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Tom Hart’s transport news digest, July to September 2018

Published 30 September 2018 by Transform Scotland

Tom HartTom Hart from Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) writes on transport news from 1 July to 30 September 2018:

MAIN ISSUES

Final decisions on Brexit continue to cause uncertainty which could have major impacts on transport and the economy. In addition to major concerns on ferry policy, another aggravated issue is whether a weakened UK Government financial position and priorities for the NHS and other issues may restrict overall capital UK public funding for transport. Scottish Government has promised a £7bn infrastructure programmes to boost the economy but this does not necessarily mean a high focus on transport (H4 & 5 Sept) At the UK level, further rises in HS2 costs are an increasing source of concern. A leaked report to Government summarised in LTT has found very limited benefits and dangers of cost overruns in the present HS2 programme compared to other projects offering higher gains yet suffering from a concentration of technical and design expertise on the HS2 programme. At best, HS2 is seen as offering an early construction boost to an economy suffering from leaving the EU (LTT753 3Aug, p 1,3 & 23)

The prolonged drought and higher temperatures adversely affecting much of the world indicate a growing risk to the world economy, food supply and population from higher global temperatures and sea levels up by 60 metres. This will reach a critical stage not easily reversed unless much higher priority is given to faster moves to very low net carbon emissions and a fall in population growth. The earth may be just decades away from a climatic tipping point (H 2&7 Aug).

AVIATION

UK government has approved a remote Sutherland peninsula as the UK’s first vertical space rocket and satellite launching point operating by early 2020s. Prestwick has lost out but can bid for support from a £2m Government Fund for horizontal launch spaceports (16 July & 12 Aug). Pinstripe says it is now time for the Scottish Government to close Prestwick Airport and develop the land for other uses (H13Aug) Edinburgh Airport is to reduce the rising number of night flights between 11pm and 6am (H7July, EN24July)

RAC is concerned about soaring car parking charges close to terminals for drivers leaving or picking up passengers. Edinburgh offers worst value as a £4 fee allows only 15 minutes of parking (H 7 July). Major airports are placing more emphasis on improved public transport access. This winter, Lufthansa is to offer flights twice a week from Edinburgh to Munich

Aided by a string of new routes including Washington and Beijing, Edinburgh had its busiest ever June with passengers up 6.7% on June 2017. International passengers were up 11%. Action has also been taken to improve facilities for disabled passengers. Loganair has formed a partnership agreement with Turkish Airlines to encourage onward trips from Loganair’s expanded ‘local’ flights to Edinburgh

For a fourth year, Aberdeen Airport has been rated the worst in Scotland though usage is again on a rising trend. Customers rated Inverness the best Scottish airport (S24 Aug)

Glasgow Airport has lost to Edinburgh its 14 year old route to Philadelphia. Derek Provan, the new chief of AGS (owner of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton Airports), sees a stormy future for Glasgow with Ryanair due to move flights to Edinburgh in November plus the complications of Brexit and the postponement of cuts in APD. Some Loganair flights may also go back to Prestwick. He expects a fall in passenger numbers at Glasgow in 2018 (H25 Aug & 21 Sept)

Martin Redfern of Edinburgh argues that, in a tight funding situation and on environmental grounds, Scottish Government should drop proposals to cut APD. Rising airport use was boosting income from APD

Bravo Whisky Golf is offering charter flights from £4,500 per person to ease access on short timescales to a wider range of Scottish golf courses and whisky distilleries (H26Sept)

FERRIES & SHIPPING

Having upgraded the Gourock terminal, Western Ferries is spending £4m to upgrade the Cowal terminal at Hunter’s Quay for this busy route. Stornoway is proceeding with plans for a £50m harbour improvement including a berth for larger cruise ships open by summer 2021

CalMac’s four-year old Loch Seaforth with 299 passengers suffered a major loss on power between Ullapool and Stornoway on 8 August. Lifeboats escorted the ship into port. There are increasing complaints that, in reducing CalMac ferry fares (including peak summer periods) when new ferries were suffering delivery delays and existing ferries having more technical problems as they aged, the Scottish Government has created unacceptable standards of service. Reliability and lack of capacity had been a growing problem in 2018. The terms of the short-term lease from Lloyds to 2022 of Loch Seaforth have been criticised (H20Aug)

The Scottish Government has clawed back £6m of ’excess profits’ from publicly owned CalMac but has also released £3.5m of funds to help keep CalMac ferries in good working order (H28&29Aug)

The new Glen Sannox, for the Ardrossan-Arran route, being built by Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow will be at least a year late. While CalMac ferries have received aid to cut fares, this policy has not been applied to privately owned ferries such as those over the Pentland Firth and to Dunoon. Questions have been raised over Scottish Government loans to Ferguson Marine to ease immediate funding issues raised by complex designs but Ferguson say the loans were fully secured against losses to government (H2&21Sept)

