Tom Hart’s transport news, January to March 2018Published 31 March 2018 by Transform Scotland
Tom Hart of Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) presents his transport news for 1 January to 31 March 2018.
Brexit and links to transport, trade and economic growth stays a major issue with much debate on whether short-term difficulties for UK will be compensated by longer-terms gains from international trade and services. In a Herald feature (5Feb) Jeremy Peat has stressed the need for a robust longer-term strategy for an inclusive Scottish economy – including ‘what this term implies and what trade-offs there might be between faster and more inclusive growth’. Policies, procedures and programmes need to be re-examined with more stress on education, relevant skills and productivity with a clearer view of infrastructure priorities. The scale and nature of funding was also an important issue with rising support in Edinburgh for a Tourism Tax in conflict with the hotel sector seeing this as damaging to the economy (H6, 10 & 22Feb)
The Scottish Government has published its latest Climate Change Plan and will introduce a new Climate Change Bill to maintain momentum and also a Just Transition Committee to ensure delivery of decarbonisation in a fair way also tackling inequality and poverty. New aim is to cut carbon emissions by 66% on 1990 base by 2032 with more attention to renewable electricity and transforming the way we travel with safer and friendlier streets for pedestrians and cyclists decarbonised electricity (H2March) Plan has been criticised for not doing more to stabilise road traffic levels (and reduce them in cities) with a larger programme to expand movement on foot, by cycle and by rail and other low carbon public transport.
Another major, but short-term issue was the impact on transport of ‘the beast from the east’ causing much transport disruption in March. Outcomes have included a dip in traffic and in rail and bus usage plus falls in retail sales – but much of this may be recovered in greater activity over coming months. Plans for recovery from heavy snow (hitting the more populous Central Belt harder than usual) have included calls from the First Minister and Transport Minister for stronger action to cut HGV movement plus more robust trunk road, local road and rail contingency plans to minimise disruption. Snow closed the North Berwick rail branch for 9 days. Unlike buses and many rail routes, the Edinburgh trams continued to operate.
The collapse of the major public services and construction company Carillion has raised concern over governmental approaches to PFI and oversight of large firms with many government contracts awarded after profit warnings had been issued. But no serious delays are expected for Scottish projects involving Carillion, including the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road, extra platforms at Waverley and completion of Shotts line electrification.
Compared to what has been a Scottish and Welsh lead in rail reopening, there has been a resurgence of interest in England in rail reopening from the south-west to Cheshire, Norfolk and extensions in the Midlands and north-east. In addition to London, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and Newcastle are proceeding with tram and Metro extensions with Cambridge also looking at these options.
Due to the failure to cut ADP, Norwegian is to axe one US route from Edinburgh and cut frequency on 2 other routes to New York area. Virgin is considering a direct route from USA to Edinburgh. After high demand Finnair is expanding Helsinki-Edinburgh route to year round operation.
Flybe has withdrawn from recent routes started in competition with Loganair but will increase services between Aberdeen and Stornoway.
Government-owned Prestwick Airport awaits decisions on Spaceport status but is pushing for increased income by gaining US military air contracts and also hopes to launch commercial satellites under the new powers given in the Space Industry Act.(H8Feb & 15Mar))
In 2017, Glasgow airport saw a record rise in passenger numbers to 9.9m (up almost 6% on 2016). Edinburgh saw overall passengers up to 13.43m – international up 13.8% to 8.1m but domestic down 1.5% to 5.3m. After some years of decline, Aberdeen Airport passengers up 1.9% to 3.1m
January saw the first overall fall in five years in Glasgow Airport usage, influenced by bad weather, Brexit uncertainty and the winter withdrawal of the United service to Newark, USA. International passengers were down 1.9% (though with some growth on European routes) – domestic passengers down 4%. Edinburgh usage continued to rise with international passengers up 14.5% to 837,542 in January but domestic usage down 1.5% to 356,375. At Aberdeen, the return to growth continued with a 6.4% rise in passengers to 220,427
Hainan Airlines is to start the first flight from Beijing to Scotland in June with a stop at Dublin also included.
Edinburgh is second to London as the most popular area for visiting Chinese tourists (H19&20 Mar).
Ryanair is to close its base at Glasgow and cut routes operated from Glasgow from 23 to3 (to Dublin, Krakow & Wroclaw, partly influenced by the decision not to proceeds with cuts in Air Departure Duty. This could cur passengers using the airport by 500,000 a year (H23Feb) Loganair is to replace Ryanair on the Glasgow-Derry route. Loganair is also starting flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport to Belfast., Dublin and London Southend.
Glasgow Airport is consulting on using satellite navigation to improve capacity and cut delays and emissions on flights in and out. Glasgow has gained a Lufthansa daily route from Frankfurt to Glasgow. Highlands and Island Airports (HIAL) is consulting on reducing air traffic control centre to 1 or 2 but with Barra, Tiree, Islay and Campbeltown unaffected.
Barra’s beach airport is to have extra flights in the summer tourist season. HIAL is also planning a £3 car parking charge at Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Stornoway from June. Parking space is being enlarged (H16Mar)
Argyll and Bute Council is funding a study of new air services from Oban to Scottish Central Belt
FERRIES & SHIPPING
SNP MSP Angus Macdonald is urging a study of opportunities for a direct ferry linking Scotland with Scandinavia, possibly from Rosyth to Aberdeen. Suggestions for a Shetland-Norway link have gained less support but P&O Ferries is considering possible options
Western Ferries report a £2.5m pre-tax profit in year to March 2017. Terminals are being upgraded and tourist usage boosted by fall in value of £ against the euro. The company may bid for the expected tendering for the Gourock-Dunoon passenger route.
