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8/13/2019 - HITRANS Highlights - Summer 2019 Newsletter



Welcome to the Summer edition in 2019 of HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS, our newsletter which keeps you informed about the work of the regional transport partnership. This edition records recent work our team have been involved with and the main outcomes of our last Board meeting held at Elgin. The newsletter complements information available on our website and Twitter @HITRANS_RTP 


Moray Electric Bus:


Partnership Board members were given the chance to view the new electric bus, which has been introduced on Speyside and the area’s coastal towns.  Working with Moray Council, HITRANS purchased the bus with the assistance of £127,000 from the Scottish Government’s Green Bus Fund and also attracted £35,000 from the Scottish Government’s new £2 million Smarter Choices Smarter Places Open Fund for a targeted marketing campaign to promote the introduction of the new service. The new vehicle and service was formally launched in June by Moray Council’s, Leader, Cllr Graham Leadbitter, along with HITRANS Julie Cromarty and Jayne Golding



HITRANS Business Plan for 2019-20


The HITRANS Business Plan for 2019/20 has been approved by the Partnership Board. It sets out how we intend to support delivery of our Strategy during 2019/20 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 includes a 2-year Research and Strategy Development Programme in line with the recommendation of the Partnership Board discussion at the February 2019 meeting.


The Business Plan sets out the planned activities of the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) and where we will focus our energy and resources in partnership working with our constituent Councils and key stakeholders.  The objective of our work will be to improve the delivery of transport services across the Highlands and Islands. The Business Plan defines how we will move forward in promoting and implementing our Regional Transport Strategy (RTS).


National Transport Strategy & Strategic Transport Projects Review 2


HITRANS is taking an active role in contributing to a national review of transport spending over the next 20 years to highlight the importance of investment in local and regional transport issues which mean so much to the sustainable economic growth of a fragile area such as the Highlands and Islands.  We have appointed consultants – CP1919Plus21 - to undertake scoping desk-based research into the impact and potential opportunities that will arise from the Local Governance Review. 


HITRANS officers have also been feeding into a series of workshops arranged by Transport Scotland for key stakeholders across the Highlands and Islands to help feed into the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2. The workshops invited participants to consider the opportunities there are in the area/region to build upon with transport investment in the broader context of the economy, environment, social inclusion and inclusive growth, health and other topics. Further engagement and public consultation on STPR2 is planned later this year.


In July, Transport Scotland also launched a consultation on the new draft National Transport Strategy (NTS) for Scotland, which aims to set out a compelling vision for the future of transport for the next twenty years. The new National Transport Strategy will determine the Vision, Priorities and Outcomes for our transport network for the next twenty years and Transport Scotland want to know if the policies contained in the Strategy are the right ones to help deliver it, and how the Strategy can continue to support what works well and address what does not work so well in our transport system. We encourage you  to submit your views on their proposals via the following link


Scottish Islands Passport gets stamp of approval


Progress is being made to develop a Scottish Islands Passport and we are currently advertising for a Project Manager to develop and implement the project following a successful application for EU LEADER funding.


The aim of the scheme is to help promote all of Scotland’s inhabited islands which are accessible by public transport and raise visibility and awareness of what they offer both domestically and internationally. 


Since the idea was first proposed, HITRANS officers have engaged with partners at local authorities, the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, other Regional Transport Partners and various third sector stakeholders to understand the appetite for the project to be developed and the mechanisms available to take it forward as a collective effort. 


 Following a positive response from the Cabinet Secretary and subsequent engagement with the Scottish Government’s Directorate for Culture, Tourism and Major Events, the Government made the welcome commitment to “develop an Islands passport scheme as a marketing initiative to encourage people to visit more of Scotland’s 80 inhabited islands” within their Programme for 2018/19.


The Passport project will see the recruitment of a project manager (with applications being encouraged from those based on one of the Islands) who will be responsible for implementing a detailed project plan that will include the development of both a physical and online App-based versions of a Scottish Island Passport that is capable of appealing to different markets and demographics.


