Transform policy officer Laura Hyde-White reports on the Cross-Party Group for Sustainable Transport’s latest inquiry into the decarbonisation of public transport which held its first evidence session in the Scottish Parliament last week.
We’re raising awareness and stimulating debate about the opportunities and challenges of transitioning to zero-carbon railways, bus fleets and ferries as part of the CPG on Sustainable Transport’s inquiry into the decarbonisation of Scotland’s public transport.
Transform Scotland provides the secretariat for the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Sustainable Transport. The group will meet for three evidence sessions in Spring 2023 before calling for evidence and preparing a report to be launched in the autumn.
Decarbonising public transport
Public transport is vital. It provides people across the country with access to their workplaces, to shops and leisure activities and tourist destinations. Its congestion-busting ability is critical to Scotland’s economy. And it is crucial for cleaner air and cutting emissions.
A decarbonised network of buses, trains and ferries must form the backbone of Scotland’s transport system.
Much attention has been given in recent years to cutting emissions from private cars, but we’re now turning the focus to what must be done to decarbonise Scotland’s fleets of buses, trains and ferries.
In recent years, the Scottish Government has made some exceptional commitments to public transport decarbonisation:
- “remove the majority of diesel buses from public transport by the end of 2023”
- “reduce emissions from Scotland’s railways to zero by 2035”
- “ensure that 30% of state owned ferries are low emission by 2032”
We now need to take stock of progress, and determine what action is urgently required to accelerate Scotland to zero-carbon public transport system, ensuring that it plays its full role in meeting our climate targets.
By bringing together stakeholders from across Scotland, we will assemble a united front setting out the actions required to deliver a fossil-free public transport future.
On Wednesday 10 May the group held its first evidence session on rail decarbonisation. At the meeting, David Clarke, technical director at Railway Industry Association (RIA) and regional director of SPL Powerlines, Lee Pounder, presented on the opportunities and challenges of decarbonising Scotland’s railways. They highlighted that although Scotland has a plan to decarbonise, early decisions are needed to ensure that the pipeline for rail electrification is maintained.
The speakers emphasised the good news: that the UK has twice in the past delivered the levels of investment required to electrify its railways. Nevertheless, the lumpiness of the investment causes problems, suggesting Germany’s consistent approach should be adopted in order for us to meet our climate commitments in a timely manner.