Nestrans is the Regional Transport Partnership for the north east of Scotland with a statutory duty to produce and deliver a Regional Transport Strategy (RTS) to set the vision and direction for transport in the region for the next 20 years.
The first RTS received Ministerial approval in 2008 and was subsequently updated in 2013. It contained significant infrastructure investment proposals for both roads and railway as well as actions for public transport and active travel. There has been considerable progress in delivering these infrastructure improvements in recent years, in partnership with Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils and amounting to over a billion pounds of investment in the transport network. This has included:
- Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route
- Dualling of the A90 between Balmedie and Tipperty;
- A new bridge over the railway at Inveramsay enabling the removal of the single-track signalled section of the A96;
- A third crossing of the River Don by the construction of the Diamond Bridge;
- Airport Link Road and Craibstone Park & Ride site;
- Reopening the station at Laurencekirk in 2009;
- Re-doubling of the Aberdeen to Inverurie railway line to enable much higher frequency of train service;
- Introduction of a new cross Aberdeen local rail service between Montrose and Inverurie;
- A large number of active travel projects;
- Maintenance of roads and bridges on the strategic road network;
- Upgrades of Peterhead and Fraserburgh bus stations, improvements at other interchanges and extension of Ellon Park & Ride site; and
- Improved information for bus passengers both at-stop and through mobile phone apps.
Alongside these achievements, works are also underway with commitment to construction for:
- A new railway station at Kintore which is now under construction;
- A grade-separated junction on the A90 at Laurencekirk;
- Haudagain roundabout improvements;
- Dualling the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness;
- Aberdeen to central belt railway journey time reductions; and
- Upgraded access to the new Aberdeen South Harbour.
Non-infrastructure achievements include:
- The creation of the multi-partner Getabout group to promote sustainable travel and behaviour change;
- Launch of the multi-operator smart Grasshopper bus ticket;
- The Health and Transport Action Plan ensuring collaboration with NHS Grampian;
- A number of pre-project studies to make the case for improvements; and
- Lobbying at Scottish and UK level for improvements to air and rail travel to improve connectivity to and from the north east.
The private sector has also made significant contributions to improving our transport offering through a number of major improvements including:
- Extension to Aberdeen International Airport runway;
- Extension to Aberdeen International Airport terminal;
- Improvements at Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh harbours;
- Introduction of a new airport bus services, 727 with new buses and the recently introduced 747 & 757 services;
- New buses introduced on the Buchan corridor routes amongst others.
Further developments are underway including:
- Construction of a new South Harbour at Nigg Bay in Aberdeen;
- Refurbished trains to be introduced on the Scottish inter-city routes; and
- New trains to be introduced on the Aberdeen to London route.
Therefore, by the turn of the decade the north east will have achieved some significant benefits from these interventions. These include:
- Reduced journey times across the region and reduced times to and from Aberdeen;
- Significant savings on the Peterhead/ Fraserburgh/ Ellon journey times for both bus and car users;
- Congestion at hotspots such as around the airport and Kirkhill Industrial Estate significantly reduced;
- A cross-Aberdeen rail service enabling enhanced frequencies on the train service (including doubling the number of trains calling at the smaller stations);
- Bus services from some Aberdeenshire towns direct to the airport (and surrounding employment areas).
A significant proportion of the current Regional Transport Strategy will have been achieved and it is felt that the time is now right to look ahead to the next 20 years, building on the investment that has already been made and shifting the focus from infrastructure investment to thinking about how we are going to make best use of the infrastructure we have now put in place and to put greater emphasis on issues such as climate change, equality, health and technology.
When considering whether there is a need for further transport improvements, we need to consider the region’s aspirations for growth. In the past, economic growth has generally meant a greater transport demand and subsequent increases in car travel, congestion and pollution. The next RTS will however need to strongly address the challenge of achieving this growth whilst also achieving a cleaner, quieter, more pleasant city centre. A reduction in traffic will be required in order to achieve this. There is also a need to take into account the national and global agenda and consider what the region is prepared to do to address issues such as climate change, improving health by cutting pollutants from vehicles and making walking and cycling more attractive options.
There is therefore an argument that the need for a strategy to bring all these issues together towards an agreed approach is stronger than ever. To feed into this process, we are exploring in more detail issues around demand management, rural accessibility and looking at best practice case studies from comparable city regions across the UK and further afield to see how successful city regions have achieved mode shift and improved quality of life.
New and emerging technologies will almost certainly play a key role and, whilst it is difficult to predict how new technology will change transport and how we travel around, both the UK and Scottish Governments agree that petrol and diesel cars will need to be phased out. Our strategy will need to be flexible enough to embrace the evolution of technologies and place the north east at the forefront of emerging fuel technologies. It should also be ambitious in envisaging how technology can facilitate changes to how we access and pay for travel and how it can help to promote the provision of transport in both urban and rural areas.
We are just at the start of this process and keen to give stakeholders, businesses and the public the opportunity to be involved in and shape the directions of the next RTS which will guide transport investment in the region over the next 20 years. It is also an opportunity to help shape the national transport agenda with the development of a National Transport Strategy which is being carried out by the Scottish Government in 2019. This will be followed by a Strategic Transport Projects Review which will direct transport investment across the country for the next two decades. Identifying our regional transport priorities will enable us to feed into this national review and ensure that the north east is given fair representation at the national level.
The vision of the next RTS is “to provide a cleaner, more resilient, inclusive and accessible transport system in the north east, which contributes to improved quality of life through healthier, more prosperous and fairer communities”. The new strategy will be structured around four key pillars each with equal weighting and which provide a common link to the National Transport Strategy:
- Helping the north east economy prosper;
- Improving health and wellbeing across the north east;
- Taking action to reduce impact on climate change;
- Promoting equality across the north east.
We will be working with partners during 2019 to develop our policies under each of these headings and welcome input from businesses and communities in this process. We have established this website which will be the focus of all our consultation and engagement activities on the developing strategy. We encourage all interested parties to view the site and provide opinion, comment and help influence the long term vision for transport in the North East.