Tom Hart’s transport notes, January to March 2017Published 31 March 2017 by Colin Howden
Tom Hart of Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) comments on transport developments over the past three months.
News Notes 1 Jan 17 to 31 March 17
Three main features dominated the news-
First A rise of media interest in the importance of much improved air quality, especially in cities
Second increased emphasis on reassessment of the volume of future movement and modal share in the light of evidence of weaker demand for movement (particularly by car) and the need for transport to provide much larger cuts in greenhouse gas emissions
Third Growing uncertainty about the scale of reduced public funding and the impact which this may have on the allocation of funding towards transport infrastructure and objectives for the economy and well-being amid major uncertainties on Brexit
Public funding remains tight though the Chancellor has promised some easing of capital spending aided by a slower reduction in public borrowing and advancement of some infrastructure schemes capable of early delivery. However, the degree of easing is modest and the scope for advancement is limited since infrastructure spend covers an area wider than transport while, within transport, several schemes are not at a deliverable stage due to the need for further cost checks and completion of consultative and legal procedures.
Rail infrastructure funding has been tightened but some road schemes in England are being accelerated. In Scotland, the Government now has powers to vary income tax plus new borrowing powers for long-term capital spend (up to £3bn but no more than £350m in any one year) which it proposes to exercise in full (H12Jan). In practice, this may accelerate some fully-prepared and costed road schemes but greater scrutiny of rail. There is also rising pressure for a greater proportion of transport infrastructure spending (and related borrowing charges) to come from sources other than general taxation. Scottish Government income, at least in the short term, will be reduced by plans to cut and eventually abolish APD.
Finance Minister Derek Mackay has been criticised for a lack of independent assessment of the economic benefits of cutting APD (H2Mar) Several groups have suggested that any early cuts should be confined to present high rates for long-haul flights. This could lead to improved world connectivity attracting enterprise to Scotland and leading to rises in direct long-haul flights to and from Scotland.
Funding for non-commercial bus services is coming under greater pressure while a consultation is imminent on a review of the present structure, costs and benefits of present arrangements to compensate bus operators for free travel across Scotland for the disabled and an increasing number of people over of 60.
Scottish Economy Secretary Keith Brown sees a third runway at Heathrow offering significant benefits for Scotland. Increased competition will help cut prices to and from Scottish airports with both more direct flights overseas and increased services from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness to Heathrow and a new Prestwick- Heathrow route added by 2030. This will reverse the near 25% fall in Scottish flights to Heathrow between 2006 and 2016. DfT is consulting on a draft National Policy Statement on airports with responses by 25 May. It has a focus on expansion in south-east England also with benefits to other regions.
With respect to cuts in APD at Scottish airports, this will make it harder to deliver cuts in greenhouse gases with Virgin Trains has specifically argued that present plans will affect the viability of Anglo-Scottish rail improvements, including a shift towards HS2 services. Writing in the Herald (13Feb), Pinstripe argues that while there is economic benefit in some cuts in high rates of long-distance APD, cuts should not apply to trips by air within Britain. Tax experts have called for more detail on the mechanics and actual impact of APD changes proposed in Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill
There is increasing criticism of the potential for Scottish government owned Prestwick to become viable, even allowing for some growth in military use and success in gaining spaceport status. Argyll & Bute Council is supporting spaceport status for Machrihanish.
Ryanair has announced 13 new routes from Edinburgh to European destinations but some may be scrapped if APD is not reduced. Edinburgh Airport has introduced a congestion charge for peak flights but proposals for revised flightpaths may ease the situation. A second runway may be needed by the 2040s
Budget airline Norwegian is preparing a Scottish base and plans a new low-cost Edinburgh to USA route.
Ryanair reduced average ticket prices in late 2016, seeking to fill spare capacity. A weakening £ has brought more tourists to Scotland but with a depressing impact on outward travel by Scottish residents
Loganair has gained the contract for the Orkney inter-isles service over the next four years. Arran Brewery, also the majority shareholder in HJS Helicopters, is planning a heliport on Arran for north business and tourist use. Wick Airport is being urged to reverse falling usage by attracting more tourist use and exploring direct international flights
The Dundee-London Stansted service has been secured for a further two years following grants of £3.7m from the UK and Scottish Governments and Dundee City Council
FERRIES & SHIPPING
Peel Ports have opened a £400m mega-container ship terminal at Liverpool and expect over five years to double business at Greenock Ocean Terminal through feeder links to Liverpool.
Extensive media coverage continues on ABP proposals that the Ardrossan service to Arran could be moved to Troon. Arran opinion remains firmly in favour of a continued link to Ardrossan (H editorial on 30 Jan and report on Arran opinion 13 Feb). Rather than tinkering with the Ardrossan terminal, major spending including a contribution from Clydeport (part of Peel Ports) may be needed to improve bad weather reliability. Ardrossan terminal upgrades have been announced but calls have been made for the rail terminus to be closer to the ferry berth and for a faster catamaran-style service with two ships permitting an hourly service. Other suggestions included greater use of passenger-only ferries serving more places over the main tourist season. A STAG study has confirmed Ardrossan as the best port for the ferry link to Brodick (H21Mar)
Scottish Government reports that EU rules do not necessarily prelude a return to nationalised ferry operation within Scotland rather than the present franchise system (H3Feb). An early morning sailing from Port Ellen had to be cancelled after some crew failed breath tests. A terrorist adviser has expressed concern at risks from potential bombers using Northern Ireland-Scotland ferries.
