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Tom Hart’s news notes, Sep-Nov 2014

Published 16 December 2014 by Colin Howden

Apart from being part of a general plea that higher infrastructure spend and improved connectivity may benefit the economy, transport had a low profile in the recent, and continuing, political and constitutional debate  on Scotland, the UK and the EU.  Devolution within England and within Scotland has emerged as a strong theme in relation to wider powers and reformed funding rather than having arfocus on transport.

Though UK economic performance is now somewhat better than in the rest of the EU, there is continued concern about the weakness of recovery  with both local and national governments facing intensified cuts in spending from tax and public borrowing sources.  There is also pressure for tax rises and revised structures to allow ensure stronger backing for social justice but also higher borrowing to help ensure the higher rates of economic growth which could help finance improved welfare.  This includes a redefining  of  ‘infrastructure’ to including housing, broadband, other buildings, energy production and distribution, aids to energy efficiency and energy conservation rather than an emphasis mainly on transport infrastructure.

In the short-term, the economy has been helped by the largest fall in oil prices since 2010 yet this has coincided with calls from both the UN and EU for a stronger, not weakened, programme to move away from fossil fuels in the interests of avoiding a catastrophic rise in global temperatures and related adverse climate changes (H Editorial 11 Nov).  There has also been interest in policies to discourage present levels of world population growth putting more pressure on resources.  Previous assumptions that high levels of spend on transport infrastructure can be specially important for economic growth have been questioned not only for climate change reasons but also due to significant changes in consumer preferences and tastes which will themselves influence business decisions and priorities. Transport spending on major schemes may become more dependent on innovative financing to attract private funds, reinforced by charging systems ensuring greater income from users rather than rises in general taxation (Sir Angus Grossart, Chair of Scottish Futures Trust quoted in H 6 Oct)

Turkish Airlines has formed alliance with Scottish Chamber of Commerce to boost flights from Edinburgh to Istanbul, as a hub with improving access to other destinations (following on from the success of hubs in the Persian Gulf served directly from Scotland).  This competition has cut the cost of flying from Scotland to the Middle East and Australia.  Edinburgh Airport is also stepping up efforts to attract passengers with origins or destinations in the west of Scotland.  Edinburgh has opened a new retail wing close to the tram stop as the first part of £150m improvements at the airport

From March 2015, SAS is introducing direct flights from Copenhagen to Edinburgh and re-start routes to Oslo and Stockholm

Low-cost Canadian carrier WestJet is to introduce Nova Scotia-Glasgow flights in summer 2015.  Glasgow and Aberdeen Airports have been acquired by a Spanish/Australian consortium, promising more investment and more routes.  easyJet is now more confident of further growth at Aberdeen Airport due to oil and gas prospects as well as leisure prospects, especially in the golf sector in Portugal.   easyJet sees Scotland as a key growth market for low-costs operators and is planning a significant rise in flights from Scotland. It already served 38 destinations from Scottish airports.

The Airports Commission has invited views on the alternative options of a Heathrow expansion or a second runway at Gatwick.  Glasgow interests support Heathrow expansion but expansion at Gatwick is favoured by Edinburgh Airport.  The Scottish Government’s preference is for increased direct flights from Scotland

In post-referendum submissions to the Smith Commission, aviation interests expressed strong support for the devolution of Air Passenger Duty as improving prospects for a reduced rate of duty or total abolition.
This would boost passenger growth to and from Scotland with Prestwick poised for substantial gains and additional flights.  Abolition of APD could involve a loss of annual income to the Scottish Government as high as £200m.  North of England interests fear a loss of traffic to Scottish airports if APD continues in England.  SAPT supports retention of APD with higher rates in London area and devolution of a proportion of income to Scotland and northern England as a means of accelerating Anglo-Scottish High Speed Rail and related shifts from domestic air services to rail

Virgin has announced that services between Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London Heathrow, introduced in April 2013, will be withdrawn due to low usage and a meagre package of Heathrow slots.  Ryanair is to establish a base at Glasgow, in addition to Prestwick and Edinburgh, and will launch 3 times a day services from both Edinburgh and Glasgow to Stansted with bargain fares from £19.99.

The Scottish Government has agreed a contract to buy two new planes to cover the routes from Glasgow to
Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra.  The routes will go out to PSO tender with the new planes in use by 2015

Strong concerns continue to be expressed about the viability of the now publicly-owned Prestwick Airport unless falling usage can be reversed (H 1 Nov).  New ideas for the airport include a Donald Trump suggestion to use it as a base for private jet access to Scotland’s golf resorts, especially those in Ayrshire. Prestwick is also in the running to be the UK’s first base for space tourists.

