Cleaner air for Scotland: the road to a healthier future

A strategy setting out the Scottish Government's proposals for delivering further improvements to air quality.

6. Transport

A Scotland that reduces transport emissions by supporting the uptake of low and zero emission fuels and technologies, promoting a modal shift away from the car, through active travel (walking and cycling) and reducing the need to travel.

Transport today – the key issues

6.1 Transport generates just over one-sixth of Scotland’s total PM 10 and over one-third of the total emissions of nitrogen oxides ( NOx) (see Table 1). The majority of these emissions are caused by road transport [59] . Emissions of NOx from road transport are improving – as shown in Figures 10 and 12 – but not at the expected rate, considering the tightening of engine emission standards in recent years. Summaries of Scottish transport statistics and the associated emissions are provided in Figures 11 and 12 respectively.

Figure 10. Changes in UK NOx emissions by vehicle type

Figure 10. Changes in UK NOx emissions by vehicle type

Source – ‘Air Quality and Road Transport: Impacts and Solutions’ – Ricardo Energy & Environment report for the RAC Foundation (see footnote 18).

Figure 11. Summary of transport statistics for Scotland in 2014.

Figure 11. Summary of transport statistics for Scotland in 2014.
Source – Transport Scotland’s Transport and Travel in Scotland 2014: Overview of travel trends in Scotland [60] and Scottish Transport Statistics No 33 2014 Edition as published by Transport Scotland [61] .

Figure 12. Summary of transport emissions statistics for Scotland in 2014.

Figure 12. Summary of transport emissions statistics for Scotland in 2014.
Source – Scottish Transport Statistics No 33 2014 Edition (see footnote 61)

6.2 Transport Scotland [62] is the Scottish Government’s national transport agency. National transport projects and policies in Scotland are governed by the National Transport Strategy [63] , which includes a strategic outcome to ‘reduce emissions, to tackle the issues of climate change, air quality and health improvement which impact on our high-level objective for protecting the environment and improving health.’ To achieve this strategic outcome Transport Scotland has prioritised:

  • seeking low carbon technology and infrastructure with reduced emissions; and
  • demonstrating environmental sustainability through the delivery of environmental protection across Transport Scotland’s operations.

6.3 A refresh of the National Transport Strategy will be completed by the end of 2015.

6.4 At a local level, regional transport partnerships [64] ( RTPs) bring together local authorities and others under regional transport strategies that influence when and how projects and proposals are delivered. Local transport strategies also have an important role to play.

Transport tomorrow – what more do we need to do?

6.5 Reducing transport emissions does not simply equate to reducing volumes of traffic or numbers of journeys, although this approach would help to achieve cleaner air. As ‘air pollution is a systematic issue that requires a long-term approach across interdependent sectors’, [65] a combination of the following strategies [66] endorsed by the United Nations Environment Programme is needed. Collectively, these will contribute to reducing emissions from transport that affect air quality:

  • Avoiding travel through (i) spatial planning and (ii) digital technology;
  • Making a shift to lower emission transport modes and active travel;
  • Using intelligent traffic system management to make the most efficient use of the existing transport assets; and
  • Improving engine technology and increasing the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles that use a new network of vehicle charging infrastructure.

Avoiding travel

6.6 The greenest mile is the mile not travelled; zero travel equates to zero emissions from transport. Scotland’s Digital Future [67] and the associated Scottish Public Sector Green Information and Communications Technology ( ICT) Strategy [68] can enable employers to minimise emissions from staff commutes by promoting more homeworking through a corporate travel plan. National Planning Framework ( NPF3) [69] has identified building a digital fibre network to link up our most peripheral communities as a national development. Digital technologies will allow people to connect without travelling by providing high-quality mobile and fixed broadband connections for communities and businesses in rural and urban areas. Employers should also consider adopting mobile and flexible working encompassing a mix of working from home, working from multiple offices that may be closer to the employee’s home or non-office mobile working.

We will:

Ensure that all local authorities have a corporate travel plan (perhaps within their carbon management plan) that is consistent with any local air quality action plan

Active travel – walking and cycling

6.7 Active travel is inextricably linked to improving air quality, reducing environmental noise and easing congestion. The National Walking Strategy [70] and the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland set out clear ambitions for increasing the proportion of short journeys completed by walking or cycling. The shared vision in the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland [71] is that, by 2020, 10% of everyday journeys will be completed by bike. Helping people to choose active modes of travel for short journeys rather than using the car has many clear and proven benefits including reducing air pollution, improving people’s quality of life and physical and mental wellbeing. In turn, these gains can improve workforce productivity and children’s attainment along with economic gains such as saving money on healthcare and supporting local economies through higher footfall and visitor spending.