For the first time in 20 years CalMac carried over 5m passengers in 2016 – mainly due to extension of RET cut-price ferry fares. Ardrossan – Brodick was the busiest route with 828,262 passengers (up 8.7%) and over 200,000 vehicles (up 6.8%) The next busiest routes were Largs-Cumbrae (738,549 passengers) and Wemyss Bay-Rothesay (675,714 passengers). Cars on the Rothesay route were up 19% and by 40% on Oban-Craignure route (the fourth busiest for passengers)- The steepest rise (from a low base) was 74% on the Tobermory-Kilchoan route. Over the year, more than 5,000 sailings were cancelled. Argyll & Buter Council is investing £3m in cruise ship pontoon and marine tourism
Western Ferries (Clyde) report a marginal dip in annual profits from £2.7m to £2.6m but plan to upgrade quayside infrastructure at McInroy’s Point and Hunter’s Quay.
The larger new ferry being built for the routes from Uig to Lochmaddy and Tarbert will require Highland Council to spend £23m on harbour improvements at Uig with related rises in harbour dues. Ten years of community operation of the small Glenelg-Kylerhea vehicle ferry to Skye is being celebrated by a £60,000 modernisation of the wheelhouse of the vessel which used to provide the Ballachulish ferry until the bridge there opened in 1975. Despite the bridge now available to Skye, the Glenelg ferry carried 36,000 passengers and 12,500 vehicles in 2016.
The question of a hovercraft link from Fife to Edinburgh has again been raised. The Maid of the Loch, mothballed at Balloch, may return to regular service on Loch Lomond in 2018 if fundraising efforts are successful. Scottish Canals is considering an app allowing canal users to open swingbridges but costs may preclude early action (EN 2Jan)
Freight on the P&O Cairnryan-Larne route have reached its highest volume for five years. Volume in 2016 was up 7.5% on 2015. 2016 was the first year in which none of the 4,774 sailings had been cancelled (a marked contrast with CalMac sailings on the Ardrossan-Brodick route)
The Herald Annual Review of Scottish Ports (20 Jan) reports cruise passenger numbers up 5.3% on 2015 with some 484,000 disembarking for various shore visits. By the end of 2017, arriving cruise passengers are expected to be 144% up on 2010. On the freight side, Aberdeen Harbour Board has signed off £350m plans for a new deeper water terminal at Nigg Bay, (also able to take cruise ships). Ship to ship oil and gas transfers in Scapa Flow and are now significant earners for Orkney Islands Council
Both the UK and Scottish Governments and ORR are aiming for tighter control of rail finances and projects but allowing greater flexibility to shift funding between scheme in the light of revised costs and benefits. NR is expected to receive more grants towards network enhancements rather than financing these from borrowing – but grants will be from a range of other parties with an ability to borrow or raise annual funds to cover new borrowing. HS2 is also likely to be affected by such changes. Tenders being invited for new 225mph HS2 trains and are due to be awarded in 2019. Specification includes study of ways to reduce peak energy demand with trains able to operate beyond new HS2 route. Construction work on Phase 1 of HS2 will start later this year.
Former Transport Minister, Tom Harris, has called for more passenger rail competition, especially on Anglo-Scottish routes but with fair levels of track access charges (H24Feb) West Coast services from Carlisle to Glasgow will be disrupted by engineering works over five days at Easter.
In a Which survey, Virgin West Coast was rated best for reliability on longer-distance services.
Crewe is likely to be confirmed as an improved transport hub when new HS2 route is extended from Lichfield to Crewe in the late 2020s. The emphasis is shifting from a concentration on new HSR route to a wider strategy for improving the existing inter-city network in Britain and some selective new build as between Oxford and Cambridge and into north Devon and Cornwall.
Though the West Coast franchise will initially be integrated with HS2 operation, the UK government may ban extension of the franchise to cover East Coast services in the interests of promoting competition for inter-city travel (LTT713 6Jan)
The Scottish Government sees the present rail framework as unnecessarily complex and is seeking full devolution of control over Network Rail in Scotland (H18Jan) or possibly nationalisation of rail track and services in Scotland. H editorial on 30 March supports view that Network Rail in Scotland should be under full Scottish Government control. This could offer savings and efficiency gains up to £100m a year with the Scottish Government deciding the best use of such funds. NR methodology is being changed to highlight the costs of rural railways with a hint that this could lead to closures or new ways of operating rural lines and assessing their benefits (LTT713 6Jan)
UK Government is withdrawing annual support for 3 of the 6 Anglo-Scottish rail freight services presently supported. Scottish Government is seeking review of this action in the light of the clear benefits of trunk rail freight. DfT say costs of a large-scale shift from road to rail freight would be prohibitive (LTT717 3Mar)
A Scottish media campaign on the failings of Abellio ScotRail may have contributed to the decision of MD Phil Verster to take charge of the Oxford-Cambridge rail project yet ScotRail performance remains good compared to many other operators at a time when NR track and signalling problems plus major enhancement schemes are causing some disruption. 93.2% of ScotRail services arrived within 4 minutes of scheduled time in February
Full redevelopment of Glasgow Queen St station may be delayed a further seven months due to complex negotiations over the nature of the delayed Buchanan Galleries shopping and entertainment project (H6Feb)
The Scottish Government has been attacked on ‘back of a fag packet’ plans- for a temporary rail fares freeze with Alastair Dalton arguing for a more dramatic fares reduction to fill the empty seats still available on many trains, especially since total trains available will rise as new train sets arrive with older sets mainly retained in Scotland (S 19&20Jan)
Carillion has won the £49m contract for wiring the Carfin-Shotts-Calders line by 2019, giving a further electrified route from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Delivery of new electric trains for services across central Scotland is now in progress.
