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Programme for Government: Great commitments on bus and rail, but Scotland still locked into high-carbon roads programme

Published 03 September 2019 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland spokesperson Jess Pepper said:

“It is fantastic to hear the First Minister acknowledging the important contribution of buses, to reducing emissions, improving health and travel choices for all. Bus users should be prioritised to avoid congestion. Buses are often overlooked but are key to many people’s everyday lives across Scotland, and we are a nation that builds buses.

“The Scottish Government now needs to talk integration of energy and transport infrastructure to deliver a public transport system for all — not just cities for electric vehicles, but places enabling safe active and fair, reliable sustainable travel for everyone.

“It is also great to see commitment on the whole rolling programme to decarbonise all of our railways, except that most of our diesel trains will retire by 2030 or soon after — so to allow new zero-emission trains to replace them, that commitment to 2035 must be 2030. Our railway needs bolder ambition fit for a Climate Emergency, building the skills and experience in Scotland. The programme is mapped, we can go now, but it must be concluded sooner than 2035. Moving freight and passengers onto rail is one of the biggest impacts we could make today to reduce our emissions.

“However, we are very disappointed that the major infrastructure projects that are currently getting the biggest capital spend and locking Scotland into high carbon infrastructure, tearing down trees, draining and moving high carbon soils, are not to be reviewed in the context of the Climate Emergency.”

Some highlights from the PfG Our comments
p3 The National Transport Strategy, to be published later this year, will redefine investment priorities, putting sustainable transport at the heart of decision‐making…. Amongst other elements this embryonic Scottish Green Deal includes commitments to:

  • invest over £500 million in improved bus priority infrastructure to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services and raise bus usage
  • put the Highlands and Islands on a path to becoming the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040, including a commitment to zero emissions from Highland and Islands Airports Limited’s operations. We will begin trials of low or zero emission flights in 2021
  • reduce emissions from Scotland’s railways to zero by 2035 through the continued electrification of the network, the procurement of battery‐powered trains and exploration of the potential of hydrogen‐powered trains in Scotland
  • provide an additional £17 million to support the demand for ultra‐low emission vehicles (ULEVs) through our Low Carbon Transport Loan scheme, while expanding the scheme to include used electric vehicles

The bus priority funding commitment is very welcome — but further details are required.

The ‘net zero aviation region’ commitment is a distraction from tackling the overwhelming volume of Scottish aviation, which is flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London.

The rail decarbonisation commitment is welcome, but should be by 2030 rather than 2035.

p33 Transient Visitor Levy
The Bill will create a discretionary power for local authorities to apply a tax or levy on overnight visitor stays. The decision to implement any tax or levy created will be entirely at the discretion of individual local authorities and receipts will be to fund local authority expenditure on tourism.
Very welcome.
p34 Climate change
We will consult on Scotland’s ambition to make the transformative shift to zero or ultra‐low emission city centres by 2030 by engaging extensively with key sectors, in particular with the bus sector (page 36)We will invest over £500 million to improve our bus services across Scotland[…]The fourth National Planning Framework will help to radically accelerate reduction of emissionsWe will work to decarbonise our public sector fleet by 2025

It remains to be seen whether the NPF will reduce emissions at all.

The public sector fleet commitment is welcome, but extremely vague.

p62 Climate conversation
The Big Climate Conversation is engaging people, businesses and the public sector across the country to let people have their say and help us to update the Climate Change Plan. Once the update has been published next year, we will establish a National Forum on Climate Change to continue the conversation and bring together Scotland’s businesses, public sector, communities and individuals to help to contribute to the decisions we will all have to take.
Later this year, we will consult on amending the statutory duties that require public sector bodies to report annually on their emissions reductions to ensure that those duties help to drive the step change in action that is needed. We will also publish the outcome of the review of our Climate Challenge Fund and our plans for evolving the Fund to support communities to tackle climate change.

It remains to be seen whether the Big Climate Conversation has any impact; we look forward to seeing the impact assessment.