Scottish passenger ferry users in 2014 are 4.2% up (to 4.5m) on 2013 – cars up 3% (Source: Discover Ferries)
RET has been extended to Arran, cutting car returns from Brodick to Ardrossan from £70 to £29.70 with passenger fares down from £11.35 to £7.30. The scheme will be extended to 14 other ferry routes by October 2015

The £42m new Loch Seaforth (financed via Lloyds Bank) has been delivered from Germany for use on the Ullapool-Stornoway route but the new linkspan in Stornoway is not yet ready nor is work at Ullapool. The service will be passenger only for the first 6 weeks.

Mull businessmen are seeking an improved ferry frequency, secured if necessary through a rival ferry company.  Recent service cancellations have been the highest in the past 16 years.  Two vessels are planned for the Oban-Craignure route but will not be available until 2016.

Cromarty Firth Port Authority is opposing plans for a private group to control the entrance to the Firth, fearing that this could have adverse impacts on visits by cruise ships.  Cruise ships visiting Orkney have brought in £4m this year with even more cruise ships expected in 2015.  Income from cruise ship calls has topped £1m for the first time.  Lerwick Port Authority has concluded a £16.5m contract for expansion of oil and fish facilities.

The Environment and Climate Change Minister has arranged refit of a small Greek ferry as part of the Strategic Timber Transport Scheme for moving timber by sea to Troon from 7 locations in Arran and Argyll.  Port of Grangemouth reports handling a record weekly number of containers in November.   4,200 containers were moved compared to the previous high of 4,000

Plans announced by Chancellor George Osborne for an HS3 linking cities across northern England (from Liverpool to Hull) have been criticised as lacking a clear costing and timescale.  There is support for improved connectivity in northern England but concern at a weakened emphasis on Anglo-Scottish HSR
and on priority improvements within the existing Northern network

Despite speculation on a possible shift of the East Coast passenger franchise to a French consortium, Stagecoach Virgin have been awarded the new 8 year East Coast passenger franchise, including new trains and increased capacity by 2018, more London-Edinburgh trains and a 13 minute cut in trip times.  Over the 8 years, a £3.3bn payment will be made to Government (a related issue is how this premium might be divided between the UK and Scottish Governments in any devolution settlement or retained as UK income associated with specified rail infrastructure spend).  Labour party and union proposals to keep the franchise within the British public sector were rejected.

The new East Coast company will be called Inter City Railways with Virgin Stagecoach gaining control of both the East and West Coast franchises between Scotland and London.

SERCO will takeover the overnight Anglo-Scottish services from ScotRail on 1 April, 2015, on a 15 year franchise.  The company has secured alternative funding for new trains after talks with Beacon Rail collapsed.  New trains will have 4 types of overnight accommodation with varied price levels.

Despite winning the premier award for British Rail Passenger Operators,  FirstGroup’s ScotRail lost out to Dutch state rail operator Abellio in the award of the new ScotRail franchise to run for 5 years from 1 April with a 5 year extension if outcomes are satisfactory.  Labour party had sought delay in a franchise award so that it could be in the UK public sector.  Abellio is committed to increased passenger capacity, reformed smart fares, new electric passenger trains and refurbished  diesel High Speed Train sets to provide quality services from Glasgow and Edinburgh north to Aberdeen and Inverness by 2018.  In addition to Borders Rail, seven additional stations are being investigated (Dalcross, Kintore, Robroyston, Winchburgh, Edinburgh Gateway, East Linton and Reston) plus improvements at other stations.  An hourly diesel service will be introduced linking Kilmarnock, Ayr and Girvan with every second train extended to Stranraer.  Good connections into Ayr-Glasgow electric services will be provided at Ayr.  Services from Kilmarnock through to Dumfries and Carlisle will be improved and special attention given to developing rail use by tourists and other leisure travellers.  Close attention will be given to integration with bus and ferry services plus an expansion of cycle hire and cycle parking facilities.

Abellio has announced commitments for 70 new electric trains to be delivered by 2017 with a further 10 to follow, Costain/Morgan Sindall have been awarded a £250m contract for electrification and related work on the Glasgow-Falkirk-Edinburgh route.  This will allow the EGIP project, started in 2011, to be completed by 2019

Revised £104 plans have been announced for the total rebuild of Queen St High Level station as part of EGIP.  There will be further consultation until 23 December but statutory approval is expected in 2015/16.
SPT has agreed to proposals for platform extensions at Queen St HL but has lodged objections to present plans on the grounds of insufficient consideration of how best to improve access in and around Queen St station and the enlarged Buchanan Galleries.  Glasgow City Council plans aim to reduce total vehicular traffic in the city centre but these plans require close links with improved facilities for rail/bus/Subway/ car/taxi /cycle interchange along with foot/cycle priorities and amenities.