Glasgow City Council is contributing £10m to the £18.3m cost of a new station at Robroyston close to land already developed to the north and a further 1,600 homes expected to the south. Glasgow’s contribution will be repaid from a section 75 deal contributing £11,000 per house built.
Balanced of funding met by £7.1m from Transport Scotland Stations Fund and £1.25m from SPT.
The site is close to an M80 junction and will include park-and-ride. Opening late 2019. Trains from the station will include direct services to Edinburgh via Cumbernauld and Falkirk Grahamston
A new station at Dalcross, close to Inverness Airport and new housing, is likely to open by 2019.
Costs around £5.5m including £3.3 m from Scottish Stations Fund. SWestran has dropped plans for an early reopening of Beattock station but hoped applications to the Scottish Stations Fund could allow earlier reopening of Eastriggs or Thornhill (at c £10m each). Toilets and a café are now open at Tweedbank station and some trains on services to Edinburgh have been lengthened
Calls have been made for priority for a reopening to passengers of the Glasgow City Union line, possibly in association with a spur to Argyle St, St Enoch and Central station. CBR (Campaign for Borders Rail) is developing a case for rail extension, and land safeguarding, from Tweedbank to Carlisle. The Scottish Government is assessing this project but funding may restrict reopening in the next decade to the section between Tweedbank and Hawick. James Robertson of Leven has complained of huge delays in reopening the rail service from Thornton to Levenmouth (H18Mar)
The Settle-Carlisle line, closed for 13 months north of Appleby due to a major landslip in the Eden Gorge, has reopened as a through route after a £23m repair by Network Rail. This will restore links into Scotland and give new options for popular steam-hauled services. Welsh Government is examining the case for reopening the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line, costed at £750m. Others see this scheme as a ‘basket case’ and prefer higher spend on creating an electrified Metro around Cardiff and the adjacent valleys. In Northern Ireland, frequency between Belfast and Derry is to rise to hourly with consideration also being given to extra trains between Belfast and Newry
In the SPT area, train trips continue to rise though more slowly with some adverse impacts from service disruption. The 57.6m trips in 2013/14 may reach 63.5m in 2016-17. The Edwardian pier and station at Wemyss Bay has been restored to its former glory in a £10m upgrade since 2014
BUS, TRAM & TAXI
Due to funding pressures and increased numbers in older age-groups, Scottish Government is consulting on a review of present bus concessions (LTT 715 3Feb). Initial views are that the bus concession remains politically attractive and is seen as a way of providing a wider network than might otherwise be available. Another issue is why the concession is restricted to buses when ferries, ScotRail, trams, Glasgow Subway and some types of DRT are also used for local travel.
These views raise equity as well as funding issues. With local government spend tighter than ever, concentrating bus support on operator compensation for free bus travel could accelerate contraction in the bus network as funding for non-commercial services is cut further. This problem could be eased by at least part of any savings from free travel restriction becoming payments to RTPs available for wider use in network support.
Another major issue is whether free bus travel should be available throughout Scotland or replaced by free or low flat fare local travel by all publicly available local modes. Details on the costs and benefits of different options may appear as part of the forthcoming consultation. Scottish Government already plans to extend free bus travel to young modern apprentices and young people on a jobs grant (LTT117 3Mar) A Homan-Elsy of Linlithgow urges major reform of free bus travel (H13Mar) The Scottish Government estimates that raising the age for a free bus pass from 60 to 65 would save almost £1m a week (H20Mar)
Transport Focus reports an overall bus passenger satisfaction rate of 90% but 1 in 5 are unhappt with poor timekeeping, mainly due to rises in road congestion. First has announced a 10% rise in bus fares on some Glasgow routes and 7.5% elsewhere. Over December and January, Glasgow City Council gained £211,000 from fines from car users ignoring the bus and taxi zone at Nelson Mandela Place.
A Similar arguments will affect the nature of the promised Scottish Bus Re-regulation Bill is promised for 2017/18.. This could place added pressures on local authority budgets without clear benefits and evading the issue of a new regulatory and devolved approach to local transport. Bus operators and former SNP Minister Kenny Macaskill have warned that overall profits on commercial bus routes are low with a substantial continuing need for public funding support for other desirable services (H 8Mar) But there is potential for an integrated approach to local bus, rail and taxi/DRT services giving costs savings and greater overall public benefits, including support for a better network, lower fares and greater shifts from car use than might otherwise be possible.