The work undertaken will be overseen by a project steering group consisting of several key stakeholders including those who have shown their commitment to the project by providing the match funding to support the application. 


The intention is to develop the Scottish Island Passport to coincide with Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020. While public funding is being sought to develop this innovative proposal, a key element of the project will be to establish a sustainable revenue model that will enable the Passport to thrive and develop beyond the timeframe of the LEADER project.


Match funding contributions for the project include £12,000 from HITRANS, £25,000 from the Scottish Government and £3,000 from ZetTrans.


The importance of European funding to promote green projects

HITRANS is involved in a number of green projects, which benefit hugely from funding from the European Union.  SPARA 2020, Smart Cities, G-Patra, Inclusion, Move and a number of ERDF projects including those supported through Scotland’s 8th City and Low Carbon Travel and Transport Programmes are all well under way. In addition we also hope that the FASTER Project will soon be approved 


Subject to funding being confirmed, Partnership Board members have agreed to appoint two members of staff on fixed term contracts to deliver FASTER, a European-funded project to develop and expand the cross-border electric vehicle public charging network with the installation of 73 rapid chargers. The positions will be a Project Officer and a Business Support Officer.


The FASTER Project is a joint proposal across Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland to support the overarching ambition to transition to low carbon transport systems, and demonstrate how the three countries can provide learning in relation to the electrification of transport. As well as the physical rollout of 73 rapid charge points, the project will assist with cross-border analysis of the planning and procurement requirements needed to kick start a commercial charging service in the three jurisdictions.


The FASTER project closely aligns with both HITRANS Regional Transport and Electric Vehicle Strategies and allows us to deliver practical projects contributing towards the decarbonisation of transport in the area. FASTER allows us to learn best practice for deploying charge points and promote sustainable transport in the region. We are leading on the Design and Procurement work package, and will install 24 rapid chargers across our element of the INTERREG VA programme area.


We will be supported by the University of Strathclyde with both preliminary work to help establish preferred locations and requirements for installing the EV chargers and also with a behaviour change and awareness programme to ensure adequate promotion and usage of the new rapid chargers within our area  

Electric taxis take off at Inverness Airport  


Inverness is the first airport in Scotland to have dedicated electric taxis – thanks to a Euro-funded project led by HITRANS. Electric vehicle rapid charge points have been installed at Inverness Airport, Dalcross, as well as in Inverness city centre to allow local taxi firms to make the move to electric vehicles and offer low carbon transport services to and from Inverness Airport.

 The project has been part-funded by Transport Scotland through the Energy Saving Trust (EST), and the SPARA2020 project – an Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) project part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).  HITRANS was the lead partner of SPARA2020, with a key output being the introduction of low carbon surface access at remote and peripheral airports.


The project has involved close liaison with Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) and The Highland Council and collaborative work with international partners from Sweden, Norway and Ireland.


In 2017, Inverness Taxis were awarded a seven-year contract to serve Inverness Airport, and were keen to explore EV opportunities. Last year, Inverness Taxis were awarded a loan from EST and purchased two electric taxis, with plans to expand their electric fleet in the future.


To further support sustainable transport, HITRANS developed low carbon transport strategies for Inverness and Kirkwall Airports through the SPARA project, and are facilitating electric bikes at Barra and Oban Airports. HITRANS also supported the electric bus currently operating between Kirkwall and Kirkwall Airport.


HITRANS is involved in several other EU projects with a green transport theme including the MOVE project, where we are working with The Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council and NHS Highland on two pilot projects to improve public transport accessibility in rural areas through collaboration with different partners and community groups. The two pilots which will use electric vehicles are taking place in Sleat on Skye and the West Mainland in Orkney. Another project which HITRANS have secured funding is Stronger Combined which aims to develop combined mobility services to build sustainable rural public transport services. We are arranging a joint conference for both projects in Aviemore in September which will offer an opportunity for local partners to hear about best practice and innovation from different regions round the North Sea InterReg area.


