Tom Hart’s Transport News, 11 October to 31 December 2016Published 04 January 2017 by Colin Howden
Please note that these are the views of SAPT’s Tom Hart, and not necessarily those of Transform Scotland.
Transport News 11 Oct to 31 Dec 2016 prepared by Tom Hart email email@example.com
In what has been a year in which the world, European, UK and Scottish context for economy and society has changed in uncertain ways, implications for movement are being reassessed as is progress towards low carbon. Developments in electronic technology will see radical changes, including increased automation of communication, transport and other work. Many existing jobs will be displaced in the coming 20 to 30 years raising social issues affecting their replacement (H 1Nov & 29Dec). Existing evidence already suggests a slowing of growth in current levels of surface movement in the developed world with this also beginning to affect air travel, modified definitions of public transport and some rise in walking and cycling encouraged by health and lifestyle awareness.
These trends involve a tension with ‘post-truth’ (The Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year 2016) defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.—— ‘As things stand, Chancellor Hammond, like his predecessors, knows that spending money on roads and cutting tax on using roads is good, practical politics. The ‘feel-good factor’ it creates in the short-term keeps most politicians and much of the public in harmony. So, if we want transport planning to triumph – – we need to change how things stand and articulate the alternatives in a way that also creates a feel-good factor’ (John Dales in LTT 711 25Nov)
Except for the Scottish Conservatives, there has been strong adverse reaction to the Scottish Government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow, now endorsed by the UK government but with delivery unlikely before the mid 2020s. The Scottish Government sees gains for Scottish jobs and connectivity but others fear a greater rise in job prospects for the already overheated south-east plus substantial adverse environmental impacts on London and on greenhouse gas reduction. Support for shifts to direct long-haul flights to Scotland will weaken along with a weaker case for HS2 services. SNP and Scottish Conservatives appear near agreement on at least halving long-haul APD but freezing short-haul rates at present levels
In a feature (H27Oct) Iain Macwhirter was particularly puzzled by Scottish Government support for a third Heathrow runway while a Herald editorial argued that, if Heathrow expansion proceeds, ‘it is imperative that a similarly ambitious plan is put in place to ensure our railways are ready to play their part in Scottish economic growth’. The rail network had to be made fit for the 21st century demands already falling on it.
Edinburgh Airport’s long-term plan includes release of the present second runway for other purposes and the creation of a new runway parallel to the existing main runway by 2050. Local opposition to changes in flight paths is increasing
BA will introduce wi-fi on short-haul flights from summer 2017 and plans to increase seats on Boeing 777s from 280 to 332. Ryanair has cut profit forecasts by 5% due to a falling pound yet EasyJet is planning extra flights from mainland European airports to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. FlyBe is introducing new routes from Aberdeen and Edinburgh direct to Heathrow from March 2017
Thomson is to introduce direct flights from Glasgow Airport to Montego May from 22 June 2017. Quantas is planning to use Dreamliners to introduce the first non-stop flights from London to Australia in 2018.
Eurowings is introducing direct flights from Munich to Edinburgh and to Glasgow but Flybe has stopped the only overseas flights (to Amsterdam) from Dundee. These may be restored if radar coverage improves.
Loganair is switching expanded flights from Edinburgh to Glasgow due to a new morning rush-hour congestion charge at Edinburgh. In April, overall landing charges at Edinburgh will rise 8% compared to a Glasgow rise around 1%.
Drone owners have been warned that drones must not fly above 400 feet or within 150 feet of people or property (H8&26Dec) Prestwick Airport has struck a deal with Houston Spaceport with hopes that space tourism flights could be operating within three years (H7Dec).
FERRIES & SHIPPING
There has been strong adverse reaction to ABP offers of inducements to shift the Brodick route to run to Troon rather than Ardrossan (H8Nov). The route length would rise from 13 to 18 miles with resultant rises in RET fares while the direct link to rail at Ardrossan would be broken. Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has announced a major new study to report next year on options for the main ferry route to Arran. This will consider both Troon and the costs of potential work to improve Ardrossan Harbour and the reliability of ferry services. SAPT is seeking an early decision on retention of the Ardrossan route though with Troon, rather than Gourock, possibly used as an alternative bad weather port.