Government is to study improved ferry links to, from and within the Western Isles (H1Feb)
80% of £5.5m of funds needed to restore the Main of the Loch to service on Loch Lomond has now been raised with a final push allowing restoration work to start later this year – includes a £1m grant from Scottish Government. Project hould increase footfall at Balloch and deliver 30 full-time jobs (H19Mar)
The new Azuma trains due to be introduced on the East Coast Main line have been criticised for ‘hard’ seating and poor ambience. It is hoped that modifications can be made (H2Feb). The new Caledonian Sleeper Scotland- London trains have been delayed and are now due to start in October. Lord Adonis has criticised the Scottish Government for not being involved in arrangements to replace the collapsed East Coast rail franchise. Labour Party and trade unions are seeking a return to the profitable government-run East Coast service temporarily introduced when a previous franchise collapsed
Heavy rain has contributed to two landslips on the West Highland line, at Kirkconnel and on the Glasgow-Falkirk-Edinburgh main line but repairs were completed quickly. There is concern that continuing changes in the weather are leading to backlogs in essential rail infrastructure maintenance.
Dominic Booth, MD Abellio UK is convinced that Abellio ScotRail will be able to retain the ScotRail franchise as part of the Review due in 2020. It will meet all the specified conditions in the franchise (H 27Jan). Despite press criticism Abellio ScotRail remains among the best-performing franchise operators though with recent severe criticism of widening use of ‘skip-stopping’ to aid a faster return of train-sets to normal timetable positions. Manager Alex Hynes agrees skip-stopping had been overused, rising from 0.4% of trains to 0.8% – with worse problems on the Glasgow-Helensburgh/Balloch route and in Fife (H31Mar)
Article in Rail 848 p40-43 14 March examines case for and against full public ownership of railways in Scotland. Rail unions and the Labour Party favour full nationalisation of track (already publicly owned) and services though among TSSA suggestions is a direct award of services to an integrated public transport body or some form of co-operative governance with franchising abolished and track improvements aided by land value levies on areas gaining from major infrastructure projects. Tom Harris, former Transport Minister and Reform Scotland adviser says that rather than argue over who runs ScotRail, the debate should focus on Scotland’s ‘poor rail connectivity and lack of electrification’. What about links from Dumfries and Galloway to Edinburgh, Glasgow Crossrail, links to Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports and improved services from Edinburgh to Inverness? On balance, he argues that nationalising ScotRail would not be worth the costs and risks. The main cause of high rail fares was the UK government decision to switch the burden of rail support from the taxpayer to the farepayer. Full nationalisation would not reduce fares unless income from general tax sources rose. His preference would be a devolved Network Rail in Scotland with an enlarged but well controlled investment programme transforming and extending the rail network but with such investment funded from sources other than existing rail users.
Late delivery of new electric trains has forced ScotRail to cut some peak Glasgow-Falkirk-Edinburgh trains from 6 to 3 or 4 coaches from March until 20 May. Position has been eased by a halving of peak fares on the Glasgow-Bathgate-Edinburgh route (H17&28Feb). Passengers want better information on steps being taken to minimise inconvenience. Radical fares reform is wanted to reduce anomalies, recognise that work-patterns are departing from regular 5 day a week travel and do more to encourage integrated use of rail and bus services along with greater shifts from car use.
ScotRail has been hit by record £3.5m penalties for poor performance though claims that these are added to the funds available for rail investment (H19Feb)
With many enlarged station car parks already full by 9am, ScotRail is encouraging car passengers to ‘liftshare’ to stations such as Johnstone (see scotrail.liftshare.com)
ScotRail has introduced a trolley-service and extra trains on the Glasgow-Carlisle via Dumfries line but local groups want faster Glasgow-Dumfries services in around 80 minutes to come closer to services already available from Edinburgh to Tweedbank.
Major overcrowding issues remain on the lines from Edinburgh to south Fife and into East Lothian.
ScotRail has gained 160 extra carriages in recent years with a further 200 expected by 2019. Levenmouth is considered to have the best prospects for rail reopening by the early 2020s but other schemes may emerge in the National Transport Strategy due to be finalised in 2019. Levenmouth campaigners have envisaged through services to Alloa and Stirling as well as 51 minute trip times to Edinburgh. Funding for early rail reopening is likely to be very limited.
Dedicated carriages for bikes and other sporting equipment are being considered on scenic rail routes
In the Highlands – including Oban, Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh and Thurso (H5Feb) This may also permit a rise in passenger seats, especially on Glasgow-West Highland services
There may be better prospects for new or reopened stations on existing routes. Recent suggestions have included stations on the Queen St Low Level Line at Finnieston (for SECC) and Parkhead North. Reopening of Newburgh on the Perth-Ladybank line and Evanton on the Dingwall-Tain line has been proposed but details of cost and usage have not been assessed. ‘Rail’ magazine for 3 & 17 January has major features on the Far North Line from Inverness to Caithness. Usage of this route has been falling with reliability poor.
The Scottish Government is providing £4m of support to Abellio over 10 years for staff costs at the expensive £41m Edinburgh Gateway interchange opened late in 2016. Usage has been only 230,000 in the first 11 months of operation – compared to official forecasts of usage soon rising to 500,000/600,000 a year. Housing and commercial development close to the station has been slower than initially expected while the station lacks the direct services to Falkirk, Glasgow and Stirling in the original plans involving a short spur from Winchburgh to access Gateway (H 1&2Feb).