Roy Pedersen, the original architect of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), has called for a review – including introduction of a peak surcharge for camper vans, whose users contributed little to island economies and also withdrawal of RET from commercial vehicles. Scottish Government has announced a review of the present situation published by the end of 2019 (H24 Sept) SAPT has supported an early review including higher charges for camper vans and fare changes to encourage more users to access ferries by public transport (H26Sept)

In evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Committee, senior CalMac officials say that fleet renewals have been seriously underfunded for years with no response forthcoming. They agreed that better value, as islanders have argued, could come from more orders for smaller ferries rather than large and complex vessels. Herald editorial supports the case for more urgent government action to deal with major ferry issues (H27Sept)

Brian Weddell, Chair of Prestonpans Community Council has called for examination of the former Cockenzie power station site to become a port for large cruise ships, giving access to Edinburgh and replacing the need for large ships to use tenders to unload and load passengers at Newhaven. Alf Baird, former Prof. of Maritime Business at Napier University says that construction costs would be relatively low (S26July)

Peel Ports (owners of main ports on Mersey and Clyde) have been accused of favouring the Mersey, where a large container port extension has been completed along with a new rail container link from Glasgow.

In Scotland the interest has been in property rather than port development on land owned by Peel. Potential for port development at Hunterston, Ardrossan and Inchgreen Dry Dock had been ignored and cruise ship expansion held back (H30Aug)

Scottish Government is looking at a study of how more food and drink exports could be through Scottish ports (LTT756 14 Sept)

Maid of the Loch has had Heritage Lottery funding rejected – further fund-raising is to be pursued but there is now no question of the Maid being able to provide a service on Loch Lomond in 2019

RAIL

LTT 753 3 August p1 & 23 summarises a highly critical report on HS2 written for Government in January 2017 but never released. It sees costs as substantially underestimated and benefits well below what would arise from shifts of spending to other areas, including city transit and upgrades of parts of the existing rail network. Prior knowledge of this report may have influenced the Greengauge 21 Beyond HS2 report (LTT 749 8 June) which argued for major changes in HS2 strategy to cut costs and give a better fit with overall British trunk rail strategy – including higher priority for an upgrade of the existing ECML Route with most Edinburgh-London and Newcastle trains running to London Kings Cross rather than on new route to Euston

Five bidders are expected for the contract to build HSR trains for initial HSR services from December 2026 but this may see some slippage and lower maximum speeds. Contracts are scheduled for 2019. The Greengauge 21 Beyond HS2 Report has suggested such a lowering linked with increases in maximum speeds on sections of existing trunk route to between 125 and 155mph, including some sections of new track at several locations – such as Darlington-Newcastle and between Newcastle and Berwick.

Lord Berkeley and surveyor Michael Byng have sent two reports to all MPs arguing that HS2 could be four years late with costs double the DfT estimate. Thye seek axing of the project in favour of smaller-scale improvements to the rail network (LTT752 20July p7) HS2 Phase 2b parliamentary Bill has been delayed at least a year

LNER has been criticised for only 62.6% of services on ECML arriving within 10 minutes of scheduled times in July (H7Aug). Issues of signalling compatibility with the new Azuma trains for East Coast(LNER) route have arisen but may not delay their introduction in 2019 (H11Sept)

The ScotRail Glasgow-Falkirk High-Edinburgh line now has full electric operation but shorter trip times and intensified services are delayed until more new electric trains and fully electrified track through Falkirk Grahamston, north to Dunblane and Alloa and on Glasgow-Shotts-Edinburgh are available in 2019. Rolling stock and electrification delivery delays have led to record customer dissatisfaction with Abellio ScotRail but services were also affected by record high temperatures affecting track and signalling (H22Sept).

Another major source of complaint has been the planned record rise in regulated rail fares from January 2019 plus the excessive complexity of rail fares. A British study of rail fare simplification is now in progress but is under attack as being revenue neutral and ignoring the Scottish Government desire for integrated public transport fares and better connections between modes as an important means of encouraging shifts away from car use. Most rail fares have risen at or above inflation, contrasting with a seven year freeze on road fuel taxation. This may change in the UK Autumn Budget along with initial moves to a new system of road charging as the use of petrol and diesel fuel falls.

Campaigning is rising for more substantial upgrades of the Perth-Inverness main line to permit reliable improved frequencies and an expansion of both passenger and freight traffic to meet Scottish Government aims of trunk rail times being shorter than those on the improved A9 already earmarked for extra investment. Transform Scotland is seeking firm action for early cuts in Inverness-Edinburgh rail times to just over 3 hours by 2025 with further cuts in timing to follow (S26 & 30 July, H 6 Aug; LTT753 p23-24-25)

Russell Borthwick, Chief Executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, is seeking urgent action to improve rail links from north-east Scotland to the Central Belt. ‘We head to the finish of the long-awaited Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route but we haven’t even set the starting block for promised rail improvements south from Aberdeen’ (H 24July)

Network Rail Scotland is creating 200 new jobs to improve project management and rail operations while ScotRail is creating100 extra jobs to improve performance.

