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10/12/2018 - HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS Autumn 2018 Newsletter


Welcome to the autumn edition in 2018 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 Stornoway on Friday 14 September 2018 and other topical issues. The newsletter complements information available on our website and Twitter @HITRANS_RTP


At our meeting in Stornoway, the Board received presentations from Graham Laidlaw, Head of Ferries Team at Transport Scotland, Robbie Drummond Managing Director, CalMac Ferries Limited and Kevin Hobbs, Chief Executive, CMAL.


Study Identifies Costs of Trialling a Skye – Glasgow/Edinburgh air service

A working group tasked with investigating the feasibility of re-introducing a scheduled air service linking Skye with either Glasgow or Edinburgh has undertaken work to identify the necessary funding for a trial service to establish its viability. 

The trial is seen as a more realistic and affordable way forward for the proposed service, which partners agree is vitally important for the future economic wellbeing of Skye, with the potential of 15,000 passengers per year.

The preferred option involves deployment of a 19-seat aircraft - a Twin Otter – to operate 12 flights per week from the existing airstrip at Ashaig, near Broadford, which is owned by The Highland Council.

It is estimated that two years is the shortest timescale that could be reasonably achieved to gain licences and approvals, construct new facilities, set up an aerodrome operating team, sign agreements with airline operators and commence scheduled air services. 

Members of HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, were given an update on progress being made on the project at their meeting in Stornoway. 

HITRANS are represented on the working group along with representatives of The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Transport Scotland and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.   

The remit of the working group is to: 

·    identify and implement the necessary investment required to support the establishment of a   scheduled air service between Skye Airport and the Central Belt.

·   ensure that all necessary technical, operational and licensing requirements for establishing scheduled air services from Skye airport are addressed and advanced with a view to achieving this proportionately with the pilot nature of the air service establishment.

·         establish cost of any trial and consider opportunities for funding.

Through consultation with key stakeholders, an outline layout for the introduction of a trial service at Broadford has been prepared which identifies provision of: a 200 square metre terminal situated in a central location with short walking distances to the car park and the apron. 30 public car parking spaces, with provision for electric cars, would be provided, together with provision for taxi / drop off.

Using funding from the SPARA 2020 (EU Northern Periphery InterReg Programme) Project, for which HITRANS is the lead partner, aviation consultants Arcadis were commissioned to identify the infrastructure and operational costs required to establish the trial air service.

The capital investment required to make the airport ready for a scheduled service is estimated at between £1,150,000 and £1,360,000 and the annual running costs of airport management, security and fire fighting estimated at between £880,000 - £980,000.


Air policy Update

Air Discount Scheme: Given the importance of affordable air fares to the local economies eligible for the scheme, the Chair of HITRANS is to write to the new Scottish Transport Minister requesting that the Scottish Government considers the positive case for the inclusion of all private sector business travel and the extension of student eligibility. The ADS reduces by 50% the cost of non-business air travel and business trips made by those working in the Third Sector for those whose permanent/main residence is in an eligible area of the Highlands and Islands, namely Caithness and North West Sutherland; Colonsay, Islay, Jura, Orkney, Outer Hebrides and Shetland.

Air Departure Tax: We have commissioned Reference Economic Consultants to undertake research to help quantify the socio-economic evidence base supporting the current Highlands and Islands exemption from Air Passenger Duty. The Scottish Government has reiterated its commitment to replacing APD with a new Air Departure Tax that will reduce its overall burden by 50% once a suitable solution for the Highlands and Islands has been identified. Our research will feed into the work being undertaken by the Scottish Government officials involved with implementing the new tax. 


Transport Scotland urged to take lead on further study of Fort William transport upgrade

A major transport study in Fort William has highlighted the benefits of more detailed research to identify how best to improve all modes of transport movement in and around the town. Consultants AECOM have completed a study (a Scottish Transport Pre-Appraisal STAG), which examined road, railway, marine and active travel infrastructure, particularly in light of traffic growth and anticipated residential land commercial developments. 

