term plans include developments at Port Dundas, a pedestrian/cycle route and a new bridge connecting Govan and Partick.  In Lanarkshire, plans include a greater shift of freight from road to rail, new roads and park and ride at Gartcosh/Glenboig, better bus services , a Cathkin Relief Road, A726 widening to dual carriageway at Calderglen Park, facilities for an extra 7,000 houses in the Newton/East Kilbride/Hamilton/Larkhall zone and infrastructure for the Exxon site at Bowling.

Edinburgh City Council is preparing a blueprint for 14,000 extra homes over the next 10 years.  This is expected to involve some greenbelt encroachment.  Glasgow also favours 25,000 new homes in, or close to, the city by 2025. This raises the regional planning issue of the optimum, sustainable balance of the future location of housing between the inner and outer parts of city regions given that most employment growth may be close to city centres or other transport nodes.

Data suggests that high street retail sales are falling though less so in the larger Scottish city centres diversifying into leisure and eating facilities and assisted by a rising inner city population and increasing visitors – also university/college expansion in, or close to, city centres, especially in Glasgow’s Riverside and City Campus.  Office employment is rising in new development in the city centre and towards both Bridgeton and the Charing Cross/Riverfront zone.

Uncertainty over the future expansion of Buchanan Galleries has led to a 7% fall in value but Hammerson is planning to spend £200m on extending the Union Square development in Aberdeen.

Brisk business, including ‘click and collect’, is reported from Scottish retail parks away from city and town centres.  Expansion at Lomondgate outside Dumbarton has outperformed expectations.  After long delays, the Maxim Office Park at Eurocentral is beginning to fill up but plans for ambitious shopping development on the former Ravenscraig site are on hold due to other existing centres and the rise in online shopping.  The original 15 year old masterplan is being reviewed.  The former National Savings Bank close to Glasgow’s Silverburn shopping complex is to be demolished and replaced by 500 new homes.

SEPA has published new Flood Risk Management Strategies and work has begun to give greater protection to the electrified railway close to the sea immediately east of Saltcoats rail station.  Borders rail construction has also seen redesigned cuttings to minimise landslip risks.

T in the Park has promised no repeat of the access chaos this summer when the event moved from Balado to the Strathallan Estate close to Auchterarder and Gleneagles

RESEARCH & STATISTICS

Revised government estimates suggest  Scottish population, aided by immigration and a rise in those in older age groups, should reach a record high of 5.5m by 2025.  This is a reduction on previous estimates though growth in England is expected to be higher.

Visitors to Scotland continue to rise though at a slower rate.  Out-tourism has also risen, helped by a strong £ and poor weather.  But pressure on lower income household finances has seen a rise in the number of Britons not taking any holiday in the past year.  In an all-income survey of holiday intentions for 2016, 55% said they planned a holiday overseas – down from 57% in 2015.  The gap between income groups in taking holidays abroad has widened, with many of the more affluent taking two or more overseas holiday trips.
Glasgow is set to overtake Edinburgh as Scotland’s most popular tourist destination.

Aviation  Glasgow Airport continues to see strong growth with a 14% rise in October users compared to 2014.  International travel is up 18.5% and domestic 8.9%.  At Edinburgh, the year on year October rise was 8.9% (the sixth month in which Edinburgh passengers were over 1m).  Edinburgh hopes to achieve 10m passengers in 2014. Glasgow had 836,798 passengers in October and came fourth in the list of growth rates at European airports with 5 to 10m annual users. Gothenburg had the highest growth at 16% followed by Budapest and Porto with Glasgow at 12.2%.  At Edinburgh, Ryanair expects to be contributing 2.3m passengers to the annual total for 2016. Inverness has new services to Dublin, connecting with transatlantic flights while services to hubs at Manchester and Gatwick were expanded.  Aberdeen continues to suffer from oil industry recession.

Cruising  The Forth had more than 90,000 cruise visitors in 2014, the highest on record.  Business was also strong at Orkney, Shetland and Greenock.  1.1m cruise visitors to Scotland are expected by 2029.

Rail  ScotRail passengers continue to rise but at a lower rate (3.5% a year) than around London .  Passenger trips in the SPT area are up from 55.65m in 2012/13 to 62.64 m in 2014-15 and an expected 63.5m in 2015-16 (2014-15 saw a special boost of around 0.6m trips from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games).  Over the same period, Glasgow Subway patronage has stayed around 12.6m though boosted by the Games to 13m in 2014-15. Edinburgh tram use is running slightly above forecasts at 5m in the current year.

