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Tom Hart’s transport news, October-December 2017

Published 31 December 2017 by Transform Scotland

Tom Hart of Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) presents his transport news for 1 October to 31 December 2017:

 

MAIN NEW ISSUES

Concern has grown that the impact of any finalised Brexit could be negative for a UK economy already performing less well than other parts of Europe – but steps have also been takem to accelerater progress towards a low carbon economy with a UK ban on new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and the Scottish Government seeking a 2032 target. Greater progress is being made towards low carbon energy along with greater efforts to deliver low carbon transport and improvements in air quality and local environments as part of wider moves to sustainable and more inclusive economies. This has intensified the debate on the impacts on transport and on physical movement of the new age of electronics and changes in business and consumer preferences.

For movement and modal share, there is conflict between a DfT view that road traffic, both in cities and over longer distance in the UK, is likely to resume growth higher than population growth and contrary views that motorised road traffic will fall or grow at rates slower than population growth with moves to increased vehicle occupancy, automated movement, cycling and rising rail and City Metro shares.

National Infrastructure Commission produced its latest report Congestion, Capacity and Carbon: Priorities for National Infrastructure in early October with responses by 12 January, 2018.

This stresses the need for new forms of public/private funding for infrastructure priorities and for radical action, including road pricing, to remedy the large fall in Treasury income from road fuel duties, inevitably falling further as transport moves to zero or ultra-low carbon by 2050. The NIC does refer to DfT expectations of a resumption of higher growth in road traffic and a slackening of rail growth but points out that the energy and electronic revolutions, rather than transport, merit priority in infrastructure spend. Transport strategy needed better links with extra housing and with greater regulatory and pricing action to ensure better outcomes from existing infrastructure.

It seeks use of pricing and regulatory policy to deliver better use of existing infrastructure and a more even daily use of electricity. Rising future uncertainties are recognised. It supports present HS2 and HS3 rail proposals (not yet fully specified) for the 2020s in addition to more funding for roads and their maintenance. But it also wants a higher share of funding for City Metro development in the 2030s once stronger devolution had helped produce coherent city region plans. Apart from London Crossrail 2, only some limited Metro projects are likely to be deliverable in the 2020s. There are hints that the final nature of HS3 proposals will give greater attention to a resumed rail electrification of existing lines in the Midlands and North of England with some sections of new route and the potential for more ambitious plans in the 2030s. NIC favours development of road freight platooning, rather than longer rail freight trains, as a means of releasing more slots for intra & inter-regional passenger trains on the rail network. Strong support is given to a third runway at London Heathrow. In line with government preferences, NIC now favours faster action to improve rail and road transport in a buoyant Oxford-Cambridge corridor which could house an extra 1m people by 2025

The late December resignation of NIC Chair Lord Adonis suggests that, in future, NIC may be less important that direct government preferences. It has always dealt mainly with England with the UK government facing pressure for a greater devolution of rail, as well as road powers, to the Scottish Government as advocated by Reform Scotland (H 27Dec)

UK and Scottish Budgets Overall impact is continued austerity though with initial steps to ease pressure on government budgets by modest rises in income tax in Scotland. Capital spend has been cut less severely than revenue spend though with adverse adjustments in Barnett ‘consequentials’ for Scotland (H23Nov) Road fuel duties continue to be frozen while regulated rail fares rose in line with inflation in January.

Scottish government income has been eased by the decision, pending further EU discussions, not to proceed with cuts in Scottish Air Departure Duties.

Calling for more substantial changes from modest yearly adjustments to a longer-term strategy for a stronger and inclusive Scottish economy, private sector donors have pledged ‘major’ investments in an under-funded Scottish public policy research sector via a new Scottish Policy Foundation (H1&4Dec) with a longer-term strategy. Pinstripe has also called for more radical tax reform with more people paying a little more tax, also more tax on idle capital but cutbacks in free bus travel and higher road charges to allow more to be spend on ‘our crumbling roads and railways’ (H11 Dec) Another theme is the importance of policies encouraging a higher Scottish population while moderating population growth in and around London (H8Dec) Edinburgh and some rural tourists hotspots are also seeking tourism and leisure levies which could help contribute to improved facilities for tourists without cuts in other local authority spend.

