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Scotland's National Transport Strategy


Chapter 2: Key Challenges

18. This chapter presents current trends and projections for the future of the transport sector in Scotland. It then takes each of the three strategic outcomes in turn and sets out:

  • where we are now;
  • where we are going if current trends continue;
  • progress in these areas to date; and
  • the key challenges we will face.

Key trends

19. We are travelling more than we have done in the past. Our growing economy and changing society have led to changes in the journeys we make and the way in which we travel. The estimated average distance travelled per person per year increased by 59% between 1985/86 and 2004/05 although there was little change in the total time spent travelling, which has averaged around 350 hours per person per year. 16

20. We are travelling more by car in comparison with other modes. The private car is by far the dominant mode of transport for people in Scotland - shown in figure 2 - and has become increasingly important over time. In 2004/05, 23% of journeys of under a mile and 57% of journeys of between one and two miles were undertaken by car. 17 In 2005, over two thirds of commuters travelled to work by car and over a fifth of pupils travelled to school by car. 18 The vast majority of visitors to Scotland travel by car.

21. This increased reliance on cars is mirrored by a reduction in other forms of transport such as walking and cycling. These forms of sustainable transport have been falling in recent years and as figure 2 shows now make a very small contribution to the overall journey.

22. We are travelling more by plane. One of the most significant changes in transport in recent years has been a dramatic growth in air travel. This reflects the availability of cheaper fares and greater choice in flights. Between 1970 and 2005, there was an eight-fold increase in passenger numbers. 19

Figure 2: Average distance (miles) travelled by Scottish residents (within GB) per person per year (2003-2004).

image of Figure 2: Average distance (miles) travelled by Scottish residents (within GB) per person per year (2003-2004)

Source: Updated versions of Scottish Transport Statistics tables

23. These trends are expected to continue. Air travel is predicted to rise by 150% 20 between 2004 and 2030. Latest forecasts suggest road traffic in Scotland will grow by 12% between 2005 and 2010 and by 22% between 2005 and 2015. 21 However, we note that in 2005 the total volume of traffic was more or less the same as in 2004.

24. There have been recoveries in numbers using public transport. Buses are the dominant form of public transport in terms of journey numbers (479 million local bus passenger journeys in 2004-05 compared with almost 73 million passenger journeys on rail) 22. Bus passenger numbers have fallen considerably since a peak of over 1,000 million per year in the 1960s, but there have been rises in six of the last seven years. Similarly, rail passenger figures fell between the 1960s and the mid nineties but have been rising since and are now comparable to the mid 1960s figure. 23

What is behind these trends?

25. It is important to realise why these trends are occurring. The natural growth in trade that accompanies increased globalisation and economic growth has itself created more demands for transport services and this inevitably has occurred in the context of limited infrastructure capacity. International trade has become more important for Scotland and other advanced economies. Tourism contributed around £4 billion to the Scottish economy in 2001 24 and overseas visitor numbers are increasing. The rise in real incomes associated with economic growth are also responsible for increasing demand for personal travel and the ever increasing levels of car ownership that are being witnessed. Changes in land use patterns and lifestyles have also made a significant contribution to the trends presented above - for example with the rise in long distance commuting and out-of-town shopping centres.

26. Whilst these changes have led to considerable benefits, they also have generated costs, most notably congestion, environmental damage and impacts on quality of life. The fact that transport users do not pay the full costs they impose on society ( e.g. in terms of emissions, noise and air quality) is another factor driving the trends sets out above. If transport users paid a price that was a truer reflection of the full costs of transport, this would reduce the demand for transport and/or help create more sustainable transport decisions.

27. The world is not static and the long term trend would seem to be for continued economic expansion. Transport has an important role to play in ensuring that Scotland can realise the full opportunities afforded by increased globalisation but fundamental changes are required if the advantages this brings are not to be overshadowed by the potential drawbacks. Our approach to dealing with these issues is outlined in later chapters.

