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5/31/2022 - HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS Spring 2022 Newsletter


Welcome to the spring edition in 2022 of HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS, our newsletter which keeps you informed about the work of the regional transport partnership and records the main outcomes of our most recent virtual Board meeting.  More detailed information about our work is available on our website: Twitter @HITRANS_RTP    

Tributes to retiring Board members

Tributes were paid at our April meeting held in Inverness to our Board members who served the Partnership over the past five years.  A new Board will be formed at a special meeting following the Council elections on 5 May.  

We said farewell to our Chair, Allan Henderson, Lochaber, who did not seek re-election to The Highland Council.  Allan was praised for his leadership during his five years as Chair, proving a most able ambassador for the partnership. Also praised were  Graham Sinclair, Orkney, who also did not seek re-election.  We congratulate our vice chair John Cowe (Moray), Robin Currie (Argyll and Bute) and Uisdean Robertson (Comhairle na Eilean Siar) for being re-elected to their respective councils and thank Robert Andrew, David Gray and Naomi Bremner, our non-councillor members, for their contributions to the Board. Each Board member was presented with a gift as a thanks for their service. 


We welcome Carolyn Moir as our new Board Treasurer. Carolyn, who works for The Highland Council succeeds Mike Mitchell, who recently retired from The Highland Council after many years dedicated and invaluable service to HITRANS. 

Since the last newsletter we are delighted to welcome 3 new members of staff to the HITRANS team.  They are Shirleen Ariwi – Public Transport Information Support Officer; Rebecca Purvis – Project Officer (Digital and DRT); and Clare Harper – Business Support Assistant (Maternity Leave Cover).

Islands’ Connectivity Plan


We have advised the Scottish Government that they need to rethink their Islands Connectivity Plan as it fails to meet the needs of our island communities, focusing on nationally managed but overlooking other locally funded ferry service and other key transport issues, such as air links and improvements to access roads to ferry ports. 


In a strongly worded letter to Transport Scotland, we assert that it is completely unacceptable from any local stakeholder position that our representations in the STPR2 process have been either ignored or overlooked, despite receiving assurances that these concerns would be addressed through the ICP. The feeling is that the approach adopted by Transport Scotland not only undermines the positive engagement and common understanding developed over more than six years but it makes a mockery of the notion that the Islands Connectivity Plan is for all Scotlands islands.


We recognise that there are significant issues relating to the governance and funding of services which cannot necessarily be considered within the ICP. However, the expectation was that the ICP would at a minimum provide an equitable evaluation of connectivity to each of Scotland’s inhabited islands so that all stakeholders and levels of government would be aware of each islands connectivity needs. 


Fairer fares advocated by HITRANS for rural and island communities

HITRANS is urging the Scottish Government to extend the national concessionary travel scheme to ensure those eligible people living in rural and island communities (over 60 and under 22) get a fairer deal.

A specific plea is that free ferry and rail travel be offered to those eligible, where these modes of travel provide the primary means of public transport.

In preparing its response to the Scottish Government’s “Fair Fares” Review, which aims to create a fairer public transport system and encourage greener travel, HITRANS commissioned consultants Stantec to investigate the current concessionary travel scheme, which provides free bus travel for the over 60s and those under 22.


The conclusion is that many people living in island and remote mainland communities miss out because bus networks are sparse and their most frequent public transport journeys are often made by ferry or train, which are not covered in the scheme.


Data analysis indicates that are at least three times as many journeys being made by bus in large urban areas versus rural areas with almost twice as many respondents in rural areas noting that they have not used the bus in the last month, compared with large urban areas.


As a result, those living in island and remote rural areas miss out many of the health and social benefits associated with existing concessionary travel schemes. Additionally, those resident in areas where bus does not provide the primary means of public transport must pay for the public transport services that they use.


The overall results are financial and social inequalities based on location, as well as higher private car use, which is to the net detriment of society overall.


The report concludes: “Overall, proposals for free ferry and / or rail travel align well with the Scottish Government’s priorities for transport as expressed through the NTS2, specifically, to reduce inequalities, support inclusive economic growth and improve health and wellbeing among the Scottish population. While the scheme may increase overall trip-making, the disbenefits of these additional trips are likely to be outweighed by potential mode switch and the significant economic and social benefits to the people of the Scottish islands and remote mainland regions.”