Peel Ports have announced plans for improvements at Ardrossan with a new CalMac ferry now under construction for the route to Brodick. Though new ferries have side-thrusters, the height of large vehicle ferries makes then harder to handle in high winds than earlier and lower conventional ships (H7&8Dec)
To ease temporary problems, CalMac has transferred vehicle ferry MV Coruisk to operate as a passenger ferry on the Gourock-Dunoon route over the winter period.
Virgin West Coast have been required to improve reliability and connectivity on West Coast services with a short-term franchise extension to the end of 2019 – followed by a new West Coast Partnership in which the West Coast main line and new HS2 services will be run by the same operator for the first 3 to 5 years of HS2 operation from 2026 (H5Nov). This may imply a re-design of the initial trains capable of running beyond new HS2 route as part of integrated inter-city and regional networks. Virgin East Coast is seeking 78 extra drivers for the expanded East Coast Azuma services to be introduced in 2018.
The first £900m of contracts have been let for work on the initial London-West Midlands section of HS2 and preferred routes have been announced for onward sections to Warrington/Manchester and to Leeds/York. Concerns remain at an over-reliance on terminal stations and further alterations may be made to finalised routes and the nature of operations. Routes north from Birmingham are likely to be shared with trains running up to 140/150mph while maximum initial train lengths may be less than 400 metres. UK government guidance to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is that it should consider a shift of emphasis from super high-speed route to an improved inter-regional passenger and freight network complementing enhanced city region transit (LTT 16 Dec)
Due to cost-overruns and increased availability of bi-mode trains, trunk rail electrification in England and Wales has been slowed to keep within budgets though the November UK budget made provision for some expansion of major road schemes and a restored east west rail link on the corridor through from Cambridge via Bedford to Oxford. This released some extra funding for the first Scottish Budget announced by Derek Mackay in December. Overall cuts are still required and pressures from the education, energy and health sectors are likely to reduce the scale of transport infrastructure investment. Details have still to be confirmed but the situation will be somewhat eased by a rise in government borrowing and the completion of spend on the Queensferry Road Bridge due to open in May.
Transport Scotland has made it clear that rail enhancements in Scotland face a much tougher future with
new disciplines to ensure that approved schemes stay within budgets and the skill resources of supply chains. Responses are being sought by 24 February on a consultation on Scotland’s Rail Infrastructure Strategy (LTT 711 25Nov) Funding from other sources may be essential if some present schemes, or variants, are to be retained in programmes for 2019-24. As south of the border, electrification is likely to be slowed and schemes for extra halts and line reopenings delayed. (Details on trunk road programme phasing are not yet available but are also likely to involve delays but some assistance towards road maintenance and local road schemes).
In a new booklet, Track to the Future, Reform Scotland has argued for a longer-term view of rail with major emphasis on shorter trip times on inter-regional corridors within Scotland as well as improving networks in and around the main cities. Former UK Transport Minister, Tom Harris was involved in this booklet and makes a strong case for Network Rail Scotland programmes and funding coming fully under the control of the Scottish Government (H&EN29Nov).
A central feature of much recent Scottish media comment has been the failure of Abellio Scotrail and Transport Minister Humza Yousa to prevent deteriorating service reliability and increased overcrowding. The Scottish Government has stated that Abellio could lose the present franchise at the 2020 review date unless services improve. Abellio has committed to improvements but argues that much disruption is pre-planned and related to Network Rail Scotland work (in alliance with ScotRail) to improve train, platform and track capacity to handle continuing rises in passenger usage. Trade unions are intensifying arguments for a return to full public ownership of rail networks in Britain. ScotRail is spending £100,000 on ‘mystery riders’ to report on problems arising in train use. A campaign group, 38 degrees, has gained 20,000 supporters petitioning for improvements and has met Transport Minister Humza Yousaf (H20Oct).