The Settle and Carlisle Rail Group is seeking improved service frequencies on this scenic line and its possible use for faster, inter-city type services from Leeds to Glasgow (perhaps via Dumfries) and to Edinburgh via a reopened Borders rail through to Carlisle (‘Rail’ 845 31 Jan p44-49)
Inverness to Scottish Central Belt trains will rise from 11 a day to 14 a day on the introduction of refurbished HST trains later this year. Seating capacity will rise by around 60% with modest cuts in trip-times (Rail 846 14Feb p16)
ORR data for the Quarter 2 of 2017-18 shows a slight decline around London but rises of 3.5% and 2.8% in passenger kilometres on regional and longer-distance services. ScotRail passenger kilometres are up 8.2%
Amid controversy plans for a British Transport (Rail) Police merge with Police Scotland have been delayed, partly due to shortfall in Pension Fund transfers (H29Mar)
An Andrew Mourant feature sees promising prospects for an early reopening of the Thornton-Levenmouth line, aided by a strong local campaign. Prospects for a Dyce-Ellon reopening were seen as weaker unless substantial cuts can be made in present estimated costs between £231 and £381m plus continuing support for service operation. Prospects for opening onwards to Peterhead and/or Fraserburgh were even poorer (Rail 846 14 Feb p48-53) CBR continues campaign for Border Rail extension to Carlisle
Speaking in Inverness, Transport Scotland Rail Director Bill Reeve said Scottish Government SOFA (Statement of Funds Available) makes £4.85bn available for rail for the 5 years from 2019 – a slightly higher amount than originally anticipated. Completion of double-tracking between Aberdeen and Dyce is expected in 2019, followed by doubletracking between Dyce and Inverurie (Rail 846 14 Feb p17)
Scottish Greens have suggested ‘pop-up’ rail stations to test passenger demand and have criticised the lack of new rail projects since 2006. Map shows location of 17 ‘pop-up’ stations on existing lines in addition to 3 already being considered in Dumfries and Galloway (Thornhill, Beattock and Eastriggs). Stations suggested by Allan Rail, run by former Transport Scotland official David Prescott, are:-
Highlands & NE Central Belt South-west
Rhu Wormit Barassie (platform on Kilmarnock line)
Shandon Newburgh South Ayr
Evanton Halbeath Hurlford
Bucksburn Winchburgh Mauchline
Kittybrewster Allandale Cumnock
Allan Rail also propose 5 route reopenings – Dyce-Ellon, Levenmouth, St Andrews, Alloa-Dunfermline and Larkhall to Stonehouse/Strathaven (S 3Feb). Railfuture says only £2m of Scottish Government funds are presently available for such schemes though funds are also anticipated from other sources. Very few new stations cost as little as £2m with rail reopenings considerably higher (S 2FEB). Network Rail has scaled back costs for a new station to serve at new Hadrian’s Wall Centre at Gilsland on the Carlisle-Newcastle line from £25m to perhaps £5-£7m for a temporary station which could be further improved at a later date
Herald (28 Mar) has editorialised against suggestions that the modernised Queen St Station in Glasgow may have no ticket office. Many passengers are unhappy with plans for smart tickets using mobiles to show proof of travel. This already delays ticket inspections with many wanted a continuation of paper tickets though with simplified fares encouraging interchange between modes and companies. Complaits made that West Highland trains have poor heating which cannot cope with cold weather/
Network Rail is conducting a nationwide review of engineering work safety after a Virgin train struck a length of surplus rail left on track after repair work. The train was not derailed but there was potential for a serious accident (H20Mar) Ian Forrest of Laurencekirk urges stronger action to develop rail freight and review lorry freight charges to fully recover their greater damage to roads and cut diesel emissions.
Tramtrain style operations (with some road-sharing) continues to be suggested as an option for the Kyle Line (Rail 846 14 Feb p17)
BUSES, TRAMS & TAXIS
The £288m SPT Glasgow Subway modernisation will be fully completed by 2021 – 125 years after the Subway opened. Th new trains will be driverless with staff only on board at busy times. Unite has expressed concern at what happens if something goes wrong (H4Jan). In Edinburgh, tram usage rose 19% in 2017 to 6.6m. Further rises in tram frequency are being considered along with medium-term action to encourage bus/tram interchange and reduce the number of buses using Princes St.
Hearings in the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry will end in late May. Date for final report still unclear but opinion in Edinburgh is moving in favour of a £165n tram extension to Newhaven with a decision expected later this year. The Conservative Group on the City council would prefer a shift of funding towards better road maintenance and improved conditions for pedestrians (EN 1 Feb)
Tyne/Wear Metro has secured funding for rolling-stock replacement and has plans to more than double the size of the network (LTT743 16 Mar p20-23)
SPT has put the £30m Strathclyde Bus Investment Programme has been put on hold due to uncertainty surrounding future transport governance and regulations in the Glasgow area (LTT740 2Feb p20
Transform Scotland has criticised the failure of the Scottish Government to link a Forth Road Bridge now reserved for buses, walkers and cyclists with wider plans to ensure improved and reliable bus flows between south Fife and Edinburgh (LTT740 2 Feb p7).
Bus operators are preparing bids for the £1.6m Scottish Government fund to cut emissions by retrofits
Stagecoach has introduced new services from Ayrshire direct to Silverburn Shopping Centre in Glasgow –
also a new service X18 from East Kilbride to Silverburn via Newton Mearns and Patterton rail station.
Publicity for Stagecoach X24 Express services from Fife via Buchanan Bus Station and onwards to Braehead Shopping Centre and Glasgow Airport has been improved.
First Glasgow has come under attack for a 15% adult fares rise with greater increases for the unemployed. Fares will not rise if payment is via app. Under pressure from the Scottish Government and other sources, rises in fares for the unemployed will not now happen. Lothian Buses plans to buy and refit 40 second-hand buses to help meet rising demand. Standard single fares are up for the first time in two years. New fare is £1.70 – low compared to bus fares in Glasgow. Lothian is also considering better mapping and facility information to increase tourist use of the standard city bus network (in addition to revenue from specialist city tour buses). First Bus services in Aberdeen have been affected by strike action.
Though a new Bus Bill involving more regulation has been introduced, Arthur Homan-Elsy has called for stronger action to ensure buses are treated as a service rather than a business (H11Jan). Buses should be an integral part of inclusive public transport networks also attracting car users and improving air quality.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf (H 8 Mar) has expressed concern about the sustainability of free bus passes for those over 60 while other claim that social inclusion aims require consideration of reforms reducing spend of present bus concessions but extending them to all local public transport for those of state pension age but also allowing greater support for public transport networks and affordable fares. Views on the free bus travel concession have included this seen as a right for those who have paid taxes for many years. It remains politically attractive but hard to reconcile with the government aim of an inclusive economy within strong overall limits on public spending but some reallocation of existing funding to support more inclusive public transport networks. An alternative suggested is a move to larger cuts in local transport fares along with measures to ease bus flows in cities and improve air quality and the local environment (EN 1,2, 10 & 13 Jan)
Scottish Greens are seeking legally binding target to reverse the decline in bus use. A Citizens Advice survey has found two-thirds of Scots (using buses?) were unhappy with local bus services with many running late and offering poor value for money (H7Mar). Douglas McKerrell of Glasgow asks why punctuality data is published for trains, planes and ferries but why not for buses?