AVIATION

Now competing on routes to Scottish islands, Loganair and Flybe have improved baggage allowances for passengers. Prestwick Airport still awaits a decision on spaceport status amid rumours that the Scottish Government plans to sell the airport. Compared to 2015/16, passengers are up 8% to 678,886.

Easyjet reports a 17% fall in profits but a 24% rise in passengers to and from Scotland. New Glasgow-Marseilles route has done well and an Edinburgh-Sofia route has started

Cloud Global has acquired Fly Scenic Scotland ans is introducing routes to the Western Isles in April 2018 using Oban and Carlisle airports and potentially Cumbernauld and Perth. It also has flying school activities. In May, British Airways will introduce a new summer route from Edinburgh to Florence using the 76 seat Embraer.

Loganair is adding a second base outside Scotland – at Durham Tees Valley – as it plans to develop services there.

Glasgow is progressing work to increase capacity of airport security hall by 20%. Edinburgh passengers rose 8.5% to 1.27m in September with all growth being international. Glasgow saw a 5% rise to .93m passengers in September, mainly international. HIAL also report a 7.4% rise in summer use of Highlands & Islands airports. Over the year Inverness Airport passengers rose 23.5% to 829,018.

FERRIES & SHIPPING

Audit Scotland has warned of the soaring costs (over £100m a year) of Scottish ferries. Spending had doubled in the past decade despite the small size of the population served. There are other claims that Scottish Government should reconsider level and nature of ferry spending

Gavin Fulton of Lamlash has complained of wasteful decisions –two smaller vessels for the Arrran route could have offered better value for users and for the public purse.   RET had intensified problems at peaks (H19&23Oct)

Tiree islanders have introduced new ways of tackling tourist peaks. Motorhomes must now be booked on ferries and must pay a £13 fee to camp with the majority going to island crofters. Wild camping has been banned. Highland Council is seeking World Heritage Status for Skye, possibly linked with charges earmarked for tourist improvements e.g in parking and toilet provision. Others also suggest improved public transport and cycling on the island. 2017 had seen a ‘watershed’ in tourist numbers with Skye and Lochaber already at 1.3m in 2014. Population of Skye now rises from 10,000 to over 60,000 at tourist peaks (H26 Oct)

Due to severe problems with present operator, SPT has brought forward the tendering process for a new operator for the Gourock-Kilcreggan ferry from summer 2018. CalMac report further technical problems as reasons for extra delay in introducing new dual fuel vessels on Ardrossan-Brodick route and Skye-Harris routes. Entry into service is delayed until 2019 despite RET worsening capacity problems at summer peaks.

CalMac won the contract for the main Clyde and West Coast ferries in 2016 against stiff competition from Serco. Scottish Government has indicated that tendering for ferry contracts may no longer be required on a re-interpretation of EU rules (H 21Dec).

P&O Ferries report buoyant freight on the Cairnryan-Larne route – with 53,305 lorries and trailers ln the 3 months to September. (Before his resignation in December, Lord Adonis reported as being intrigued by future options for a tunnel or tunnels from Scotland to Northern Ireland and from Wales to Ireland)

Forthports is investing in a training academy at Grangemouth and is seeking permission for a £1bn expansion at its Port of Tilbury site

There are concerns that flood defence works may led to demolition of the Old Pier at Millport with loss of calls by the Waverley and other vessels. Glasgow Caledonian University is working with EU funding to develop the superyacht market and visits on the west coast of Scotland

RAIL

Speaking in Newcastle, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced further feasibility studies for Anglo-Scottish rail improvements (H7Nov). These include shorter trip times and extra capacity between Edinburgh and Newcastle but also plans for new route through Lanarkshire giving quicker access from both Edinburgh and Glasgow to south of Carstairs. The aim is a phased move to 3 hour trip times between London and both Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as improved access between Scotland and cities in north/midland England.