Regional Electric Vehicle Stakeholder Forum


We have arranged our inaugural Regional Electric Vehicle Stakeholder Forum following approval by our Board to establish a group to promote the use and adoption of electric mobility solutions across the HITRANS region and help to facilitate improved coordination and collaboration between key stakeholders.


This group will perform a similar role as that of the various Stakeholder groups which HITRANS currently administers for other modes such as rail and ferry by:- 


·      Helping implement the actions and policies contained within HITRANS Electric Vehicle Strategy;

·      Helping increase the use and adoption of electric mobility solutions across the HITRANS region;

·      Providing a forum through which different delivery public and private sector partners and end users can work collaboratively, share best practice and assist the implementation of respective policies, actions and strategies.


Midnight Train to Georgemas


Partnership Board members have been updated on the proposal to operate an overnight sleeper service between Caithness and Central Scotland. We have received a draft report from SNC-Lavalin on Rolling Stock Feasibility, which focused on:



                Reviewing the availability of the rolling stock options, including existing, refurbished and new coaches;

                Considering the overhauls the coaches would require to make them fit for purpose;

                Considering the standards the fleet would have to comply with, as well as any derogations that would need to be applied for;

                Reviewing the maintenance arrangements of the fleet, including depot access, cleaning and stabling;

                Options for potential operators of the service.



Once completed, this report will be forwarded to Transport Scotland.


We have also asked consultants, Systra, to re-validate the timings against the 2019 Working Timetable to ensure we have robust information.


A number of potential operators have expressed interest in running the service, which still has the options of operating via Aberdeen; Aviemore; fixed rake; Inverness portion.


When the report is completed it will complement Systra’s Feasibility Study and Reference’s Sleepernomics report.  

Systra’s summary concluded:


  1. The operation of a Sleeper service could serve over 30,000 trips per annum, as well as having the potential to start to develop a parcels by rail service.
  1. The operation of an Inverness portion is fundamental to the operation of the service, with a subsidy requirement becoming unacceptably high without one.
  2.  In the best case scenario, it is estimated that the service would generate revenues of up to £2.54m but would require a subsidy of around £3.14m per annum, around 55% of costs.
  3. Whilst this is higher than the overall subsidy rate for the Caledonian Sleeper, it is likely to be similar to the subsidy requirements for the Highland portions of the current Sleeper services.

Reference’s Sleepernomics Report found the following benefits for Scotland:


  1. Additional Visitor Spend: Employment (FTE)      29-37
  1. Additional Visitor Spend: GVA £623-802k
  2. Operation of Train Services: Employment (FTE) 81
  3. Operation of Train Services: GVA £4.294m



It concluded that the new rail service has the potential to help deliver Scotland’s Economic Strategy. First, through raising productivity-one of the Strategy’s four key economic activity indicators-by allowing business passengers to spend more time working productively. Second, through contributing to achievement of three of the Strategy’s four priorities: Investment, Internationalisation, Inclusive Growth.


The Systra report estimates the sleeper service’s cost to Government (i.e. annual subsidy) at £3.14 million. If the generated traffic (i.e. completely new trips) forecast in this report was achieved then the additional revenue to the operator would lead to a lower subsidy. That could be c£2.5 million, a reduction of around £0.6 million. There could a further slight reduction in subsidy if some freight was attracted to the service 


Active Travel Update


Transport Scotland Unallocated Spend 

Active Travel Officer Vikki Trelfer has been working with colleagues in the respective Councils to support the delivery of three projects which have been successful in being awarded additional funding by Transport Scotland:


·      Moray – Junction improvements in Dufftown to widen pavements, slow traffic, and create safer crossing places for pedestrians (up to £40,000).

·      Outer Hebrides – Tenders for design work to repair footbridge connecting Lochmaddy with Sponish in North Uist, and design work to improve active travel in Stornoway (up to £40,000).