6.8 In recent years the Scottish Government has invested significant resources in improving the walking and cycling infrastructure and encouraging people to use these modes of travel. For example, in 2014/2015 Transport Scotland invested £19 million in the Community Links [72] programme, administered by Sustrans Scotland, to build new or improve existing short walking and cycling paths in communities across Scotland. Our investment was matched by £25 million from local authorities and other delivery partners. In 2015/2016, £20 million has been committed to the Community Links programme,

which, in turn, will attract £24 million of match funding. Since it was launched in 2011, Community Links has supported the construction of 190 kilometres of path.

6.9 In addition, in 2015/2016 Transport Scotland has allocated £5 million to the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme (administered by Paths for All) for behaviour change initiatives around travel. This is being matched by £6.5 million from local authorities and their partners. A significant proportion of this funding is being used to promote active travel for short journeys, particularly in areas where there has been significant investment in new and enhanced infrastructure in recent years.

6.10 To achieve the ambitions set out below, we must keep improving conditions for walking and cycling, whilst continuing to tackle the cultural, attitudinal and perceived barriers that prevent more people from choosing to walk or cycle for short journeys. Another focus will be to improve the integration between active and public transport.

We will:

Finalise and deliver the National Walking Strategy Delivery Plan by 2016

Work collaboratively with partners to deliver our shared vision in the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland that by 2020, 10% of everyday journeys will be made by bike

Public transport

6.11 Buses are the most frequently used and most widely available mode of public transport in Scotland. The bus market is loosely regulated and services are diverse, reflecting the characteristics of the different communities they serve. Most services are provided on a commercial basis, with Transport Scotland providing substantial financial support in the form of the Bus Service Operators Grant. Around 20% of bus services (in terms of kilometres) are provided under contract to local transport authorities (that is local authorities and, in

some areas, regional transport partnerships) to meet social needs that otherwise would not be met.

6.12 As well as through funding, local transport and roads authorities can strongly influence services at the local level by:

  • providing a suitable infrastructure; and
  • using regulatory tools, such as Quality Partnership Schemes and Quality Contract Schemes.

6.13 Suitable infrastructure can help operators make services more attractive or affordable and encourage modal shift (of the travelling public). Quality Partnership Schemes and Quality Contract Schemes can be used to attach conditions to vehicles and services in order to deliver a range of objectives, including those relating to air quality. Through the Bus Investment and Scottish Green Bus Funds, Transport Scotland supports local transport authorities and operators to invest in infrastructure and greener vehicles. Transport Scotland is also working actively with transport operators to deliver nationwide integrated ticketing arrangements across operators and modes of transport, which will attract more people to use public transport instead of cars.

6.14 By speeding up the introduction of newer, lower emission buses, the Scottish Green Bus Fund has contributed to improving air quality and reducing carbon. In the last five years, the Fund has helped support over £200 million of investment by bus operators on new fleet.

6.15 The rail industry’s impact on air quality is generally local to large stations. Network Rail has taken action to prevent the majority of vehicles (mostly taxis) accessing the interior of prominent Scottish stations such as Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley. The electrification of Scotland’s rail network will also minimise air pollution from trains.

Case study 3

Dundee – Scotland’s Electric Vehicle Capital

Dundee is already recognised as one of the UK’s leading cities for EV adoption and has ambitious plans to build on this and become globally recognised as a leader for innovative EV development.

With 60 electric cars and vans in their fleet, Dundee City Council already have more EVs than any other council in the UK. They also have ambitions to become one of the first councils in the world to have a 100% ultra-low emission fleet of light duty vehicles.

The Council have also been an active partner in Transport Scotland’s EV infrastructure programme, ChargePlace Scotland. Indeed, the city hosts the UK’s first and most extensive urban rapid charger network.

It is not just the Council taking action. Local taxi operator 203020 Electric now boasts the UK’s largest electric taxi fleet, comprising over 40 EVs, with plans to significantly expand this number in the near future.

Furthermore, the University of Dundee has extended its EV fleet to include seven electric vans, as well as rolling out 12 electric bikes, aiming for a nine-tonne saving in CO 2 emissions and £10,000 cost reduction per year.