The public sector climate change duties certainly need to be strengthened; we are not persuaded that the vague regime currently in place is at all effective in decarbonising the public sector’s use of transport.

p83 Scotland’s regions and towns
Our £1.8 billion commitment to City Region Deals, Regional Growth Deals and associated investments is delivering on infrastructure, skills and innovation right across Scotland, with almost £300 million of spend on this programme already and up to £1.5 billion to be invested over the next 15 years.
Thanks to persistent calls from the Scottish Government, the UK Government has committed to achieving 100% coverage of Scotland with a Growth Deal.
There appears to be no climate appraisal of the City Region Deals, so these could even be working badly against Climate Emergency goals.
p92 A Successful, Fair and Green Economy – transport
Our commitments on climate change include radical steps to decarbonise transport and put us on a path to net zero by 2045. We will publish a new National Transport strategy later this year which will redefine investment priorities to put sustainable transport
at the heart of decision‐making and ensure that transport plays a key role in delivering net zero emissions by 2045.
Work is underway on the second Strategic Transport Projects Review which will identify and prioritise the strategic transport interventions across all of Scotland to deliver the vision set out in the National Transport Strategy for the next
20 years. It will shape our ambitious plans for strategic transport investment that will deliver real benefits for communities and businesses all over Scotland. It will embed sustainable travel principles and review investment priorities in light of the climate change emergency.
We welcome the Glasgow Connectivity Commission report and the ambitious vision it sets out for the Glasgow City Region for creating an inclusive, thriving and liveable city. We are committed to working with partners to consider the Commission’s recommendations, and as part of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review, we will consider the potential for a Glasgow Metro, which builds on the planned City Region Deal investment to link Glasgow Airport and the new National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland to Paisley Gilmour Street.

We await to see the new National Transport Strategy — and whether it has any more impact than the 2006 one (which manifestly failed to decarbonise transport despite climate being one of its priorities).

Given that the Strategic Transport Projects Review is being led by Transport Scotland, we are not confident that it will provide any leadership on the Climate Emergency. The agency continues to take new road-building as its first priority.

p92 Ferries
We will set out the second Scottish Ferries Plan by the end of 2022. Where evidenced, we will continue to enhance both the Northern
Isles and the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services in response to the challenges ahead. We will continue to work with local authorities in the Northern Isles on improving intra‐island services and we will shortly confirm the outcome of the tender for Northern Isles ferry services.
There is a large backlog in investment in ports and vessels which needs to be tackled.
p92 Rail
We are moving to the design and development phase for re‐opening the Levenmouth rail link. We will promote an integrated plan including bus and active travel, as well as working with partners to maximise the benefits of our investment.
We are investing £4.85 billion between this year and 2024 to support a high performing, more resilient rail infrastructure, as well as a range of improvements identified in and through the Rail Investment strategy
The commitment to reopening the Levenmouth rail link is very welcome, but we are at a loss to understand why a project than consists of reinstating track on a route that requires no large new structures is projected to cost tens of millions of pounds.
p92 Buses
The Transport Bill will provide tools for local authorities to improve bus services in their area.
It includes the power for councils to franchise or even run bus services, but ownership is not the key issue. At its heart, the Bill provides a new model for partnership between local authorities and bus operators.
The bus provisions in the Transport Bill are useful, but it would be foolish to think that these will transform conditions for bus travel in Scotland. The bus priority investment (see above) has a chance of doing so.
p92 Safe roads
Our road infrastructure also needs to be compatible with our ambitions to tackle climate change.
In the past year, we have continued to maintain our trunk road network, fully opened the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and begun work on the A77 Maybole Bypass.
We will continue to maintain the trunk road network in line with international best practice. In addition, we will make further improvements in key transport infrastructure this year, focusing on securing the investment needed to complete the dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness – as we do that, we will continue to invest in facilities for walkers, cyclists and equestrians on this route.
The Scottish Government’s capital expenditure programme for transport remains grotesquely skewed towards new road-building.
p92 Transport of the future
We want Scotland to be at the forefront of developments in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles
We have also been driving innovation on payment and journey planning. Building on our ongoing work to introduce smart ticketing across Scotland’s bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks, we will procure the digital technology needed for users to plan their journey across all public transport types and active travel, see different cost options and find out journey duration.
In the coming year, we will carry out a study on ‘tap in tap out’ fares services
Our £2 million Mobility as a Service Investment Fund launched in summer this year and funding will be awarded to successful projects in November. The Fund will help develop innovative solutions to reduce reliance on private car

It remains to be seen whether autonomous vehicles have any role in delivering sustainable transport.

Further progress on smart ticketing would be welcome.