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10/11/2017 - HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS Autumn 2017 Newsletter

Welcome to the autumn edition in 2017 of HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS, our newsletter which keeps you informed about the work of the regional transport partnership. This edition records the main outcomes of our recent Board meeting at Kirkwall, Orkney.

The newsletter complements information available on our website and Twitter @HITRANS_RTP

Electric Vehicle / Low Carbon Strategy

Our partnership meeting in Orkney had a focus on Electric Vehicle and Low Carbon opportunities within our area including a presentation by Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC and Chair of Orkney Renewables Energy Forum.

To help support the roll out of Electric Vehicles and charging infrastructure within the HITRANS area, we have appointed one of the leading electric vehicle strategy consultancies to deliver our electric vehicle and low carbon strategy and action plan. Urban Foresight offer an unrivalled understanding of low carbon transport policy in Scotland and their Project Director David Beeton and Head of Projects Andy Willis will be managing the project.

The outcome of their work will be to produce an EV strategy and action plan that is tailored where appropriate to the needs of individual local council areas. This will include recommendations and a prioritised action plan for supporting the roll out of EVs, including the deployment, operation and maintenance of EV infrastructure, public and private vehicle usage and their promotion and marketing.

The consultants will:-


  • Collect comprehensive baseline information on the current charging network and upcoming improvements in the pipeline;
  • Develop a priority programme for improving the charging network and consider how this is best provided across the different local authority areas.
  • Identify opportunities for using renewable electricity to support the growth of the charging network.
  • Consider opportunities for encouraging the roll out of EVs to car clubs, local taxis, local bus services and local authority/private pool fleets.
  • Help establish an EV forum where issues and opportunities relating to the development of the network and infrastructure can be raised/discussed.
  • Consider best practice models for maintaining infrastructure and charging for EV’s
  • Develop a plan for promotion and marketing of EVs within the region. 

Active Travel Update

The Scottish Government’s promise to double investment in walking and cycling to £80 million from 2018-19 is very welcome and we will be active in identifying projects that will qualify for funding.
Community Links: We have been successful in receiving £75,000 in funding towards the feasibility, community consultation and outline design for active travel routes linking into the three pedestrian entrances to Inverness Railway Station. This work seeks to provide additional improvements to the ongoing work led by Abellio ScotRail and The Highland Council that will help ensure the three accesses into the Station are upgraded and enhanced to better meet the needs of the local users and businesses. This contract has been awarded to Civic Engineers, in partnership with Optimised Environments and Doig and Smith.

Community Links Plus: Having supported The Highland Council in their Community Links Plus application for the Inverness City Active Travel Network we were delighted to hear that they were one of five successful projects awarded funding for bold and innovative proposals to transform streets in favour of walking and cycling. After an intensive three-stage process all five short-listed projects from Inverness, Glasgow,

Stirling and two in Edinburgh will be awarded a grant of up to 50% of the total project costs, with the grants totalling £22,540,360, from Transport Scotland funds, delivered through Sustrans Scotland. Inverness’ ambitious proposal aims to strengthen the Inverness
City Active Travel Network that connects all of the city’s communities with the centre, as well as developing seamless and segregated cycle-friendly routes along Millburn Road, Academy Street and the Raigmore Interchange. We look forward to supporting The Highland Council in the delivery of this exciting project.

Our Active Travel Officer is also supporting a number of other initiatives across the area including:

  • Active Travel Maps: Currently working to deliver maps for Aviemore, Elgin, Fort William and Stornoway and will progress to other locations in later phases.
  • Cordon Counts: We are working with The Highland and Moray councils to deliver active travel/full traffic cordon counts in Inverness, Forres and Elgin to help gather baseline data for active travel and to help prioritise active travel investment.
  • Nation Cycle Network Route No 78: Work on the section of the NCN78 between Onich and Corran Ferry is progressing well with only the bridge over the Righ Burn still to be installed. South of Ballachulish, Sustrans is working with the NCN Steering Group and Argyll and Bute Council to look at options for the two remaining “gaps” within the route.
  • Green CHIPS: We have been asked for funding for a pilot e-trike scheme to enable patients to be cycled from doctors’ surgeries to other healthcare settings for treatments in Inverness. The first engagement will be with Cairn Medical Practice but several other surgeries are also keen to be involved. This work links into the active health project being progressed at Inverness Campus.