The Partnership Board agreed at its recent meeting to endorse the recommendations made in the consultants report and submit the final report to the team undertaking the national ”Fair Fares” Review.

Robust response to Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 

Our response to the Scottish Government’s STPR 2 consultation highlights a number of key issues and priorities for the HITRANS area which the draft has failed to address. Despite being given a remit to develop a ‘Strategy for all of Scotland’ by the Cabinet Secretary, we are disappointed that STPR2 has restricted its appraisal and proposals to only Scottish Government-owned assets. This approach has resulted in the lifeline transport connections of many islands and rural Scotland simply being left ‘out of scope’.


This is all the more surprising as several proposed interventions such as 20mph zones, place-making, active travel freeways and Demand Responsive Transport improvements are all reliant on local authority infrastructure and resources to deliver and maintain. 


Our response welcomed proposed recommendations such as; connected neighbourhoods, proposals for connecting town by active travel links and the inclusion of Inverness as one of the stations to benefit from a masterplan and future investment. 


However, our response also highlighted a number of other key issues including:

  • ·    the failure to conclude the NTS2 sponsored review of roles and responsibilities that should have      helped shape the STPR2 process.
  • ·      The retrospective application of the Islands Communities Impact Assessment would appear not to    comply with the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.
  •  The absence of clear timescales on each of the committed projects connecting the HITRANS area with the rest of Scotland: Highland Mainline Improvements; A9 and A96 dualling; A83 Rest and Be Thankful and A82 Tarbert to Inverarnan.


STPR2 is one of the Scottish Government’s mechanisms for delivering the vision, priorities and outcomes of the second National Transport Strategy (NTS2). It forms an important element of how the Government will achieve its commitment to 20% reduction in vehicle kilometres by 2030 and Scotland’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2045 as well as other key policy objectives to address inequalities, improve health and wellbeing and contribute to inclusive economic growth.


A copy of the STPR2 summary report can be found at the following link on the Transport Scotland website


All the supporting technical reports which provide further detail and also the impact assessments can be found at



Active Travel Update


The big news on the active travel front is that we have been awarded £1,100,000 to assist partners in delivering active travel projects this financial year. The majority of this funding will be used to enable partner Local Authorities to deliver or design projects identified in Active Travel Masterplans for which they have identified match funding, and to design projects ready for delivery as active travel budgets increase in the next few years. Projects are grouped under five headings, namely Active Travel Masterplan Delivery; Active Travel Project Design; Transport Integration; Quiet Routes and Mobility Hubs.


Regional Active Travel Fund 2021 Highlights:

Funding from Transport Scotland, HITRANS and the Town Centre Regeneration Fund enabled improvements to be made to a key active travel route through Black Parks in Fort William. The road runs parallel to the railway line between Inverlochy and Soldiers’ Bridge, providing a traffic-free route between Fort William town centre, the High School, Caol and Corpach. Improvements include closing the route to vehicles; surface improvements; widening and improving the footpath; connecting Inverlochy with the A82 retail park; and street lighting


Sustrans Partnership Funding:

Working closely with Council Officers in Highland, Arup have created Active Travel Masterplans for the main settlements within the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan area. These will be adopted into the LDP with the intention of using developer contributions and Capital Programme funds to deliver the recommended interventions.


The £100,000 Partnership Fund to RTPs continues this year, with the following projects planned: 20 Minute Neighbourhoods; Active Travel Masterplans; Monitoring Fund to support Local Authorities to expand monitoring of active travel routes.


Other projects


HI-BIKE Inverness

The e-bike share scheme continues to perform well, with over 700 rides in the first quarter of 2022, and an additional 50 bikes and 6 docking stations due to be added to the scheme this summer. A sister scheme, HI-BIKE Fort William, launched in April - led by Lochaber Environmental Group.