The first Azuma trains for the East Coast line have been delivered with full services with new trains due to start in 2020. UK government has announced it is seeking bids fora new operator/ infra-structure partnership for the East Coast main line to run from 2020 (H7Dec). This will relieve Stagecoach of current annual obligations to make substantial payments to government under the present franchise. Falling franchise payments could affect the funding case for new HS2 route.

Some Glasgow Queen St-Falkirk-Edinburgh trains are now electrically operated but delays in the supply of new trains mean that cuts in Glasgow-Edinburgh times to 42 minutes will be in late 2018 – also involving delays in cascades of existing diesel sets to raise capacity on other routes (H23Nov)

Abellio has delayed plans for employee rewards due to no profit having been made in the past year. Extra support for improvements had come from the parent Dutch government owned company. Reliability was at a record high with prospects for a return to profitability as new trains and extended electrification are introduced in 2018 and 2019. Unions continue to press for a return of Abellio ScotRail to public ownership. Rail track is already in public ownership but with concerns that the Scottish Government lacks the same control powers as apply to trunk roads.

A new paper from Reform Scotland sees this as a more relevant issue than pressure for full renationalisation of ScotRail as part of renationalisation across Britain. The key issue is to cut the delays arising from infrastructure and signalling defects under Network Rail control (H27Dec)

E Archer of Lanark complains about quality of rail services in Lanarkshire (H12Oct) Rail works between Preston and Lancaster in December brought the ‘worst ever’ Christmas chaos on West Coast Main Line south from Glasgow to Lancashire. In a surprising decision, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has rejected Network Rail proposals to close Breich station on the Glasgow-Shotts-Edinburgh line being electrified for completion in March 2019. SAPT suggested that scarce funds would be better utilised in a relocation and improvement of the adjacent Addiewell station and action on bus/rail co-ordination (as well as extra car parking) on the Shotts line.

Passengers have complained about a 3% plus rise in regulated rail fares in January while the UK Budget has again frozen rates of road fuel duty. In England, part of Vehicle Excise Duty is now to be used to help fund local road improvements but with debate on wider reforms seeking greater use of VED and Fuel Duty, or direct road pricing, as a source of funds for both road and rail enhancements and improved maintenance of existing networks.

Levels of overcrowding have been rising on several Scottish rail services but this will be eased when current orders for additional trains are delivered and existing sets redeployed. Refurbished HSTs are due to be introduced on Scottish inter-city routes later this year but there are concerns that capacity will be insufficient o cope with rising usage. (latest news on a Glasgow Airport Rail Link is in see section on Bus,Tram and Taxis)

Across Britain, heritage railways report high usage but increasing problems with staff and volunteer recruitment. There has been a rise in support for the reopening of some lines and upgrades on existing lines to provide a wider non-heritage rail network with quality connections and fares integrated with local transport. Funding and assessment issues will delay action but network expansion has increasing support.

A controversial analysis by CEPA and SYSTRA has concluded that several rail franchisee holders have substantial operating losses and should make a larger, and more frequently adjusted, contribution to fixed costs. Initial responses have been than fixed cost allocations may not take full account of the costs arising from faster, heavier and more frequent services while understating the benefits arising from more lightly used routes with lighter vehicles and lower staffing needs. Usage is already rising on many such routes. Merseyrail was found to be the worst performer with an operating loss of £21.44 per train mile followed by the Northern franchise at £9.13, Arriva Wales at £8.77 and ScotRail at £7.62.. Northern is already committed to a falling annual contribution from government, aided by new trains, improved frequency and rising usage (LTT737 8 Dec, p13). Similar data for lightly used roads would be useful for comparative purposes.

Despite Scottish rail renaissance, there is doubt on the early availability of funds for new stations on existing lines and for reopenings such as to St Andrew’s and Levenmouth, beyond Tweedbank and north from Dyce to (S25 Oct). Reports from AECOM and Systra suggest north-east priority is likely to be improvements in the rail route south and some £40m of further road improvements north of Aberdeen rather than a rail extension to Ellon which could cost over £300m and require annual operating support. The relocated station at Forres has opened but there are further delays in providing improved hourly services between Inverness and Aberdeen and also on the line south from Inverness to Perth.