Moray Firth Arc Railway Station Developments

Partnership Board members were updated on current and potential railway station developments on the Moray Firth Arc (ie from Elgin to Invergordon).

Elgin: The new extended loop through Wards Road Level Crossing is currently under construction. Signalling from Elgin to Nairn is being re- controlled to Inverness Signal Box, and power-operated points will ease accesss to the yard at Elgin, which is planned to become a ScotRail depot, with trains stabled overnight.

Forres: The new two-platform station is due for completion soon, allowing trains to cross without delay. Waterford level crossing is to be closed, with access via the new bridge over the railway at the new station.

Nairn: Design work has been commissioned for car parking and disabled access on the southern platform. We are contributing £10,000 towards the £100,000 cost.

Inverness Airport, Dalcross: The provision of a new railway stop at Inverness Airport is dependent on closure of the Dalcross (Petty) level crossing. The Case for Closure is being drawn up by Network Rail. Once completed, the statutory closure process can begin. Meanwhile, talks are being held between Transport Scotland and local project partners to formalize the governance arrangements for the delivery of the station project.
Inverness Rail East: Given the scale of developments east of the A9, HITRANS proposed to investigate the feasibility of providing stations at Seafield, Inverness Campus/Beechwood, and Stratton.

Inverness Railway Station: The £6 million upgrade of the railway station featuring improvements to the façade and concourse and introduction of new retail outlets is under way. Once the plans for the upgrade are finalised, the Platform4Change Station Masterplan will be refreshed. Consultants, Arcadis, have been appointed to develop an Inverness Station Travel Plan to complement the station facelift.
At Rose Street, work is under way to create new fuelling and CET (toilet tanking) facilities for the new Virgin Trains East Coast Inter-City Express trains. Further work will entail the provision of shore supplies to the platforms.

Invergordon: Talks are being held with ScotRail regarding a possible upgrade of the Inverness-bound platform (currently under the eaves) and new signage to benefit passengers from cruise liners berthed at the port looking for independent off-boat excursions.

Value of Transport

The significant value of good transport links within the remote and rural Highlands and Islands has been highlighted in a report written by transport economist James Laird of Peak Economics for HITRANS.

The report provides an invaluable evidence base to support the investment and prioritisation of transport infrastructure and services made by HITRANS and partners at a local, regional and national level. It also demonstrates how transport services facilitate the delivery of health and educational services – thereby making the delivery of those services more cost effective.

A conclusion is the need for improved cross-sectoral collaboration in the procurement of transport but also in the decision-making processes of sectors such as health and education, where changes in service provision can often have a significant impact on or be impacted by the transport network they depend on.

Copies of the report will be shared with Community Planning Partners and Transport Scotland, helping provide an evidence base to support the business cases for investing in local and strategic transport projects identified in the Regional Transport Strategy.

A copy of the full report can be found on the HITRANS website at this link;

Regional Transport Strategy Update

We received a very encouraging 105 responses to our consultation on the refresh of our Regional Transport Strategy, which ran from 12 May until 21 July, this year. A copy of the draft strategy and supporting documents can be found on our website at The draft updated strategy sets out the key projects and initiatives that had been identified to support the overarching vision of the strategy which is to deliver better connectivity across the region that enables sustainable economic growth and helps communities actively participate in economic and social activities.

Key proposed changes to the strategy in response to the consultation include: -

  • Emphasising our approach to inclusiveness of promoting “good transport” right across the region, not just focused in some areas.
  • Highlighting affordability, as well as availability, information and integration as part of the transport objectives.
  • Recognising the key aspect of affordability in terms of the delivery plan, including the supporting of the expansion of RET over the Northern Isles services as well as supporting consideration of RET on Western Ferries, following the announcement by the Scottish Government of its desire to work with Pentland Ferries in respect to the Pentland Firth crossisngs.
  • Highlighting more strongly the importance of digital connectivity in improving the delivery of transport services across the remote and rural areas within the region.
  • Highlighting the importance and value to the regional economy of active travel, walking and cycling
  • Aligning our environment-based outcome and health and wellbeing-based outcome within the key transport objectives of the strategy.

