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STPR2: Lack of traffic demand management spoils transport infrastructure strategy

Published 13 April 2022 by Transform Scotland

traffic queue by steadyrollin’ on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Transform Scotland has today published its response to the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2).

The proposals have much to welcome, with a welcome set of proposals for investment in active travel; expanded mass transit networks in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow; and a shift from new road-building to road maintenance, as a response to the climate crisis and to improve the climate resilence of transport networks.

However, Transform is sceptical that the proposals have sufficient urgency in implementation, and that they contain the measures which will meet the Government’s 20% traffic reduction target.

Transform director Colin Howden said:

“STPR2 includes not only infrastructure investment priorities but also seeks to influence travel choice and behaviour. But behaviour change measures to encourage the switch to public transport will fail if not accompanied by price signals which incentivise public transport use and disincentivise excessive levels of car use. In essence, it is of little use encouraging people to use public transport if it remains unaffordable compared to car use — and decades of price data demonstrate that public transport has become progressively less affordable compared to the car. The failure to set out any road traffic demand management measures is the critical failure within STPR2. It also puts the credibility of the Scottish Government’s target to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030 into question.”

On the infrastructure priorities set out in STPR2, Howden said:

“We welcome that active travel infrastructure is recognised as strategic to the transport network. There are welcome proposals on bus prioritisation, and we agree with many of the priorities laid out for inter-city rail and moving more freight to rail.

“It’s in the area of roads policy where STPR2 changes most from previous years’ infrastructure priorities. While 2008’s STPR1 led to a multi-billion pound road-building programme which directly damaged the prospects of Scotland meeting its legally-binding climate targets, STPR2 largely focuses on maintaining and enhancing the existing road network.

“However, it looks like the dinosaur road-builders at Transport Scotland plan to make their final stand in the Western Isles, where they propose a series of inter-island tunnels. These proposals are preposterous. The schemes would have vast project costs — we would estimate several billions of pounds — and risibly poor cost-benefit scores. Furthermore, precisely no information is presented on the environmental consequences of such schemes, let alone the climate implications involved in their construction, and as such we are not confident that their environmental impact would not be catastrophic in extent. There are ample other opportunities for investment in the infrastructure in the Islands which would be of greater value; in the area of transport, measures to tackle the negative unintended consequences of the rapid expansion of car-based tourism in these areas would be of greater value. As such, pursuing tunnels and/or bridges at excessive cost would inevitably entail a vast opportunity cost for more appropriate targets for investment.”