·      Argyll & Bute – Creating a segregated foot/cycle path linking the Crinan Canal with the swimming pool in Lochgilphead (up to £200,000).


Regional Active Travel Budget 2018/19

Following a successful joint application by Regional Transport Partnerships, The Regional Active Travel Fund sees funding granted to the RTPs through a small new allocation of the increased Active Travel funding announced in the Programme for Government channelled to the RTPs for streamlined delivery at a local / regional level.


The following projects have been taken forward under the 2018/19 budget:

·      Cycle parking at bus stops 


This will enable secure, sheltered cycle storage mainly at or near bus stops on strategic routes connecting with ferry terminals across Highland. 

·      Cycle Parking at Transport Interchanges


We are installing sheltered bike parking at transport interchanges on the Orkney Islands to complement Orkney Islands Council’s EST funding to supply e-bikes to the islands, facilitating sustainable travel choices.


·      Active Travel Masterplan Action Plan


Minor infrastructure works identified in the Masterplans including:


o  Upgrading well used off-road route linking Aviemore Station and town centre with Dalfaber


·      Active Travel Design & Feasibility

o   Moray – Fogwatt path design to provide safe segregated route along the A941

o   Orkney – Detailed design for an off-road route linking Kirkwall with the settlement at Carness

o   Orkney – Designs to improve accessibility in Kirkwall town centre

o   Inverness – Detailed design to improve the active travel route from Ardross Terrace to the Cathedral; this will link to the Infirmary Bridge AT improvements planned by Highland Council

o   Outer Hebrides – Design improvements for movement of pedestrians and cyclists moving between Stornoway centre and ferry terminal / bus station.


HITRANS / Sustrans Partnership Funding


Our Active Travel Officer is also managing the delivery of a number of projects as part of a partnership agreement with Sustrans that is also supported through Transport Scotland’s Active Travel budget.


·      AECOM have undertaken an update to Active Travel Masterplan for Fort William to incorporate recent developments; review the current audit, consider the impact of local policies, review baseline data, and carry out community engagement, site audits and review recommendations.

·      Fort William Black Parks links; a consultant has been engaged to develop detailed designs for improving the active travel network in the Black Park area of Fort William, providing direct, largely traffic-free links between the town and neighbouring communities of Inverlochy and Coul.  The detailed proposals developed for this link and others in the area will then be taken to public consultation.

·      Reprint of the updated Inverness Active Travel map.

·      Final design and printing of Fort William Active Travel map following local feedback.




Department for Transport’s Aviation 2050 Consultation


HITRANS in conjunction with HIAL and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have made a joint submission to Department for Transport’s Aviation 2050 consultation.


Aviation consultants Northpoint Aviation supported the partners by undertaking a number of meetings with a range of key stakeholders across the Highlands and Islands and also assembling the evidence base in support of the key priorities which the region advocated through its submission. 


HITRANS also staged a consultation event in Inverness in March when more than 50 key public and private stakeholders heard DfT aviation officials outline their proposals within the Green Paper.  It offered local business and organisations the chance to highlight both the importance of air links to the wider economy of the Highlands and Islands and opportunities where the region is well placed to be at the forefront in developing and implementing future technologies that will help support the innovation within the aviation sector.


Infrastructure Commission for Scotland – Initial Call for Evidence


The Board have welcomed the opportunity to respond to a call for evidence from the newly formed Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, which is tasked with advising on the priorities for investment over the next 30 years to meet economic growth and societal needs and how this might be delivered. ?


The 10-strong ICS will advise on the key strategic and early foundation investments that are needed to significantly boost economic growth and support the delivery of Scotland’s low


It is anticipated that a following six-month period will be required to consider advice and recommendations to ministers on the delivery of infrastructure in Scotland, including the possible creation of a Scottish National Infrastructure Company.


Board meeting dates in 2019:


The next Board meetings will be held on Friday 13th September in Orkney and Friday 15 November in Brora.


 How to contact us:


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