We will:

  • Review support for green buses by 2016, including the scope for supporting retrofitting existing vehicles, taking account of technological and market developments and the need to tackle air quality as well as climate change
  • Evaluate the Bus Investment Fund in 2016 to learn from supported projects and inform decisions on options for future support for local projects to improve public transport
  • By 2016, review the Bus Operators Grant including options to incentivise the use of low emission buses
  • By 2016, review guidance and legislation on the powers of local transport authorities regarding bus services to see if they could be made more effective and to ensure enough priority is given to air quality alongside other considerations

Low emission vehicles and fuels

6.16 Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles [73] sets out the measures that Transport Scotland and its partners will take to accelerate the uptake of plug-in vehicles. This will help Scotland achieve the vision of:

  • freeing Scotland’s towns, cities and communities from the damaging effects of petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles by 2050; and
  • phasing out half of all petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles from our urban environments by 2030.

6.17 Significant progress has been made towards the actions set out in the Roadmap. For example, the ChargePlace Scotland charging network for electric vehicles now has over 800 public charging bays (over 400 units) across Scotland including rapid charging units to support Scotland’s strategic road network.

6.18 In addition, the Switched On Fleets initiative is supporting the uptake of electric vehicles ( EVs) into public sector fleets. This initiative offers free, evidence-based analysis, identifying new opportunities for the cost effective deployment of EVs in each of Scotland’s 32 community planning partnerships. Transport Scotland is backing this with £2.5 million of grant funding to enable these partnerships to buy or lease EVs. The initiative is being run from 2014 to 2016, and the first year of operation saw 145 new EVs introduced across the fleets of 22 public sector organisations.

6.19 There are more than 20,000 taxis and private hire cars in Scotland, offering further potential for increased adoption of EVs. Dundee is leading the way with the UK’s largest electric taxi fleet (see case study 3), in tandem with Dundee City Council’s approach to decarbonising its fleet. Through the Energy Saving Trust’s Low Carbon Transport Loan, Transport Scotland is also offering an interest-free loan of up to £100,000 to businesses, including taxi operators, to encourage them to switch to EVs. A loan of up to £50,000 is available to individuals.

6.20 To ensure momentum is maintained, Transport Scotland will begin a review of the Roadmap in 2015/2016 to assess progress towards these actions and develop an action plan for plug-in vehicle for 2015 onwards.

6.21 Transport Scotland is also working with a range of partners to identify how best to support new technologies and alternative fuels which can help reduce transport emissions. For example, it is supporting the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project [74] which comprises Europe’s largest fleet of zero emission hydrogen fuel cell buses as well as the UK’s first large scale green hydrogen production and refuelling facility (see case study 4). Transport Scotland is also engaging with industry on the role that less carbon intensive fuels such as liquid petroleum gas, compressed natural gas and biofuels can play in the transition to a near zero emission road transport sector in 2050.

We will:

  • Continue delivering actions contained in Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-In Vehicles
  • Review the Roadmap and develop a post-2015 plug-in vehicle action plan
  • Work with key partners to investigate the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel and explore wider environmental and economic opportunities to use hydrogen for energy applications – especially in promoting renewables, energy balancing and storage
  • Continue to engage with our partners on the role less carbon intensive fuels such as LPG, CNG and biofuels can play in the transition to a near zero emission road transport sector by 2050


6.22 At the national level, Transport Scotland is working with the Scottish Freight Logistics Advisory Group to develop freight efficiencies. At a regional level, Freight Quality Partnerships or forums have been set up by most regional transport partnerships to address the environmental impact of freight transport. At the local authority level, several freight environmental recognition schemes have been initiated in Scotland to improve the environmental performance of the road freight sector.

We will:

  • Encourage each local authority with an AQMA to establish a Freight Quality Partnership (or utilise an existing RTP Freight Quality Partnership) and consider appropriate measures for improving local air quality by 2017
  • Encourage freight quality partnerships to extend their activities to include consideration of the environmental impact of freight transport

Case study 4

Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project – H2 Aberdeen

Key industry and public sector organisations joined forces in 2015 to fund and deliver the world’s largest demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell buses in Aberdeen. The £20 million project sought to establish the Aberdeen City region as a world-leading zone for low carbon technology, and to stimulate a hydrogen economy. To date, the initiative has achieved the following:

  • production of a hydrogen strategy for the city region;
  • delivery of state-of-the-art green hydrogen production and refuelling station in the city; and
  • the introduction of 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses – Europe’s largest fleet, plus a small pool of hydrogen/diesel hybrid vans and fuel cell range extended electric vans.

The buses emit only water vapour, reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, as well as being quieter and smoother running. Building on Aberdeen’s worldwide reputation in the energy industry, the project is enabling the development and practical deployment of hydrogen infrastructure. This work will open the way for wider new and innovative hydrogen technology projects, accelerating commercial use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel.

