To confront the climate emergency, Scotland needs a zero-carbon transport system. We need the right infrastructure and the correct incentives to make this a reality.
Walking, wheeling and cycling must be safe, convenient choices for everyone, everywhere.
The railways must carry a far-larger share of Scotland’s long-distance passenger travel and freight movements.
A decarbonised network of buses, trains and ferries must form the backbone of our transport system.
We must stop investing in destructive new road-building programmes and switch to zero-carbon alternatives.
We must rebalance prices to incentivise public transport over private car use.
Safe places for active travel
Walking, wheeling and cycling must be safe, convenient choices for everyone, everywhere. Our unsustainable transport system inflicts major health problems on the rest of society: injuries and deaths in road crashes, and damage to health through air and noise pollution. But active travel has huge health benefits. And with a quarter of all car trips under two miles, and half under four miles, there is a massive opportunity to shift people from car travel to emission-free, healthy transport modes.
Protected cycle paths on all main roads by 2030
We must make cycling a safe and easy option for everyone, regardless of age or ability. To make this a reality, protected cycle paths are needed in towns and cities across Scotland. Only this will create conditions that encourage people who currently do not feel safe sharing road space with cars to make everyday journeys by bike. The first priority should be building protected paths along main roads connecting cities and their outskirts, and towns and nearby villages.
Pavements fully accessible and safe by 2030
Scottish streets are too often car-dominated spaces. They are particularly unsafe and unpleasant for children, older people, or people with certain disabilities. Pavements are often too narrow, damaged, and lack dropped kerbs, tactile paving and safe crossing points. To fix this, we need a comprehensive programme to upgrade pavements to high design standards, to create a pedestrian environment that is accessible for everyone.
The railways must carry a far-larger share of Scotland’s long-distance passenger travel and freight movements. Air and road travel are currently the dominant modes but are also the most polluting. In order to meet our climate goals, we need to see a rapid shift from air to rail for Anglo-Scottish passenger trips. There is also great potential for goods to be moved by rail rather than by roads, with rail freight providing the most sustainable option for longer-distance freight movements.
Rail to carry 50% of Central Belt-London travel by 2025
We need investment in routes south, to allow rail to compete with the unsustainable levels of flying from Edinburgh/Glasgow to London. Rail is already competitive with air in terms of time and cost on these routes, so there is huge potential for shifting travel from air to rail. But this will require a change in attitudes as well as investment that makes rail more attractive and interventions that discourage unnecessary flying. This should include bringing the stalled plans for Anglo-Scottish high-speed rail back to life.
Rail to move 20% of Scotland’s freight by 2030
Shifting freight to rail would quickly cut carbon while reducing pressure on the road network. Large volumes of Scottish freight move over longer distances, where trains can provide a fast and viable alternative. Currently, rail only moves around 10% of all tonne-mileage. With the right support, we believe that this could be doubled by 2030. This will require investment in rail electrification, route capacity and some new terminals. It would cut emissions and congestion, reduce road danger, and limit heavy lorry damage to the trunk road network.
Zero-carbon public transport
A decarbonised network of buses, trains and ferries must form the backbone of our transport system. Buses should have priority over cars across the road network. Tram and metro systems should be reinstated in our major cities. Railways should be the fastest and easiest way to travel longer distances, especially on inter-city routes north of the Central Belt. And we must see progress in clearing the backlog in ferry and port infrastructure, which provide a vital lifeline for rural and island communities.
Bus fleets to be zero-emission by 2030
Buses provide the majority of Scotland’s public transport. They are of particular importance to people without access to cars, particularly older people and those on low incomes. As well as giving buses priority on all key commuter routes, we must continue to decarbonise the bus fleet. The transition to electric will require long-term, committed support for the purchase of zero-emission buses and the installation of charging infrastructure. This should include Community Transport fleets of buses and minibuses which deliver scheduled bus services and demand responsive transport.
Rail fleets to be zero-emission by 2035
By 2030, three-quarters of our diesel rail fleet will need to be replaced, with the rest coming up for renewal just five years later. We need to start now with a comprehensive programme to electrify Scotland’s rail network and deliver a new generation of electric inter-city trains. This has the potential to transform connectivity between Scotland’s cities, providing a step change in quality, speed, and on-board comfort on these routes.
We must invest in sustainable connectivity within Scotland. In recent decades, capital expenditure priorities have been grotesquely skewed towards high-carbon road-building. Instead, we must prioritise investment in digital infrastructure which can reduce the need to travel and open up employment opportunities across Scotland. And to stop making things worse, we must scrap Scotland’s vastly-expensive road-building programme and replace it with investment in zero-carbon alternatives.
Full-fibre broadband nationwide by 2025
Distributed and remote working can reduce the need to travel. Covid-19 showed that many people could work remotely and want to do so post-pandemic. Support for online work and collaboration can not only reduce carbon emissions from commuting and business travel but also increase digital inclusion across rural Scotland. While the vast majority of investment will come from the private sector, public subsidy is urgently needed to ensure rural areas also benefit. Full-fibre broadband should be extended to all Scottish households, and reach 85% gigabit capable coverage by 2025.
Halt all new road construction now
Scotland’s road-building programme has cost at least £4 billion over the past decade and current projects in the pipeline are expected to cost at least a further £7 billion. Adding capacity to the road network encourages drivers to cover longer distances and drive more, generating more traffic and more emissions. With the Scottish Government’s commitment to reduce car mileage by 20% by 2030, road investment should instead concentrate on clearing Scotland’s £3bn road maintenance backlog.
fair transport pricing
Using public transport should be cheaper than driving. But over recent decades, public transport fares, and in particular bus fares, have risen far ahead of the cost of living, while car use has become cheaper in real terms. With these perverse price signals, it’s not surprising that people choose to drive. This is not only bad for the climate, but disproportionately hurts people on the lowest incomes who are least likely to own a car. We must rebalance prices to incentivise public transport over private car use.
Flat-fare public transport tickets by 2025
Public transport should be easy, attractive and affordable. Scotland needs an integrated public transport ticket that allows people to use their entire local and regional public transport network for an affordable price. But ticketing practices can make it difficult to navigate the system, to connect trips between operators, and can make public transport use unaffordable for some. The Scottish Government should follow Austria’s lead, which successfully introduced a single, affordable, national ‘Klimaticket’ as well as flat-fare regional tickets.
National road pricing scheme by 2025
Investment in active travel and public transport will not on its own cut traffic to the levels that will enable us to meet our climate targets. Reducing the number of cars, vans and lorries on our roads will also require new traffic demand management measures. Scotland must therefore develop a national road pricing scheme that ensures road users pay for the full costs imposed on the economy, environment and society. This scheme must cover electric as well as fossil-fuel vehicles, and tackle the damaging switch to heavier, more polluting SUVs.