ScotRail has been fined £483,000 for failure to meet standards for toilets and train cleanliness, an increase on fines imposed on the previous ScotRail operator. Abellio is spending £475m on new and refurbished trains (H29Oct). The Scottish Government has started procedures to allow a British public sector body (similar to CalMac Ferries Ltd) to bid for a future ScotRail franchise. ScotRail Alliance has promised to provide full details of overcrowding on present services (H7Nov) and has published details of a Performance Improvement Plan. Existing performance is well above the British average. Iain Docherty, Prof. of Public Policy and Governance, University of Glasgow, argues that transport policy in Scotland is being railroaded by a toxic political environment (H24Nov)
Pinstripe sees rail privatisation as a great success (H12Dec) but Iain Mcawhirter (H22Nov) says that with rail track in Scotland already nationally owned, it made sense also to nationalise services (though perhaps with scope for more localised public ownership or franchised contracts)
In a report by Bill Jamieson and David Spaven, the Scottish Government is criticised for a failure to plan the Borders rail route in ways permitting longer sections of double track, Portobello junction improvements and train capacity to handle passenger usage well above official forecasts. Actual trips in the first year of operation, at 1.3m, have been slightly above official forecasts of 1.2m but this conceals a wide discrepancy between stations nearer to Edinburgh and those in the Borders. The former have been well below forecasts but the latter some 313% to 681% above forecasts (LTT 712 16 Dec p15)
With Humza Yousaf present, the first of a new fleet of Class 385 electric trains has been unveiled in Glasgow. These trains will also allow existing diesel trains to be cascaded to improve capacity on other Scottish rail routes, including the Borders railway (H12Dec) Some peak-period Borders trains were lengthened from 12 December. The first UK-assembled Intercity Express (IEP) for East Coast and Great Western Intercity services has left the production line in County Durham (H10 Dec)
Herald editorial criticises the Scottish Government budget decision to spend £3m on one week of free fares for season ticket holders early in 2017 rather than spending this, and more, on improving services (H17Dec) – adding the point in a further editorial that ‘Scottish Labour appears in serious danger of going off the rails (H24Dec) Editorial also calls for Scottish Government action to end fare inconsistencies and speed up delivery of service improvements (H27Dec) Labour supports a fares freeze but the Scottish Government accepts the standard approach across Britain of raising regulated rail fares by slightly more than the rate of inflation each January while leaving other fares to the commercial judgement of rail franchise operators
The ScotRail bike-hire scheme now covers 11 rail stations in Scotland. The first facility opened in April 2015 and the scheme now covers Stirling, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh Haymarket, Glasgow Central, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Largs, Linlithgow, Perth and Falkirk High.
Highland Council is re-examining the potential for joint rail and road operation on a section of rail track alongside Loch Carron. This could ease the landslide problem in this area and avoid the high cost of a lengthy section of alternative road (H4Nov)
Virgin East Coast is adding six new departures between Edinburgh and Newcastle and reports record levels of passengers on Edinburgh-London trips with rail share now over 30% and air below 70%
Data supplied to SPT shows that, despite recent disruption and union disputes, passenger rail trips in the west of Scotland continue to rise by over 2% in the year to date. Usage elsewhere in Scotland has had a greater adverse impact from recent disruption. SPT area rail trips are set to reach a record high around 63m in 2016-17 compared to 57.6m in 2013-14
£41m Edinburgh Gateway rail/tram interchange opened on 11 December – offering passengers from Fife and the north a 7minute trip to Edinburgh Airport and even shorter times to the developing West Edinburgh Business Zone. Apart from Aberdeen, all trains to and from the north now stop at the Gateway though South Gyle is reduced from 4 to 2 trains per hour. The Gateway station also has a direct footway to the Gyle shopping centre. Total station usage expected to be 500/600,000 passengers a year(EN 10Dec)
Scottish Government has raised its contribution to a new Kintore station to 60% (£7.2m out of £12.2m)
Green Party calls for action to expand space for women’s toilets at principal Scottish stations – or at least provide temporary loos at known busy periods (H7Dec)
After the Lamington viaduct sag in the December 2015 floods, Rail Accident Investigation has called for an improved Network Rail regime to detect potential scour or other damage to bridges (H15Nov)
BUS, TRAM & TAXI
Subway use in Glasgow is still some 3% below usage prior to the July closure as part of the modernisation programme.