Across Britain, average annual rail passenger growth between 1979 and 1997 was 0.41%.  Since then, average annual growth has been 4%, double the growth seen on European state-owned railways.  Net government annual support to Train Operating companies in England has fallen to £140m (less so in Wales and Scotland due both to lower population density and devolved government preferences for improved services, lower fares and network extensions).  Payments paid to government by franchise operators have risen from £400m a year to £2.27bn (LTT 18 Sept & Rail, Issue 784, 30 Sept)

Bus  Most data for commercial bus usage is not published but Lothian Buses report a slight rise despite the introduction of the tram service.  First Group and Stagecoach have concerns that low petrol prices are affecting bus use – though with some signs of rising usage in Glasgow after reforms in routes and fares.

Road Traffic  At 44.8bn road vehicle kilometres in Scotland in 2014 were just above the previous 44.7bn peak in 2007 but, due to a continuing rise in van movement, car vehicle kilometres are down as is average car occupancy

Road Safety The annual Scottish statistics for 2014 show a 16% rise in deaths to 200 and a 2% rise in serious injuries. Overall casualties are down from 11,504 to 11,268.  There is a 5% rise in pedestrians and pedal cyclists seriously injured and a 15% rise for motor-cyclists.  For comparative purposes, there are now larger numbers of drug-related deaths (613) than road deaths.  High rates of suicide are also a concern.

Walking & Cycling  New data shows that half of residents in Glasgow walk to work.  Skoda commissioned research for the Tour of Britain Cycle Race with a sample just over 1,000 has the surprising finding that Glaswegians spend more time on their bikes than cyclists elsewhere in Britain.  The Glasgow average is 4.9 hours per week but with Edinburgh having the highest number (about one-third) who commute by cycle.
The Lake District tops the list of areas cyclists like to visit followed by the Highlands and the Yorkshire Dales.
Other SHS data suggests that only 11.8% of work travel in Edinburgh is by bike, still the highest level in Scotland, well ahead of 6% in the Highlands and a Scottish average of 2.6%

Carbon Emissions  Scotland has missed targets for the fourth year in a row and statistical changes will make it more difficult to deliver future annual targets.  38.4% of cuts on the 1990 baseline have been delivered with 42% due to be delivered by 2020 – and helped by the imminent closure of coal-fired Longannet. Progress in the transport sector has been disappointing.

A recent UK conference on driverless road vehicles has shown conflicting views – ranging from the death of  conventional buses (apart from some high quality/high capacity public transport routes in larger cities) to a
slower pace of change away from self-driving to greater use of automated rail systems, other segregated urban routes  and motorways adapted for longer-distance automated use by cars and lorries (LLT 16 Oct)

Using an app, Nottingham University has found that mobiles are used an average of 5 hours a day and are checked 85 times – people are accessing mobile phones twice as often as they thought.

A study for ORR and ITC finds that younger age groups ‘are falling out of love with the car’ and turning to trains.  British train trips are up from 738m in 1986 to 1,145m by 2006 and 1,654m by 2014

Electrification, or other zero emission fuels, of road transport could provide new sunrise industries as many people will still have emotional as well as convenience attachment to car use (H 5 Nov).  Other research suggests a shift from car ownership to rental charges or card payments for the use of vehicles, including driverless cars, owned by others – also implying a collapse in demand for conventional cars and redeployment elsewhere of personal and business spending.   Graham McCarthy of First Vehicle Leasing is more doubtful about rapid shifts to driverless vehicles (S 22 Sept)   Greater funding for transport infrastructure could come from a mix of congestion charging and levies to recover property value gains from improved  infrastructure.  ‘Ordinary people, not big business, should be reaping the rewards of transport investment’ (Derek Halden, S 13 Oct)

Lex Autolease estimate that road congestion is costing business £millions per day (£4.5 billion a year) with a strong case for economic gains from increased road investment.

The Etape Loch Ness Cycle Race in 2015 saw 68% of participants coming from outside the Highlands and a 20% rise in attendance.  Such events were becoming significant drivers for the local economy.

A ‘lithium/oxygen’, high-density battery being developed by Cambridge University could have sufficient storage to allow Edinburgh-London to be driven on a single charge.  Cambridge based Mole Solutions is also developing a solution to rail delays caused by ‘leaves on the line’.