Plans to merge British Transport (Rail) Police in Police Scotland have been put on hold for a further review

Record use of rail for late night Edinburgh Festival services led to severe overcrowding. There are also complaints that performance measures do not highlight severe overcrowding as a regular feature of some longer-distance Scottish services. Refurbished High Speed Diesel 125 trains will soon be providing improved services between the Central Belt, Aberdeen and Inverness but there are concerns that longer trains will be needed to meet rising demand and reduce overcrowding. TSSA has argued for provision of new trains for these routes but HSTs offer better travel conditions than many brand-new trains. The high quality of the new Glasgow-Edinburgh electric trains has been welcomed (H29Aug)

A continuing programme of Scottish rail electrification is now anticipated, including the Glasgow-East Kilbride line, the Edinburgh South Suburban Line and onwards from Dunblane to Perth by 2024 – also possibly from Glasgow via Barrhead to Kilmarnock and onwards to Barassie, giving an alternative electric route between Glasgow and Ayr (H19&20Sept; LTT 751 p17)

Deterioration of the empty Ayr Station Hotel has forced sudden closure of 2 of the 4 platforms at Ayr station with some Glasgow-Ayr trains terminating at Prestwick. Rail services from Kilmarnock to Ayr and south from Ayr to Girvan and Stranraer have been suspended for an indefinite period (H29Aug) SAPT is seeking urgent action, including ‘pop-up’ platforms to restore services

ScotRail has boosted services for the Carnoustie Open Golf and for the European Athletics Championships in Glasgow. Online ticketing has been introduced to allow passengers to download tickets on their smartphones and scan through ticket gates by phone. Scottish Labour has accused the Scottish Government of presiding over ‘a great train robbery’. Some commuters were having to spend a fifth of average wages on rail fares – railways had to be fully publicly owned to ensure lower fares (EN 7 July)

In a report commissioned by Abellio, transport consultant Tom Harris, a former Labour Minister has found 60% support for Scottish Government having full control over Network Rail in Scotland but sees no benefits in rail passenger operations also being nationalised. Transport Minister Michael Matheson has confirmed a CalMac ‘public interest’ bid to takeover the ScotRail franchise from 2025 is under consideration. Scottish Tories see this as a huge risk to taxpayers with no guarantee of better service (H13&21Aug, S21&24Aug)

North Lanarkshire Council has commissioned a report on a possible station at Eurocentral on the proposed high-speed line east from Rutherglen (LTT 756 14Sept) Proposed relocation of Monklands Hospital to Gartcosh could strengthen the case for a restored rail service from Motherwell via Eurocentral to Gartcosh and onwards to Glasgow via Robroyston. New station at Robroyston is due to open December 2019.

Though Borders Rail, St Andrew’s and Levenmouth are developing high quality campaigns for rail extensions, general opinion is that few campaigns will deliver success in the near future due to Scottish Government financial constraints and other priorities (feature by Robert Drysdale in Newsletter 57 of the Campaign for Borders Rail) – see also S16 Aug for view that high costs of a rail reconnection to St Andrews would give limited extra benefits compared to integrated ticketing incorporating the frequent bus link from Leuchars rail station to St Andrew’s.

As part of a Budget deal with the Greens Transport Minister Michael Matheson has announced £681,000 to aid assessment of the value of 10 Scottish Rail schemes, including St Andrew’s and new or reopened stations on existing lines such as at Newburgh, in Clydesdale and at park-and-ride sites (S10Aug)

John Munro of Glasgow argues that rail gets large amounts of public cash too easily compared to very little support for bus users (apart from the over 60 free travel compensation to operators). With road maintenance needing improvement and other calls on public funding, ‘it is astonishing that the Scottish Government is considering further local rail projects’ (S21Aug) Jacobite steam-hauled Christmas trips on the Mallaig line have been cancelled due to extra maintenance work at Carnforth on steel tyre reprofiling after the record summer heatwave (H11Sept) Network Rail is being criticised for failures to keep rail routes free of overhanging trees and lack of action on selective tree clearance where scenic views – as on the West Highland line – were being obscured (H25Sept)

BUS, TRAM & TAXI

Scottish Citylink Coaches report a near 20% fall in profits to £4.3m in 2017, attributed to competition from trains, planes and other road operators. The company focus is on longer distance services linking 200 towns and cities (H15Sept)
Belfast has introduced two Glider bus rapid transit routes – one east-west and one from city centre to Titanic Quarter. Tickets are issued off-vehicle (LTT 756 14Sept) Both Edinburgh and West Midlands are considering if a wider spacing of bus stops could shorten bus trip times and also increase usage. Stops could be no less than 400 metres apart (LTT 754 17Aug)

A Sheffield universities based study of the unemployed in Port Glasgow and Glasgow Castlemilk has found that sparse, expensive and unreliable bus services are hampering access by the unemployed to key areas of work. It seeks changes in the franchising and funding approaches in the new Scottish Transport Bill to ease this situation (H7Aug). Letter in H 7 Aug by A Homan-Elsy calls for new measures to ease local government operation of bus services in the Transport Bill – also a decoupling of reimbursement rates to operators for pass holders from commercial adult fares. Present system encourages operators to raise normal fares. Bus operators have also called for the Bill to include much stronger measures to ease city congestion delaying buses and worsening reliability.