Report from Airports Operators Association has shown that only 8% of Edinburgh Airport passengers use the tram (down from 10%) compared to 25% using buses (also down slightly). Tram share is likely to rise now that Edinburgh Gateway tram/rail interchange has opened. Overall Edinburgh tram use is up 9% to 5.4m in the year to May 2016 (H22Nov)
Plans for a £144m tramtrain route from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Airport open by 2025 have been endorsed by Renfrewshire and City of Glasgow Councils but still await approval in the City Deal programme (H25Nov & 13 Dec) There are suggestions that this could be extended through the city centre but Robert Campbell of Paisley argues that better value for local residents could come from schemes offering them, rather than a relatively affluent, non-resident minority, improved public transport (H29Nov & 13Dec).
In the worst tram accident for decades, 7 passengers were killed in a Croydon accident caused by grossly excessive speed at a junction limited to 12mph. In a rare example of a scheduled bus passenger fatality, an 82 year old Midlothian woman has died of injuries when a Lothian Bus was forced to brake suddenly
Former diplomat, David Frost, has criticised Edinburgh for allowing Princes St to be clogged with buses and street furniture while not including a tram stop with easy access to Waverley station. In London’s Oxford St. there are plans to cut the number of buses by 40% to improve the environment of this major shopping and tourist area. Edinburgh may consider similar action on Princes St.
Part of the Glasgow Broomielaw Fastlink buslane has been closed due to another pedestrian being knocked down within two weeks. Distraction by walkers using smartphones may have been a factor. Additional barriers are to be installed with pedestrians directed to official crossings (H2Nov) Edinburgh has made permanent a pilot scheme to allow cars to use bus lanes outwith peak periods.
First Group Chief Executive Tim O’Toole has called for stronger action on city centre congestion and higher long-stay parking charges contributing to falling bus use in Glasgow. Other factors may be falling car fuel costs, the fuel duty freeze, falling footfall in city centres and rail alternatives (H15Nov)
MacTours vintage London Routemasters used in Edinburgh since 2002 have been withdrawn on the news that Lothian Buses is introducing a £6.5m fleet of 30 open-topped double-deckers meeting high environmental standards (EN 7Nov)
Lothian Buses have been shortlisted for five UK Bus Awards. New weekend night buses have been introduced from central Edinburgh to Dunbar and North Berwick. Joint offers for day bus use to visit East Lothian attractions have also been introduced.
Stagecoach West Scotland has launched mobile ticketing through its smartphone app (ASH 21Dec)
In North Ayrshire a major row has arisen over Council decisions not to provide free school bus travel for the replacement Garnock Community Campus which is less than 3 miles distant from the adjacent towns of Beith and Kilbirnie. £1.4m has been spent on improved access by foot or bicycle but parents are seeking a continuation of free bus travel. Pupils from Dalry will be able to travel by rail to Glengarnock station which is adjacent to the campus (ASH 21Dec)
Survey for SAPT finds that Christmas and New Year bus services are good around Edinburgh but absent in most of Scotland – rail position similar.
Overhanging trees are an increasing problem for doubledeck bus operators in Scotland
Despite tough trading conditions, McGill’s Buses report a 12.5% rise in profits last year to £3.6m.
Uber has lost a legal case with a London tribunal ruling that Uber drivers must be regarded as employees, not self-employed. Uber is appealing, arguing that it is a technology company rather than a taxi firm.
Network Rail is being asked to reconsider plans for a taxi rank in the New St car park close to Waverley. A travellator link into Waverley is being urged and/or parking for the disabled within Waverley station. Parking within the station was banned in 2015 and Network Rail plan to open the New St park in autumn 2017. It will be some 500 metres from station platforms
ROADS & PARKING
WWF Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland are pressing for 1 in 2 cars and half of all buses to be electric by 2030. The Electric Vehicle Association Scotland has called for plug-in hybrid cars to pay considerably more taxes than drivers of electric-only vehicles.
Though Fuel Duty remained frozen for a seventh year in the UK Budget average petrol prices have risen to £1.17 a litre and motorists have been hit by the rise in Insurance Premium Tax.