New lines recently opened abroad include completion of the Paris-Bordeaux high-speed route, a realigned route from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and a new 293 mile standard gauge route from Mombasa to Nairobi easing rail freight movement and bringing rail passenger times well below coach times on the parallel road network

BUSES, TRAMS & TAXIS

A report by Jacobs to Transport Scotland has cast doubt on the proposed City Deal assisted priority tramtrain link from Central station to Glasgow Airport – citing underestimated costs, low utilisation and lack of capacity to add trains to the existing Glasgow-Paisley rail line (H17Nov) Transport Minister Yousaf remains hope of a positive outcome if other partners can be brought in to share costs. Business takes the view that a modern Glasgow requires a direct airport link while others see success in linking the airport in the Scottish rail network by reopening the City Union railway across Glasgow. Several comments to the press suggest that the present airport bus links are of good quality but could be supplemented by a quality bus link from the Airport to Paisley Gilmour St rail stations, made more attractive if an electrified Shotts line by 2019 could include some express rail services from Edinburgh extending through to Ayr. A puzzling suggestion is that the problem could be solved by a high quality walkway from Paisley St James Station to the Airport! A revival of former plans for a monorail link from Glashow has also been mooted.

A more promising proposal from former Transport Minister Tom Harris, now involved with Cogitamus and Reform Scotland, is a Metrotram link on the present central Glasgow, Queen Elizabeth Hospital corridor extended through to Braehead, Renfrew and Glasgow Airport/ Paisley (H18Nov). This link could also utilise the proposed opening bridge over the Clyde near Braehead as the initial phase of a wider Glasgow Metro network partly based on conversion of sections of existing rail mainly or entirely used for trips no longer than 12 miles. Initial scheme would cost more than the £144m tramtrain proposal but with higher usage and wider city benefits.

The recent NIC report urges expansion of City Metro/citytram networks in English cities with interim projects completed in the 2020s and larger schemes in the 2030s. Initial plans include more trams on several English networks plus complete renewal of existing Metro fleets on Merseyside and Tyneside as a top priority. Similar action could offer substantial benefits for Glasgow city (where the present SPT Subway will have new vehicles and automated operation by 2021) in conjunction with Edinburgh tram extensions.

Dublin has ordered more and longer trams to meet rising demand.

The lengthy Edinburgh Tram Inquiry continues with evidence of poor management which might have been eased had Transport Scotland not withdrawn from involvement in the project. Essential concept of the tram project was sound given increasing population growth around Edinburgh and the need to moderate related road traffic levels and pollution.

Lothian Buses MD Richard Hall says that the length of both the morning and evening rush-hour is rising with a need to return to longer periods of bus lane enforcement and their extension to the city boundary. But City Council is reluctant to act on this issue (EN 29Dec). Glasgow has similar problems but Lothian Buses is still increasing bus usage in Edinburgh. The Airlink 100 service now carried 3,000 passengers a day while bus services at Christmas and New Year had again been improved. Much of East Scotland (especially in Lothians) now has bus services at Christmas and New Year compared to other towns and cities (Rail services also poor or unavailable at these times)

Across Britain, CPT has found that road congestion has encouraged more city bus users to opt for cycling but bus trips in Edinburgh are still rising despite shifts to cycles and to the tram route. Contactless ticketing has been introduced on the Edinburgh trams and also by coach operator Scottish Citylink.

First West Lothian has taken over the 803Bathgate-Livingston bus service and increased frequency. Stagecoach has introduced the latest low emission double deckers on the core service11 between Kilmarnock, Irvine and Ardrossan. Midlothian Council is considering removing support for the hourly A68 Perryman bus service through Pathhead

Lothian Buses Service 35 from Ocean Terminal via Royal Mile to Edinburgh Airport has been rebranded Skyline 300 with aim of gaining more airport passengers. Scottish Citylink has added night services to present operations – will also serve Edinburgh Airport between 11pm and 4am(EN3Oct). Extension of more Lothian Bus services to Fort Kinnaird has led to 50% rise in trips to this shopping area.