ScotRail introduced a revised pattern of Glasgow-Lanarkshire services in mid-December.  This is designed to improve reliability and cope with rising usage.  It has been made possible by electrification of the Rutherglen-Whifflet line.  Most services from Lanark, Carluke and Wishaw now run direct to Glasgow Central High Level with shorter trip times (but with interchange to the Argyle line available at Cambuslang)
while Whifflet line services now operate over the Argyle Line and through Glasgow Central Low Level.
Hamilton gains an hourly service running through to Cumbernauld via Motherwell, Whifflet and Coatbridge while several areas with recently built housing gain more frequent services.

Overall reactions have been favourable. Though a few direct links have been lost, early resignalling should allow further improvements in frequency by extending half of Whifflet line services through to Holytown, Ravenscraig and Wishaw.  Other concerns have been the failure to ensure that all Argyle line services included Bridgeton stops, a reduction in Trans-Pennine (Glasgow-Manchester) stops at Motherwell and a continuing lack of advance consultation by ScotRail and Transport Scotland.

Tracklaying on the Borders Rail route is now almost complete with trains due start in September 2015.
Significant use by visitors is being promoted as well as use from the Borders and Midlothian into Edinburgh. There is also a commitment to introduce steam-hauled services as a regular attraction. The terminus of the line at Tweedbank is close to the refurbished former home of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford and the new service will have connecting buses and park and ride from other towns in the central Borders.

In a £25m Network Rail scheme, three platforms at Edinburgh Waverley are to be extended to cope with longer trains and rising usage.  Two of these are presently not in use.   Users have been impressed by the enlarged concourse at Edinburgh Haymarket but rising usage of the relatively narrow platforms below
the concourse could be a safety hazard.

There has been huge demand for the £10 tours now being offered from the roof to the lower levels of Glasgow Central station

There is Increased interest  in reopening the former Thornton-Leven line to passengers – part of the route also has freight potential.  Night coal trains on the Alloa-Kincardine line reopened in 2008 have been found to breach noise levels and to be a statutory nuisance.

Scottish Government has confirmed spending of £170m to upgrade the Inverness-Aberdeen railway.

Transport police have launched a crackdown on increased anti-social oil worker behaviour on trains from Aberdeen.  With the Borders rail line to have a late train from Edinburgh at midnight, questions are being asked about why the last train from Edinburgh to Fife and Dundee leaves at 23.15

The Edinburgh tram inquiry by Lord Hardie may take two years but now has statutory powers to compel witnesses to attend.  Including loan repayment charges, total tram costs will be around £1bn. Better value may be delivered by limited extensions of the initial single route with recommendations to Edinburgh City Council expected in December.

Progress continues on the renovation of Glasgow Subway stations with the final £5.3m stage of revamping St Enoch station including eye-catching curved roofs over entrances by summer of 2015. Work is ongoing on tenders for new rolling stock.

The Bus Fastlink route from central Glasgow to the new South Glasgow University Hospital is expected to be open by May 2015 though there may be some delay on the final stretch through central Glasgow to Buchanan Bus Station.  An early extension to Braehead and Renfrew is anticipated.  Work proceeds on Quality Bus Partnerships for an improved network serving the Hospital and integrated with other local public transport and park and ride.  Parking at the new hospital is limited so significant shifts to public transport and active travel will be necessary.

SPT and other Scottish local authorities are facing increasing pressure to make greater savings on bus support while still maintaining and enhancing core networks and social priorities.  There are some indications of revived growth in local  bus travel as well as in the more buoyant longer-distance sector.

SPT has made emergency arrangements after the sudden collapse of Lanarkshire-based Henderson Travel.
McGills Buses have temporarily taken over 13 of the 20 subsidised bus service contracts held by Henderson.
Greenock-based McGills report a rise in profits from £659,000 to £1.7m in the year ended 31 Dec., 2013 – this being despite curtailment in government compensation for free us travel.