CBI is pressing government to authorise large-scale infrastructure projects, including full dualling of the A1 from Edinburgh to Newcastle. Campaigns are also intensifying for increased spend on trunk and local road maintenance. Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has allocated an extra £15m to motorway and trunk road resurfacing. Scottish Borders Council report an urgent need for major bridge repairs or replacements
80 years on from the opening of the first Forth crossing at Kincardine was celebrated at the end of October while the £1.3m Queensferry crossing is back on schedule for opening in May 2017. There has been slippage in the opening of the initial Balmedie-Tipperty section of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road but full completion of this £745m route is still expected in 2018. The £500m improvement of M8, M73 and M74 on the east side of Glasgow is expected to be completed in 2017, allowing trip times between Edinburgh and Glasgow to be cut by up to 20 minutes (S17Dec)
Fresh calls have been made for the speeding-up of work on the Edinburgh City Bypass, expected to be carrying an extra 10,000 vehicles a day by 2022 (EN19Dec) An initial priority is expected to be grade separation at the notorious Sheriffhall roundabout (EN6Dec)
Consultation is proceeding on a further three sections of the plan for A9 Perth-Inverness dualling. These include the four miles in the sensitive area between Pitlochry and Killiecrankie. The target is full dualling by 2025 with work on the Kincraig-Dalraddy section completed by summer 2017. Other initial sections will be Tomatin-Croy and Glengarry-Dalwhinnie (H10Nov)
Argyll and Bute Council is considering plans for a £500,000 road link on the island of Kerrera (population 40) to link one isolated road on the island to the ferry terminal for Oban (H15Dec) The head of Argyll’s Transportation Committee has suggested examination of a tunnel from Lochaline to Fishnish to cut ferry costs and end uncertainty over ferry cancellations (but this would offer a very indirect route to Oban even if the Corran ferry were replaced by a bridge) (H18Nov) Highland Council is considering joint rail and road use of a section of rail track alongside Loch Carron (see RAIL section)
The Scottish Roadworks Commissioner (‘Cone tsar’) has been criticised for a failure to use fines and develop other action to reduce delays from utility roadworks (EN17Nov) Lesley Hinds ((City of Edinburgh Transport and Environment Convener) has called for legislation to introduce ‘lane rentals’ to cut delays from disjointed utility works (H28Oct)
Glasgow Council has released £16m to replace potholes and speed up resurfacing of 200 residential streets and 30 miles of pavements but councils as a whole are concerned about the impact on roads of further cuts in their funding. Their spending on roads had already fallen by £70m in recent years
Simon Tricker of ‘smart cities’ Urban Tide says self-driving electric vehicles may make car parks obsolete by 2030 and cut city air pollution to near zero (see further comment in Statistics section)
Further extensions of 20mph zones in Edinburgh are due on 28 February but a poll for the EN finds 83% of respondents opposed (EN 2Dec)
Tourist publicity for the North Coast 500 (launched in March 2015)is leading to a large rise in touring motorists and benefits for the economy on the west, north and east coasts beyond Inverness (H21Oct)
AA has found that 1 in 5 motorists are driving early on the day after heavy drinking. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has backed stronger sentences for those causing death by dangerous driving.
1 in 5 Scottish road accidents take place in the evening rush hour with results worsening after the autumn hour change – also leading to more accidents involving deer crossing roads.
UK government is proposing that ‘competent’ learner drivers should be allowed on motorways if under supervision (H31Dec)
WALKING & CYCLING
UK and Scottish Governments are coming under greater pressure to take stronger action to improve air quality and establish Clean Air Zones in cities and in other problem areas – including incentives to a more rapid scrapping of diesel vehicles. Walking and cycling groups are also seeking legal changes recognising the vulnerability of these groups and placing more obligations on motorists
There are fear that school crossing injuries may rise after three-years of council cuts in funding for lollipop men and women (H2Dec)
Sustrans Scotland has awarded £726,000 to local authorities to fund 19 new projects to improve active travel options for schoolchildren
Scotland’s children were joint last in a 38 nation survey of levels of child exercise. Parents needed to do more to encourage walking and cycling (H21 Nov)
After much controversy, plans for a £5.5m cycle super-highway west to east in Edinburgh from Roseburn to Leith Walk have been approved by Edinburgh City Council but with a review of actual outcomes 12 months after completion. The levels of rise in overall cycle usage major cycling investments has been queried with a need seen for more cost-effective network packages – including legal changes to permit cycling on more pavements. Others continue to argue that effective networks require a further rise in total investment in cycling infrastructure. STUC wants compensation law amended to favour cyclists but some cyclists have also been criticised for reckless behaviour.
