National Planning Framework 3

The third National Planning Framework, setting out a long-term vision for development and investment across Scotland over the next 20 to 30 years.

5. A connected place

A connected place.

We will maintain and develop good internal and global connections.

Scotland today

5.1 Scotland's location and its unique geography mean that connections, within our country and with the rest of the world, are crucial. In the 21st-century global connectivity and access to wider networks have become increasingly important.

5.2 The Scottish Government's Infrastructure Investment Plan sets out our programme for investment in all modes of transport and other infrastructure. It emphasises the importance of place and aims to ensure that all of Scotland derives benefit from our infrastructure investment, maximising potential and reducing disparities. The Strategic Transport Projects Review provides the evidence base for much of this transport investment. In addition to these major capital investments, other projects can help to deliver our aspiration for sustainable economic growth. Our strategy complements the Infrastructure Investment Plan - in turn future reviews of infrastructure investment will take into account the longer term development strategy provided by NPF3.

5.3 Our road network is extensive but requires maintenance and in some cases upgrading to provide sufficient capacity, reduce congestion and address safety issues. In recent years a number of major projects have been taken forward, including the Queensferry Crossing, to maintain nationally crucial links.

5.4 Our rail network continues to improve - progress has been made on electrification and more work is planned on key routes, including between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Ports and harbours, as well as key rail freight and passenger terminals, are crucial gateways to Scotland. We are working with the private sector to promote new international routes and services to support our Economic Strategy and gain access to key markets.

Ports, harbours and rail.

5.5 However, greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector remain high, generating just under a quarter of Scotland's total emissions. Cycling still only accounts for around 1-2% of our total travel, and car travel continues to rise. We want to significantly increase levels of everyday cycling and walking within and between our settlements, with Action Plans for both Walking and Cycling. The latter sets a vision for of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020 - our substantially increased funding will help to ensure that this vision is realised. We expect action on walking and cycling to extend throughout both urban and rural areas.

5.6 Providing infrastructure to facilitate greater use of low carbon fuel options will be essential in reducing transport sector emissions and to realise our transformational vision of almost complete decarbonisation of road transport by 2050. Through our work with local authorities and other partners there are already approximately 500 electric vehicle charging points located across the whole of Scotland, of which around 300 are publicly accessible as part of the 'ChargePlace Scotland' network. This network, which covers domestic, workplace and en-route installations, will continue to develop to meet the needs of the emerging electric vehicle market.

5.7 In addition, we support the future development of a network of alternative fuelling stations, for example for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, making increased use of low carbon vehicles a viable proposition.

5.8 Connectivity is not just about enabling physical movement, but also virtual links. High quality mobile and fixed broadband connections have become essential to support communities and business development in both rural and urban areas. At present, there remains a significant gap between our most and least connected areas, with digital access being considerably better in more accessible urban areas. Many parts of rural Scotland have little or no connection and require public investment to rebalance the distribution of infrastructure.

5.9 Our Infrastructure Investment Plan aims to accelerate the roll out of next generation broadband to all parts of rural Scotland over the next five years, to support public service provision as well as investment in the digital economy and rural economic growth. Work is progressing to develop new fibre links connecting rural areas, with an expectation of fibre links to 95% of premises Scotland wide by 2017/18. Opportunities for smarter towns and cities are also being explored.

Ports. Fibre broadband links.

Scotland tomorrow

5.10 Our ability to attract international investment and to build links to global markets form an important part of the Scottish Government Economic Strategy - our target is to increase exports by 50% by 2017 and exposure to international trade will promote productivity and competition within Scottish markets. In the longer term, Scotland can capitalise on its position of the edge of Europe, strategically located to gain from the evolution of world trade routes as the North East Passage opens up. To achieve this, our international and cross-border physical, economic and cultural connections will be crucial.

5.11 Over the coming years, there will be a need for further improvements to ensure that we get best value from our transport infrastructure. Whilst investment programmes are already in place, spatial priorities may change over the longer term.

5.12 Many of our major road and rail infrastructure improvements will be realised in the next two decades, strengthening connections between cities and sustaining lifeline rural links. More efficient rail services and reduced road congestion will support productivity. Our ambition to significantly grow Scotland's exports means that strengthening of international gateways and freight networks will be essential.