Journey times and Connections

Where are we now?

28. The impact of transport on the economy is a hugely complex subject. The Framework for Economic Development in Scotland states: "An efficient transport infrastructure is an essential feature of a competitive economy. Located at the periphery of Europe, Scottish industry requires access to fast and efficient transport services in order to remain competitive."

29. The transport sector, i.e. logistics, haulage, rail, air, bus and ferry services, contributes directly to the Scottish economy and, like any other sector, changes in employment and output will have impacts on the rest of the economy, both directly and indirectly. Unlike many other sectors, transport has additional economic benefits by impacting on the productivity of the economy as a whole. However, the linkages between transport and wider economic activity are highly complex as transport has an effect on land and labour markets as well as on the location and productivity of firms. 25

30. Since the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment ( SACTRA) reported on Transport and the Economy at the end of the 1990s, 26 there have been significant developments in the understanding of this key relationship. Of particular relevance is how transport improvements may aid agglomeration effects (the process whereby the concentration of industries in specific locations allows firms to lower costs and take advantage of specialised labour and business services).

31. Figure 3 shows the extent of the strategic transport infrastructure in Scotland and figure 4 shows the level of transport activity in Scotland.

Figure 3: Strategic Transport Infrastructure in Scotland

image of Figure 3: Strategic Transport Infrastructure in Scotland

32. The movement of freight is critical to our economy and all of our transport infrastructure plays a role in this. For example, ports are key to the logistics chain by providing the interface between land and sea and the infrastructure to support cargo movement by sea.

33. The Scottish Government's Freight Action Plan27 considers the current baseline and key trends which will affect the movement of freight in Scotland. These trends include globalisation, changes to the Scottish economy (including stronger and new export markets for food and drink, and growth in on-line retailing), and changing customer demands and distribution networks.

34. Congestion and the reliability of journey times are increasing problems in Scotland. In 2005, 11% of car drivers' journeys were reported as delayed by congestion, with this figure rising to nearly a quarter of journeys undertaken in weekday rush hours. 28 On Scotland's trunk roads, 8 of the 44 routes monitored experienced serious or severe congestion for more than one hour per day. 29

35. Congestion increases travel times and makes it difficult to predict how long journeys will take. Reliability and punctuality of public transport are important for both existing users and in order to encourage new users. Longer and unpredictable journey times, for cars, freight and public transport users, have significant economic impacts (both from higher direct costs of transport and the cost to businesses of a loss of competitiveness), cause higher levels of emissions impairing both local and global air quality and are frustrating to all.

36. In terms of safety, whilst road traffic has increased year on year, there has been an ongoing decline in the number of road accidents and casualty numbers. The number of children killed or seriously injured has shown a particular decrease in recent years.

37. Despite these achievements, there are still a significant number of people injured in road accidents in Scotland, presenting an ongoing cost to our society. The cost of road accidents in Scotland was estimated at £1,399 million for 2004. 30

Figure 4: Transport Activity in Scotland


2.5 million
55 thousand
43 billion
166 million

Vehicles (2005)
Kilometres of road (2005)
Vehicle-km per annum (2005)
Tonnes road freight lifted in Scotland per annum (2005)


357 million
140 million
477 million

Local bus service kilometres per year (2005-06)
Non-local bus service kilometres per year (2004-05)
Local bus passenger journeys (boardings) per year (2005-06)


2.7 thousand
73 million
2.35 billion
10.9 million

Km rail routes (passengers and goods) (2005-06)
Rail passengers per annum (2004-05)
ScotRail passenger km per annum (2005-06)
Tonnes rail freight lifted in Scotland per annum (2004-05)


24 million
75 thousand

With more than 5,000 passengers per year (including 4 with more than 1 million passengers per year)
Terminal passengers per annum (2005)
Tonnes air freight per annum (2005)

