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4/29/2016 - HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS - April 2016 Newsletter


Welcome to HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS, our newsletter which keeps you informed about the work of the regional transport partnership and records the main outcomes of our Board meeting held at the Harris Hotel, Tarbert, Harris, on Friday 15 April. The newsletter complements information available on our web site: or follow us on Twitter: @hitrans_rtp

HITRANS Business Plan for 2016-17

The Partnership has approved the HITRANS Business Plan for 2016/17 and it will now be forwarded to Scottish Ministers for approval. The Business Plan sets out how we intend to support delivery of our strategy - working with our constituent Councils and Stakeholders with a view to improving transport services across the Highlands and Islands. As with previous Business Plans, the programme of work set out includes a 2 year Research and Strategy Development Programme.

Public consultation begins on Regional Transport Strategy

A deadline of 23 May has been set for the public to respond to the refresh of our Regional Transport Strategy (RTS), first established in 2008.
The refresh aims to develop a clear rationale for the investment in transport infrastructure and services in rural and peripheral areas. It will also develop a strategy for improving the integration of existing transport provision and reducing the cost of providing these services. Key elements of the new strategy will include Active Travel and Low Carbon Action Plans.
Already views have been fed into the process by Board members, regional community planning partnerships and transport providers to identify how transport by road, rail, sea and air can help the wellbeing of local communities who depend so much on effective transport communications.

Six main issues have been identified in the Main Issues Report, namely the economy, connecting communities, lifeline transport, reliability and resilience, roles, relationships and responsibilities, and carbon reduction.

The Main Issues Report and feedback forms can be accessed here.

Note: HITRANS has appointed consultants Urban Foresight to develop the Low Carbon Strategy. Urban Foresight also prepared the Transport Scotland Roadmap on Plug in Vehicles so they can ensure the approach HITRANS set out for our region is consistent with national policy while allowing a greater emphasis to be made on issues and opportunities for the Highlands and Islands.

Bus Investment Fund – East Inverness Bus Improvement Corridor and HITravel

As a result of the success of two major bids to the Bus Investment Fund, we are writing to the Scottish Government to express our desire to progress further projects which can improve public transport services and facilities in our area. We have been the lead partner in the £2.7 million East Inverness Bus Improvement Corridor and the £535,000 HITravel Project, which have resulted in a draw down of more than £1million in public sector funding and £2 million in private investment since January 2014. We have also supported a number of projects led by partner Local Authorities or community transport groups including; Tagsa Uibhist, Moray Council’s Access to Health project, Badenoch and Strathspey Integrated Transport Service and the Oban to Fort William Sunday service improvements led by Argyll and Bute Council.

Based on the success of the projects, we are in discussions with The Highland Council and Stagecoach North Scotland to progress plans to introduce a Statutory Quality Partnership (sQP) for bus service delivery in Inverness. While the delivery of improved service standards will be the responsibility of bus operators, delivery and maintenance of infrastructure falls under the remit of HITRANS and The Highland Council. Our task is to identify potential infrastructure improvements which can support delivery of a sQP to drive forward improvements essential to increasing bus patronage, and to deliver wider social, economic and environmental benefits across the city region.

Deadline looms for Active Travel Strategy consultation

HITRANS are currently developing Regional Active Travel Strategy with the extended deadline of 9th May set for responses from the public on the draft document. The work will complement the wider work being undertaken as part of the Regional Transport Strategy refresh.

Transport Consultants AECOM were appointed to assist officers with the development of the

Active Travel Strategy. This included supporting a workshop with key stakeholders in December and one to one consultations with a wide range of public bodies and walking and
cycling interest groups. Michael Nimmo of AECOM also provided members with a presentation on the emerging strategy at the last Partnership Meeting in February 2016.
The Active Travel Strategy will define the approach to encouraging walking and cycling at a
regional level. This builds on work already done by HITRANS and local authorities, including
the development of Active Travel Masterplans for 17 towns within the region. It will support future local and strategic planning for walking and cycling as well as providing evidence for use in funding applications.

A copy of the full draft Active Travel Strategy can be found on the HITRANS website by
following this link.

Active Travel Maps

An Active Travel Map for Inverness is now complete. The first print run has been made to coincide with the delivery of Personalised Travel Planning work being undertaken by transport consultants JMP as part of The Highland Council’s Smarter Choices Smarter Places work. This work will see the consultants engage with staff in a number of large employers in the city to encourage more to walk, cycle or use public transport. Similar work is also being undertaken in Stornoway and Nairn.

Other active travel maps are being developed with the Active Travel Intern working closely with cartographer Helen Stirling to move this process along. Maps for Nairn, Fort William, Stornoway, Dingwall, Forres and Aviemore are currently furthest advanced and are likely to be brought to completion in this approximate order.

Inverness Active Travel Network

The Highland Council has been successful in reaching stage 3 of the Community Links Plus competition with their proposal for developing the Inverness City Active Travel Network, which identifies routes broadly similar to those detailed in the Active Travel Audit/Masterplan for Inverness. Subject to its success at the final application stage, HITRANS have allocated a provisional sum of £25,000 as match funding per annum towards this project.

