Scotland hedges bets on future of transport


The Scottish Government has set out its plan to improve the country’s transport network over the next year, with promises to improve public transport and active travel while plans for new roadbuilding appear to have largely stalled.

Scottish ministers and Transport Scotland have published the second Delivery Plan for Scotland’s National Transport Strategy, setting out the actions underway for 2022 to 2023 ‘to provide attractive, affordable, accessible and sustainable travel options’.

The Strategy outlines four priorities for Scotland’s transport system: that it reduces inequalities; takes climate action; helps deliver inclusive economic growth; and improves health and wellbeing and this Delivery Plan contains around 70 actions being carried out to address them.

These include:

  • completion of the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2
  • the introduction of the Community Bus Fund and continued progress on a greener and more efficient public service bus fleet
  • publication of the Islands Connectivity Plan for consultation engagement on; developing design standards for; and piloting the location of an active freeway network
  • public consultation on the Cycling Framework and Delivery Plan for Active Travel
  • delivery of design and assessment work on medium and long term solutions to landslip risks at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful, with a preferred route option for the long-term solution expected to be announced during 2023.
The A82 and the West Highland rail line run close to Loch Lomond

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said: ‘Two years since the publication of our National Transport Strategy (NTS2) and our first NTS2 Delivery Plan, we continue to make progress in delivering our priorities.

‘Across the country young people can now access free public transport via the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme and we are supporting individuals and business in making healthier and more sustainable travel choices.

‘We are tackling head-on the role of transport within the climate emergency whilst recognising the vital role transport continues to play within our day-to-day lives – ensuring we are able to access education, work, training and social activities.’

The document reflects the Scottish Government’s somewhat inconsistent attempts to move away from roadbuilding towards maintenance of the existing network. It states: ‘We are clear that we will not build road infrastructure to cater for forecast unconstrained increases in traffic volumes and that new roads projects will normally only be taken forward where they reduce the maintenance backlog; address road safety concerns or adapt the network to deal with the impacts of climate change or benefit communities.’

However, it cites bypassing settlements as one example where new roads projects would benefit communites and states: ‘We will design and deliver the programme of already committed trunk road improvement projects, supporting local and regional economies sustainably.’

In relation to the £3bn scheme to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness, the document states an expectation that the construction contract for the Tomatin to Moy section in the second half of 2022, adding: ‘We will continue to progress design work and the statutory processes for the remaining eight schemes, as well as assessing procurement options.’ Transport Scotland has made almost no progress on most of these schemes since 2019.

Other schemes also appear to be stalled. The document states a commitment to t he A737 Improvements at Beith project, which has completed its statutory processes and is progressing through necessary governance procedures but adds that procurement will commence when sufficient funding is available.

Similarly, the document states that Transport Scotland will continue to progress the detailed development and assessment work of the preferred option for the scheme A82 Tarbet to Inverarnan, a process that has been ongoing since 2015.

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