Case study 5

Car club benefits – Co-wheels Car Club, Aberdeen

The Developing Car Clubs in Scotland ( DCCS) programme, administered by CarPlus, aims to reduce car dependency. The 8,000 plus members of car clubs are either individuals or corporate members from both public and private sector organisations. Each car club vehicle is estimated to take the place of 13 privately owned vehicles. Key benefits of this new approach to accessing cars and vans when required, rather than owning, are
as follows:

  • Helps to support improvements in air quality emissions by providing cleaner electric, hybrid, and low emission vehicles, as a shared resource.
  • The average car club vehicle produces 37% less carbon from tailpipe emissions than the average car in Scotland.
  • Car club members walk, cycle and take public transport more than average.

Aberdeen Co-wheels Car Club replaced the local authority pool fleet in 2012. The club initially ran 12 vehicles located on on-street bays in 2012, rising to 38 in 2015 with 50% of these being electric vehicles, and now has over 1,050 members.

Aberdeen City Council has noted that “The car club reduces the headache of owning your own car and also helps reduce parking pressure, congestion and improve air quality.”

Regional and local transport partnerships

6.23 National, regional and local transport authorities all play a role in improving air quality. Including RTPs in the governance of CAFS alongside central and local government will enhance and strengthen this role.

6.24 Regional and local transport strategies and local development plans must provide a clear policy statement and associated objectives for promoting and increasing modal shift, low carbon vehicles and active travel (particularly in urban areas), travel plans and car clubs (see case study 5). These strategies should also demonstrate an awareness of Scottish and European legislative requirements for air quality.

6.25 Transport Scotland will review how air quality considerations are reflected in associated guidance as part of a wider review during 2016, after the National Transport Strategy refresh has been concluded.

6.26 Local transport strategy guidance already includes a section on Local Air Quality Management. This includes promoting sustainable and active travel choices. Regional transport strategy guidance is similar; it refers to UK and Scottish air quality strategies and the importance of air quality as one of the social and environmental impacts of transport.

We will:

  • Review existing Ministerial guidance on regional and local transport strategies in the light of the refreshed National Transport Strategy. In doing so, we will consider how:
    • air quality management should be addressed; and
    • RTPs and local authorities should use their transport strategies to support a modal shift towards sustainable and active travel, including through Smarter Choices initiatives, and promote the take up of greener vehicles

Intelligent Transport System management

6.27 Local authorities are being challenged to optimise the operation of road space within urban areas. Traffic volumes in Scotland have increased by approximately 5% since 2003 whilst journeys made by bicycle have risen over the same period [75] . Both modes of travel make use of our existing road networks, with new urban cycle networks altering the physical road layout in some cases. Intelligent transport systems are already being employed on national and local roads to optimise the flow of traffic across all modes of transport (see case studies 7 and 8 for Fife and Newcastle City Councils respectively). The challenge for local authorities is to put in place traffic management procedures through intelligent transport systems to find a balance that:

  • optimises the movement of existing traffic to minimise stop-start movements of vehicles within Air Quality Management Areas ( AQMAs); and
  • makes short distance active travel routes (within and beyond large urban areas and AQMAs in particular) more attractive by considering prioritising urban cycling corridors through harmonised traffic-junction light settings. This would support the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland vision of encouraging modal shift to cycling, particularly for short urban journeys of less than two miles.

6.28 This re-examination will be supported by the implementation of the National Low Emission Framework ( NLEF, covered in Section 11), which will focus on:

  • the range of intelligent transport systems management solutions that local authorities are currently adopting within AQMAs (for example, see case study 6); and
  • any alterations or amendments to intelligent transport systems that should be considered (or research that could utilise intelligent transport systems to reduce air quality impacts, as shown in case study 7 from Newcastle).

Case study 6

Intelligent Traffic System ( ITS) at the Bonnygate – Fife Council

Fife Council has prioritised the Intelligent Transport System at the Bonnygate in Cupar to manage air quality improvement. ITS can be configured to not only optimise traffic flow, but also to contribute to congestion reduction, and minimising the air quality impact of street canyons. The co-ordinated system of traffic lights and new pedestrian control realised significant air quality improvements for NO 2 and PM 10, by allowing for more rapid dilution and dispersal of pollutants through traffic queue relocation into a wider and more open environment westwards of the Bonnygate:

  • The latest monitoring data shows a dramatic improvement in the NO 2 concentrations in the Bonnygate area coinciding with the introduction of the overall action plan. This is mainly due to the relocation of the traffic queue outside the Bonnygate street canyon
  • Similar improvements were also noted with a decline in PM 10 concentrations
  • Further traffic management measures (including changes to traffic light sequencing) in Cupar town centre are proposed to improve traffic flow and help reduce road traffic pollutant concentrations.

The work was recognised by the Scottish Government, which described the ITS measure, and the Bonnygate Air Quality Action Plan as an example of best practice.