Sea ports

110 million

Major ports (handling over 1m tones cargo per annum)
Tonnes inward and outward traffic (2004)

Ferry services

10 million

Passengers per annum (2005) (including CalMac, Northlink and Western Ferries, Orkney and Shetland intra-island services, services between Scotland and Ireland and the Rosyth to Zeebrugge service)



Miles travelled per person per year by bicyle (2004/05)



Miles travelled per person per year (2004/05)

Source: Main Transport Trends and updated versions of Scottish Transport Statistics tables


38. Scotland's connections are improving. The number of international destinations accessible direct from Scottish airports more than doubled between 1999 and 2005, rising from 32 to 71. 31 National and international ferry links provide services to over 10 million passengers annually as well as supporting the movement of freight. Connections by sea have increased over the last few years. Since the introduction of Superfast's Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry service in 2002, over 700,000 passengers have travelled on the service as well as 136,000 freight units. 32 The ferry service has demonstrated both very high quality and reliability over the period, winning Superfast several prestigious awards. The service has also boosted the tourism sector, with each visitor to Scotland spending an average £600 per visit. 33We are investing very substantially in a range of major road and rail enhancements to make our networks better than ever. Our plans to 2012 are already set out in our Infrastructure Investment Plan and the forthcoming Strategic Transport Projects Review will consider future priorities.

39. We have targets in place for a 40% reduction in fatal and serious road accident casualties (50% for children) by 2010, compared with the average for 1994-98. These targets have now been met, however it is essential that the current rate of decline is maintained therefore we will consider setting more stringent targets for the remainder of this period. Relative to its population, Scotland has fewer road deaths than the overall EU average.

Key challenges

40. The ability to undertake journeys between locations in Scotland and beyond Scotland is essential for individuals, for business and for tourists. A well functioning transport system has huge benefits in terms of efficiency, choice and convenience. But if current road traffic trends continue, there will be significant ongoing impacts for Scotland.

41. As road traffic levels increase, congestion may become more of a problem in Scotland, with longer delays where there are existing problems, and congestion occurring where traffic currently flows freely. As parts of the road network reach capacity, it becomes less resilient to shocks, such as accidents and road works, which in turn increase problems of congestion.

Figure 5: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from transport in Scotland (KtCarbon)

Kt Carbon

% change









Road Transport









Domestic Civil Aviation


















Other 34









Scotland Total









Source: National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

Figure 5: Greenhouse Gas Emissions by the Transport Sector in Scotland, 2004

image of Figure 5: Greenhouse Gas Emissions by the Transport Sector in Scotland, 2004

42. The freight sector will continue to face challenges. The role of ports and improvements to their inland road and rail links will be vital in supporting the projected changes in the movement of freight. The movement of freight contributes to congestion; we need to encourage more freight to transfer onto rail and water, which has environmental benefits as well as removing traffic from our roads.

43. Although we expect road safety to carry on improving, accidents and casualties will continue to be a substantial cost to both our economy and our society. We need to continue to improve safety for all forms of transport. In particular, safety needs to be improved in areas where we are currently not making any progress.

44. Over the next 20 years, traffic levels and numbers of air passengers are forecast to increase year on year. If current economic, globalisation and tourism trends are sustained, the ability of our economy to prosper will depend on continuing improvements to journey times and connections within Scotland, to the rest of the UK and the rest of the world.


Where are we now?

45. Net emissions of greenhouse gases (including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry category ( LULUCF)) in Scotland in 2004 were 14.6 million tonnes of carbon equivalent (MtC). The transport sector was the second largest contributing sector behind energy supply, contributing 22% of emissions 35.

46. Between 1990 and 2004, emissions from the transport sector increased from 3.0 to 3.2 MtC, an increase of 7%. This contrasts with a decline in emissions from every other sector in Scotland except the residential sector.