Network Rail’s Scotland Route Study

We have responded in detail to this study, which aims to provide an evidence base that will inform funders in Scotland when considering rail industry investment choices for Control Periods 6 and 7 between 2019 and 2029.

We welcome the opportunity to respond to the Network Rail’s Draft Scotland Route Study which we note includes many of our aspirations that have been expressed in various HITRANS studies, including:
• Room for Growth
• InverCity Study
• Inversparkie
• Inverness-Dingwall Resignalling
• Far North S&C Report
• Far North Level Crossings Study
• Rail Freight Capability Study
• Platform4Change (Inverness Station)

Delivering the Goods- Consultation towards Scotland’s Rail Freight Strategy

We have responded to this consultation by the Scottish Government highlighting the need for investment in the rail network in Highland to enable the region to fully benefit from increased usage of rail freight.
The strategy was published on 22 March 2016, and can be viewed here.

Of interest to HITRANS is the section on Innovation: “The Scotland Freight Joint Board will consider the barriers to innovation and attracting new freight onto the railway network and how these can be overcome. The Board will use, among other things, the evidence from the ‘Lifting the spirit’ trial and the ‘Branchliner’ initiative as a basis to identify areas for positive action.”

A ring-fenced rail freight innovation fund is proposed for Control Period 6, and HITRANS is well positioned to be involved.

At our recent meeting in Tarbert, Partnership Manager Frank Roach updated members with progress being made on the Branchliner project, which aims to create a new rail timber terminal at Kinbrace in remote North Sutherland to transport timber from the Flow Country to Inverness, taking the heavy loads off hard-pressed local roads and on to rail. It is deemed to be a pioneering project that could be mirrored in other rural communities in the United Kingdom.

An estimated windblow of 230,000 tonnes of timber needs to be harvested in the Flow Country. Kinbrace is situated in the heart of the target area - between Helmsdale and Melvich. The value of the wood at the mill gate is estimated at between £8 - £10 million.

Skye Air Service Development Strategy Update

Partnership Board members were updated on the development strategy for the reintroduction of air services between Skye and the Central Belt. Colleagues at Highlands and Islands Enterprise recently commissioned consultants - Ekosgen - to undertake further research on the socio-economic benefits of the service. The Ekosgen report undertook detailed consultations with over 20 of the larger businesses in Skye and an assessment of the key business sectors including tourism, food & drink and creative industries as well as some of the growing sectors such as education and energy. It also considered three other airports (Donegal, Wick and Newquay) to help understand the benefits an air service provides to other rural areas.

Based on the research undertaken, the study found that the assumptions made in the original feasibility study could be seen as conservative, particularly around levels of passenger-related spend, business use of the service and the monetising of journey time savings. It concluded that although there is no established methodology for quantifying these benefits, it may be expected that GVA impacts would be significant.

This research will inform an updated Business Case which is being compiled and should be completed during the summer.

Air Discount Scheme

Partnership Board members were also given an update on research into exploring the potential benefits, costs and feasibility of reintroducing the Air Discount Scheme for all types of business users, including the public sector. The Air Discount Scheme reduces the cost of air travel for those living in eligible geographical areas of the Highlands & Islands. It does this by providing a discount of 50% on the core air fare (i.e. excluding airport charges) on non-PSO air routes. ADS was introduced in 2006. In April 2011 Scottish Government restricted its eligibility. ADS was to now only apply to non-business trips. Flights made as part of an individual’s work for the private, public or third sectors would no longer be eligible for ADS. This was relaxed somewhat in July 2012 when ADS was reinstated for business trips made by those working in the third sector. Further, in April 2015 the level of discount was raised from 40% to its current level of 50%.

European Projects

COMBI (Commuting by bike as a full alternative in rural regions):

We have submitted a renewed application for European funding for a project that encourages cycling. Our original Full Application for the COMBI project was rejected but with a recommendation to reapply in the second call under Programme Priority 4 - Promoting green transport and mobility. Our officers have subsequently worked with project partners to refine the project objectives and address the weaknesses of the original application in order to submit a revised application. If successful, the project will run for 3 years with an expected start date of September 2016.

The project has partners from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and also
Aberdeenshire Council. The Lead Partner is Provincie Drenthe from the Netherlands.
The total value of the project inclusive of ERDF grant is 5.5 Million Euros.

G-PaTRA (Green Passenger Transport in Rural Areas):

We have also submitted an application as one of members of the G-PATRA project under the EU Interreg VB North Sea Region Programme. The project will identify innovative, integrated transport services and new organisational and ownership models to allow transport operators to deliver on the project goals of providing a sustainable rural public transport network.

Goals of Project
1. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
2. Enhanced access, mobility and social inclusion
3. Reduced per passenger subsidy costs
4. Modal shift


Programme of meetings

The programme of meetings for 2016 will see the Board meet next in Argyll and Bute on Friday 16 September and at Inverness on Friday 25 November.

How to contact us:

Please email us at or visit our web site

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