Autonomous public transport driverless vehicle trials are due to start in Didcot, Cambridge and London late in 2019 with aid from government funds – based on small vehicles with 10-15 seat capacity used as short shuttles in suitable areas (LTT 742 p1 & p32)
Uber has suspended all its self-driving testing after the first fatal crash (in USA) involving driverless vehicles.
Edinburgh Airport has increased passes for city cabs from 500 t0 650 with potential users now able to see the queue waiting time for each operator displayed at the airport. This new contract will help secure the jobs of 1,260 drivers and office staff.
Edinburgh City Council is encouraging its workers to walk, cycle or take public transport instead of claiming car mileage when on council business. Such payments were almost £1m in 2017
Edinburgh Bus Tours report its best year with the service again Scotland’s second most popular paid-for attraction. At 690,000 users in 2017, numbers were up 85,000 on 2016.
Edinburgh Tram insurance premiums have nearly doubled after an average of one claim a month by cyclists and motorcyclists. The annual premium is now almost £500,000 a year. Cyclists are seeking more action on existing tram route and on the Newhaven extension to reduce the risk of casualties. Consultations continue on a £165m tram extension to Newhaven
With rising demand from overseas visitors, Timberbush Tours operating out from Glasgow and Edinburgh are increasing vehicles and staff to improve frequency on its Outlander and Skye excursions plus growth in the north of England. Staff numbers will rise from 50 t0 70 this summer
Dundee City Council is seeking stronger bus powers while North Ayrshire Council is studying opportunities for local authority bus operation
Buses in the Lothians are to gain from a £1.6m Scottish Government fund to cut emissions. The seven Scottish cities have joined a partnership including the aim of greater use of hydrogen fuel cell buses as already introduced in Aberdeen.
In a new craze, teenagers are risking their lives ‘bus surfing’ holding on to the rear of city buses.
Cabbies are blaming buses as the main cause of congestion and lack of space for a taxi rank at the east end of Princes St. Black cab fares in Glasgow may rise 2.5% as owners are taking a hit from Uber. Aberdeen has granted Uber a licence to operate in the city. EN (22Jan) claims one-quarter of private hire drivers in Edinburgh have criminal convictions. Private hire cars in the city have doubles in past year and are now above the ‘capped’ number of taxi licences.
ROADS & PARKING
Road pricing is edging up the agenda due to falling Treasury Income from frozen petrol duties, lower growth in road traffic and shifts away from carbon fuels but politicians are reluctant to take early action.
Another discrepancy is VAT being at 5% for domestic electricity but 20% for carbon-based road fuel.
Car insurance costs are rising to record levels with petrol prices also up. Scotland has seen the highest rises in insurance in the UK, with young drivers particularly hit. Trading Standards has found that 1in 3 private car parks are breaching consumer laws on parking penalties. RAC seeks faster action to cut petrol prices as the price of crude oil is lower than in November 2017
Injuries on Edinburgh roads have fallen 24% since the 20mph limits were rolled out on routes across the city (EN26Feb & H27Feb)) A68 Trunk Road Focus Group is seeking more action to improve safety on the A68 corridor, especially in villages on the route
Plans to raise parking spaces in the new St James quarter in Edinburgh from 550 to 1800 at a time when official city policy is to reduce car traffic and expand space for pedestrians and cyclists. In a move branded ‘highway robbery’ Edinburgh is raising some parking fees up to 11.7% with permits for residents up 5.3%)
Edinburgh Airport claims to have delivered 4000 extra jobs across Scotland with another £180m of GVA added. Airport could do even better if APD is cut but more work was needed on airport access routes, especially the road network and tourism infrastructure (EN26Feb)
Pinstripe, writing on unacceptable maintenance standards on Scottish roads sees no prospect of extra money being diverted from health, education and social care but calls for a reintroduced Road Fund Licence at £1 per ton weight of vehicle per week with most family cars paying £100 a year and lorries and buses capped at £500 a year so that they did not bear too great a new burden. This would yield £450m a year to bring maintenance up to acceptable standards and provide resources towards a world class road system (H26Mar). Responses have accepted the case for improved maintenance but queried whether such a charge would be fair to rural car users often on lower incomes, involve too low a payment from longer-
distance HGVs and fail to recognise the merits of shifts towards well-managed extra investment in rail infrastructure rather than Pinstripe’s plea for full dualling of the A75 and A1 in addition to work on A9 and A96 dualling. More sophisticated pricing on some major roads could give better results.
Scottish Road Maintenance Action Group says there is a £1.2bn road maintenance backlog with local authorities also making further cuts in road maintenance budgets). Potholes at an all-time high (H13FebEdinburgh’s iconic North Bridge, built in 1896, requires £22m of repairs in a two-year project. Designed 200 years ago, the historic Union Chain Bridge over the Tweed (the world’s longest wrought iron suspension bridge when built) requires restoration at a cost around £7.3m.
Glasgow City Council voted to consider a congestion charge for the city centre within the next three years with Labour, Green and Tory councillors joining to oppose an SNP view that no action be taken. City Chamber of Commerce agreed with SNP, fearing it would push custom away from city centre (H 21Mar)
RAC Foundation reports UK’s 1 million households with a car available but in the lowest 10% of disposable income saw car costs rise 37% to £58.20 a week compared to £42.50 in previous year. This is around one-quarter of total weekly spend (H19Mar)
Ambitious plans to complete a network of bridges and causeways linking the Western Isles are a step closer to reality – another great boost for tourism and the local economy, giving better value than increased ferry frequency. Western Isles Council sees prime need in an ‘Islands Deal’ is a link across the Sound of Harris and the Sound of Barra together with schemes in Orkney and Shetland (H27Mar)
Argyll & Bute Council is considering proposals for tunnels or bridges to improve the transport network. Top priority is a tunnel to avoid landslip issues on the A83 at Rest and be Thankful. Other proposals include a tunnel from Gourock to Dunoon and on to Bute, a link across Loch Fyne to Tarbert and, in the longer term, from Kintyre to Ireland. Fraser of Allander is being asked to do further work on these proposals with a view to advancement as part of National Transport strategy (LTT738 5Jan.p16)
Another project hitting the headlines (H23 to 26 Jan) is a bridge from Portpatrick to County Down. Gordon Masterton, past president of the Institution of Civil Engineers sees this scheme as hugely ambitious and giving much lower value that accelerated road and rail improvements within Britain and to continental Europe – especially an extension of new HS2 route into Scotland.