BUSINESS & PERSONNEL

The £7m DfT/Siemens National Training Academy for Rail has opened in Northamption.  It will help reduce skill shortages in the rail sector.  Scottish use of the centre awaits clarification but ScotRail is stepping up programmes for Modern Apprenticeships in Customer Service – but more skills are needed for rail planning and operational programmes in Scotlandma

80 staff at Aberdeen face the axe after the bmi regional /Loganair merger as Airline Investments Ltd (AIL),

First Group has lamented a lack of transparency in the process leading to Abellio gaining the new ScotRail franchise.  First Group half-year profits are down but a three year scheme to reduce debt is under way.
First Glasgow had seen some turnaround despite mixed trading conditions and less concessionary travel.
US operations have been hit by lower petrol prices encouraging car use but UK half-year bus revenue is up 1.3% despite lower compensation for concession travel.

Stagecoach also report reduced US bus activity due to low petrol prices increasing car use.  Bus revenue outside of London was up 1% in the24 weeks to 17 October with growth coming from far-paying passengers as compensation for concession travel falls. Bus passengers were up 0.3%.  The best immediate prospects were seen as Megabus expansion in France aided by legal changes allowing competition on routes longer than 100 kilometres.  UK rail revenues were up 5.8% with profits also up. The company hopes for success in winning the new Trans-Pennine franchise in December.  In the joint West Coast venture with Virgin, rail revenue is up 8.7%. Stagecoach has had a successful launch of a 10 year £400m bond issue

Scottish Citylink report a 3% rise in turnover to £45.1m but pre-tax profits dipped to £4m

Bus-builder Alexander Dennis of Falkirk is on track for a record £600m turnover, helped by major overseas orders.  Profits for 2015 may be around £25m, up from £18.7m in 2014

Edinburgh CityCabs is celebrating 90 years of operation by £10,000 worth of free fares and a family holiday.
The company has risen from 80 drivers in 1925 to around 1100 in 2015

Park’s of Hamilton, the Lanarkshire-based car and bus company has raised pre-tax profits to £16m.  The bulk of revenue growth was in the car division but coach hire income rose from £27m to £27.4m.  Malcolm Group report higher turnover and an 11% rise in profits (in construction rather than logistics activities)

Tennent’s say that tougher Scottish drink-driving laws have contributed to a 9.5% fall in first-half profits

Roy Brannen, currently director of trunk roads and bus operations at Transport Scotland is to be the new Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, replacing David Middleton who is now seconded to Historic Environment Scotland

Lothian Buses has advertised for a new MD following a bitter warring between executives

The £25m Haymarket Station modernisation, after a previous award in 2014, has been awarded the Saltire Civil Engineering Award for 2015

Glasgow City Council won the UK Traffic Management Award for effective systems during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.  Edinburgh Trams won Operator of the Year at the 2015 UK Light Rail Awards.

Lord Adonis is to chair a National Infrastructure Commission but will have no involvement in decisions or airport expansion in SE England.

Frank McAveety is the new leader of Glasgow City Council.  He is a supporter of more devolution to cities and has changed senior appointments within the Council.  Elaine McDougall replaces Alistair Watson in charge of Transport, Environment and Sustainability.  Jim Coleman, present SPT Chair, is expected to be replaced by Jonathan Findlay at the next SPT meeting

Forth Road Bridgemaster, Barry Colford, has resigned following the transfer of road bridges management from FETA to private sector Amey in June.  He is moving to work in Philadelphia.

Brian Sutherland becomes the new Finance Director at troubled, publicly-owned Prestwick Airport from
7 December.  Richard Jenner is interim Chief Executive.

Russell Gunson has been appointed Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Scotland.

Paul White is the new Chair of Scottish Transport Studies Group(STSG), replacing retiring Chair Derek Halden who is now Secretary

Former Scottish Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, has become President of the Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) following the retirement of Tom Hart

PUBLICATIONS  

Reported Road Casualties  – Scotland 2014, A National Statistics Publication, Transport Scotland

The Glasgow Navy- The ships of the Clyde Navigation Trust  Part 2: The Harbour Ferries, Brian Patton 2015,
181 pages with extensive illustrations and text, £12   www.martins-the-printers.com

Pay -as-you-drive : the road to a better future, Ben Thomson, Geoff Mawdsley & Alison Payne, Reform
Scotland, first published October 2013    www.reformscotland.com

Western Ferries : Taking on Giants, Roy N Pedersen  Birlinn £9.99

The Railway Atlas of Scotland : 200 years of history in maps, David Spaven, Birlinn, 2015, £30 Birlinn

The Waverley Route – its Heritage and Revival, Anne Glen  2015 – 160 pages with illustrations, 2015
hardback £22.50  To order, contact nicola@lilypublications.co.uk

The End of Automobile Dependence, P Newman & J Kenworthy, 2015, Island Press, Washington

Mobility – a New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy, J Whitelegg, 2015 Straw Barnes
Press(both the above are reviewed by P Goodwin in LTT 18 Sept)