Pressures have risen for a more rapid shift to non-diesel buses as part of action to improve air quality in cities. Lothian buses has accelerated shifts to Euro 6 buses reducing CO2 by 30%, NOX by 98% and particulates around 80%. 66% of the Lothian fleet now meets European standards but much remains to be done to almost eliminate diesel emissions in cities by 2030.
The Unite Union, in a petition to MSPs, has urged bus re-regulation in Scotland also with bus ownerships by local councils on the Lothian model, as in Edinburgh. The union claims deregulation had accelerated bus decline and led to a 36% cut in real terms in driver wages (H 19 Jan). Lothian Buses report a further rise in bus trips to 121m in 2015 but elsewhere usage is falling with fears of network contraction (S22Feb)
Bus union leaders, bus users and Edinburgh local tax payers have objected to proposals that Lothian Buses contribute £20m to extend Edinburgh trams to Newhaven. At a cost of £1.2m, consultants have been appointed to prepare detailed plans for this tram extension likely to cost £145m. A decision on extension has been delayed until after the local elections in May but the local Labour Party favours extension to Newhaven and also from Haymarket to Granton. The Granton Central Development Masterplan has been amended to facilitate a tram extension.
The first hearings into the Edinburgh tram inquiry are now expected in September, three years after the chair Lord Hardie was appointed. Doubt has been expressed at the value of the inquiry compared to a quicker assessment of what went wrong with the Edinburgh tram scheme.
WL Hogg (S31Dec) has urged that Edinburgh trams and buses should complement each other, not compete, for airport traffic. He suggests cutting the Airport express bus to a 30minute frequency.
Trams offered much better space for luggage. An LTT correspondent also says that modern doubledeckers have only 30% of passenger space on the lower deck, creating problems for disabled travellers and others having difficulties on stairs. A shift is urged to trams and single-deck urban buses
Stagecoach is re-introducing high frequency (every 6 minutes daytime and 15ms evenings) minibus service in Ashford. Stage carriage minibus use had fallen in the 1990s, due to steps for access, high maintenance costs and poor design. These issues had been tackled and passengers preferred high frequency to a less frequent conventional service with larger buses.
After three difficult years, First Scotland East has made a successful transition, withdrawing from East Lothian but concentrating on improved services and higher-standard buses on the more populated western corridors from Stirling, Falkirk and Bathgate through to Edinburgh. Branding in the Scottish Borders has also been improved (S12Jan)
CMA has ruled that creation of a subsidiary, East Coast Buses, to rescue some bus services in East Lothian has not made Lothian Buses too dominant in the market
Stagecoach subsidiary, Highland Country Buses, reports a fall in profits and headwinds leading to further cuts in the Highlands and Islands. Yearly profit was down from £2m to £1.6m with revenue down from £19.8m to under £19m.
Glasgow taxi driver given a three-month ban for charging visitors £80 for a two mile trip to a pop concert. The driver had also overloaded his cab Seven private-hire car drivers had licences suspended for between one and four months. Under new rules from April, fines will apply to drivers with ‘wheelchair accessible’ vehicles who refuse wheelchairs or impose extra charges.
ROADS & PARKING
The Queensferry Forth Crossing is now physically joined though opening to traffic will not be until August. Overturned lorries in high winds led to two temporary closures of the Forth Road Bridge but the Queensferry crossing is designed to give better protection from high winds. Closure of the M8 Baillieston Interchange between February and April will be the last major disruption before completion of M8, M74 and M73 improvements.
In the UK budget, the ‘freeze’ on fuel duty has been continued but, from April 2017, annual car licence charges have risen sharply, including rates for hybrid vehicles. This will compensate for falling income from fuel duty and ensure increased tax income from vehicle owners pending more radical reform of charging for road use. Government is also considering higher taxation of diesel vehicles and advises against their use in cities (H9Mar)
Average speed cameras are to be introduced on the dual carriageway A90 between Dundee and Stonehaven. A Dalton has queried whether full dualling of the Perth-Inverness A9 can be completed by 2025. In the light of other needs, funding may be phased over a longer period
(S 17Feb). In a manner similar to the North Coast 500 route, a ‘Snow Road’ from Blairgowrie to Grantown-on-Spey may have extra publicity to attract tourists
Aberdeen is studying options to relieve congestion on the Dee Bridge but final decision is delayed until the impact of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road is considered. The best option may be a new bridge close to the existing bridge which would become a pedestrian/cycle crossing bridge.
In Edinburgh, traffic will be disrupted for 10 months from September while Leith St is shut during the St James Centre redevelopment. More than half of utility companies operating in Edinburgh have yet to sign up to a ‘responsible roadworks’ pledge spearheaded by the City Council. AA says a doubling of car insurance taxation, higher petrol prices and a squeeze on income is hitting car users, especially younger drivers.