Conversion of the Forth Road Bridge to public transport, cyclists and walkers is complete. There is a £65m programme for repainting the bridge over 10 years. The new Queensferry Crossing now has motorway status with a 70mph speed limit.
Alan Sangster of Edinburgh sees real dangers in a rise of driverless cars unless driverless vehicles (except at speeds below 20mph) are only allowed on dedicated road systems (H26Mar) Revised laws affecting driverless vehicles are already under consideration – with an early emphasis on implications for insurance law which is presently very much driver-centric. There is also a need for legal changes to give a common approach to speed and other standards for the growing number of mobility scooters and battery-assisted cycles. The former are restricted to 8mph on roads and 4mph on footways and pedestrianised areas while the latter are limited to 15.5mph (or as fast as you can pedal), banned from most footways but can be used in pedestrianised areas (LTT 741 16Feb p28)
Complaints are rising about the intensity of light from vehicle LED sources in both urban and rural areas. This issue is being considered further in vehicle specifications.
Heavy snow has meant some Councils have already spent their entire winter roads budget and also led to a rare closure of the main M74 route in south Lanarkshire. Glasgow City Council has had a huge rise in potholes and this is also a major source of complaint in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is likely to follow Glasgow in having Scotland’s second Low Emission Zone (LEV)
Skye has secured £300,000 to provide enlarged car, minibus and motor home parking at two tourist hotspots – the Fairy Pools and Quiraing
A new tourist leaflet will give advice on single-track road driving, especially for those coming from countries where cars move on the right. Since the North Coast 500 route was launched in 2015, it has brought 29,000 more visitors to the Highlands and added £9m to the region’s economy says Highlands & Islands Enterprise (H 16Mar)
Applecross is objecting to proposals to close the main access by the Bealach na Ba being shut for six weeks from early April between 9am to 8pm for laying of an MoD cable and some other repairs. This will affect the tourist trade, and also residents, since the alternative road route is much longer (H17Mar)
CYCLING & WALKING
NHS data shows a record number of children at risk of being overweight. A Sustrans Scotland survey shows that parents in both urban and rural Scotland opt to drive children to school amid fears that walking or cycling involve too much danger and exposure to pollution. Yet other research shows that increased physical activity has major benefits for health and well-being. The Scottish Government has doubled the active travel budget from £40m to £80m in 2018-19 (H8Jan)
The Edinburgh Cycle Campaign Group (Spokes) reached its 40th birthday in 2017. A call has been made for an update of the Scottish Trunk Road Cycling Strategy first published in 1996
Business Herald feature (Spring 2018) highlights health and wider economic and social benefits of rising use of cycling by residents and tourists. Spokes is seeking more attention to cycling in plans to extend the Edinburgh tram route to Leith and Newhaven
Edinburgh (and other cities) needs much more streetspace for residents and tourists with less traffic and less street clutter – especially so on Princes St. More attention required to needs of the visually impaired and the increasing numbers using battery-powered low-speed vehicles on streets and in shopping malls
Annual footfall at Edinburgh Waverley station as risen from 10m to 24m in the past 10 years with 40m expected by 2024 – improved Masterplans are sought for Waverley and its surrounding area along with similar action in and around Glasgow’s major stations.
A £900,000 refurbishment of the path up Ben Nevis is nearing completion. This path has seen usage rise to 200,000 a year but there is no funding for ongoing maintenance. Calls are being made for local businesses who profit from tourism to make regular contributions towards path maintenance (H5Feb) Walkers in the Cairngorms and Arrochar Alps are being asked to make contributions to increasingly used paths which are becoming eyesores. Aim is to raise £100,000 (H9Mar)
Plans are being made for extra space for cycles and sporting equipment on scenic Scottish rail routes
An Edinburgh University study finds that almost 200 cyclists (with 1 killed) required hospital treatment after injuries from trams and tram tracks since 2009. More action is urged at dangerous hotspots. Complaints rise over cyclists using pavement being a danger to pedestrians – often ignoring the rule that, apart from clearly indicated cycle/walkways, cyclists should dismount on pavements. There are also examples of more cycle/pedestrian conflicts on routes alongside canals. Too many cyclists continue to use no lights or weak lights and dark clothing in evening/early morning conditions.
Complaints continue that plans for the Picardy Place junction in Edinburgh prioritise motorised road traffic over walkers and cyclists. Further proposals have been made to reduce tram/cyclist conflicts in Edinburgh)
Campaigners report that a long battle for a safe walking and cycling route from Gullane to Drem rail station is being aided by an East Lothian Council study in collaboration with housebuilders CALA to complete the final sections of a safe route(H 20Feb)
PLANNING & PROPERTY
Scottish Planning Bill includes proposals for a new system of development levies to aid funding of significant infrastructure works required by new housing or other development. Regional Structure Plans will be replaced by stronger Scottish Government policies for each principal region but local authorities will still prepare Local Development Plans (LDPs). These will be reviewed every 5 years in conjunction with reviews of National Transport Strategy and the National Planning Framework. Work on Regional Transport Strategies has been suspended and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has stated that there can be no guarantees on the continuance of RTPs, including SPT.
SPT senior director Charles Hoskins tells members that the Bill attempts over-centralised planning which could undermine integrated strategic transport and land use planning. He welcomed the proposal for an infrastructure levy but argued that provision should be made for such a levy to go to regional bodies such as SPT (LTT740 2 Feb p20) RTPs in Scotland argue they offer added value in improving links between transport and planning and seek an early endorsement of an enhanced future role (LTT742 2Mar p3)
COSLA has also attacked proposed Planning reforms supporting regional collaboration and the economic gains from regional planning rather than Scottish Government centralisation. In a reformed National Planning Framework, there must be clarity on how much say Ministers will have and on what goes in, and stays out, of the NPF (LTT743 16 Mar p12) Within present RTPs, there have been suggestions that TACTRAN might lose the Stirling area but gain Fife from SESTRAN. A continuing or renamed SPT might lose Ayrshire with the three Ayrshire councils considering further collaboration on transport, access and planning.