Scottish Government has decided that free bus travel will continue for those of 60 and over and for the disabled. The concession is to be extended to include carers of disabled youngsters under 5 – a further extension to apprentices is being considered. In the recent consultation, two-thirds of those responding had supported keeping the free bus travel age at 60. Labour and Liberal Democrats support this (S3Aug)

Lothian subsidiary East Coast buses has added 8 new low emission buses to the East Lothian fleet. They will serve the fast-growing Edinburgh-North Berwick route. Lothian Buses also started services into West Lothian in mid-August. Two more routes were added in September with zone-based ticketing, taking services from Edinburgh as far west as Bathgate and Whitburn via Livingston. These fill gaps following cuts in First Bus services in the area.

A leading hotel manager on Princes St says that plans for an attractive city centre require the removal of buses from Princes St. This has produced adverse responses from Edinburgh residents, including pleas for more city centre parking and a shift of delay-causing trams from the street (EN14Aug). Other groups support a much improved city centre environment, including high city centre tram frequency linked with integrated ticketing allowing users of buses terminating close to the city centre to use Princes St trams at no extra cost as well as some car users shifting to trams at points further from the city centre. Edinburgh trams operated overnight during the Festival with overall tram usage in August 7% up on August 2017.

Dave Watson (head of policy and public affairs at UNISON Scotland) criticises the Scottish Transport Bill as too weak, working against rather than with integration despite 85% of Scots keen to see a much larger local authority role in bus operation along the lines of what Lothian Buses have already achieved. More local authority ownership of bus services was needed and could help deliver larger cuts in total local transport emissions – possibly adopting German action to provide free local bus transit. Scotland needs integrated public transport to bring overall savings, greater shifts from car use and cuts in emissions (S24Aug)

In critical comment on the Transport Bill, SPT says that it will not arrest bus decline unless RTPs have stronger powers and funding, including final decisions on proposed partnerships. The Bill had a bias towards private operators and unrealistic proposals for smart ticketing when more use could be made of existing techniques (LTT 756 14 Sept p17)
Reopening of Leith St (as east end of Princes St) has eased bus operation in Edinburgh and Lothian Buses continues to improve services to attract further passengers and serve areas of new housing. Some Saturday and evening frequencies have been improved to every 10 minutes (previously 12) and evening services to every 15 minutes (formerly 20). A new Service 35 has been introduced from Ocean Terminal to Sighthill Colleges and onwards via Hermiston park and ride to Heriot Watt Riccarton campus – runs every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday, falling to every 30 minutes in evenings and on Sundays.

Following withdrawal of Scottish Borders share of funding, services on the Dumfries -Edinburgh route are being cut from 6 to 4 per day with evening services no longer operating. One effect is the loss of evening services for Carlops and West Linton villages.

Robin Ferguson has suggested that rather than redesign the Waverley Mall beside the rail station, why could the Edinburgh bus station not be moved to this site with its present site used to accommodate more shopping (EN14July) Robert Buntin of Skelmorlie has called for a well-advertised and quick bus link from Glasgow Airport to Paisley Gilmour St. The present McGill’s service on this 3 mile route took 25 minutes and failed to function as an effective link (H26Aug)
Lothian Buses has expanded Daycation Tours well beyond Edinburgh and has faced complaints from private companies already operating in this area

Edinburgh still has strong rumblings of ratepayer discontent over a tram extension to Leith/Newhaven which may have cost overruns and force cuts elsewhere in city council budgets. Council claims that costs with be well controlled and that existing fleet has the capacity to serve Newhaven.

Nearly half of the 1316 Edinburgh back cabs will have to be replaced by 2020 under new low emission regulations. Glasgow in considering similar action. Taxi-owners are seeking compensation towards these extra costs along lines already offered to bus operators. City council response has been that after consultation the original plan to replace all taxis over 5 years old had been modified to over 10 years old.

Advanced electric taxis began operating in Edinburgh in August (EN7Aug) but rogue unlicensed private-hire operations rose during the Festival.

ROADS & PARKING

A report from Audit Scotland praises effective management of the Queensferry Crossing project but sees a need for more steps to assess wider benefits. ‘Transport Scotland needs to clearly set out plans for how it will support public transport providers to meet increasing demand for travel across the Forth’ (H2 Aug)

Others continue to argue that the crossing should have had 3 lanes each way and/or early action to allow car users on the original road bridge. A £50 fine is to be introduced for car drivers still using the old bridge.

The new bridge has reduced delays arising from high winds with other delays normally resolved in an hour rather than up to 5 hours on the old bridge.

