Government transport strategy is failing

Web m8 motorway near livingston

New statistics show more people than ever are using their cars and less are using busses

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22nd January 2016 by Paul Cardwell 1 Comment

The Scottish Government has wasted the last decade trying to get people to switch from their cars to public transport it has been claimed.

Figures from a government report in to the progress of its own national transport strategy (NTS), released on Thursday, shows there has been a 2% increase in all vehicles on our roads, while public transport use has declined by 6% over the past 8 years.

Transform Scotland, an alliance of organisations from all sectors which campaigns for sustainable transport options, slammed the stats.

It is tragic that there has been absolutely no progress over the past decade in moving people from cars on to public transport

"It is tragic that there has been absolutely no progress over the past decade in moving people from cars on to public transport,” director, Colin Howden said.

"Whether one wants to tackle congestion, improve connectivity, or cut emissions, the evidence in this new strategy highlights a wasted decade in improving Scotland's transport."

Bus passengers have decreased by 12% from 476 million to 414 million since the NTS was launched in 2006. The number of registered vehicles increased from 2.6 million to 2.8 million in that same period.

Friends of the Earth Scotland accused the government of “idling on the transport changes the country needs” and claimed that 2,000 lives are lost each year through air pollution.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions from transport fell from 14.5 MtCo2e (Million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) to 12.9 MtCo2e but transport's share of Scotland’s CO2 emissions rose from 20.6% to 24.4%

Director Dr Richard Dixon, said: “A quarter of all our climate emissions are coming from our transport system – a figure that has remained largely unchanged in the last decade while other sectors have reduced emissions.

“The government have presided over 14% and 16% rises in bus and rail whereas the cost of running a car has stayed the same in real terms. 

“Public transport must be on a level footing with the private car if people are to be able to make sensible transport choices.”

Transport minister, Derek Mackay, described the report as an update on the delivery of the strategy that provides a helpful baseline, highlighting some of the key issues that warrant further consideration.

Despite the obvious failings, he said the report contained “good news” in that it showed improved journey times and connections, reduced emissions and improved quality, accessibility and affordability. More people were also shown to be using rail and more people are cycling.

He added: “The NTS refresh has shown the framework set out in the NTS is still relevant so I am today re-affirming the vision, key strategic outcomes and high level objectives.

“However, this exercise has also confirmed that a fuller review of the NTS is required in the next parliament which delves into more fundamental questions around how we can best work together and prioritise our activity to the benefit of Scotland’s economy and Scotland’s people.”

Howden, who was member of the stakeholder group which advised on the new strategy, however said a further review of transport strategy after May's elections would serve little purpose.

He called for a fundamental review of the Scottish Government's spending priorities and criticised the government over the past five years for building new roads at the expense of investment in sustainable transport.

Dr Dixon called for more money to be put in to initiatives to encourage cycling and walking. Over the past eight years cycling has shown an increase in kilometres covered but still only accounts for 1.4% of all journeys.

He said: “Active travel schemes that encourage walking and cycling will receive just £41million this year whereas motorways and trunk roads will get twenty times as much.

“We’re calling on the finance secretary to rethink these allocations and boost spending on clean transport. The Scottish Government’s target is for 10% of all journeys to be taken by bicycle by 2020 so we’ve got a mountain to climb.”

22nd January 2016 by Sheila

Interesting to see Dr Dixon encouraging more spending on walking and cycling when this is not a viable solution for a large part of our population. Many of the people involved in discussions on transport seem to live in cities and be able bodied, I feel strongly that they have to start realistically including the needs of rural dwellers and those with disabilities.I work from home so do not have a daily commute but I do travel to meetings all over Scotland. I admit to using my car for local transport needs because the bus service in my village is hourly to Inverness and now only twice a day to Dingwall. Using the bus takes on average 3 times longer than taking my car so I am much more productive to my employers if travelling locally be car.For longer journeys I use train or bus and can get to Edinburgh for 1000 BUT in order to do so I have to travel 17 miles to the station by car as there is no bus service early morning. For the second train south I could use a station 5 miles away but the arrival of that train in Inverness gives insufficient time to guarantee connection with the train south. When I have raised this I have been told it is a different operator so connection cannot be guaranteed and why don't I wait for the next train 30 minutes later? This would get me to Edinburgh too late for most of the meetings/events I attend. The response was why did I not consider staying overnight!Furthermore there has been a campaign to reopen my local station but this has been ruled out because we have a station 6 miles south and another 4 miles north. No consideration has been given of the reduction in bus service or the fact that there are no buses connecting with the few trains on the line. I would therefore require a car to be parked at the station - why would anyone do this if it is cheaper to use the car and pointless having an expensive resource siting unused?Moving on to those with disabilities. The Equalities Act 2010 states that everyone has a right to access transport and if the service is not accessible then the operator should provide an accessible alternative. Scotrail have been proactive on this and will offer accessible transport to the nearest accessible station if your local station is not accessible (clear of steps). However, when challenged on this bus operators and local authorities hide behind the Public Service Vehicle Regulations 2000. All single deck buses are now accessible and double deck will follow next year but coaches have until 2020 to comply. Some already provide wheelchair access but because of coach design non wheelchair users have to climb steps to get to seats. For many people with joint problems, sight difficulties this is a barrier to them being able to travel. As yet companies operating registered routes using coaches have not come up with a solution.And finally, there are massive areas of Scotland with virtually no public transport (if any). Even taxis are a rarity in large areas of Scotland. Central Belt based transport professionals have a blind spot on this, I wish they would come up and experience some of the problems.