5.13 Our long-term ambition is a largely decarbonised transport sector in Scotland, and advances will bring about a revolution in the way we travel. We will look to use alternative fuel sources for trains and vehicles. Significant levels of behavioural change will also be required to fulfil our ambition. Planning will have a role to play in modernising our infrastructure and supporting this change and development strategies should be complemented by improved connections across all transport modes.

5.14 As a key part of the low carbon agenda, we will encourage local authorities to develop at least one exemplar walking- and cycling-friendly settlement to demonstrate how active travel networks can be significantly improved in line with meeting our vision for increased cycling. These settlements, as well as wider core path networks, will act as key nodes on the national walking and cycling network.

5.15 To further reduce the need to travel and ensure continuing economic competitiveness, we will see a step change in digital connectivity in the coming years, supporting our broader aspirations for growth across the country. This will require significant investment in digital infrastructure to ensure coverage extends to our most remote, but asset-rich, rural and island communities. As well as providing new infrastructure to connect existing areas, future developments will build in digital connectivity as a matter of course. We are extending permitted development rights to facilitate this.

Spatial priorities for change

Cities will be better connected and provide a gateway to the rest of the world

5.16 Strengthened digital infrastructure will support our aspirations for more sustainable cities which attract new business. We can expect cities to become significantly 'smarter' in the next few years, using population density and shared infrastructure to further increase access to high performing digital services.

5.17 We aim to have better connected cities - better connected to each other, better connections within each of their regions - and for these transport networks to be progressively decarbonised. City regions are the hubs for the majority of our international connections. We want to make rail travel between cities quicker than by car, and to complete electrification of the railway lines between cities.

5.18 In the short term, Phase 1 of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvements Programme will reduce journey times across the Central Belt. Beyond the mid-2020s, there is a clear need to further improve capacity between Edinburgh and Glasgow with consequent opportunities to reduce journey times even further and that need could be met either by proceeding with EGIP Phase 2 or by constructing a fast rail connection between Edinburgh and Glasgow as the first phase in a longer-term plan for a High Speed Rail connection to the rest of the UK. This will provide benefits by freeing up capacity on the wider Scottish rail network.

5.19 The Infrastructure Investment Plan makes a commitment to improving rail services and reducing journey time between Inverness and Aberdeen, and from both Aberdeen and Inverness to the Central Belt.

5.20 The road network has an essential role to play in connecting cities by car, public transport and active travel. Construction of the Forth Replacement Crossing (Queensferry Crossing) will be completed by 2016 and the associated public transport strategy will be implemented by the relevant partners. Further improvements will be made to the motorway network, including capacity improvements to the M8, M73 and M74. We will complete dualling of the trunk roads between cities, with dualling of the A9 from Perth to Inverness complete by 2025 and dualling of the A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen by 2030. In addition, the Scottish Government's Infrastructure Investment Plan includes measures to improve the safety, capacity and performance of the strategic inter-city road network.

5.21 Regional transport partnerships have a crucial role to play in improving active travel and transport networks and services within each of the city regions. Edinburgh Trams services are now operational. In Glasgow, we are proceeding with modernisation of the subway, and Fastlink will provide rapid bus transport between the city centre and key locations including the SECC and the new South Glasgow Hospital. By 2018, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and dualling of the A90 between Balmedie and Tipperty will significantly improve transport in and around Aberdeen. Strategic park and ride facilities will play an important role in providing public transport access to city centres. Across the country, we are improving station facilities, including a new station for Dundee and refurbishment of the main stations in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

5.22 Many of Scotland's international gateways are located in or close to the city regions. By air, rail and sea, these gateways ensure Scotland remains an outward-looking country which is well-connected and open for business.

5.23 Given Scotland's location in Europe and the importance of wider global markets, maintaining and enhancing air connectivity is essential. Scotland's major airports provide a gateway to Scotland and in particular to the cities network. We support enhancement of Scotland's five main airports as a national development. These gateways are important locations for investment - the national development includes business-related development around Glasgow and Prestwick Airports, and reconfiguration of land use around Edinburgh Airport to accommodate future expansion, relocate the Royal Highland Showground and support the creation of an International Business Gateway to the west of Edinburgh.

5.24 Whilst we continue to support investment in our air connections, we recognise the challenge that this creates for our ongoing work to address climate change. Scotland is one of only a few countries to have included emissions from aviation into our greenhouse gas inventory. This will require wider policies and proposals to go further in reducing emissions.