McGills is unhappy with any moves to Statutory Bus Quality Partnerships unless there is firm evidence of local authority commitments to improved bus infrastructure, traffic management measures, a review of parking policies/charges  and better control of road works.  Lothian Buses report that, despite the coming of the trams, Lothian bus use is running at its highest ever level.  Transport for Edinburgh has launched an Oyster-type card allowing commuters to pay in advance for up to 50 trips by bus and tram.  Critics say the £3.50 day ticket remains better value for those making more than two trips per day.

The bus gate introduced in June at Nelson Mandela Place in Glasgow is having the desired effect on reducing car flows and improving bus efficiency.  Other bus gates are planned in the city centre.  First Glasgow is allowing the use of euros on some bus routes when special international events are being held – passengers are also able to use smartphones as tickets if an mTicket app is added.

Scottish Conservatives see free bus travel for those over 60 as unsustainable and likely to involve annual costs over £200m to the Scottish Government in the near future.  The party spokesman Alex Johnstone has called for eligibility to rise in line with rises in the pension age.  SNP is determined to maintain the present system and points to health and social benefits.   At present, almost 147m annual trips are made using the free pass.

First is introducing 18 new buses on routes linking Livingston and Broxburn with Edinburgh.  Specifications include wi-fi and leather seats.  The Broxburn-Edinburgh service is raised from 3 to 6 buses per hour. But other three First bus services are to be withdrawn in January with service 20 between Whitburn and Edinburgh also reduced to hourly.

Scottish Government has announced a further £3.7 grant from the Green Bus Fund for the purchase of another 83 low-carbon buses

Though the benefits of removing taxis from increasingly busy principal stations have been recognised, complaints continue that not enough attention is being given by rail and local authority planners to the need for better arrangements for taxis and for other drop-off/pick-up traffic giving easy access to principal stations including Waverley and Haymarket in Edinburgh and Queen St and Central in Glasgow.

Edinburgh City Council has voted to end an ‘outdated’ ban on electric taxis. Cabbies have complained at a lack of action to reduce attacks on them.  The Council has approved the introduction of in-cab security cameras with safeguards to minimise ‘big brother’ surveillance and comply with the Data Protection Act.
From the New Year, the City Council has approved a 2.1% rise in taxi fares.

In his new position as Infrastructure Investment and Cities Secretary, former Transport Minister Keith Brown has said that he hoped to advance completion of the £745m 28 mile long Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route to winter 2017. Connect Roads will be the contractor and maintainer of the route. Mr Brown said the scheme will boost the north-east economy by some £8 bn and create 30,000 jobs over the next 30 years.  On the A96, there will be priority for a new Inveramsay bridge and a longer-term aim for full dualling.

In England, newly announced road plans include completion of A1 dualling between Newcastle and the Scottish Border.  Though traffic levels are low, there are problems with HGVs and farm vehicles which are likely to strengthen demands for completion of A1 dualling in Scotland.

Amey is to get the contract for managing and maintaining both of the Forth Road Bridges at Queensferry.
The contract includes commitments from Amey to employment training and to educational and charitable contributions

20 November was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first section of the M8 (the Harthill bypass) with most of the M8 from Newbridge through Glasgow to Renfrewshire open by 1980. Short links to the Edinburgh Bypass followed with the remaining non-motorway section between Newhouse and Baillieston due to be replaced by motorway by 2017.

With very visible progress on the additional Forth Bridge, questions have been asked on why it was necessary to build this bridge when the existing road bridge is fit ‘for another 50 years’ (EN 23 Sept & 2 Oct)
The recent media focus has been on the need for budgetary changes allowing more to be spent on local authority road and pavement maintenance and on measures to minimise the impact of an increasing number of cases of landslides and flooding as climate changes.  Landslides have again affected different sections of the A83, the A82 south of Fort William and the Strome Ferry Bypass (where the adjacent rail line to Kyle was also affected)

Edinburgh City Council has increased spend on road maintenance but it seeking more help from the Scottish Government.  It has also faced claims that in-house maintenance appears less efficient than the use of contractors while also being criticised for destroying famous Georgian streets by replacing stone setts with tarmac.   Transport Minister Keith Brown has promised a draft strategy to improve air quality in cities by the end of the year but implemented by local authorities.

Continuous speed cameras are now in operation on the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness in conjunction with a pilot scheme raising the HGV speed limit from 40mph to 50mph on single carriageway sections of the road. These proposals have had general support on safety grounds but have been queried as not the best means of improving safety and also encouraging freight shifts from rail to road.  But a reduction in average car speeds may encourage some shift from car to rail, especially with an improved frequency and the faster and more comfortable trains offered by Abellio from 2018.