The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is now 3 years into a five-year plan to improve recreational use. £5m has been invested in more than 450 miles of route opened up for walkers, hikers and cyclists.
The second phase has opened of a community-led scheme to adapt the former Loch Earn railway into a mixed-use path for walkers and cyclists between Lochearnhead, St Fillans and Comrie. This will also form part of the cross-Scotland Pilgrim’s Way from Iona to St Andrews
PLANNING & PROPERTY
Work has started on a review of Scottish Transport Strategy, related scenarios and adjustments in the related National Planning Framework. This will be a more substantial review than previously intended and requiring further work on economic and social appraisal and on how to resolve difficult issues of funding and governance – including reforms in bus and rail organisation in Scotland. One tension is between a perceived Scottish Government centralising tendency and desires for more meaningful localised community involvement and possibly a greater role for regional bodies dealing with transport and land use planning strategy, not least around Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. This may require changes in present City Deal arrangements while retaining a role for existing local authorities (H12Nov & 27Dec).
In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Hammond announced a City Deal for Stirling and Clackmannan, meaning that all Scottish cities and their surrounding areas have City Deals
SEStran is consulting on acquiring more power (LTT712 16Dec) while SPT, already having more powers than other Scottish RTPs, is considering an enhanced role in regional transport, traffic management and land-use planning. NESTRAN has started work on a revised regional strategy for the north east, to be published in October 2019.
As part of the Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal, Glasgow will benefit from a £100m programme of public realm improvements in Glasgow city centre developing ‘avenues’ for pedestrians and cyclists, starting with Sauchiehall St and followed by central Argyle St, St George’s Cross to Sauchiehall St and North Hanover St/Cathedral St. After a design period, implementation should start in 2018/19.
Further developments in the Hydro/SECC area of Glasgow will include a £30m Radisson Red hotel.
Drum Property is planning a £100m expansion of their retail park at Kingswells close to the new Peripheral Road but there is also pressure to speed up action to revive of Aberdeen city centre. Aberdeen expects the relocated Conference and Exhibition Centre to bring an extra 4.5m visitors to the Granite City.
In Glasgow, Highbridge has announced plans for a satellite business district at Shawfield, rebranded as Magenta Clyde Gateway. This could create up to 12,000 jobs. Across Glasgow, the City Council hopes to create an extra 50,000 jobs as part of an economic strategy to 2023, including further growth in tourism and 2,500 extra hotel beds.
Cities are taking steps to replace weakening city centre footfall from local residents with further expansion of tourist and entertainment facilities and efforts to boost local population. Glasgow has seen proposals for alternative uses for British Home Store sites which may involve an eastern extension of the St Enoch Shopping Centre. The Goldbergs site nearby, once seen as a possible site for a Selfridges expansion into Glasgow, is now earmarked for 1,200 private flats and student rooms (H27Dec)
Marks & Spencer is to shut 30 stores across Britain and is shifting the emphasis from clothing and furnishing to food, including 200 additional Simply Food shops.
H&H Group is seeking permission for a new village of 200 houses and 200 student flats close to the Heriot-Watt University Riccarton campus and Curriehill rail station. Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government and Housing, has criticised Edinburgh City Council plans to meet a major housing shortfall and relate this to infrastructure strategy (EN 16Nov) Extra housing involves major greenbelt issues around Edinburgh and also around Glasgow, especially in East Dunbartonshire. Taylor Wimpy has gained permission for an extra 486 houses on southern edge of East Kilbride. Sir David Murray is more confident of gaining approval for his plans to expand New Brannock close to Newhouse from 50 to 700 houses
The new University of the West of Scotland campus in Lanarkshire is nearing completion on the outskirts of Hamilton, replacing earlier suggestions that the new site might be at the rival Maxim Office Park at Eurocentral in North Lanarkshire. The first students will arrive in 2018.