Parking charges in Edinburgh are again rising in April amid fears that car users will make less use of city centre shops. There are fears that 20mph limits will worsen air pollution unless there is a much faster growth in electric cars. In addition to major expansion of 20mph zones in Edinburgh, Dundee is introducing a pilot 20 mph zone but Manchester has halted plans to extend 20mph zones. Most Edinburgh residents prefer a more selective approach to the imposition of 20mph limits. Despite lower drink-driving limits, data shows a worrying rise with 1 in 30 drivers stopped in December over the limit (H 9Jan)
Edinburgh City Council is concerned about plans to extend airport car parking and has urged greater use of public transport and cycling. It also opposes plans for a direct road link to the M80.
Glasgow Airport has joined Edinburgh and Aberdeen in imposing controversial drop-off charges for motorists. The Glasgow fee will be £2 for the first 10 minutes rising to £30 for stays between 31 and 60 minutes. The airport sees higher charges as essential to reduce airport terminal congestion and encourage greater shifts to public transport or the use of car parks further from the airport terminal with shuttlebus links.
Car commuters using the Forth and Tay Bridge have each saved £2,000 since bridge tolls were abolished in February 2008. Scottish Government is increasing the annual trunk road maintenance budget from £165m to £199m. RAC has issued a warning of rising damage from potholes. H editorial (17 Jan) calls for increased spending on road maintenance and renewals. Detectors in roads are now being used to track down overweight lorries damaging road surfaces (EN 30 Jan). Harsher penalties have been introduced for drivers using mobiles.
SNP will scrap plans for resident parking close to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital if it wins the local Glasgow election in May. The Local Government and Communities Committee at Holyrood is to investigate abuses of disabled parking space. There are concerns that the increasing use of touchscreens in cars is raising major safety issues.
Grants are being sought for a £5.6m overhaul of the Union Chain Bridge across the Tweed near Berwick. Opened in 1820, this was then the longest wrought-iron suspension bridge in the world.
WALKING & CYCLING
Transport Scotland Chief Executive Roy Brannen is chairing a new group, with local authority and Sustrans members, to examine opportunities for rises in active travel. More cities and towns are now developing programmes to make walking and cycling more attractive, not least in town and city centres where poor air quality has become a major issue. Instead of encouraging shifts to diesel cars, government is now urging shifts away from diesel cars and other road-based diesel fuelled vehicles. NOX levels on several streets remain well above levels required in EU regulations.
Cyclists claim that, unlike continental Europe, it is too difficult for cyclists to use buses over longer distances with use of trains also a problem. Cycle hire was not always realistic. A new study shows that over 200 cyclists have already been injured by tram tracks in Edinburgh, costing the NHS over £1m plus other costs to those involved.
The Glasgow Centre for Population Health has called for stronger action to increase cycling in all parts of the city rather than concentrate on more affluent users. A 13 March Herald editorial urges that ‘cycling should be at the heart of progressive planning’. Increased cycling is also seen as offering economic benefits for cities (H22Mar). Sustrans has urged Scots tourism businesses to gear up for cyclists. Cycling breaks are already worth £345m for the Scottish economy.
Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Highland Councils are bidding for further Scottish Government for cycling projects – including a ‘lift’ plan to haul cyclists up the Mound in Edinburgh. Transform Scotland and Spokes have criticised government for ‘largely ignoring’ walking and cycling in the latest climate change strategy (S11Feb; H22Feb)) Edinburgh is providing an extra 466 cycle parking spaces this year in addition to 400 parking racks provided in 2016.
In Edinburgh plans include major cuts in George St and a more attractive environment for walkers and cyclists. Action is also needed in Princes St. The second major extension of 20mph limits on many Edinburgh streets has been introduced despite controversy on the level of benefit. Enforcement remains a major issue with Police not seeing this as a priority and early results showing only a fractional cut in average speeds on streets where the average was already low. It is claimed that a more selective approach to lower speeds could offer better value.
Edinburgh City Council is increasing cycling spend to 10% of the city transport budget in 2017/18 but walkers are also seeking large improvements in pavement maintenance. There is continuing confusion on which pavements can be legally used by both pedestrians and cyclists. Most pavements are reserved for walkers but more are also being used by cyclists.
A survey for the British Heart Foundation shows that Scots (apart from Edinburgh) are the UK’s most reluctant cyclists. Lack of regular walking and excessive sitting is also a growing health issue.
The 134 mile John Muir Way from Helensburgh to Dunbar, opened in April 2014, has been awarded Great Trail Status
PROPERTY & PLANNING
EU has called on Scotland to take faster action to deal with air quality ‘blackspots’ in Hope St in Glasgow and St John’s Road in Edinburgh. The principal offenders are diesel vehicles (H16Feb)
Glasgow City Council has been concerned at footfall slippage in the city centre due to both internet shopping and increasing activity at fringe of town shopping centres such as Silverburn, Glasgow Fort and Braehead. It is pressing for an early start to delayed plans to expand the Buchanan Centre in central Glasgow. A strategy for reviving Sauchiehall St is being implemented while potential is seen for growth in entertainment events and cinemas in the city centre The owner of St Enoch Centre has gained permission to convert the former BHS store into a 9-screen cinema plus restaurant and retail space.