Forth Road Bridge has reopened for buses. Kenny Macaskill makes plea for buses to be treated as solutions to present city transport problems, not treated as a problem. It was wrong to penalise diesel buses when this did not apply to lorries and cars (H16 Oct)

Sustrans Scotland claims that 1 million Scots are failed by poor or non-existent public transport with people in 61% of the worst affected areas able to access vital services by bike in 10 minutes or 30 minutes walking.

Better planning needed to encourage access to services other than by car.

McGill’s Buses have attacked a ‘fascination’ with trains while bus firm profits fell and networks deteriorated (H7Oct). SAPT urges that forthcoming Transport Bill should do more to encourage bus/rail/ferry services and fares co-ordination. SPT is seeking stronger powers to control bus policy and services (LTT736, 24Nov).

SWestrans welcomes Scottish Government support for council-run bus services but is against any raising of the age for free bus travel. Other comment has been more favourable to a change provided that savings are available for some increase in bus network support.

Uber has gained powers to operate in Aberdeen as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow. Tensions continue between Uber and taxi drivers in Edinburgh with public views also divided but an inclination to use whatever ‘apps’ may be convenient. New report shows that Edinburgh black cabs are cheaper than in Glasgow – with 2 mile trip fees of £5.60 compared to £5.80 in Glasgow

Disability campaigners concerned at taxi access problems at Waverley have called for short term-use of ‘buggies’ between the Calton Road drop–off point and the trains

ROADS & PARKING

New Forth Crossing now has motorway status and 70mph speed limit. Full conversion of the existing bridge to bus, cycle and pedestrian use is imminent though peak delays on the new bridge have led to suggestions for some limited car use of the old bridge.

Grade separation at the Edinburgh Bypass Sheriffhall roundabout may not be completed until early 2020s on completion of legal procedures and funding arrangements. Weather has brought further delays in completing the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

UK Chancellor has promised £500m to accelerate electric and driverless cars but VED is to rise for new diesel cars failing to meet new emission standards. Renault says half of its new cars will be electric or hybrid by 2022. Current statistics indicate a sharp rise in electric sales (and a sharp diesel fall) but electric base still low and charging network inadequate. London has introduced an extra inner zone charge of £10 a day for pre-2006 diesel and petrol vehicles. Edinburgh City Councl is considering a £40 a year levy for the parking of diesel cars (H25Oct)

Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland says potholes in roads are ‘impossible to fix ’within current funds. Car insurance costs have reached a record high. Motoring organisations have called for urgent investigation after more die on Scottish roads. Deaths in 2016 are 14% up on 2015. Overall, roads are much safer since breathalyser tests were first introduced in 1967 – though mobiles and other electronic equipment are a source of driver distraction.

There has been extensive press comment, especially in Edinburgh, on the concept of 20mph speed limits and low emission zones (LEVs) bringing cuts in carbon and improving local air quality.   20mph speed limits are gaining considerable support provided that some arterial urban routes have 30 or 40mph limits and that the issue of excessive speeds on other roads is not ignored. Penalties for breaching Local Emission ZonesEVs are also an issue with clearer views sought from the Scottish Government, possibly eased by greater use of speed cameras and greater support for shifts to public transport, cycling and walking in cities and towns. Rural areas with greater reliance on diesel vehicle are concerned about excessive adverse impacts when diesel is a greater problem in towns and on some major routes. There is pressure for speed cameras to be switched on (only 1 in 3 are at present) and for fuller use of CCTV evidence to reduce breaches of bus lane and parking regulations. NO2 levels are already falling in cities but with several areas still not meeting EU standards in addition to problems from high levels of diesel particulates.