Active Travel on Trunk Roads

The Active Travel Officer is working on a report to which will support the case for improvements to active travel infrastructure on Trunk Roads, where the road presents a barrier to active travel. This will assist the Trunk Roads team at Transport Scotland to prioritise routes for improvement.

Mountain Bike World Championships

Opportunities for legacy funding connected to the Mountain Bike World Championships next year are being explored; it is hoped that the Fort William Wayfinding Strategy can be delivered through this, and improvements to active travel routes between Torlundy, Nevis Range and Spean Bridge.


Euro update

HITRANS is currently involved in nine ongoing European projects with a value of £4,587,663. A large proportion of EU project work is targeted at improving the availability and accessibility of transport services in the HITRANS area, such as increasing the number of publicly available charge points, trialling new transport services in rural areas and introducing low carbon transport services.

Our eHUBS project is making good progress, working with The Highland Council to identify sites in and around Inverness that will see the expansion of the HI-BIKE scheme and the introduction of electric car club vehicles, shared e-cargo bikes, charge point installations and real time information upgrades. Match funding has been received from Transport Scotland to help meet our project objectives, and from EST for the expansion of HI-BIKE and shareable eCargo bikes.

We have also recently recruited a Project Officer of Smart Mobility, Kelly Martin,  who will lead on our activities within this project.

The SUB project has now kicked off as part of the NPA Bridging Call – the last call of the NPA 2014-2020 programme designed to build a pipeline for future main projects in the forthcoming 2021-2027 programme. The project is led by the Local Federation of East Lapland and involves partners from Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Ireland, and Scotland, plus an associated partner in Norway. The project aims to identify novel solutions and best practices in the field of sustainable biking tourism around the NPA area, with 65% funding from ERDF. The project aims to build a future application for the 2021-27 programme.

For MOVE, due to funding availability, a further 3 eCargo bikes have been able to be purchased and will be shortly available to businesses and community groups across the region, following the success of the initial trials. This will take our total number of eCargo to 15. Local advertising is being compiled to notify potential users of the opportunity.

Inverness Campus AV Pilot is first in Scotland

We are attracting media interest in the forthcoming trial at Inverrness Campus, Beechwood of our Navya Autonomous Vehicle (AV), not least because it is the first trial of its kind in Scotland. The AV passenger service will provide a 2km route linking Inverness Campus with the Inverness Retail and Business Park., which includes a railway crossing facilitated by the recently introduced sustainable travel bridge. The corridor is restricted to public transport, walking and cycling only, with those walking and cycling segregated from road vehicles across most of the route. 

The procurement for the AV operator has now been concluded and awarded to Stagecoach who will provide operators on board the vehicle for the duration of the trial. The trials are expected to launch in June and will run until the project comes to an end in Spring 2023.

One vehicle will operate on the route offering up to 15 seats (11 seated plus 4 standing). The expectation is that the shuttle service would be used by students and people working on the Inverness Campus site to access the Shopping and Business Park throughout the day. In addition, tourists who might be staying in campus accommodation could use the shuttle during the summer months.

The trial is seen as complementary to a project in Hannover, Germany, where trialling an autonomous bus shuttle between a tram stop and a new university campus is being undertaken. Safety is paramount to the project and all UK regulation relating to autonomous vehicles will be complied with. 

While the vehicle might be capable of driving itself without being controlled by an individual, an operator  will be present in the vehicle at all times. The driving task will be delegated to the vehicle, but the operator will be ready to take control whenever they are required to do so.


National Planning Framework 4

We have also responded to the National Planning Framework 4, which is a long-term plan that will guide spatial development, set out national planning policies, designate national developments and highlight regional spatial priorities. Importantly Draft NPF4 sets out the Scottish Government’s proposed approach to how planning and development will help to achieve a net zero, sustainable Scotland by 2045. 

While we welcome the fundamental aims of the framework, we have raised a range of concerns in the way NPF 4 has handled the Highlands and Islands with major omissions contained in the strategy in terms of an absence of key National Developments in this region.

We feel that NPF4 and the strategy and action areas could do much more to address the disparities and inequalities between communities across Scotland.

While welcoming a commitment to an Islands Hub for Net Zero we are concerned at the lack of detail as to what it entails and question why it only applies to Island Local Authorities rather than to all islands.