Detailed plans for green space above the M8 motorway at Glasgow Charing Cross are being prepared with a final decision expected in mid 2018. Glasgow City Council has also announced a £9m facelift for Byres Rd, reducing traffic and transforming this epicentre of the West End. Glasgow University has announced plans to expand into the former Western Infirmary site stretching west to Byres Rd and Church St (H25Jan)
Both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Councils have raised objections to plans to relocate the Aberdeen FC football stadium close to the Western Peripheral Road. The site is thought unsuitable but no alternatives have been suggested.
As part of Tay Cities Deal, St Andrew’s University is expanding the zero carbon campus at Guardbridge. In Glasgow, the City Deal team is seeking to accelerate private sector investment in £1.13bn of City Deal infrastructure spend aimed at leveraging £3bn of private investment
Edinburgh City Council is lobbying to introduce a tourist tax as early as 2018. A levy of £2 a night could raise £10m for the city and help move City Deal plans towards realisation, including higher levels of private investment.
Edinburgh Conservative Councillor Joanna Mowat has argued for denser development around settlements and transport corridors so that residents would be less inclined to use cars for shorter trips – but potential encroachment on the Green Belt remains a major issue.
Plans have been submitted for 400 houses on the former Jordanhill campus in Glasgow. Celtic FC has announced plans for a £100m plus hotel development close to the stadium
Housebuilder Persimmon has argued for stronger Scottish Government action to release land for housing as part of action to make faster progress on regional strategies for land use and transport.
Others see an increased role for transformed regional/City Deal bodies rather than reliance on present local government structures. SEStran is pausing action on greater powers in East Central Scotland due to opposition from West Lothian, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and Fife Councils.
Scottish Government is consulting on a new Planning Bill expected later in 2017. RICS and RTPI has outlined five key priorities – an infrastructure led approach to planning and development, more resources for planning and building control, a plan led response to individual planning applications and better overall co-ordination
There are concerns that increased paving of gardens, often to accommodate cars, is increasing flood risks as rising rainfall is also anticipated.
RESEARCH & STATISTICS
No 35 in the annual Scottish Government publication on Scottish Transport Statistics was published in February though with most data going no further than 2015-16. Highlights for 2005 to 2015 include:-
Road vehicle kms up 6% (the same as estimated growth in the Scottish population)
Cars licensed up 15% but Car Vehicle kms up 3.5% (mainly for local movement)
ScotRail passenger kms up 29.7%
Anglo-Scottish rail trips up 65%
Local bus trips – 13% (slightly up in SE Scotland, stable in H&I but with
sharp downturn in Glasgow and south-west)
Bus vehicle kms -on major roads +30%
-on other roads -28%
Scottish Ferries – passengers -5% Ferries to N Ireland – 18%
vehicles +8% – 9%
Air – UK domestic passengers -14%
Overseas passengers +48%
Note Total air passengers dipped in 2008 recession but were 10% above 2007
levels by 2015 with specially strong growth in overseas travel
Pedal cycling kms on minor roads + 95%
No clear data on walking but may have been slight rise in walking, mainly for leisure and
STS shows modest cuts in greenhouse gas, NOX and particulate emissions from transport since 2005 but transport emissions as a % of total Scottish greenhouse gas emissions are up from 21.7% in 2005 to 27.8% in 2014. Diesel car registrations rose to almost half of new car registrations in Scotland in 2015 (100th diesel and 118th petrol – and less than 4th electric or hybrid)
Aviation Glasgow Airport has a busy start to the year with 603,000 passengers in February – up 7.7% with a 20.3% rise for international passengers but domestic down 1.4%. Edinburgh also saw a record rise to 812,000 passengers – up 5.4% with 13.6% international growth and a 2.3% domestic fall. Aberdeen Airport moved from a long period of decline to a 1% rise in February passengers to a total of 213,000.
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports had record passenger numbers in 2016 with Edinburgh up 11% to 12.37m and Glasgow up 7.5% to 9.36m. All growth at Edinburgh was international with Glasgow having a 9.2% international rise plus a 5.5% domestic rise.
Rail Overcrowding Transport Scotland has released data on rail overcrowding. The most overcrowded train is the two-coach service 5.21pm service from Edinburgh to Glasgow via Shotts followed by the 5.01pm Glasgow to East Kilbride (also two coaches). Neilston to Glasgow had the most overcrowded morning services. Extra rolling stock should ease the position in the coming year (H31 Mar) Standing is likely to remain acceptable on short-distance services. Some passengers prefer to stand even when seats are available while a degree of short-distance standing at peaks can ensure fares lower than they might otherwise be.
Trams On-street extension of Midland Metro to Birmingham New St rail station seems set to raise tram usage from 5m in 2015 to 7m in 2017. Edinburgh tram usage, already rising, would be further boosted by approval of the extension to Leith/Newhaven. Edinburgh City Council has commissioned a detailed design and costing for this project but no decision on a tram extension will be taken until after the local elections in May. The second cross-city centre tram route has opened in Manchester with £1.5bn plans for further extensions plus study of a north-south tunnel under the city centre. West Midlands plan a further £1.2bn of tram extensions while Cardiff is spending £0.7bn in converting ‘Valley’ lines to metro-style operation.
Cycling A survey by Spokes has found that car use in several parts of Edinburgh city centre has fallen by more than 25% in the past decade with the number of cyclists up by one-third.