Glasgow’s first LEV is due to start later in 2018 but with continuing concern that this will penalise diesel buses rather than all on-road diesel vehicles. Wardens now issue more than 1000 parking penalties a day in Glasgow and Edinburgh during summer with income also arising from higher parking charges. Neil Greig of IAM RoadSmart has called for more consumer-focused parking services, high-quality signposting and more evidence of increased spend on transport infrastructure and maintenance (H5Dec) Potholes on Edinburgh roads have quadrupled over the past two years with ‘quick fixes’ often leaving roads in a worse state. Society of Chief Transportation Officers in Scotland says there is£1.67bn backlog of essential road repairs.

Minginish Community Association is using funds from Forest Enterprise Scotland to enlarge parking space at the Fairy Pools on Skye to 137 cars and 20 spaces for minibuses and camper vans – but it also calling for a more robust tourism and access strategy for Skye as a whole.

CYCLING & WALKING

Dave Morris of Kinnesswood complains that Scotland is worst in Europe for good-signposting of walking and cycling routes. Glasgow City Council has announced a Connectivity Commission, led by Prod David Begg, to rethink role of city centre and encourage walking, cycling, fewer polluting buses and improved access to a high-frequency local rail network, much of which already exists (H25Nov)

Scottish Government has, after much pressure, raised funds directly available for active travel investment from £39m to £80m a year, allowing work to expand on segregated infrastructure. A hung Scottish Parliament, dependent on Green votes, may have hlped this situation

Living Streets Scotland has found that only 42% of primary children walk to school, with more parents providing car transport. It is examining action which could reverse this trend

Research led by Prof Martijn Steultjens at Glasgow Caledonian University finds that ‘green man’ pedestrian crossing times are too short for the elderly. Present times assume an average walking speed of 1.2m per second but 85% of women over 65 cannot walk at that speed (H4Oct)

The first large-scale electric bike hire scheme has been launched in Stirling. 50 bikes are available in a project funded by Transport Scotland. Electric bikes have also been tested on Edinburgh streets and about to be included in city bike hire schemes. In Glasgow, the £6.5m cycle route from Queens Park to Stockwell St should open later this year. The former rail swing bridge over the Forth and Clyde Canal at Bowling is to be restored to give a direct link from the bridge to the National Cycle Network route on to Loch Lomond.

A Sustrans survey in Edinburgh shows 80% support more segregated cycle lanes. It argues that wider use of such lanes could prevent 4,000 premature deaths over a decade and save £364m a year

Herald columnist Rosemary Goring urges action now so that we can all breathe easier. Plans for pollution-free zones, trams and more electric buses and cars needed faster implementation (H11Oct)

WHO says Glasgow has higher levels of pollution than London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham – with Hope St a particular problem (H31Oct)

Edinburgh cyclists have complained at the lack of enforcement when cycle lanes have been blocked by parked cars. Measures are being considered to encourage women to reach the same level of cycle use as men (H12Oct),

Cycling campaigners are opposing any moves to make helmets compulsory as safety gain is highly marginal.

Mountain biking in Scotland continues to have high growth and is worth £100m a year to the Scottish economy. Taking cycles by train should be easier, not made more difficult.

Rise of horse-riding on roads has led to a new Police Scotland campaign to make road vehicle users more aware of those on horses. Since 2010, 2 riders and 10 horses have been killed on Scottish roads.

PLANNING & PROPERTY

A legal decision ruling our Aberdeenshire proposals to recover infrastructure costs related to housing and other land development has raised major issues for the funding of transport schemes related to new development straining existing infrastructure. Developers across Scotland have expressed exasperation with hold-ups in gaining approval and securing funding for major developments (LTT735 10 Nov. p14H23Nov) The new Scottish Planning Bill will have proposals in this area. The three Ayrshire Councils are considering a joint transport partnership.

Brexit has slowed office development in Scottish cities though the weaker £ has attracted foreign investors to buy existing property. Former plans for substantial shopping development on the Ravenscraig site have been abandoned though some new housing will still be built.