Case study 7

Compass4D trial – Newcastle City Council

Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Helmond, Newcastle, Thessaloniki, Verona and Vigo took part in a three-year EU co-funded project called Compass4D to trial a new application of Intelligent Transport System. Newcastle concentrated on the use of ITS to create energy efficient junctions. Buses, taxis, emergency vehicles and private cars in the trial were equipped to communicate with over 20 traffic lights in the city centre, which were programmed to offer priority signalling at set times. The research outputs suggest that this type of ITS application can achieve a:

  • 15% reduction in fuel consumption;
  • 66% reduction in vehicles travelling at 5mph or less; and
  • reduced congestion and vehicle idling.

Air Quality Management Areas and the trunk road network

6.29 Just over one-third of the AQMAs in Scotland have a trunk road within their boundary. In most cases, the trunk road contributes to nitrogen dioxide ( NO 2) and/or fine particulate matter ( PM 10) impacts. However, at the A90 at Aberdeen and the A85 at Crieff, the trunk road is the primary contributor.

6.30 Scottish local authorities have clear responsibilities for assessing local air quality, designating AQMAs and writing action plans. Where primary impacts on NO 2 and PM 10 from the trunk road are identified (along with the sites where contributing sources are known), local authorities must seek and rely on collaboration with partner organisations such as Transport Scotland. A number of options will be explored:

  • Several AQMAs with trunk roads in their boundaries have been declared only recently, so no action plans have yet been published. Transport Scotland will seek to partner with relevant local authorities and SEPA during 2016/2017 to develop action plans.
  • For the AQMA on the A85 at Crieff, Transport Scotland will collaborate with Perth and Kinross Council to identify practical and feasible mitigation options to reduce air pollution impacts.
  • For other relevant AQMAs, the contributory factor of the trunk road will be examined during 2016/2017 (where published actions plans exist).

We will:

  • By 2016, review the impacts of trunk roads on AQMAs and implement mitigation where trunk roads are the primary contributor to air pollutants by 2020

Measures requiring further investigation and research

6.31 Not all transport policies are devolved. However, there are opportunities for governments to collaborate, as noted by the RAC Foundation [76] . We will work with the UK Government to:

  • investigate and support the European Real Driving Emissions package of procedures;
  • investigate the merits of a scrappage scheme for the oldest, dirtiest vehicles;
  • understand how fiscal instruments such as fuel duty and vehicle excise duty could be altered to incorporate the costs to society of the impacts on air quality;
  • understand how Vehicle Excise Duty might be used for transport maintenance activities; and
  • revisit the reporting and target setting requirements of the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997.

6.32 Other topics worth further investigation during the life of CAFS include the following:

  • considering workplace car parking levies, specifically targeting AQMAs, with exemptions for ultra low emissions vehicles and vehicles which are part of an approved shared ownership scheme, such as car clubs (see case study 5);
  • reviewing the role and contribution of lower speed limits to improving air quality in certain locations;
  • examining how (i) resident and trade visitor parking policies and (ii) allowing certain vehicles to use bus lanes could encourage the uptake of low emission vehicle (and motorcycle/scooters). However, such proposals may reveal unintended side effects on our transport networks (note case study 8 from the City of Edinburgh Council regarding parking near schools);
  • understanding how the principle of ‘last mile’ logistics could be adopted across Scotland with a particular focus on targeting city centres with AQMAs. Also considering how such solutions could dovetail with, and inform the work undertaken within, the National Low Emission Framework.
  • Review ITS solutions across relevant AQMAs to optimise traffic flows and prioritise urban cycle corridors as part of the National Low Emission Framework.

Case study 8

Trial of parking restrictions near schools – City of Edinburgh Council

The City of Edinburgh Council has trialled a ban on motor traffic around several primary schools at the beginning and end of the school day, in a move that could lead to a city-wide ban:

  • The pilot scheme bans cars from exclusion zones around six schools for an hour at drop off and pick up times each school day for 18 months, in an attempt to boost road safety and encourage active travel to school;
  • The trial continued in late 2015, outside Abbeyhill, Duddingston, Colinton, Cramond, Sciennes and
    St John’s RC primary schools;
  • Folllowing the trial, the Council will decide whether to roll out the scheme across more schools.

The schools were chosen after they reported road safety issues with congestion and the intention is to reduce the level of traffic at the school entrances and to encourage children and their families to scoot, cycle or walk to school, making it safer for them to enter school.

The project follows similar schemes developed in East Lothian during 2014 which involved schools and East Lothian Council working together to introduce traffic calming, parking restrictions, signage and new pathways to improve safety.


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