Nick Dekker of Cumbernauld has called on Scottish Government to revise its 2001 view that road traffic in Scotland was likely to be no higher by 2021. He calls for an upward review of road traffic forecasts, especially in Scottish Central Belt (H4 Sep) New forecasts and scenarios will be part of the review of National Transport Strategy but actual trends since 2001 show Scottish car traffic growth lower than population growth though still rising on several routes close to cities – especially on the M8 west from the M74 junction. Traffic on this section is up by 16,000 vehicles a day (H20Sept) Gregory Beecroft of Skelmorlie has called for more use of ‘smart motorways’ and variable speed limits to improve conditions on motorways around Glasgow (H24Sept)

Transport Scotland had published land acquisition plans for A76 trunk road improvements between Enterkinfoot and Thornhill

Scottish Government is inviting tenders to replace 2 of the 4 trunk road maintenance contracts. Renewals would be for 8 to 12 years with the cost of each contract averaging £700million (LTT 756 14 Sept)

The 7 mile northern section (Balmedie to Tipperty) of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route has opened with the full route expected to open in late autumn (S14 Aug)

EV cars in Scotland are projected to rise by 30% a year until 2032. A £1.gm electric charging hub near the M9 in Stirling is due to open in December 2019

Local councils continue to be criticised for major failures on road maintenance and renewals while business is seeking stricter control over road closures for utility works. Almost two fifths of motorists think that speed bumps are causing excessive damage to vehicles. Use of speed-cameras is preferred. Police in Inverness have intensified activity to stop speeding near schools during lunch breaks

Scottish Government is awaiting results of DfT studies of HGV speed limits – already 50mph and 60mph on single and dual carriageways in England. The Perth-Inverness A9 single carriageway in the only Scottish single carriageway allowing 50mph though average HGV speeds on other single carriageways in 2016 were 48.2mph in a study by AECOM. Average HGV speeds on A9 have fallen since the HGV speed limit was raised, lessening the frustration arising from different speeds for cars and lorries. On balance, AECOM sees no gain from raising the Scottish dual carriageway and A9 limit above 50mph (LTT 752 p4)

SYSTRA has recommended to DfT that the national speed limit on single carriageways should be less than 60mph (LTT 751 p7)

Crovie villagers in Aberdeenshire have complained at long delays in reopening the only public road into the village closed due to landslip risk. The Council has arranged for emergency access by a privately owned track but hopes to reopen the public road by mid-November

Edinburgh Council is considering the introduction of workplace parking levies (with potential revenue of £15m a year) but continues to face major opposition to increased street parking charges and possible surcharges for diesel cars bought in future years. One outcome of higher parking levies could be increased working from home rather than shifts to public transport or active travel – another outcome could be less need for parking space as hire of automated vehicles becomes more common.

H editorial (24Aug) calls for less harassment of hospital staff for breaching parking rules as shift times often mean that alternative public transport is not available. It calls for a review of NHS parking policy

Angry residents in Partick, Glasgow, are opposing a 70% rise in annual resident parking fees from £50 to £85. Motorists visiting the area will now pay 20p per 15 minutes for up to an hour, rising to 40p per 15 minutes thereafter. Other areas are also suffering from rising problems of commuter and tourist parking though East Lothian now has modest charges at principal beaches while some landowners have introduced private charges. Car insurance premiums in Scotland have fallen for the first time in three years – with average annual payments now £638 (H 16July). The Chancellor may end the seven year freeze on motor fuel duty this autumn as part of aims to raise tax income. NIC is investigating ways in which reforms in road pricing can be introduced (LTT 752 p4) Petrol prices fell slightly in September after large rises earlier in 2018

With rising car tourism in the Highlands, single-track etiquette is being ignored by many drivers (S 20 July)

Calls have been made for the 20mph limit on most Edinburgh roads to be modified so that most of the main network allows higher speeds. Police are too hard pressed to enforce 20mph limit. Also, the law does not apply to cyclists, still often moving too fast in inappropriate areas. However, police have warned dozens of drivers for offences on the NC500 touring route.

The Fairy Pools in Skye are to have a 130 space car park and toilets aided by £650,000 of public funding. Cars will be charged £5, minibuses £15 and motorbikes £3. Two car park attendants at £12 an hour are being sought (H31Aug). Parking plans have also been approved for around 100 vehicles and 10 camper vans to ease problems for those coming by car to view the Harry Potter viaduct and Jacobite Monument at Glenfinnan. Overnight parking of caravans and campervans will be banned (H21 Sept)

RAC survey has found that too many drivers are being dazzled by oncoming headlights even when dipped.
Complaints have also been made by bus lane offenders in Glasgow often strange to the city. It is suggested that a first offence should always include a written warning rather than a fine. Drink-diving casualties in Britain have reached a four-year high but it is not clear what the impact has been of the Scottish Government cut to 50mg per 100ml in 2014 has been compared to the 80mg still applying in England

Plans to make it easier to recharge electric vehicles have been announced by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling(H9July) In the medium term, the rise in electric vehicles is strengthening the case for some form of electronic road charging replacing current road fuel and VED charges. Ofgem has also announced plans for
a wider differential in vehicle charging for peak and overnight electricity (H24July).