Despite gains from tourist shopping, Glasgow, especially Sauchiehall St, is showing signs of lower shopping activity – also affecting retail park footfall as more buy on-line. Office activity is expanding in the urban M74 zone (also served by the Argyle rail line). Network Rail reports 6.8% growth in retail spend at Edinburgh Waverley, reflecting a rise in ‘convenience’ spend at one of Scotland’s busiest stations

Plans for Picardy Place and a related gyratory in Edinburgh have been attacked as inconsistent with City Council policy to encourage shifts away from car use (EN 11 Dec)

Investment in the Inverness area remains buoyant and includes plans for 800 houses at Ness Side close to the new West Link road. The Cairngorm National Park Authority is concerned that an upgraded A9 will boost demand for second homes on Speyside, pushing up prices for locals. It is seeking approval for a proposal that up to 45% of any new houses approved should be affordable.

Other areas of buoyant investment include infill development between the Kelpies and Falkirk town – also areas to the immediate west of Edinburgh and included in the Cockenzie/Blindwells Masterplan to the east. There are risks that transport plans will fall behind rates of population growth – and also concern that the existing Prestonpans station may be replaced by a station at Blindwells on the East Coast main line.

In Fife, a Bellshill-based firm is seeking to build 850 houses on the former paper mill site in Markinch. This has an existing station on the Edinburgh-Dundee line and the proposal assumes a rise in longer-distance commuting. As Markinch is further north, it would not be served by the proposed reopening of the line from Levenmouth to Thornton and on to Edinburgh.

A ‘growth deal’ has been announced for a widely defined Scottish Borders area from Stranraer to Berwick on Tweed. Details have still to be settled but could include A75 improvements to Loch Ryan, other east-west road upgrades and some extension of Borders Rail.

RESEARCH & STATISTICS

STATISTICS Air Passengers Glasgow and Edinburgh continued to deliver record levels of monthly growth in October, up 5% and 8.5% on October 2016 with all growth at Glasgow being international and the vast majority of Edinburgh growth also international. Aberdeen returns to growth just above 4%. Looking at international trends, Prof David Metz reports a substantial fall in air passengers on the Japan-USA/UK routes since 2000. Passengers on routes from China are still rising but he anticipates wider stabilisation of air travel per head by the 2020s, similar to the stabilisation already seen in UK car use per head (LTT736 24 Nov p22)

CalMac Ferries carried 5.3m passengers and 1.3m cars in 2016/17, up from 5m and 1.2m in previous year. £60m came from fares and £128m from subsidies (raised to allow RET extension) Bus trips fell from 409m in 2015-16 to a provisional 393m total for 2016-17 – based on analysis by KPMG commissioned by CPT Scotland (H20Nov)

Rail passenger trips saw lower growth with more data forthcoming in the annual report on Scottish Transport Statistics due in February. Growth continues on longer-distance and regional passenger trips but London area is experiencing a slight fall in rail use.

Tourism/leisure Summer 2017 saw a 20% rise in visits to paid-for attractions. Skye saw record levels of growth. More Scottish residents also planned a Christmas break abroad with bookings from the Glasgow area up on 2016

New Car Sales in Scotland fell 24.2% in November compared to November 2016 with the steepest fall (36.5%) being in Strathclyde. Use of electric charging points up from 26,119 in August 2016 to 37,433 in August 2017. Aim is for 5% of Scottish fleet to be electric by 2020 with sales of new electric cars reaching 27,000 in 2021.

Use of electric charging points in Scotland is up 43% on the previous August to 37,433 but almost one-quarter of charging points were unused (RAC Foundation)

Disability Scooters There are now 350,00 scooters for the disabled in Britain, restricted to 8mph with training programmes being developed and potential conflicts with other people using shopping centres, malls and leisure areas (BBC Breakfast News, 6 Nov 17) Further rises expected from wider use of low-speed vehicles with increasing levels of automation.

RESEARCH

Ipsos MORI research for Mazda shows that the joy of driving is alive and well. 71% of those surveyed say they would still want to drive even with self-driving technology available. Those most likely to welcome self-driving were aged 25 to 34. 81% enjoyed the ‘independence of driving’. UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling expects self-driving cars to be on British roads by 2021, a particular boon for elderly and disabled.