The new home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland may be at Galashiels rather than at Tweedbank, giving a better fit with educational and community use.
India based Liberty House and associated SIMEC has bought the Fort William aluminium smelter plant from Rio Tinto and plans to use related hydro power to expand into higher value aluminium processing and possibly into specialist steel. The present plant had been under threat but jobs could now rise from 170 to around 500 – a major boost for the area and offering scope for the expansion of freight as well as passenger use of the West Highland railway (H19Dec) To counter heavy rainfall, a local Fort William group is also bringing forward plans for a canopy for Cameron Square and other parts of the High St (H21Dec)
RESEARCH & STATISTICS
59.4% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources in 2015 (H23Dec)
In England, road traffic reached a new high in the year to end September 2016. Vehicle kilometres are up 1.4% and are now 1.8% above the previous high in the year to September 2007. Van and HGV movement is up 3.8% and 3.4% on 2015 but car traffic is up only 0.9%, close to the rate of population growth. Traffic levels are stable or slightly down on urban and rural minor roads. Data for Scotland is not yet available.
Spending by overseas tourists reached record levels in Scotland by mid-June, now further boosted by depreciation of the pound.
Edinburgh Airport has had its busiest ever November with 861 thousand passengers – up 8.3% on the previous November with a 20% rise in international passengers (but a 1% fall in domestic users). Glasgow Airport had 666 thousand passengers with international up 14.9% and domestic up 2.2%. Aberdeen Airport usage continued to fall to 238 thousand, 4.1% down on November 2015.
The annual number of Edinburgh-London passengers on Virgin East Coast has reached 1m for the first time with improved services seeing 8% growth over the past year (H30Dec)
New data from Scottish Retail Consortium shows near stability in total shopping in 2016 but a sharper fall in town centre visits compared to retail parks where click and collect continued to rise as well as growth in online shopping (H14Nov)
Numbers of young women at the wheel in Scotland have now reached male levels, a trend likely to cut road accidents and casualties.
There has been a 45% cut in overall casualties on the A9 since the introduction of continuous speed cameras almost two years ago. Journey times have risen slightly but IAM RoadSmart say this is a small price to pay for the number of lives saved. Editorial says that the facts speak for themselves on speed camera efficacy (H29Dec)
Transport Scotland data shows 2015 road casualties down 3% on 2014. Deaths have fallen to 168 in 2015 compared to the 203 in the year that ended with a lowered drink-drive limit. The Alliance of British Drivers has argued that, though welcome, the fall in road deaths cannot be entirely due to the change in the drink-drive limit.
Use of public electric charging points across Scotland has risen from 12,939 in August 2015 to 26,119 in August 2016 – but a quarter of all charging points remained unused over the month. Electric vehicle owners report problems from a lack of qualified repairers of complex electronics (H21Nov)
A breach of air pollution levels in Leith has sparked moves to create Edinburgh’s sixth pollution monitoring zone (EN26 Dec) Simon Tricker of ‘smart cities’ Urban Tide says self-driving electric cars could transform air quality and make car parks obsolete by 2030 (EN 27Dec) but others still see practical difficulties in the space needed for managing self-driving car parking between peaks and between other trips. There could also be adverse impacts if high-quality mass transit in cities did not remain available.
As a new law comes into force making it illegal to smoke in cars with children, chief medics in Scotland are urging a blanket ban on smoking in vehicles (H5Dec)
A survey by Inrix Roadway Analytics shows that, after London, Edinburgh is the most congested British city followed by Glasgow. Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol are less affected. The worst hotspot in Scotland is the A720 Edinburgh Bypass at Dreghorn followed by the M8/A8 junction close to the Braehead shopping centre. Jams could cost drivers in Scotland £5.1billion in wasted time over the next decade unless action is taken to study and improve the worst hotspots (H1Dec)
DfT has produced draft guidance on assessment of the wider economic impacts of transport schemes but this could still include issues of ‘optimism bias’ while Aaron Blowers of the Greater Cambridge City Deal highlights a need for reassurance that flexibility will be allowed in interpreting business cases having a low traditional benefit-cost ratio but having wider impacts justifying investment and viewed on a longer timescale. DfT has appointed Atkins to study ways of assessing the impact of policy changes on total transport demand and modal shift. A report is due in May 2017. (LTT 211 & 212 25Nov & 16 Dec) The Scottish Government has still to announce what changes may be made in Scotland.