After strong public opposition, Moray Council has voted narrowly against longstanding proposals for a £8.5m western link road in Elgin but Renfrewshire Council is urging that the ‘City Deal’ Clyde road crossing between Renfrew and Yoker should be open within 5 years.

There is mounting concern that limited parking facilities at the new £842m South Glasgow University Hospital may lead to severe local congestion and frustration unless facilities for access by public transport and active travel are improved in time for the hospital opening in May 2015.  A controlled parking plan for the area around the hospital is being prepared, including meters and bays for local residents with permits.

Drivers are being urged to report bad practices and overcharging by private car park operators yet Glasgow has seen the opposite complaint of an excess of all-day parking space leading to a lowering of charges to maximise income.  City Parking, owned by Glasgow City Council  is under attack excessive debt and the seventh annual loss since its creation.  The overall surplus to the City Council from parking in Glasgow is considerably less than in Edinburgh.  Recent rises in on-street and other parking charges have started to improve the Glasgow position and contribute to the aim of greater shifts to quality public transport (with smart ticketing) and active travel in and around the city centre.  The Council has been criticised for plans to sub-let parking at the extended Buchanan Galleries to City Parking on a 25 year lease.

Edinburgh City Council is proposing a further rise in city centre pay and display charges from £3.20 to £3.50 per hour, making Edinburgh the most expensive place to park in Britain, apart from London.  On-street parking charges were first introduced in 1973.  Air quality in the city centre remains a problem needing improvement through less motorised traffic and low emission vehicles.

Motorists using car clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow can now hire from a fleet of 50 electric vehicles paid for by the Scottish Government as part of plans to increase electric vehicles within car clubs.  Action is sought on the 7,000 foreign drivers in Scotland who escape speeding fines.

Drink-driving limits have been tightened in Scotland with drivers advised not to drink.  The road safety charity Brake reports that Scotland still has 100,000 fixed penalty fines a year for careless driving or speeding.  Calls have also been made for stricter checks on elderly drivers yet their overall record remains better than for young drivers.  Several Councils are considering savings by reduced gritting of footpaths and country roads.  Seat belt fines are soaring as part of efforts to reduce a high level of street belt offences.

Costs of car insurance are again rising after two years of reduction.  AA argues that falling oil prices should have led to greater reductions in fuel prices but cuts to users are also constrained by a high level of taxation.   FairFuelUK claims motorised are ‘fleeced’ by high road fuel taxation yielding the Treasury £42bn a year.  It argues that the economy would be helped by cuts in road taxation.  The difficulty is that this would lead to an immediate fall in Treasury income.  Tax cuts may be feasible if new systems of charging for roads and parking were introduced.  The car tax disc is now disappearing due to a shift to electronically checked enforcement.

Warnings have been given that the lorry and van driver shortage is becoming acute over the Christmas
period.   One in four online shoppers experienced delivery problems in 2013 and there is pressure for greater use of Sunday deliveries.

Herald of 26 November had major feature on Glasgow City Council plans to reduce car use in the city centre but expand ‘avenue’ and bus gate measures to make the city centre and approach routes more attractive for walking and cycling. Business has concerns that this may have adverse impacts on city centre economic activity but the Council argues the contrary, pointing to the rising use of public transport for city centre shopping and leisure while continuing to provide substantial shorter-term parking.  SPT has concerns that ‘avenues’ may give too much reserved space for cycling with adverse impacts on easier flow for buses.  Other comments include pleas for larger cuts in all-day parking within the city centre, more sensitive location of shorter-term parking on the immediate fringes of the city centre and greater expansion of rail-based Metro style transport with increased use of the two existing east-west tunnels in the city plus the modernised Subway and expansion of platform capacity at Glasgow Central & Queen St High Level stations.

Claims that trams have worsened congestion in Princes St have been countered by the view that the quality of the street suffers from excessive numbers of poorly loaded Lothian Buses.  Edinburgh has already banned coaches from stopping on Princes St but most buses using the street are operated by Lothian buses.  Changes in traffic light sequences mean that it can now take 6 minutes to walk 100 metres in and close to Princes St.

Cycling data continues to short rising use in cities and larger towns with many streets having high pedestrian volumes.  Edinburgh City Council is examining plans to improve the attraction of Princes St and George St.   A pilot scheme for partial pedestrianisation of George St has led to a 10% rise in footfall during  September and October.  Plans now include retractable bollards to stop cars entering cycle paths. The City Council and other Councils are showing interest in an expansion of 20mph zones and measures to reduce parking by parents close to primary schools.