We have also highlighted the lack of reference to committed strategic transport priorities which are vital to the area and referenced in the National Transport Strategy including upgrades to the A82 and A83 as well as A9 and A96 dualling programmes and rail infrastructure improvements to the Inverness to Aberdeen line and Highland Mainline.

A link to the consultation on the draft fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) can be found at the following link

NHS Scotland Climate Emergency & Sustainability Strategy 2022-2026 

Improving transport and access to health and social care is one of the key transport

priorities in the HITRANS area and therefore we welcome the opportunity to comment on the draft NHS Scotland Climate Emergency & Sustainability Strategy 2022-2026.  

The strategy sets out how the NHS seeks to achieve its ambition ‘to become a service which is both environmentally and socially sustainable; a health service that improves the opportunities, life chances, health and wellbeing of every citizen in our country and fully contributes to a more cohesive, resilient and net-zero society in a just way that contributes to population wellbeing and a reduction in health inequalities’.

The theme for one of the priority areas for action is Sustainable Travel and in responding to the consultation, we have sought to highlight a number of both challenges and opportunities including highlighting the unique challenges and costs involved in both providing and accessing health and social care in the Highlands and Islands.

HITRANS have recently worked with NHS Highland to develop a action plan for transport and access to healthcare in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross. Several of the actions are equally applicable to all parts of the Highlands and Islands. In our our response, we recommended that there is scope for NHS and partners like HITRANS to adopt a more collaborative approach to transport and access to healthcare in the area. 

To read our detailed response, please click on this link to the report on our website.


Soft launch in Moray of Demand Responsive Transport App

Partnership Board members have welcomed progress in the commission and deployment of a demand responsive transport smartphone app that will help support the operation, booking and marketing of non-scheduled transport services across the Highlands and Islands, including the appointment of project officer Rebecca Purvis.

The introduction of the app is aimed at seeking to increase the use of bus services at a time of rising costs and diminishing funding through a co-ordinated solution and new technology.

A Digital DRT System contract has been awarded to Liftango on an initial three year contract with the option to extend for up to another three years on a rolling 12 month basis.

The app will:

      Provide a single point where locals and visitors will be able to book a number of different non-scheduled transport services through the one app.

      Provide both the passenger and operator with the information on the vehicles position and individual journeys in real-time with passengers informed if their service has been delayed.

      Enable services to be more efficiently utilised especially where there is more than one vehicle involved in providing a service.

      Include features such as driver duty management and extensive reporting modules.

      Facilitate integration of the solution with the HITRANS GO-HI MaaS platform.


Progress is being made on the identification of services where the DRT system can be rolled out, with significant engagement underway with partner Councils and transport operators. The first deployment of the system will take place in the Speyside operational area of the Dial M for Moray / Moray Connect DRT service. This soft launch will not initially be passenger facing but allows a thorough operational test of every aspect of the system with Moray Council acting as both the operator and the passenger throughout the test phase.


Scottish Islands Passport

On Monday 11th April, Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise joined our Project Managers, Sarah Compton-Bishop and Kirsten Gow from Jura  on South Ronaldsay, Orkney, to publicly launch the Scottish Islands Passport. The event, which also celebrated our soon to be released travelogue ‘Meet the Makers’, was hosted at the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery with attendance from Visit Scotland, Northlink Ferries, Destination Orkney, HIE and the Scottish Government Tourism team. 

In the weeks running up to the launch, three public information webinars were hosted, aimed at local businesses and individuals on the islands who engage with visitors to show them the key features of the app and to discuss how they can work with the project locally, including being retailers for the travelogues.

As well as continuing to work with island businesses to share news of the project locally and to display island specific advertising, we have worked with a range of transport providers to advertise with them. Currently we have a presence in a number of HIAL airports (including a large installation in Inverness which will soon go live), rail stations, Northlink Ferries and    Citylink. Discussions are ongoing with Calmac. Over the next two months there will be additional online promotional activity to celebrate the launch and increase usage of the app, and our popular social media series highlighting island businesses and experiences will continue. 