CYCLING & WALKING

Further calls have been made for walkers, cyclists and motor vehicles to share amicably the same space though with greater use of lower speed limits and some pavements and other critical areas reserved for pedestrians and mobility aids at speeds below 10mph (S17Aug). But there are also calls for safe and attractive networks reserved for cyclists. This is seen as crucial for a substantial growth in cycling (EN13Aug)

Blind people have expressed concerns about the dangers to them of an expansion of ’shared space’ and removal of kerbs and traffic lights (EN15Aug)

Green MSP Mark Ruskell has launched a Bill making 20mph the normal limit on streets with special applications having to be made by councils for permission for 30mph limits

More towns are moving towards consideration of car bans on certain streets to make areas more attractive and safer. Pressure is mounting for reduced levels of car use in critical sections of city and town centres.
St Andrew’s has closed most of Market St to motor vehicles on World Car Free Day (a Saturday) and is considering making this permanent. Edinburgh and Glasgow are also looking at car traffic reduction in large parts of their city centres. Others fear this could threaten, rather than aid, the vitality of such places unless ample short-stay car parking was available close at hand along with high-quality public transport (H25Sept)

Glasgow City Council has been congratulated on introducing road closures around George Square during the European Athletic Championships as a step towards wider pedestrianisation and public realm improvements in central Glasgow. Edinburgh City Council is consulting on options for an almost total ban on motorised vehicles in the South Queensferry High St. Similar action is being suggested for central Edinburgh including improvements within Waverley Station – pavement clutter will be reduced along with better signposting and more space for walkers and cyclists.

Adam McVey, SNP leader of Edinburgh City Council says record growth of population in and around the city makes it more important to reduce motor traffic but expand space for pedestrians, cycle lanes and high-capacity public transport like trams (EN 16 July) To cut pollution and improve the environment, Edinburgh will be the first city in Scotland to close some streets to motor traffic from 10 to 5 on the first Sunday of every month (H11Aug)

Scottish Government has announced £3.9m of extra funding to fill gaps in National Cycle Network (S11Aug)

Edinburgh City Council has launched the city cycle scheme with 200 bikes for hire at 19 locations. The fleet includes electric bikes with Glasgow also planning to add e-bikes to the city’s cycle hire scheme. Edinburgh is interested in expanding this scheme to provide better links with other public transport & car parking
Transport Scotland is offering interest-free loans up to £3000 for purchase of e-bikes LTT753p19 – e-bikes can also be used for cargo and delivery purposes. Scottish Government has announced an extra £3.9m to plug gaps in the national cycle network – including the last section of the Caledonia Way between Campbeltown and Bute and a route between Doune and Callander.

Tourists and local politicians are calling for lower speed limits on that part of the main A830 road where people cross to visit the Glenfinnan Monument and the Glenfinnan Viaduct

£663,000 of National Lottery backing will help creation of a 64 mile Rhins of Galloway coastal walking route from the Mull of Galloway to Loch Ryan, including signage, viewpoints and seating.

PROPERTY & PLANNING

Transport Scotland has insisted that RTPs in Scotland can still have an influence on future transport/land use policies in the coming Strategic Projects Review (LTT 751 p9) The new £110m UWS campus has opened in a business park on the outskirts of Hamilton. It will be one of UK’s greenest campuses but no mention is made of public transport access (H3Sept) Report from Living Streets Scotland argues that much new housing in Scotland makes residents increasingly car dependent (S2Aug)

Property experts fear that ‘anti-development’ lobbying could lead to serious delays in development. PwC expects average house prices in Scotland to rise 20% in next five years, faster than anywhere else in UK.
Employment in finance and related services in Scotland grew by 6.6% in 2016, above 5% growth in London.

Sensitive mixed use of £107m Marischal Square development is aiding revival in central Aberdeen with other plans for an improved and more attractive city centre being developed in the City Centre Masterplan.
Opening of the £80m V&A museum close to Dundee city centre is expected to bring more visitors s to the city and aid a more confident city (H13Sept)

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce has called for a City Deal2 to boost increasing signs of economic success and new housing and commercial building in or close to the city centre. Since 2012, population is up 37,000, employment up 70,000 and international tourist visits up 19% to record levels in past year (H11Sept)

Head of Glasgow Airport has welcomed SFA decision to retain and improve Hampden as Scotland’s major football centre. Peel Lifestyle Outlets (related to Peel Ports) has submitted plans for a £100m shopping and leisure space at Glasgow Harbour by 2021. With booming tourism, 2,250 new hotel rooms will be added to Edinburgh city centre over the next three years, raising hotel capacity by nearly 17%

Barclays have taken space in a flagship office development in central Aberdeen and also aims for 2500 jobs in Glasgow in new offices in Tradeston close to the Clyde and city centre (H 24 July)

