The two online Q & A sessions held by Transport Scotland in November as part of the process of deciding future transport plans have illustrated the difficulty the Scottish Government appears to be in over prioritising transport investment. The answers were often lifted from the actual National Transport Strategy 2 Delivery Plan which was published in December.
The security or resilience of the transport network is paramount, because if it fails nobody can use it! Therefore there should be alternative routes, perhaps on different modes, to highly-visited destinations, to ensure that people can still get there.
elicited an assurance about allocation of funds to rail, although missing any mention of improvement projects:
but this was countered in the same answer by a raft of road projects:
Then in response to:
The Cabinet Secretary has said he wants to see fewer vehicles on the road. Will this be featured as a specific commitment being delivered in the first NTS2 Delivery Plan?
the answer was:
The Delivery Plan sets out that not taking steps to effectively manage demand for car use is no longer an option. We will therefore continue to explore effective options to manage demand.
We will work across government to develop a coordinated package of policy interventions to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030.
Although the National Transport Strategy is to establish priorities, and projects can be expected to be listed in the Strategic Transport Projects Review, it is worrying that the above answers gave such an emphasis on road-building which is contrary to Scottish Government policy of modal shift to rail.
The Government should not forget that there was a reasonable public expectation that the declared Climate Emergency would see really significant investment in rail to permit much greater use for both passenger and freight transferring from roads.
It is certainly controversial that at this time of agreement about the need to move as much freight as possible from road to rail, the DfT has been running a 48 tonne intermodal freight trial: consultation document. Its preamble says that the increase to 48 tonnes and six axles is only to be considered for use in intermodal journeys on limited routes. It must be made clear that there will be no question of allowing these vehicles to be authorised for general use - but environmental campaigners rightly worry that an intermodal dispensation will inexorably lead to an across-the-board 48 tonne limit, as happened with the increase from 38 to 40, then 44 tonnes.