Advertiser and bus shelter provider J C Decaux is considering introducing a bike-hire scheme in Edinburgh
SPOKES Bulletin 120 includes a map of cyclepaths and NCN on-road cycling routes in the Lothians.

Biking groups have called on UK and Scottish Governments to ‘stop treating cycling like a poor relation’.
A long-delayed foot and cycle 3.5km path from Drem rail station to Gullane may now be completed after an alternative route has been found where a farmer had objections.  But East Lothian Council has still to approve the necessary funding.

Midlothian Council is introducing cycle-friendly bin lorries.  Prominent rear signs show when a bin lorry is turning  left with sensors also showing  cyclists undertaking on the near side.  Despite growing public pressure, the annual SNP conference rejected a proposal for strict liability for motorists where cyclists were killed or injured on the basis that there was no evidence that this worked.

Audit Scotland Report has found that many Community Planning Partnerships are still not clear about what they are expected to achieve. ‘Leadership, scrutiny and challenge remained inconsistent’.  Much more was required of CPPs at a time of tighter public finances.

Proposals for more substantial land and property development are rising but can be at variance with planning strategy or influenced by changes in phasing.  Proposals include property expansion a d redevelopment in, and on the fringes of, cities and larger towns but also other plans.  Dundee is gaining hotel and other business due to overheating in the Aberdeen area.  Glasgow city centre is seeing increased office activity, also spreading into the East End/Clyde Gateway area as well as the riverside to the west.

Edinburgh ‘s Local Development Plan now includes provision for 30,000 extra homes by 2024.  As well as redevelopment within the city, plans include new housing at Maybury and Cammo but Wallace Land is now seeking approval for 1,500 homes at Riccarton north of Currie on what is presently Green Belt.  Other parts of the west Edinburgh Green Belt south of the Airport are also under pressure.

Developers are seeking approval for a leisure development and 1,025 new homes in the grounds of the former Loudoun Castle theme park in East Ayrshire  Luxury House of Bruar retailer north of Blair Atholl has seen profits rise.  On-line business had risen but the dualling of the A9 was also seen as a great opportunity though with some problems in the construction phase.  Vehicles visiting the site were up 20% in the past year, equating to 2.57 persons per car plus some by coach. ‘The number of visitors is expected to increase enormously once the road is finished’.  Ambitious plans for harbour area regeneration are being developed in Stranraer by Stena and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

October passengers at Glasgow Airport were 2.7% above October 2013 with international growth at 2.8% marginally above domestic.  Aided by new Ryanair services, Glasgow is set to exceed pre-recession passenger levels in 2015.  Aberdeen October usage rose 8%, aided by the oil market and an improved October school break performance.  Edinburgh passengers fell by 0.2% with international travellers down 2.5% due to fewer routes to European destinations.

easyJet flew 5.4m passengers between Scotland and the rest of Europe in the year to September, up from 5.1m the previous year.

Growth in longer-distance rail passenger travel within Britain has slowed.  Regional rail traffic shows the highest percentage growth though with absolute growth being highest in and around London.  Latest data from the SPT area shows rail growth up by 5% with this higher growth evident since the 25% special surge in traffic during the Commonwealth Games.  On the Glasgow Subway, which saw 45% growth during the Games, usage has stabilised around former levels though with evidence of rising park and ride use at Shields Rd following increases in parking charges in central Glasgow.

The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September saw major success in attracting visitors to rail and to bus services from various park and ride sites.  On the Friday of the event, 7,500 came by rail to Gleneagles – compared to normal usage around 140.  3,200 golf visitors came from Edinburgh, 2,300 from Glasgow, 1,200 from Aberdeen and 800 from Perth, Inverness and Dundee (see also Scotsman feature by Derek Halden on 17 September).

Despite cutbacks in support for loss-making services, Scottish buses, notably in the cities, appear to have returned to a modest growth in passenger kilometres.  Data required improvement and comparison with the use of taxis and other forms of demand responsive transport.

Plunging petrol prices have not arrested the slide in petrol sales in Britain.  Petrol sales for the first 10 months of 2014 are 20% down on five years ago though diesel sales are up 11% over the same period.
Parts of the petrol fall can be attributed to more efficient engines and switches to diesel but there has also been an impact from car use per head of population falling.

Though higher in Edinburgh and Glasgow, only 2% of trips in Scotland are by cycle compared to 27% in the Netherlands and 19% in Denmark.

In the first half of 2013, electricity generated from Scottish renewable exceeded nuclear sources for the first time, coal has fallen to just over half of the electricity sourced from renewable energy.