Plans for major cuts in car use in and around Edinburgh and especially in the city centre have been attacked by many residents saying that no major shift from car is feasible or desired (EN7Aug)

Shop closures and other potential closures again show tumbling demand for retail space in city and town centres though Sports Direct, in acquiring, House of Fraser, may bring in new ideas to help some revival city centre shopping in larger cities such as Glasgow. Estate agents are moving away from town centres and developing electronic methods of selling. More government action is urged to aid high streets (H24 July)

Co-Op is opening a £6m distribution centre at Dalcross near Inverness. This is to be supplied by double-deck lorries on A9, cutting back on the total number of supply trips needed (H25 July)

RESEARCH & STATISTICS

Transport Scotland has published Transport and Travel in Scotland 2017. Key findings are:-
2016 2017 % change on 2016 on 2012
Car vehicle Km (m) 35,362 36,206 2.4% 7.2%
Pedal Cycling km (m) 288 290 0.7% -6.5%
ScotRail passengers (m) 94.2 97.8 3.8% 17.4%
Bus passengers (m) 393 380 (provisional) -3.3% -9.5%
Air passengers (m) 26.9 28.9 7.1% 29.8%
Ferry pass. (m)(exc. N Ireland & Corran) 8.32 8.36 0.4% 5.9%
68% of 16-19 year olds had used buses in previous month, fell to 34% for 30-59 group, then up for 60+
43% in large urban areas used buses at least once a week but only 11% in remote rural areas
Free concession travel accounted for 36% of all bus trips in 2017
Proportion using trains in previous month up from 23% in 2007 to 31% in 2017
Share of those walking to work down from 24% in 2016 to 21% in 2017
Average walking trip is 0.9km and 2.7km for cycling

The National Travel Survey is now restricted to travel in Britain by English residents but still presents information relevant for Scotland. Annual miles travelled per person in 2017 at 6,580 are slightly above 2016 (6,499) but still below 7,211 peak in 2003. Since then average miles by car (including car passengers) are down 12% but still account for 78% of all travel. Average miles cycled are up 54% since 2003. Trips by surface rail were up 56% between 2002 and 2017 (LTT55 31Aug p14)

Feature on Traffic Growth Forecasts by Prof Phil Goodwin argues that policy discussion is not serious unless it considers possibilities of low or declining movement and of the interventions that could influence that outcome and possible shifts in modal share (LTT 755 31Aug p19)

Is HS2 still the answer as travel trends change? This contribution by T Hart to LTT 754 17Aug p26 speculates on changing trends and how these may affect the Autumn UK Budget. ‘What may emerge is a cut in the length of totally new trunk rail route open by 2033 but faster upgrades in city transit and in the national rail network along with some trimming of major road improvements pending further assessment of a changing patterns of movement’

ScotRail and SPT anticipate only a modest rise in rail trips in current year due to various delays in completing new works plus maintenance issues and the special problems of exceptional snow early in year and record high temperatures in June/July. Despite these problems, finalised data may show ScotRail passenger trips over 100m in the 2018/19 financial year, with nearly 70% being in SPT area.

In the 3 years since opening in September 2015 Borders Rail has carried 4million passengers, including 5.8% growth in 2017-18.

Edinburgh Airport had its highest ever monthly usage in July with 1.5m passengers, up 6.3% on July 2017 -domestic traffic up 4.3% and international up 7.1%. Outlander television series has boosted tourists visiting Scotland to record levels in 2017. There has also been growth in staycations. Visitors from Europe were up 17% with spending up 36%s. Visits and spending by other overseas visitors also up. 1.9m visitors were European with 1.3m from other parts of the world including China (H21July)

Scotland now ranks fourth in the top 5 world destinations for tourist travel. Scottish First Minister has given favourable views on suggested introduction of a tourist bed tax (with Edinburgh a possible pilot) allowing faster progress on improved facilities. Tourism businesses announce that, while visits had been rising, there were rising cost pressures which were reducing hotel profits (H24Sept)

TripAdvisor say Scotland topped the list of ‘must-visit’ travel experiences in the UK this summer – with visits to the Highlands, Glencoe and Loch Ness being the most popular – followed by Edinburgh Castle
For the third year running, Edinburgh has been named as the UK city easiest to travel in.