47. Figures 5 and 6 show total emissions from a selection of transport modes. Road transport remains by far the biggest source of emissions from the transport sector, accounting for 86% in 2004. Emissions from domestic aviation are included and, whilst they account for a small proportion (2%) of emissions from transport, the level has grown significantly in recent years, increasing by over 50% between 1990 and 2004. There is still no agreement for the allocation of emissions to national totals from international aviation and shipping. ( See annex B for information on the calculation of emissions from road transport.)

48. Air quality in Scotland is generally good and significant progress has been made to reduce emissions in recent years. Emissions of key air pollutants from road transport have fallen by about 50% over the last decade, despite increases in traffic, and are set to reduce by a further 25% or so over the next decade. This is mainly as a result of progressively tighter vehicle and emission and fuel standards agreed at a European level and set in UK regulations. However, while vehicle technology and fuels are cleaner than in the past, increasing numbers of vehicles on the roads have led to the increased likelihood of congestion with associated hotspots of poor air quality and associated impacts on health.


49. The Scottish and UK Governments are committed to reducing the impact of travel on the environment. Because of our increasing levels of travel, particularly in high carbon modes such as car and aviation greenhouse gas emissions from transport are rising at a time when emissions from most other sectors are falling. Whilst average new car fuel efficiency has improved by over 10% since 1997, increases in the level of travel have offset these benefits and emissions from the sector have continued to rise.

50. Scotland's Climate Change Programme recognises that reducing emissions from the transport sector is a significant task and, together with the UK Programme, sets out a range of existing and new transport measures which are expected to generate significant carbon savings.

51. The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has at its core standards and objectives which local authorities are charged with working towards. Where review and assessment work indicates that any objective is unlikely to be met by the required date, the authority concerned must declare an Air Quality Management Area ( AQMA) and draw up an action plan outlining how it intends to tackle the issues identified.

52. AQMAs were initially declared and action plans developed in respect of traffic-related NO 2 emissions in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Further transport-related AQMAs have since been established in Bishopbriggs, Paisley, Dundee, Perth and three sites in North Lanarkshire. The relevant local authorities are required to develop air quality action plans for these areas setting out the measures they intend to put in place to help achieve the air quality objectives. All other Scottish local authorities are either achieving the relevant air quality objectives or will do so without the need to declare an AQMA.

53. The Scottish and UK Governments are in the process of reviewing the Air Quality Strategy. The revised Strategy will offer a package of transport measures which will help reduce exposure of air pollutants for everyone.

54. The Air Quality Strategy sits alongside similar EU legislation on air quality. Such legislation places obligations on Scotland and the rest of the UK to meet limit values for certain air pollutants by prescribed dates. The non-achievement of such obligations would lead to infraction proceedings being taken by the European Commission, thus making it essential that the National Transport Strategy recognises the role it has to play in helping to deliver better air quality.

Key challenges

55. We recognise that present trends in transport are not sustainable in the long term. The key challenge of this Strategy is to accept and then tackle the link between economic activity and rising transport demand in creating a sustainable Scotland. Increasing public acceptability of some of the instruments that we know to be the most effective in reducing emissions is a related challenge. We do not, in any way, underestimate this challenge.

Quality, Accessibility and Affordability

Where are we now?

56. High quality, safe, affordable public transport provides the ability to access employment, education and health services and cultural, sporting and leisure activities. However, access to public transport can vary widely depending on where we live, our age, our income and a range of other factors.

57. Passenger satisfaction with our public transport services is high. 85% of Scotrail passengers were either satisfied or commented that it was good when asked their opinion of their overall journey. 36 In 2005 overall passenger satisfaction on buses in Scotland was 87%. 37 Passenger numbers on both rail and bus have been increasing in recent years, whilst at the same time, rail and bus fares have risen compared to the cost of motoring.

58. In 2005, 85% of all households said they were within six minutes walk away from a bus stop. However, access to public transport varies considerably within Scotland, 1% or less of those in rural areas and remote small towns had access to a regular bus service (at least one bus every 13 minutes) compared with 44% in large urban areas. 38 Many communities in the Highlands and Islands are reliant on lifeline air and ferry services.