Scottish Climate Change Plan Road transport is targeted in the new 15 year Scottish Government plan to cut carbon. By 2015 total emissions were 38% below 1990 but progress within transport has been slower with transport still accounting for 27% of emissions and 13.1 MtCO2 with hardly any fall on 1990. The Plan envisages 8.4 MtCO2e by 2032 despite the current model forecast of a 27% rise in car kilometres between 2015 and 2035, assuming no change in travel behaviour. The Plan does not fully explain how the 2032 aspiration will be delivered (but there are indications that considerably lower growth in car kilometres may be influenced by fiscal, regulatory and land use changes along with improved car occupancy). The aim is also to cut average emissions per tonne kilometre of road freight by 28% with funding for active travel more than doubled. The target for buses is for 50% to be low emission by 2032. (LTT742 2 Mar p5)
City Deals have come under attack for a lack of openness and peculiar decisions on priorities e.g. Edinburgh is allocated £300m of which £120m goes to improvements at Sheriffhall Roundabout when other infrastructure changes are needed to marry housing and transport proposals (EN15Jan). There are also fears that £3.3bn of City Deals could threaten jobs in rural areas (H8Jan)
Glasgow City Council and related bodies have established a Connectivity Commission to produce an early report on how to enhance the attraction of the city centre for employment, shopping and entertainment. The Commission chair is Prof David Begg, the former advocate of changes to enhance central Edinburgh.
Major fire in Sauchiehall St opposite the closed BHS store must lead to accelerated plans for revival and improvements of this historic Glasgow street (H29Mar) Chamber of Commerce concerned that plans to revive the city centre will be prejudiced unless there is expansion of short-term parking space. Introduction of proposals for a city centre congestion charge would cause further damage (H27 Mar)
Major threats remain for city and town centres unless they can be made more attractive for shopping and for entertainment, eating and walking around in a pleasant environment. A Herald editorial that any solution must include easier and free parking has proved controversial (H15Jan)
Interest is growing in property development along Glasgow’s Broomielaw to Finnieston with the riverside location proving attractive. The HALO commercial development, close to Kilmarnock rail station and college, will have building work completed by August 2019 (H5Feb)
Edinburgh is the top ‘hot-spot’ for hotel investment in UK. £20m plans announced for a new hotel opposite Glasgow Queen St with shopping on ground floor. A major speculative office development also planned for vacant site in Argyle S west of Central Station – could house up to 4000 staff. Student flat and office development t also being considered for a major derelict site close to Argyle St station.
Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce expects completion of the Western Peripheral Road to reduce traffic in the city and ‘enable delivery of the ambitious City Centre Masterplan vision of a more people-friendly environment’ – but there is a risk that the new road will encourage development close to it with the new Aberdeen Football Stadium near the road finally gaining planning approval.
Sir David Murray’s ‘Garden District’ on the west side of Edinburgh near Gogarburn is seeking a favourable government decision with an initial 1,350 houses rising to 3,500 over 20 years. (H12Feb)
Revised plan for Ravenscraig site includes new housing, two new primary schools and related roads and a 40 bed hotel (H29Mar). On the improved M8 corridor, Aldi has announced £25m plans to enlarge its distribution centre at Bathgate while Lidl is building a new regional distribution centre at Eurocentral
NHS is applying to develop the former Bangour hospital site in West Lothian 800 new build houses and 80 further homes within existing buildings.
The former Cockenzie Power Station site has been sold to East Lothian Council. Options for the site are being evaluated, including industrial zones, green space and a possible port
Planning approval has been given for an alloy wheel factory with 400 workers adjacent to the Fort William aluminium smelter.
RESEARCH & STATISTICS
Issue 36 of the Annual Scottish Transport Statistics was published in March. Selected extracts below
2006 2015 2016 2006 2015 2016
Road Vehicles Licensed Mway/A road vehicle kms 28,898 29,872 30,553
Total 2.56m 2.86m 2.92m Other roads 15,221 15,501 15,883
Cars 2.16 2.39 2.4m Mway/A Car vehicle kms 22,610 22,573 23,032m
Other roads 11,857 12.096 12,330m
Bus Veh. kms
Mway/A 299 369 357m Road Deaths 314 168 191
Other roads 310 219 190m
Pedal cycle kms (excludes off road kms) Local Bus trips Central to NE 65 60 59m
Mway/A 39 41 40m H and I 15 14 13
Other roads 221 300 312 Clack/Fife & SE 174 164 160
Clydeside & SW 223 169 162
Note: trips on Lothian Buses continue to rise despite some loss to cycling and 6m trips made on Edinburgh trams. In Glasgow, Subway handles c 12m local trips with 30m of ScotRail trips in SPT area under 10 miles
Rail Passengers Ferry Vehicles Scotland 2.6 2.7 2.9m
Trips in Scotland 71.2m 93.2 94.2 Passengers 10.6 9.6 10.1m
External Trips 5.6m 8.4 Vehicles to/from N Ireland .44 .40 .41
Passengers 2.0 1.7 1.8
Note : Scotland has also seen a substantial rise in cruise passenger visits since 2006
Aviation Scottish Totals Totals for Major Airports
Total Passengers 24. 25.6 26.9m Edinburgh 8.6 11.1 12.3m
UK domestic 13.3 11.7 11.7 Glasgow 8.8 8.7 9.3
International 11.2 13.8 15.2 Aberdeen 3.2 3.5 3.0
Prof John Lennon of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University sees mixed prospects for tourism to Scotland. The lower value of the £ compared to the euro has increased visitors from Europe and encouraged more people to ‘staycation’ in the UK in 2017. But in 2018 the £ has strengthened against the US dollar and several other currencies including the USA, Kenya, Turkey, Dubai, St Lucia and New Zealand. Out-tourism to these places is likely to rise. But further ahead Prof Lennon expects the Scottish tourism industry to be hit hard by an exodus of EU nationals and higher food and labour costs for hoteliers plus fewer UK residents able to afford ‘staycations’ (H9, 13 Jan & 17Feb) Scotland tops table as No1 staycation destination amid surge in Easter visits (H26Mar)
ORR is inviting bids for a 3-year contract to estimate rail passenger flows and usage of all stations in Britain. This will follow on from the present 4 year contract held by Steer Davies Gleave
SPT is exploring a ‘strategic alliance’ with the Fraser of Allander Institute for research and analysis to strengthen the case for investing in transport to support economic growth in the west of Scotland. There could be potential secondments between the two organisations (LTT740 2Feb p20)
Prof. Glenn Lyons of the University of the West of England at Bristol is working on scenario planning as part of Transport Scotland’s preparation of the National Transport Strategy due to appear in 2019.