Bidding for Green Freeport status in Cromarty Firth

HITRANS is part of the Opportunity Cromarty Firth consortium bidding to become one of two new Green Freeports established in Scotland, with the UK Government pledging £52 milllion of seed funding.  The competition is now open, with bids from across Scotland due in by the end of June. The selection process is being carried out jointly by Westminster and Holyrood Governments. Partners in Opportunity Cromarty Firth include Global Energy, Port of Cromarty Firth, Inverness Airport Business Park and the Port of Inverness.

A Green Freeport is a large, zoned area that includes at least one rail, sea or airport but can extend 45km beyond.  It is designed to boost economic growth through various targeted taxes, customs, and other incentives, including planning, regeneration and innovation.

Launch of new website to showcase Go-Hi travel app


We have launched a new website to showcase the ground-breaking Go-Hi travel app.  The redesigned website has a clean, modern design, with improved content and responsiveness across all mobile devices, offering visitors useful information, news and guidance about the free to use app.


Go-Hi was launched last year offering residents, visitors and business travellers in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland improved access to a wide range of public transport and travel services in one place, saving them time and money. 


Users can plan, book and pay for all their door-to-door, multimodal journeys securely by debit card, credit card or Paypal in a single transaction using their smartphone or desktop device. Go-Hi offers instant access to book buses, trains, ferries, taxis, car clubs, car hire, bike hire, flights, hotels, and demand responsive travel (DRT) using a single app.


The new website also highlights the wide range of benefits Go-Hi offers to companies that are looking for an all-encompassing solution to manage their business travel and reporting requirements. The benefits include centralised billing and flexible payment options with no contracts, minimum spend or subscription fees to pay.


Go-Hi’s desktop application gives business users full control over the booking and management of travel throughout their organisation. The smartphone app can also be deployed to employees to manage their own travel and assign individual mobility budgets to monitor their monthly spend.


Business owners can use the website to arrange a live online demonstration of the Go-Hi desktop platform or register for a free business account and start booking their business travel straight away. Detailed management reporting is also offered, providing companies with instant access to their total cost of mobility company-wide.


HITRANS Director, Ranald Robertson commented “We’re delighted with the look and feel of the new Go-Hi website, which now offers an improved source of information for anyone looking to simplify their journey planning in and around the Highlands and Islands.


“There’s been a huge amount of interest in Go-Hi since we launched the app last year, with over 1,500 downloads to date. We’ve also been approached by several organisations throughout the region looking to introduce Go-Hi to their employees to use for business-related journeys and commuting to and from work.”


The new website was created by Yorkshire-based tech firm FOD Mobility Group, who are providing marketing support services for the Go-Hi project in addition to the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) technology that powers the Go-Hi platform itself.


Our finances

Our Business Plan is based upon a realistic estimate of the funding which is likely to be available to HITRANS. Each of the five constituent councils within the Partnership (Argyll and Bute, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highland, Moray and Orkney) pays £200,000 towards our running costs.  On top of this, HITRANS 2022/23 Grant-in-aid from Scottish Government/Transport Scotland has been confirmed at £522,750 (the same as last year) to fund revenue expenditure to support implementation of the Regional Transport Strategy.

Sustrans have confirmed a grant of £100,000 to HITRANS in 2022/23 for the Active Travel Partnership Project. Transport Scotland have confirmed a grant of £1,111,500 to HITRANS in 2022/23 for the Regional Active Travel Fund.

Transport Scotland have confirmed a grant of £408,772 to HITRANS in 2021/22 and 2022/23 for the MaaS Investment Fund. Scottish Government have confirmed a grant of £90,000 to HITRANS for Digital and Demand Responsive Transport.

Transport Scotland have confirmed contribution to HITRANS to cover the match funding requirement for the SEUPB programme FASTER project (grant of £250,000) and North West Europe programme eHUBS project (grant of £120,000).

Board 2022 meeting schedule:   

Looking ahead, we will meet at Eilean Siar on 16 September and Argyll and Bute on 11 November. An additional meeting will be arranged to enable the appointment of our new Chair and Vice Chair.



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