There are indications that the National Infrastructure Commission will take a more selective approach to major transport schemes and focus on measures to assist the economy and society through improvements mainly within existing networks, including demand management. Rather than just being about transport, infrastructure is also defined to include energy, electronic communication and moves to low-carbon building (LTT712 16Dec p5). Linkages between transport and health also need consideration.
A SYSTRA-JMP study for Transport Scotland has concluded that direct evidence of active travel aiding both the economy and health has been weak while, in other cases, there is a perceptions gap where wider benefit from rises in active travel have not been fully recognised. Stronger community support is needed (LTT711 25Nov)
Transport Scotland has awarded the Energy Savings Trust a contract to design and deliver a Low Carbon Travel and Transport Challenge Fund itself funded from ERDF
Scottish Government and the Scotland Freight Joint Board has appointed Arup to review rail’s potential to capture a larger share of the freight market after the collapse of coal traffic.
Peter Brett Associates is conducting STAG appraisals for three new rail stations – Thornhill, Eastriggs and Beattock – in SWestrans area with a view to applications to the £30m Scottish Stations Fund.
BUSINESS & PERSONNEL
Allied Vehicles, the vehicle modification specialist based in Glasgow, is to create 200 extra jobs as markets improve
Glasgow-based Loganair has seen profits fall nearly 50% in a turbulent year but turnover rose 2% Technical problems had been tackled and the new MD Jonathan Hinkles and Loganair intends to return to direct operation of its services in September 2017 rather than being a Flybe contrator.
Haddington-based Prentice Coaches has won the annual Top Independent Operator bus award and scooped bronze in the UK Bus Operator of the Year category
Stagecoach report a 17% fall in pre-tax profits, partly due to Virgin East Coast problems where revenue was below target and problems in developing a workable alliance with Network Rail. Bus use had been hit by falling petrol prices and lack of action by local authorities to tackle city congestion and offer robust help for town and city centre revival
First Group is reviewing UK bus operations hit by rising foreign exchange costs for fuel yet with petrol prices still relatively low for car users. On a like for like basis, bus revenue was down 1.3% in the six months to 30 September. Margins were down to 3.2%. Some further trimming of services will be required but frequencies will be improved on well-performing routes.
Lothian Buses has ended the former ‘bonus culture’ for bosses. This will save £430,000 a year
ScotRail has appointed Wire to handle delivery of consumer brand campaigns
Andrew Jarvis is moving from Stagecoach to be First Bus MD for Scotland in April 2017
Edinburgh Airport has appointed June McLung as a noise adviser to work with neighbouring communities
Understanding and valuing impacts of transport investment – updating wider economic impacts guidance,
DfT December 2016
Consultation on Scotland’s Rail Infrastructure Strategy, Transport Scotland – responses by 24 Feb., 2017
Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2015, Transport Scotland 2016
Track to the Future, Tom Harris & Alison Payne, Reform Scotland, November 2016 – 27p booklet –
Highland Survivor : The Story of the Far North Line, David Spaven, Kessock Books 2016, 314p, £16.99
This is an interesting, fascinating and well-illustrated book mainly on the post-1960 history of the longest line in Britain appearing on the list of Beeching closures but rejected after a strong local campaign. The book charts growth in freight and in passenger usage, notably on the southern section of the line, in subsequent years. There are references to both SRDA and SAPT, notably on the failed campaign for a joint road/rail crossing of the Dornoch Firth. The conclusion examines prospects for the line, assured south of Tain but with question marks further north unless there are shifts to innovative local management, some return of freight (especially timber) and development over a longer season of tourist and cruise-ship related traffic.