Implementing MAAS (Mobility as a Service) – major features in LTT741 16 Feb p22-25. One major issue is how to persuade operators to move from confidentiality to the advantages of sharing information which could accelerate falls in car ownership and use, also offering other benefits. Intelligent transport professionals say that government is overestimating the scope for driverless cars by early 2020s. Fully driverless cars were unlikely before early 2030s with widespread use by the 2040s.
An Inrix study of road congestion finds that congestion costs a typical motorist £1,168 a year, mainly in wasted time. London, Manchester Birmingham and Luton have congestion worse than in any Scottish City. Edinburgh has the most congested roads in Scotland but with congestion 10% down in 2017. Congestion found to be 20% down in Aberdeen and 15% in Glasgow
Tourist attractions on North Coast 500 road report a huge surge in visitors in 2017. Scottish visitor attractions saw a 9.7% rise in numbers across 2017 – Inverewe Gardens in Wester Ross up 110% (H20Feb)
Chinese tourists to Edinburgh in 2017 up 40% on 2016. Investment in automation is needed to boost Scottish productivity and ease the problems of a reducing population of working age (SCDI Report H 20Feb)
Trends in Scottish Bus Patronage – report to CPT by KPMG (LTT 738 5Jan, p15) -seeks to explain fall in Scottish bus trips from 436m in 11/12 to 393m in 16/17. Concludes that population growth and better bus quality added 10.9m extra trips offset by:-
-12m from rising car ownership -4.7m from real term fare rises
– 7m from online & home delivery -3.2m from changes in economy/work from home
– 5.9m from longer trip times/lower frequency -2.6m from reduced car fuel costs including more
efficient fuel use
-1m from shifts to other modes – especially to
cycling but also to taxi and rail
Also notes a 12m rise in Scottish rail trips 11/12 to 15/16 with 5m of these possibly from people who previously used buses – with most of the rail gain being in the Glasgow area. Another adverse impact had been low-cost parking KPMG concludes that the challenge of reversing these trends is substantial
Young People’s Travel – what’s changed and why? (LTT740 2 Feb p5) This report to DfT from the Centre for Transport and Society finds that the trend for young adults to drive less started 25 years ago. Driving licences among young adults peaked in 1992/94 but, by 2014, only 29% of those 17 to 20 had licences and 63% among those 21 to 29. Young women had now almost caught up with men as licence holders.
Another finding was that, though fewer car trips were made, there was also a fall in the total trips made by young adults (though changes in the length of trips are not shown). There had been a small rise in public transport trips but walking trips had fallen and cycling trips per person remained broadly constant. A return to greater car use is expected above age 30 but not to the extent seen in former years. The report concludes that the main reasons for change lie outwith transport e.g. falls in disposable income, less home ownership, delayed families and re-urbanisation. Rise of digital communication and some fall in the importance people attach to driving are also seen as factors.
Shifts to public transport had been greater in areas of higher density – especially London but also other cities. Private cars were less central in lifestyles than they had been in previous years and there was a need to develop scenarios for future travel demand taking account of cohort differences as people move into higher age groups. A return to higher real incomes was now less likely to see rises in car use as large as had been the case with previous generations.
Analyses from National Travel Survey (LTT740 2 Feb p10) (The NTS no longer includes Scotland yet has interesting conclusions of relevance for Scotland) Average trips per person per year fell from 1,094 in 1996 to 914 in 2015, mainly due to a fall in trips of less than 1 mile down from 335 in 1985 to 173 in 2015. Trips over more than 2 miles have risen slightly (exclusive of international trips not included in NTS).
Trips as a car driver or passenger peak of 690 in 2002 594 in 2015
Local bus trips 107 in 1975 61 in 2015
Rail trips 11 in 1975 20 in 2015
Average distance per person by all motorised private transport – down 13% between 2003 and 2015
Average distance per person travelled by surface rail – up almost 100% since 1985
Total distance travelled per person within NTS survey area down 9% between 2007 and 2016
(Distance travelled to and from Britain up to a much greater extent – mainly due to international air
travel not included in NTS)
Walking trips per person fell from 350 in 1985 to 200 in 2015
(This data refers to walking as the ‘main mode’ from origin to destination and appears to exclude a large number of shorter trips for access to rail and bus stops and also rises in ‘on’ and ‘off-road’ walking for leisure – including walking by visiting tourists. Scottish data suggests near stability or a slight rise in distance walked over the past decade. Distance cycled has shown a significant rise in this period)
Network Rail Proposed changes in Allocation of Network Rail Fixed Costs (for Control Period 6 2019-24)
Brockley Consulting recommends lowering the allocation to Inter-city operators by almost 50% but raising charges to other operators – notably Merseyrail and Northern Rail. ScotRail charges would fall from £517m to £390m. Network Rail has argued that where an operator cannot afford to pay the full fixed cost allocation, this should be recognised by a transparent grant allowing a sharper focus on improvements in operating costs relative to income and other assessed benefits. The Brockley method has also been criticised by the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University. If the purpose of fixed cost allocation is to influence pricing, it argues that allocation should be based on ability to pay (with pricing also taking account of wider benefits of lower fares). If the aim is to influence policy on what infrastructure to provide, most fixed costs should be allocated to prime users (LTT 738 5Jan p12). Final decisions on fixed cost charging rest with ORR (Office of Rail and Road Regulation) but an important topic omitted are steps to introduce an integrated framework for fixed cost and other cost charging on rail and road
Anglo-Scottish Rail Studies DfT and Transport Scotland have commissioned studies of three sections of conventional railway on which HS2 services could operate The DfT study includes study of the existing route north of Crewe to just beyond Carlisle. Transpot Scotland studies will consider West Coast improvements between Ruthergelnm and Carstairs and , on the East Coast from Dunbar to Newcastle
Edinburgh-Thurso Sleeper Service could require an annual £3.14m study according to a Systra study for Hitrans. Hitrans is also exploring funding opportunities for MaaS on the Inverness-Skye and Inverness-Orkney corridors (LTT742 2Mar p12).