Survey by KPMG finds that 90% of global automotive experts expect electric vehicles to dominate the car market by 20025 with a rapid fall in the use of diesel vehicles. Overall, fewer cars are expected with less money to be made from building vehicles as more people opt to rent or pay for a car service. Companies will make more money by providing digital services relayed to car travel
A new report from the Independent Transport Commission shows a generational divide in travel patterns. Average miles driven by 17-34 old men fell 47% between 1996-98 and 2012-14 with miles driven by women in same age group down 15%. But for those 60+, average miles have risen, especially for women Overall, average miles per adult were down 14%. Miles travelled by rail rose for all gender and age groups. The most striking finding is that mileage by car has continued to fall even after the 2008-09 recession. A continuing issue is whether rail travel growth since the 1990s will reach a natural limit (LTT 713 6Jan). A similar issue affects air travel.
New car registrations in Scotland for 2016 are up 0.2% on 2015 to 221,000
Glasgow is aiming for an extra 1m tourist visitors each year with SECC also reporting an 18% rise in conference business in the year to March 2016. A report Sailing Tourism in Scotland by EKOS to HIE, Scottish Canals and the Crown Estate finds that the rise in sailing tourism could be above 25% over the next seven years. 15,700 berths are already available with a further 3,000 identified.
WWF reports that, for the first time, wind power has generated more than Scotland’s total electricity demand over four consecutive days in December 2016 and two-thirds of Scotland’s total electricity consumption in February.
Carbon emissions in Glasgow have fallen from 4,000 kilotonnes in 2006 to under 3000kt with a 30% cut on 2006 expected by 2020. The slowest fall was still in the transport sector.
UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 were 6% down on 2015, mainly due to less coal in electricity generation and closure of the steel plant at Redcar. Greenhouse gas emissions are now 42% below 1990 but the transport sector has failed to deliver any of the cut in total emissions. WWF says that the lack of progress in transport and buildings is deeply worrying.
Inrix has estimated that traffic congestion in Scotland costs drivers £2.4bn in 2016 with Aberdeen the worst, especially at peak times. At a UK level Aberdeen ranked as third for congestion with Edinburgh in fifth place and Glasgow not in the top 10 (H20Feb)
Scottish tourist attractions ‘outperformed’ the rest of the UK with a 15.6% rise in visitors in 2016
Total infrastructure spend in Scotland has seen a steep fall from the £4.2bn peak in 2015
Infrastructure and the Economy There is a need to replace general statements on transport investments (and fiscal/pricing changes) being of benefit for the economy with more specific evaluations, including comparisons with other options for spending and the extent to which a proposal may assist (or hamper) objectives for equity and well-being.
Infrastructure spend now includes spending considerably wider than those affecting physical movement – it extends to electronic communication and also spend on buildings and other physical assets. There is more emphasis on critical evaluation of the longer-term benefits of major rail, road and airport schemes compared to smaller and more widely spread investments or management measures (including pricing and enhanced maintenance). Another new emphasis is on the importance of relating funding and project approval to those projects well costed and designed ready for delivery. This will require more attention to skills training and management so that funding fits better with priority objectives and continuing assessments of more capital intensive schemes over the longer-term with robust early benefits and longer-term potential.
Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Fair Work says that infrastructure projects are the key to economic success for Scotland (H 4Jan) but James McClafferty of CityFibre sees digital infrastructure as the key to success for Scottish cities (H9Jan). Provided projects are ‘shovel ready’ transport infrastructure spend can boost construction-related jobs but there are divided views on what type of infrastructure spend gives the best medium-term gains for the economy and society. Some big schemes may give poorer outcomes for the economy and society than alternatives, including better management and some selective improvements in the existing network –including priority for city-region/inter-city public transit, walking and cycling.
Scottish business opinion favours early use of the Scottish Government’s new borrowing powers to boost combined total of public and private investment (H6Mar) but the preferred content of future strategy for transport infrastructure may differ from a previous emphasis on ‘big’ schemes mainly in the trunk road sector.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is considering these issues and has stressed the importance of better assessment and the need to give more attention to ensuring better outcomes from the existing transport network and an easing of peak pressures on electricity supply. Citi Logik has urged NIC to dump ‘legacy’ transport modelling techniques and make more use of mobile phone data. New approaches were needed to assess actual demand and the impact of proposed projects (LTT 714 20 Jan & 715 3 Feb). NIC is consulting on four population scenarios relating to transport – ranging from 20% UK population growth by 2050 and lower growth with a skew away from London but weaker prospects for Scotland. NIC is also consulting on past and future trends affecting communication and physical movement. More indicators now suggest that physical movement within UK will grow more slowly than population though with higher growth in movement to and from UK (LTT718 17Mar) A final report to the Treasury is due in December 2017.
The newly established Commission on Travel Demand is taking an independent look at future policies and programmes with particular reference to more rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. Managed by Prof. Greg Marsden of the Institute of Transport Studies at Leeds University, the Commission has already invited evidence and is deliberating through workshops, presentations and debates. It is part of the Research Councils UK End Use Energy Demand initiative (LTT 713 6Jan).
The Commission states that ‘there is a very significant gap between what the Committee on Climate Change believes is a cost-effective reduction pathway and the set of transport policies we have in place today’.