59. Access to affordable high quality public transport is particularly important for certain groups. For those seeking to get into education, training or employment, access is particularly vital to enable them to become and remain more economically active. Accessibility problems can be more significant for those whose mobility is restricted, such as older or disabled people, or those with young children. Recent research has found that disabled people are 50% less likely on any given day to travel than those who are able bodied. 39 It also found that many disabled adults have difficulty travelling and that the considerable majority of disabled adults would like to travel more than they currently do.

60. Access to transport can be a particular challenge for those living in disadvantaged communities. In 2003, 60% of people living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland had no access to a car for private use (compared to 27% in the rest of Scotland) 40 these are people more likely to walk or travel by public transport, with buses being the most commonly-used mode.

61. In comparison with private vehicles, safety records on public transport are very good. 41 Whilst there are concerns regarding security on public transport and the extent of anti-social behaviour, overall passenger satisfaction on buses is high, at 87%. 42 Moreover, 86% of passengers feel safe and secure on the bus. 43 However, over a fifth of adults say they would feel "not particularly safe" or "not safe at all" travelling by bus in the evening 44 and over two-thirds (70%) of those using buses have experienced anti-social behaviour.


62. We are working to improve affordability and quality of public transport in Scotland. Uptake of the new concessionary fares national entitlement card for older and disabled people has been higher than expected with an uptake of over 930,000 cards compared to a forecast of 830,000. We are committed to a national scheme of bus, rail and ferry concessionary travel for young people. There has been an encouraging rise in bus passenger numbers in six of the last seven years. 45

63. Accessibility to our remote and island communities has improved. The introduction of the Air Discount Scheme has reduced fares, thereby improving access, for those living in remote communities in the Highlands and Islands. Passenger numbers through HIAL airports have seen significant increases with five years of consecutive growth to 2005, and on our lifeline ferry services passengers have increased by 12% between 1999 and 2005. 46

64. The Tourism Framework for Change sets out work being taken forward in relation to public transport for visitors to Scotland. Research into the travel behaviour of visitors to Scotland is near completion and this will help inform future work in this area. Some tour operators report that visitors to Scotland sometimes find public transport unattractive, for example because of lack of facilities such as luggage racks and bike storage. More research needs to be done on visitors' perceptions of transport in Scotland and how it affects their experience, and we will take this forward.

Key challenges

65. Despite the progress to date, there are still many communities and individuals in Scotland who cannot access high quality, affordable public transport. Transport can be a significant contributor to their social exclusion and acts against individuals becoming economically active and communities having benefits from regeneration through, for example, access to work routes and access to sporting and cultural activities.

66. Although some public transport may be available, this does not necessarily mean that individuals can reach the locations they need to at convenient times, or that they can afford to use the services, or that they are confident to travel by public transport in the knowledge that they will enjoy a high quality journey.

67. Looking forward, Scotland can expect to see fewer people in the younger age groups and more older people (particularly aged 75 and over). The percentage of the population who are of working age is projected to decline. 47 Although, in the future, we expect high percentages of older people to hold driving licences, an ageing population will lead to particular accessibility challenges.

68. The country is facing a huge health challenge from chronic diseases such as obesity. Obesity prevalance is soaring in Scotland and it is now estimated that around 60% of the adult population and 33% of children are either over-weight or obese. It is therefore critical to recognise the significant impact that sustainable transport can play in preventing and mediating many forms of chronic disease. 48

69. Safety and security on public transport is important for existing users and encouraging more people to use buses and trains. Anti-social behaviour is perceived to be increasing in terms of both its frequency and seriousness. Reducing levels of and the perception of anti-social behaviour on public transport is an important challenge.

70. All of these issues present major challenges over the next 20 years. The following chapters will outline what we will do, with our stakeholders, to address these challenges.