Scots have failed to respond to a £500m a year push to encourage them to be more active. Sports activity has stagnated but, where no charges apply – as for walking and cycling – there is evidence of rising activity.

Living just 30 minutes outside Edinburgh, houses can be bought for up to 36% below city prices though with the gain for those moving out of Glasgow less at 12% . If using public transport some of the gain is eroded by fares but savings can be made on city centre parking. Wider research on the impact of longer commuting on wellbeing does suggest that every extra minute of travel time (though in some cases use of rail can cut travel times) reduces job and leisure satisfaction unless the change can be linked with an increase in income and greater on-job satisfaction. A survey by Nationwide shows that many are keen to escape city life yet other data suggests that the length and time spent on commuting trips is falling, partly due to a slowing of net outward moves, some fall in city centre jobs and increased ability to do some work from home (H30Oct)

Coventry City Council is developing plans for a Very Light Rail (VLR) network. It is working with the Manufacturing Group at Warwick University and has support from Transport for the West Midlands.

Sir Richard Branson is investing in Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One developing low-pressure tubes allowing travel between London and central Scotland in 45 minutes – firm to be rebranded Virgin Hyperloop One with Sir Richard joining the board of directors. Aim is an operational system by 2021

(H13Oct) These schemes have echoes of Glaswegian inventor George Bennie’s pilot 1930 proposal for elevated airplane monorail routes running up to 120mph. In 1930, the Scotsman saw this as ‘a revolution in travel facilities’ but it came to nothing with the test track in Milngavie dismantled in 1940s (S17 Nov 17)

BUSINESS & PERSONNEL

Business

Scottish Government owned Prestwick Airport has posted a £4m operating loss, less than the £4.7m loss in 2015/16. The intention is an eventual return to the private sector.

Forth Ports has flagged strong revenues from its Scottish operations with underlying profits before tax up 30% to £68m despite a slight downturn in activity at Dundee.

Retaining the Clyde and Hebrides ferry contract for 8 years has helped improve the financial performance of government-owned David MacBrayne CalMac Ferries. Turnover is up to £195.5m with a £4.8m pre-tax loss turned into a £4.8m profit. The company will be bidding to retain the Gouock-Dunoon passenger ferry contract about to expire.

EasyJet blames Brexit for a near £100m fall in profits to just over £400m. The airline flies 19 routes from Glasgow and 38 from Edinburgh.   Cost and Brexit problems have also hit Flybe. It is now in competition with Loganair. Profits fell to £8.4m in the six months to 30 September, compared to £15.9m in the same period in 2016.

First UK Bus reports commercial revenue up 1.3% but volume down 0.3%. Bus use had been hit by congestion and falling city centre footfall. Gaining the SW rail franchise from Stagecoach had helped rail profitability. Overall loss had been £2m in six months to 30 September

Abellio ScotRail reports a £3.5m loss in the first full year of operation. It has invited some staff to consider retiring but expects profits to return with less service disruption & extra capacity in 2018 Stagecoach has been allowed an earlier exit from its East Coast rail franchise.

Logistics operator Malcolm saw profits nudge down from £10.5m to £10.4m despite a 6% rise in turnover to £226m.

Personnel

Lord Adonis made sudden resignation from NIC Chair in late December

Phil Verster, briefly Abellio ScotRail MD has again moved after a short period as Chair of East-West Rail in England to a post in Toronto.

David Thomson, a lawyer and expert on Glasgow Trams, the Subway and Clyde Steamers has died

RECORDS & PUBLICATIONS

Scottish Canal records going back to the 18th century have been transferred to the National Records of Scotland where they will be open to all.

The Hidden Ways : Scotland’s Forgotten Roads, A Moffat, Canongate, £20

Focus is on the older land routes in Scotland and their surroundings. Underlying aim is to encourage more people to visit the old drove roads and pilgrim routes.