Transport planners, including the former DfT Chief Scientist David Metz, have criticised new DfT guidance on capturing the wider economic impacts of transport schemes. The guidance leans towards the benefits for connectivity of improved inter-urban roads (and rail) and related de-agglomeration of business to out-of-town locations rather than the potentially larger gains from relatively dense settlement and improved city transit in boosting the economy, society and emission reduction (LTT 713 6Jan) Recent data shows that home deliveries of ready-to-eat food rose 10 times faster than eating-out in 2016 (H3Mar)
AIRBNB data shows a sharp rise in homeowners renting rooms to tourists. Over 800,000 visitors to Scotland in 2016 used this service.
The North Coast 500 Scottish tourist route is proving to be a stroke of marketing genius, bringing 200 jobs and extra income to fragile communities but some localised issues from extra motor traffic and cycling. Suggestions have been made for a similar approach to selected rural rail, bus and ferry circuits.
A Canadian study of 9 to 20 year olds has confirmed the importance of physical activity in building up bone strength at a time when youngsters are spending more time on computers and tablets
Transport Scotland has invited bids for low carbon active travel hubs (aided by ERDF) to facilitate bike hire and electric/hydrogen charging
A mixture of driven and automated vehicles on roads may increase accidents (or require lower speeds) until such time as driving becomes totally automated on specified routes. Cambridge is planning to add autonomous minibuses to the existing segregated guided busway.
In a report to The Borderlands Growth Initiative, EKOS Consulting has suggested more dualling of roads in the north of England and southern Scotland, including the A1 and a new road from Lockerbie to Dumfries. Rail extension from Hawick to Carlisle is included together with major improvements at Carlisle station.
Scottish Government plans to introduce the first Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in 2018 including daily charges for the use of high emission vehicles. By 2032, the proportion of ultra-low emission new cars and vans is expected to be at least 40% of the Scottish total. Further studies have confirmed that people have higher health risks if they live close to busy roads (H28Jan)
Researchers at the University of Glasgow have found that poor public transport is forcing some hard-up families into car ownership. 8.5% of households were found to have ‘forced car owners’, mainly living in deprived areas on the edge of cities with limited bus services (S10Feb)
Nestrans has appointed SYSTRA to study options for road investment on the corridor to Peterhead and Fraserburgh with AECOM appointed to study rail options. Reports are due summer 2017 but there is surprise at the lack of a multi-modal corridor appraisal (LTT17 3 Mar)
A DfT study concludes that driverless cars could increase congestion on some UK roads for several years but congestion will ease once automated vehicles form 50% to 75% of traffic on main roads.
Electric driverless buses are being trialled in Amsterdam, Helsinki and Lyons. They could replace trams and cut capital costs.
RDG is studying fingerprint or iris scanning enabling fares to be automatically charged. Dumfries
firm MacRebur is developing plastic roads to replace tarmac. They use recycled plastic.
An Edinburgh University student team has developed Hyperloop maglev trains running in low-pressure tubes up to 760mph – reaching London in 35 minutes from Edinburgh. Capital costs could be 60% of high-speed rail (EN & H 10&11Jan) Better prospects for such routes may be over longer distances than are available in Britain but costs and benefits remain uncertain.
BUSINESS & PERSONNEL
Loganair has won a five-year contract for Royal Mail deliveries in the UK
Aberdeen based First Group has been awarded the London and South-west rail franchise, replacing Stagecoach. Falls in bus income, including London, are reported by Stagecoach with north-east Scotland especially weak. Rail revenue was up 1.6% year on year, lower than in previous years but with inter-city growth better than around London. Revenue growth on the Stagecoach/Virgin West Coast Main Line is up 5.3% on the previous year – which had been affected by service disruption due to the Lamington viaduct incident.
Allied Vehicles of Glasgow report a 37% rise in operating profit as turnover rises to £120m. It is now the largest supplier of wheelchair accessible vehicles in Europe
Clydeport (part of Peel Ports) report a 26% drop in revenue in the year to March 2016 due to large fall in coal traffic. Pre-tax profit fell 17% to £16m
Mark Thurston has replaced Simon Kirby (moving to Rolls-Royce) to be HS2 Chief Executive.
Phil Verster, ScotRail Alliance MD has moved to control the East-West Cambridge-Oxford rail project. He will be replaced from June by Alex Hynes, presently MD of Northern Trains and with a good record in customer relations and management devolution
SECC has been rebranded as the Scottish Event Campus. Chief Executive Peter Duthie and St Enoch Centre general manager Anne Legerwood are directors in Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
Following an EU indication that CalMac routes may no longer have to be put out to tender, Martin Dorchester has decided to continue as CalMac MD
David Frenz has moved from Scottish Citylink to be Operations Director at Stagecoach East Scotland. Mark Whitelocks has moved from Stagecoach East to be MD Stagecoach North Scotland
Scottish Transport Statistics No 35, February 2017, Transport Scotland 321p (also on web)
M Pearson The Settle and Carlisle Line 1850-1990, 2016
A Deayton The Caledonian Steam Packet Company – An Illustrated History 2014 Amberley 128p
Economic Growth & Demand for Infrastructure Services, NIC Consultation, March 2017