Movement Forecasts and Modelling
DfT has produced revised forecasts for modelled passenger movement in England and Wales between 2015 and 2040. These indicate falls per head of population in walking, cycling, bus, rail and car passenger trips of 5%, 10%, 25%, 2% and 18% respectively with car driver trips up 23%.  DfT adds that ‘forecasts should not be viewed as what we think will actually happen in the future or what we want the future to look like’ (LTT Issue 661 28 Nov)

Changes in the number of trips can differ from changes in passenger kilometres.  Since the data is based on the main mode used, it also excludes data on walking and cycling as part of overall trips – and also data where cars may be used for access to rail or bus.  Total road and rail volumes are also affected by freight data.

There seems to be agreement that total volumes of movement within Britain will be lower than in the past with increases primarily reflected by higher population growth and the nature of shifts between inwards and outwards tourism and business flows.  However, there is growing criticism of present expensive modelling and appraisal techniques which are somewhat divorced from actual recent trends and future probabilities given possible scenarios for changes in technology and taste which could have a greater impact on both the volume and nature of movement.

Scottish forecasts for the period to 2040 were discussed at a Transport Scotland seminar on 25 November. Revised forecasts are expected to be published in 2015.  These may confirm lower growth in passenger movement per head but make allowances for an increasing Scottish population and real incomes plus the impact of ‘connectivity’ objectives.  Particular attention is being given to:-
– forecasts of movement to and from Scotland
– longer-distance movement within Scotland (especially between cities)
– revisions in city region and rural region forecasts
– the impact of ‘scenarios’ considering differing public policy aims and
changing personal and business preferences.

One assessment of probable outcomes is that:-
– the highest growth in movement is likely to be between Scotland and areas overseas
– total movement within Scotland, even allowing for ‘connectivity’ gains, may be somewhat
lower than expected growth in population and incomes
– total road vehicular movement is likely to remain stable(with absolute falls in city centres) but
with growth (per head of population )in walking, cycling, rail, city transit (including taxis and DRT)
and in car occupancy/car sharing  (rather than the fall in car occupancy contained in the DfT model)

Connectivity  A rising feature of recent political comment has been the importance of physical connectivity (in addition to web connectivity) and major infrastructure investment in improving prospects for British economic growth in a competitive world economy.  There has been much talk about how connectivity within the northern England, linked with better rail access to London, could help rebalance the English economy away from London.  Similar, though less prominent, arguments have been advanced in Scotland about how better connectivity could assist rebalancing away from Edinburgh. Chancellor George Osborne has warned that there must be a choice between welfare and big transport projects but others have argued that infrastructure spend needs to pay more attention to energy issues and smaller packages with a phased approach to major transport infrastructure schemes.

Yet much less attention has been given to the evidence for and against the impact of improved physical connectivity (and related investment) in strengthening the overall economy and social justice.  Other ways of utilising resources and changing fiscal and regulatory structures may be more effective in securing  both a competitive and fair economy.  David Birrell, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, while welcoming public transport improvements in the city, has urged more action to improve connectivity with the rest of Scotland (H18Nov)

Though an expansion of the roads programme has been announced in England, this is a comparatively small and targeted expansion compared to rises in investment in rail enhancements.  Plans for rail investment in the coming twenty years are now well above road investment with the main debate being about how this investment might best be divided between major improvements in inter-regional routes and in city region transit.  It has been recognised that plans for inter-city transport networks with much reduced city centre to city centre times must be accompanied by plans to improve city-region transit networks including slick interchange with inter-city services and with major airports placed on both networks.  At the same time, the tendency for private investment to focus on housing and property requires a degree of refocus on greater investment in ways improving competitive abilities, lowering carbon and moderating rising house prices – a different kind of ‘connectivity’ in policy making.

Transport Scotland is preparing guidance on the evaluation of rail line and station reopening (or openings) for passenger use.

Marketing studies for Visit Scotland suggest that visitor numbers from mainland Europe can be boosted by targeting the particular preferences of different countries, such as Germans for outdoor walking and French for food.  Between 2012 and 2013, Scottish tourism jobs rose 16.4% from 181,500 to 211,200.  The number of tourists visiting Scotland has hit a six-year high though spending per head has fallen slightly.  Visitors from January to June rose to 1,118,000, 16% up on the same period in 2013.  There has been a fall in visitors from other parts of the UK.

Research by Prof John Preston at Southampton University suggests that CO2 cuts per mile travelled by
air will be outweighed by growth in passenger numbers aided by falling fares.  He concludes that 1.4% annual rises in real fares are needed to slow and perhaps stabilise CO2 emissions from aviation.