HITRANS, HIE and The Highland Council jointly funded the study and are now writing to the Cabinet Secretary asking him to commission Transport Scotland to lead on the Stage 1 Appraisal and complete this work within 6 months. Improving regional connectivity in Fort William supports several policies set out in the Regional Transport Strategy, including improving journey times, reliability in the network resilience and promoting sustainable transport options in the tourism hub.


Inverness City Centre Streetscape Proposals 

The public will soon be asked to have their say on plans which have been drawn up to improve access to Inverness Railway Station and complement a planned £6 million upgrade of the city centre transport hub.

A 4-week period of consultation is being launched over proposals to make it easier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists to get to the Rail Station from Falcon Square, Academy Street and Inverness Bus Station and to enhance the surrounding streetscape. 

We are working with The Highland Council and a number of city centre stakeholders on the Accessing Inverness Project following successful application for funding to Sustrans Community Links Programme.  Consultants, Civic Engineers have been appointed to manage the project.   

The options include widening pavements, reducing traffic speeds and introducing streetscape features to enhance the look and feel of the city centre.  

Following review of the consultation process, the aim is to then progress a detailed design.


Midnight train to Georgemas

HITRANS is to seek a meeting with Transport Scotland on the feasibility of introducing an overnight rail service, between Caithness/Orkney and Edinburgh/Glasgow.  This follows detailed research commissioned by HITRANS to assess the potential benefits of the proposed sleeper service. It is forecast that around 32,000 one-way passenger trips per year would be made on the proposed new service – 2,000 between Inverness and the Far North; 6,600 between Far North line stations and stations outside the HITRANS area; and 23,500 between Inverness and stations in the Central Belt of Scotland and beyond.  37% would be for business and 63% for leisure.  The research also assessed potential demand for small freight on the new service, notably parcels and seafood.


Consultants appointed to undertake Orkney Inter-Island Transport Study

Consultants Peter Brett Associates have been appointed to undertake capital outline business cases in relation to inter-island transport to the Outer North Isles and Rousay/Egilsay/Wyre.  The scope of their work will also include the undertaking of an outline business case for the revenue budget for the Orkney network as a whole.  Work has just begun and is scheduled to be completed by Spring 2019

Pressing the case for RET on Pentland Firth ferry routes 

HITRANS Director Ranald Robertson is to write to the new Scottish Transport Minister highlighting the urgency in finding a resolution to enable the implementation of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) fares on the Pentland Firth routes so that the Orkney islands can benefit from the reduced ferry fares which every other island group on the CHFS and Northlink networks currently experience. Earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced that they would be unable to implement the proposed cut of 40% for foot passengers and 30% for car fares for the routes to and from Orkney without the risk of a legal challenge.  


European Projects

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 is 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. Moray Council has identified a preferred route and schedule for this vehicle which will involve it providing a scheduled service between parts of Speyside and the Moray coastal towns in the morning and afternoon peak and also a demand-responsive service for a further three hours in the middle of the day.


Low Carbon Travel and Transport Hubs (LCTT): Three projects in the HITRANS area are in line for Transport Scotland and ERDF funding.  They are being promoted by the Cairngorms National Park (Speyside Way extension/Active Travel Path development); Moray Council (Strathspey Low Carbon Hub/Speyside Way Active Travel Path); and Orkney Islands Council (Stromness Multi Model Low Carbon and Active Travel Hub).

HITRANS has committed to funding of £30,000 towards the Orkney and Moray Council Projects. Since the Board Meeting, an additional project for an Active Travel and Low Carbon hub at Rose Street Car Park in Inverness with a satellite hub at Raigmore Hospital has also been approved.


Mobility Opportunities Valuable to Everybody (MOVE): HITRANS is a partner in the MOVE North Sea Region project, which aims to enhance accessibility of small and middle-sized cities/towns and their rural surroundings by developing, testing, validating and sharing sustainable mobility business models. Our role is to lead one of the five pilot area projects, identifying ways of making it easier for people living in remote areas to better access services through less dependence on individual vehicles and more use of shared/public transport..  The budget set aside for our pilot project is 349,400 Euros.