Total of road vehicles entirely reliant on electric charging was 4,000 in 2013. This rose to c160,000 in June 2018 – still only 0.5% of the road vehicle total. Data for electric/hybrid sales shows Scotland above the UK average with Argyll & Bute leading with 4.5% of sales (H13Aug)

Lawyer Eleanor Lane has pressed for longer-term thinking on the best balance of Scottish transport spending with a better mix of private and public spending as part of shifts to low carbon, greater use of driverless vehicles and the shift away from particular modes to MaaS (Mobility as a Service). This can help integrate all forms of transport in a single on-demand service. MaaS is likely to reduce demand for individual car ownership and activity within cities and towns. There could also be less need for state run or state supported public transport. Rather than emphasise large projects, the level and nature of infrastructure investment needed review and closer working with the private sector(S27Aug)
Dundee City Council is spending £750,000 on tenders to develop MaaS. LTT 755 31Aug contains details on the Annual MaaS survey for 2018-19

Edinburgh City Council has started an 8 week consultation on a traffic management and environmental study of the city centre. NIC is seeking a phased shift of government funding from HS2 to local transport (LTT 752 p1) – NIC wants more funding for local transport by allowing local authorities to add supplements to business rates – seen as easier to apply than levies on rising land values (LTT 752 p9)

The UK Committee on Climate Change has again pressed for stronger action to cut carbon emissions from transport – these were still rising. The Scottish Government needed to adopt stronger programmes for cuts in transport emissions (S25Sept) Though major new gas discoveries have been made west of Shetland, Richard Dixon, Director of FoES, has urged that these should not be exploited and an end date set for further oil and gas exploration in the North Sea (H25Sept – including supportive editorial)

Designed at Aberdeen University, a stackable short-trip electric car is being developed as a viable alternative to short, single-occupancy car trips (H13Sept)

A survey by retail expert Bill Grimsey has found that there is too much retail space in city and town centres with a need for these centres to be refashioned as community hubs with libraries, public space and other facilities making them attractive to visit. Business rates required early review (H4July)

One fifth of British adults now spend more than 40 hours a week online says Ofcom. Time spent online has doubled since 2007 with women having higher usage than men. Some admit to negative effects on their lives, including less exercise and less direct contact with other humans and the outdoors.

Prof. Phil Goodwin has cast doubt on the widespread use of self-driving road vehicles due to the need for expensive works to prevent encroachments by people and other vehicles. We already have a rail system which delivers this (including more automation) so why create another reserved network at huge expense and with loss of civic amenity and social welfare (LTT 752 p25)

Peter Brett Associates have won a £361,000 SPT contract to help prepare a 15 year Regional Transport Strategy. The contract runs to 2021 (LTT 751 p17)

More home movers are quitting London with most going to the wider south-east but significant rises in numbers going to Midlands and northern England. Only 1% have moved to Scotland (H27Aug)

Lothian is expected to have the largest population and household growth in Scotland over the coming 25 years. Household growth projection is 36% in Midlothian, 26% in Edinburgh and West Lothian and 21% in East Lothian compared to a Scottish average of 13%. Households with heads over 70 are projected to rise 58% compared to just 2% growth for those under 70 (EN 12 July)

UK is not on course to deliver the fourth (23-27) and fifth (28-33) budgets for lowered carbon with transport a major source of difficulty. Closure of coal-fired power stations was almost complete but transport carbon was rising with demand for road travel still rising, vehicles becoming heavier and using more carbon fuel plus slow progress with transport shifts to near zero carbon vehicles. DfT is urged to publish its delayed Road to Zero strategy for cutting CO2 emissions (LTT 751 p4)

A University of Edinburgh student team is heading to California to study development of hyperloop travel up to 750mph – seen as less expensive and more energy efficient than high-speed rail (EN16July)

Spikes in air pollution have been linked to large rises in hospital admissions and GP visits over past 15 years

BUSINESS & PERSONNEL

Ryanair profits for April-June are down 20% due to higher fuel and pilot costs plus industrial action.
First Group reports a £327m loss in May, mainly due to problems with the Greyhound bus division in US. Former chief executive Tim O’Toole leaves on 30 September.

Stagecoach boss Martin Griffiths has seen yearly pay fall from £1.3m to just under £1m after severe problems with losses on the ECML rail franchise.

Sir Terry Morgan has replaced Sir David Higgins as HS2 Chair. Paul Griffith, MD of HS2 Phase2 is moving to a new post on Toronto Metro. Andrew Haines is new NR Chief Executive

A Which report, using Transport Focus data, has found that passenger satisfaction with the rail network has dropped over the past 10 years – only 23% of those surveyed said that they trusted train travel companies.
There are concerns about extensive rail disruption and high fares at times of high demand for leisure travel, such as holiday weekends. BA is facing a £500m fine after customer credit cards are hacked.

Profits at SEC Glasgow fall from £2.7m to £1.7m due to lower gain from sale of a site for hotel development. Overall prospects for events are sound with hotel beds close to the campus rising from 950 to 1400 and rising numbers of overseas and local visitors. A further exhibition and conference facility is planned for a former car park on west side of campus

Carol Benzie is standing down as MD after 10 years at Aberdeen Airport

Adrian Davis has been appointed Professor of Transport and Health in TRI at Napier University. He will continue to spend 1 day a week at University of West of England

Darren Shirley is to move from Which to CBT as Executive Director in place of Stephen Joseph who is retiring.

A new book by Ann Glen, Transforming the Railways of Central Scotland, looks at the history of these railways from the opening of the first Edinburgh-Glasgow trunk route until the present £650m EGIP project