Transport Network speaks to Stewart Turner, chair of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland and head of roads for the Ayrshire Roads Alliance, about where the crossroads lie and which direction we should take.
Traffex Scotland and Bridges Scotland are the devolved nation's only dedicated events for the road and bridge sectors held under one roof. This well-established event has long been home to Scotland’s engineering breakthroughs, its ground breaking policy announcements and its most exciting debate. This year’s event, just two months away on 13/14 November, comes at key juncture in the nation’s mobility future.
If the sector and all levels of government can achieve the correct level of funding and collaboration, plans for a thriving, low carbon, integrated transport system can bloom. Take the wrong turn and we could be saving up a time bomb of maintenance and governance issues.
Transport Network speaks to Stewart Turner (pictured), chair of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) and head of roads for the Ayrshire Roads Alliance, about where the crossroads lie and which direction we should take.
What are the big issues for SCOTS and its members at the moment?
From a SCOTS perspective, there are many important issues on which we are dealing at present. The Climate Change emergency has certainly focused our minds on how we need a more resilient road and transportation network.
The increased risk of flooding from both prolonged rain events and also the more prevalent shorter but extremely heavy downpours is something many parts of Scotland encountered during the summer.
We need to find the right solutions for the different type of events, which we currently experience.
The National Transport Strategy, which is presently at consultation stage, should allow a more sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system to be delivered. SCOTS will continue to engage with Transport Scotland and other relevant private and public groups to ensure the expected outcomes are attained.
On the Transport Governance element of the strategy, SCOTS agrees that there is a need to change the existing governance arrangements as what exists at present is no longer sustainable. It is essential that the working group proposed by the cabinet secretary delivers on this necessary improvement.
Following on from the strategy will be the Strategic Transport Projects Review, which will allow the Government to set out their proposed transport investment for the next 20 years.
SCOTS supports the embedment of the Sustainable Travel Hierarchy, which promotes walking, cycling and public transport ahead of private car use.
Also, SCOTS supports the investment hierarchy based on reducing the need to travel, ahead of maintaining the existing infrastructure, and before even considering any improvements to the existing networks.
The Transport (Scotland) Bill includes many elements. Of particular interest to SCOTS will be our continued active involvement on Low Emission Zones; the potential for councils to run bus services; and the impact of implementing the proposed ban on pavement parking.
We are looking ahead to the award of the first two of the next generation of trunk road contracts next year. What changes are you expecting and hoping will come from this?
It is essential that the delivery of the next generation of trunk road contracts continues to make improvements for the users of the network.
We would like to see continued and increased engagement with the local roads authorities, which will allow the network to become more resilient and allow improved service delivery.
The impact of the review of Transport Governance will likely have an impact on the new trunk road contracts.
How much further can authorities go with collaboration and what is the next step do you think?
The main issue is to make collaboration effective. SCOTS have many working groups, which make a positive impact on delivering roads services in Scotland. There are a number of formal council collaborations throughout Scotland, which also contribute to service improvement. But it is likely it will be the outcome of the Transport Governance review that will have the biggest impact on strategic collaboration in Scotland.
Funding is a major issue of course. Is there any progress/thoughts on generating income from roads in Scotland?
Funding to roads authorities has decreased by 26% in real terms over the past five years.
SCOTS sees no evidence to suggest that there is an end to these significant budget cuts, and more importantly the constant reduction in funding to the nation’s largest and most important element of infrastructure. SCOTS will be giving evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in Holyrood on 2 October on our views on the pre-budget and financial scrutiny for roads maintenance.
Can you give us some key issues you will be raising in your talk at Traffex Scotland and what discussions you hope to raise at the event?
I will target the need for increased collaboration; the need for the National Transport Strategy to deliver on its promises; and the need for a properly funded road network to make us resilient for the effects of climate change and the continued move to electric vehicles.
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