Active Travel Officer to take up new secondment 

Congratulations to our Active Travel Officer, Fiona McInally, on her appointment for a  period of secondment up until June 2021 to The Highland Council as Programme Manager for the Inverness City Active Travel Network (ICATN). While switching roles, Fiona will be working full-time on the project but will continue to be based within the HITRANS Office on Ardross Terrace, Inverness.    

ICATN is an ambitious project aimed at improving connections between the city’s communities and the city centre and developing cycle-friendly routes along Millburn road, Academy Street and the Raigmore Interchange.  Millburn Road, in particular, will be transformed with the creation of a fully segregated cycle path, a westbound bus lane and a new footpath, transforming the area into a less congested and more walking and cycle-friendly area.

We are now in the process of recruiting an Active Travel Officer on a two year fixed term basis to provide cover for Fiona for the period of her secondment and ensure the momentum is maintained with the various projects which she has been managing and supporting. 


Active Travel Update

A range of projects across our area are being supported from the £100,000 budget that Sustrans Scotland allocate to HITRANS from the Community Links Fund for regional activity and a number of other projects which we are supporting. These include; 

Active Aviemore:Together with the Cairngorms National Park Authority and The Highland Council, we commissioned AECOM to undertake community engagement, feasibility and concept design for active travel corridors to the transport exchange and other key sites in Aviemore. This included identifying options and priorities for improving the streetscape and environment of Grampian Road and Dalfaber Drive. This work is almost complete, and the next step is likely to be the CNPA applying for 100% funding from Sustrans to deliver detailed plans. 

CnES Active Travel Strategy:Arup Consultants are nearing completion on delivering an active travel strategy and policy for CnEs work. HITRANS will work closely with colleagues in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to ensure the strategy is developed, along with a parking study focusing on Stornoway. The strategy will link into the park and stride approach to encourage active travel. 

Moray Carshare: This group has been successful in their application to Moray LEADER for £136,000 towards the expansion of their carshare scheme.  We contributed £15,000 towards their active travel budget to help them develop an e-bike hire scheme, which includes contained bike lockers which will be installed in Aberlour, Findhorn, Forres, Elgin and Kinloss for locals and visitors to access the hire bikes.

Links to SPARA e-bike pilots:  As part of the SPARA 2020 project, 8 e-bikes have been funded to enable active travel journeys between Oban Airport and the town centre and also in Barra between the airport and Castlebay.  The active travel budget has paid for the e-bike storage shelters in both locations.



HITRANS has responded in detail to two “call for views” from the Scottish Government’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee Call for Views on (a) the Transport Bill and (b) Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services. Draft responses were considered at our recent Board meeting in Stornoway with copies of the final responses found on the HITRANS website.


Farewell and thanks to Non-Council Board Members

At our meeting in Stornoway, Board members paid tribute to the service of retiring non-Council members  - Mr Okain MacLennan, who joined the Partnership in June 2009 and Prof David Gray, who followed in July 2010.

Both have contributed enormously, bringing a great deal of expertise and well informed good judgement. 

The Board has 3 Non-Council Board Members, who provide valuable additional perspective and continuity in Board Membership particularly at times of local government elections.  Wilson Metcalfe stood down at our spring meeting in Dunoon and interviews for his place on the Board will take place soon.

The two most recent vacancies will now be advertised with a selection panel of the Chair, Vice Chair, a Board Member and the Partnership Director shortlisting applications prior to interviews being held to which the full Board will be invited to make up the panel.  


New face in the HITRANS Office

During the summer months, we benefited from the services of Andrew Young, a final year student at Glasgow Caledonian University. Andrew assisted with a number of areas of work, including public transport and active travel. 

Final meeting of 2018: 

The last Board meeting of the year will be held on 23 November in Inverness.






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