The finalised Regional Transport Strategy along with any supporting documents including consultation responses will now be submitted to Scottish Ministers for their approval. Ministers aim to approve or return a submitted RTS within three months.

Promoting Car Clubs

Our Car Club Development Officer, Sean Cowell, has been busy encouraging the establishment of publicly accessible car clubs in the larger towns in our region to ensure the public can more easily access short-term car hire at a reasonable rate. Sean is liaising with local councils and potential operators to establish clubs and identify car club parking locations so they are convenient for users. These include at ferry terminals and airports.
He is promoting the availability of the Car Club by engaging with council staff, demonstrations in town centres, leaflet drops, newsletters and adverts.

Clubs already operate in Inverness (2), Findhorn, Forres, Mallaig and Arisaig and Sean will support these and encourage the formation of new clubs in towns, such as Nairn, Kinloss, Elgin, Oban, Fort William, Thurso, Wick, Stornoway and Kirkwall.

European Projects

Appointment of Project Officer for Smart Mobility Project: We have appointed Andrew McKay to the post of Project Officer (ERDF Smart Cities). Andrew is no stranger to HITRANS, having recently been employed with us as a Graduate Business Support Officer. More recently he worked for Velocity in Inverness on active travel development.

Working with The Highland Council, we attracted the funding to employ Andrew on a full-time basis for 18 months. His remit is to assist with the implementation and delivery of the ERDF Smart Cities – Smart Mobility Project. Inverness is a member of the Scottish Cities Alliance – along with Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and Stirling and the Scottish Government. Each city is represented by their local council. The HITRANS Board has approved our participation in the £1,000,000 Smart Mobility Project for the Inverness City Region, which includes a number of innovative travel information, smart parking, bus priority, infrastructure to vehicle pilots, traffic management and open data projects. We wish Andrew every success is this important position.

SPARA 2020 Project Update

As you may recall, we have secured funding from the Northern Periphery and Arctic Area INTERREG Programme to lead a 2.4 million Euro three-year project designed to address the challenges facing remote and peripheral airports. Good progress is being made across all work packages and we are confident that a request for a time extension on the project will significantly strengthen and enhance project outputs.

One of the work packages is the examination of the feasibility of introducing electric taxis to Inverness Airport and we are assisting with the installation of rapid charge points there and in the city centre. Inverness Taxis have been awarded a 7-year contract at the airport and are committed to lowering their carbon emissions long- term by moving to a fully electric fleet. We are working closely with HIAL and The Highland Council to identify suitable locations for the charge points. Inverness Taxis are keen to trial a wheelchair accessible electric vehicle.

The next SPARA Partner Conference will be held in Hemavan, Sweden between 13-15 November. HemavanAirport is the test site for several SPARA projects in the field of remote towers, check-in and security technologies and the conference will provide partners with a chance to see these technologies first-hand and engage with project partners on experiences so far.

G-Patra Green Passenger Transport in Rural Areas

This is a project, involving 11 partners, which aims to deliver a number of Green Passenger Transport solutions in rural areas. Our element of the overall project amounts to 466,000 Euros over the next three years.

We are leading on a work package which seeks to accelerate the use of zero emission vehicles and vessels. Primary focus will be on the introduction of a new scheduled bus route using an electric bus within the Moray area of the Cairngorms National Park. The trial will be used to demonstrate and evaluate innovative low carbon transport solutions in a rural context. In addition, we will undertake two case studies which will develop a strategy for refueling cell vehicles from renewables.

We are delighted that we have been successful with a bid to the Scottish Government’s Green Bus Fund for a grant of £127,000 towards the cost of the purchase of an electric bus for the proposed new route in the National Park.

World’s biggest coffee morning

The HITRANS team organised a coffee morning on Friday 29 September to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. A total of £126.94 was raised from the event. Well done team.

Programme of meetings

Our last meeting of 2017 will be held on Friday 24 November at the Town House, Inverness. Dates in 2018 will be – 2 February – Inverness; 20 April – Argyll and Bute; 22 June – Inverness; 14 September – Western Isles; 23 November – Inverness.

How to contact us:

Please email us at or visit our web site 

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