NE Scotland Nestrans is commissioning further work to revisit the costs of rail options north from Aberdeen. Aberdeenshire wishes the costs and benefits of an extra park and ride station at Newmachar on the proposed reopened line to Ellon and the impact of removing Aberdeen-Dyce line improvements form the Ellon project. The Aberdeen-Dyce improvement offers other benefits and examination of an increase in capacity by doubling the short section of single track to the immediate north of Aberdeen station. This would assist improved frequency to Inverurie and on to Inverness, a rail link to Aberdeen Airport and the new |Exhibition Centres and an extra station between Aberdeen and Dyce (LTT742 2Mar p12)
Borders Rail Study: Year 2 Evaluation Passengers up 9.5% in second year of operation. In a sample survey of 825 users, 312 has transferred from car use and 122 from bus – also clear influences on selection of homes and employment. Half-hourly bus service from Hawick to Edinburgh cut to hourly – revenue down 35% with many passengers on Hawick-Edinburgh bus now transferring to train at Galashiels. First pulls out of Border bus operation but Borders Buses see scope for rail/bus co-ordination. On-train survey found 60% of rail users travelling for leisure – weightings for trip frequency found 54% work trips, 11% for education, 32% for leisure and 4% for business purposes. (LTT743 16Mar p8).
Inter-urban Bus : Time to raise the Profile Greengauge 21 publish plans for a higher-profile and branding of inter-urban buses offering good links with rail services. Includes case-studies of inter-urban services in England, Scotland and Wales (LTT743 16Mar p8)
Electric vehicle sales in Scotland are rising twice as fast compared to the UK as a whole. Sales of alternative fuel vehicles in Scotland are up 68% on 2016 compared to a UK rise of 34%. But total Scottish sales in 2017 were only 6,565 with just 903 being pure electric vehicles. Overall vehicle sales in Scotland in 2017 fell 8% and 5% in England (H6Jan)
Edinburgh City Council bosses claim that 20mph speed limits, as well as offering more direct benefits, can also ‘boost local communities and combat loneliness’ by contributing to more attractive and safer local environments. Conservatives and IAM Roadsmart have criticised these claims until there is more information on the actual gains from 20mph speed limits.
The Cambridge region board has approved a £600,00 study of a bus-based, and ultimately autonomous, rapid transit network for Cambridge – including substantial sections of segregated infrastructure. Capital costs around £1.5bn to £1.7bn with revenue expected to yield an operating surplus with wider economic and social benefits also anticipated. Initial services could start in 2021 with city centre tunnel operational by 2026 (LTT7402 Feb. p9)
Young Scot and SESTRAN have used 16-25 year olds to road test public transport across the Lothians.
Main conclusion is need for better information on fares and discounts
A Newcastle University study has found rising flood threats in British cities by 2050 with Glasgow and North Lanarkshire especially hit without programmes for remedial action (H22Feb) In addition rising sea levels and higher winds could have adverse impacts in some coastal areas.
BUSINESS & PERSONNEL
Loganair has warned of losses in the current financial year as a result of Flybe launching competing routes
into six Scottish airports. Subsequently, Flybe withdrew competing routes in March.
Luton-based easyJet report revenue in the first quarter up 14.4% with passengers up 8%. The company has gained from the Ryanair decision to scrap a number of winter flights, including those from Scotland to England. Luton Airport is seeking relaxation of the ‘cap’ on Luton flights and has announced contracts to replace the shuttle bus from the airport station with a peoplemover shuttle over the 2.1km from the Airport Station into the airport
FirstGroup has experienced a fall in share prices, mainly due to airline competition and severe winter weather in North America. The company employs around 4,000 in Scotland. UK bus revenues were up 1.4% between October and January with rail revenues (none in Scotland) up 3.2%
Carlisle-based Story Construction has rebranded its Uddingston base as Story Scotland and is extending activity on rail projects into other construction and plant hire.
House of Bruar on A9 north of Blair Atholl reports annual profits up 4% to £3.8m. Concern is expressed at adverse impacts of major works to dual A9 but completion is expected to boost visitor numbers ‘enormously’ (H16Feb)
Glasgow entrepreneur Alex Papanikolaou is seeking funds to get into the expanding market for lightweight powered wheelchairs. Some funding now gained from Sir David Murray, ex Rangers owner
Taxpayers Alliance has found 238 public officials earning over £164,000 a year. Of these, 52 are in Network Rail, 37 in HS2 and 7 in Highways England (LTT 741 16 Feb p1)
Sir John Armit replaces Lord Adonis as NIC Chair Network Rail Chief Mark Carne is retiring later this year
Derek Provan is moving from Heathrow to succeed Amanda McMillan as Glasgow Airport MD
Stephen Joseph is retiring this summer after 30 years as chief officer of the Campaign for Better Transport (formerly Transport 2000) Sir David Higgins is retiring as HS2 Chair.
John Yellowlees (retired from ScotRail) is the new Chair of the Scottish Transport Studies Group
Scottish Environment Link (representing over 35 environmental groups) has withdrawn its two advisers
on the Scottish Government Group looking at air quality strategy- citing deep disappointment at a lack of progress.
Transport for the North is consulting on strategy for rail and road improvement in the area from Liverpool-Manchester-Sheffield-Hull and north to York and Newcastle. The initial emphasis is on improvement of existing routes in conjunction with government plans to extend HS2 north to Leeds and York by the early 2030s. These replace references to the former tentative HS3 plans for the north but include new high-speed line from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford and later works further improving Manchester-Sheffield rail links along with a road tunnel on this corridor. A direct rail link from Liverpool to Manchester Airport is also proposed. Implications for Anglo-Scottish trains running through ‘the North’ are not yet clear but responses are invited by 17 April (see LTT 739 19Jan p9)