Colin McLean, MD of SVM Asset Management has urged blue chip firms to adapt or become dinosaurs.
The ways in which people lived, worked and travelled were changing,  He says ‘The younger generation see a car as an expensive asset sitting idle much of the time and are less attracted to prestige. New services to meet their needs have emerged; many of these have latched on to internet-enabled taxi and shared use models such as Uber and Zipcar’

In November, First Minister Alex Salmond presented a ‘Vision’ document outlining the economic benefits of Borders Rail.  This reopened line is seen as generating millions for the economy.  As well as assisting commuting into Edinburgh, is would also open opportunities for 1 million extra visitors to the central borders by 2020.

Consultancy Frost & Sullivan, working with Hitachi Europe, see immense opportunities for the Scottish Central Belt to attract business.  As many as 7m people could be living and working in this area by 2025.

The City Council in Glasgow is urging cyclists to download a free app giving city planners a clear view of movement by cycle and helping to identify where infrastructure could best be improved.  The aim is to make Glasgow a cycling city by 2020.

Prof Stephen Gilmore of Edinburgh University has developed an app with Lothian Buses making it easier for blind and partially sighted people to move around the city.

Edinburgh Airport is piloting a controversial Google Glass app – a hands-free, head worn screen allowing wearers to call up information.  It allows staff easy access to information sought by airport users.  In a study the brainchild of Edinburgh University students, Google Glass eyewear is also being used to assess stress levels when cycling.


Loganair has lifted profits nearly 40% to over £8m, helped by a flourishing Scottish oil sector

Ministers expect publicly owned Prestwick Airport to lose £5m in the 2013-14 financial year, down from £10m under private operation.

Scottish Citylink reports a 7% rise in turnover but profits slipped slightly to £5.64m.  Car dealer Arnold Clark turnover is up 18% with pre-tax profits up 33% to £80m.  Profits at J G Russell (Transport) tripled to £0.9m with turnover up 10% to £60m,  Allied Vehicles based in Glasgow saw a 21’5% rise in turnover with profits on ordinary activity up from £1m to £1.9m

Stagecoach continues to expand Megabus operations in mainland Europe.

FirstGroup says the business is still on track despite loss of the ScotRail franchise and a failure to gain the East Coast rail franchise.

Serco has reduced forecast profits by £20m and has had to find alternative support for its successful bid for the new sleeper franchise starting in April 2015. Aberdeen born former DfT civil servant Peter Strachan has been appointed MD of the new Caledonian Sleeper franchise.

The British public body Passenger Focus is to be renamed Transport Focus to reflect a consumer role being extended from rail and bus issues to include roads. This may require a strengthened regional dimension but there are concerns that other forms of consultation may be required to as part of five year and longer term transport and land use plans and the specific requirements of freight and distribution

Scottish Government changes following the resignation of Alex Salmond as First Minister saw Nicola Sturgeon move into this post.  Transport Minister Keith Brown has moved to Nicola’s former position as Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities.  Derek Mackay, former Minister for Local Government and Planning  becomes Transport Minister.  Aileen McLeod becomes Environment Minister under Richard Lockhead and was under immediate pressure from the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee of the Scottish Parliament to explain why CO2 reduction targets had been missed for the third year running.  The Scottish Parliament has also called for evidence on freight transport issues.

After leaving in 2012 for a period at Lund University in Sweden, Prof Tom Rye has returned to Napier University as Head of the Transport Research Institute.

In a major dispute between Ian Craig MD and the Board of Lothian Buses, Ian has held on to his position despite losing the support of Directors.  Ms Ann Faulds, board chair has resigned and been replaced by Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener on Edinburgh City Council, the majority shareholder in Lothian Buses. Complaints had been made about the abrasive style of the MD but the business performance of Edinburgh buses, and consumer satisfaction, have been above average.

Recent deaths have included Hamish Taylor and Prof. John Hibbs, best known as a powerful advocate of bus deregulation in the 1980s.  Hamish was an early recruit to the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study in 1966 and went on to join the Greater Glasgow PTE (the ancestor of SPT) in 1972.  Under Director-General Andrew McKay and with strong political support, he drove forward plans for major rail expansion and Subway modernisation in Greater Glasgow.  He also had strong interests in public transport co-ordination but took early retirement due to ill health.  More recently, he was a vigorous and successful opponent of plans to cover over much of the high-quality Buchanan Bus Station as additional multi-storey car parking.