5.25 Freight transport networks are critical to our economy. Our transport plans will benefit the sector through continued investment in infrastructure. This will help to reduce congestion and encourage modal shift where this is practical and feasible. We will continue to work with industry to ensure efficiency of road movements from both a business and carbon reduction perspective. Over the long-term, wider efforts to increase the use of public transport, and promote walking and cycling for everyday journeys will help to reduce congestion arising from personal travel and benefit the freight sector.

Edinburgh airport and rail.

5.26 Rail freight and short-sea shipping have potential to reduce the carbon footprint of our freight sector. Rail freight networks are likely to become increasingly important as our export potential grows alongside our transition to a low carbon economy. There are a number of important interchanges in the Central Belt, including Grangemouth, Coatbridge and Mossend. We will work with the rail freight sector to develop a more strategic view of future development priorities for rail freight within the broader operational context of the network as a whole.

5.27 Whilst Scotland's maritime freight-handling capacity services both the Atlantic and North Sea routes, most movement comes from the North Sea. We must ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place to support these key international connections. Our ambitions to significantly increase exports mean that we should continue to plan for development at strategically important locations. The Grangemouth Investment Zone is therefore designated as a national development, as is additional Freight Capacity on the Forth where consenting of new freight handling facilities at Rosyth is progressing. Rail freight connections to and from these facilities will be considered as an integral part of the national developments.

5.28 Further north, Aberdeen Harbour serves as a multi-functional seaport, providing berthing and handling facilities for passengers, freight, oil and gas and other sectors. Despite the capacity constraints of the current harbour, this is one of Scotland's key gateways. Expansion of Aberdeen Harbour, including improved intermodal connections by road, is identified as a national development.

Rural areas will be more accessible

5.29 Our plans for investment in digital infrastructure will play a key role in improving competitiveness, ensuring that there is no digital divide between rural and urban Scotland. Our 'Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme' is delivering £410 million of public and private investment in parts of Scotland, including rural, semi-rural and suburban areas, that would not otherwise be served commercially. We are also exploring delivery models to extend mobile services to some of our hardest to reach areas.

© Mulholland Media. © Aberdeen Harbour.

5.30 Reliance on the car will remain important in rural Scotland, and so providing infrastructure to facilitate greater use of low carbon fuel options, such as the ongoing installation of electric vehicle charging points across the country, will be particularly useful in reducing transport sector emissions.

5.31 The rural south has a key role to play as a gateway to Scotland and we will continue with investment in strategic corridors to support this. Improvements to the A77 and A75 have been progressed and further targeted interventions are planned, supporting the role of Cairnryan as a key gateway whilst improving the connections between rural communities across the south west of Scotland. The Borders Railway, to be completed by 2015, will provide a new public transport route into the south east of Scotland.

5.32 The dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness and improvements to the Highland Mainline will provide a step change in accessibility across the rural north, increase business confidence and support investment throughout the region. Improvements to the rail network and dualling of the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen, including bypasses of towns along the route, will provide opportunities to link the energy sectors in the two city regions as well as improving the quality of place within the towns. Improvements being developed for the A82 will support business and investment in the rural north and west. We will continue to ensure the A95 accommodates the needs of our flourishing whisky industry.

5.33 To achieve a step change in active travel, walking and cycling networks will continue to develop through core path plans and local community networks, connecting where possible with the national long distance network. This network will bring together urban and rural Scotland, to promote a significant increase in active travel as well as broadening recreational access to the countryside for residents and visitors alike.

5.34 For visitors, the journey can become an experience in its own right and we will pilot scenic route projects on the key tourist routes, exploring opportunities to build-in high quality design to infrastructure improvements. The programme is expected to be extended to other routes, including public transport corridors, in the longer term.

© West Dunbartonshire Council.

We will reduce the disadvantage of distance for our coastal and island communities

5.35 Improved digital infrastructure, both fixed and mobile, is essential to support sustainable economic growth and better connect people and communities. We have identified a digital fibre network linking our most peripheral communities as a national development. This will bring particular benefits in the north and west coasts and islands, given their relatively dispersed population and the potential to support population and economic growth through increased home and remote working.

5.36 Air and ferry services will continue to play an essential role - as a lifeline service but also supporting economic activity and the delivery of public services.

5.37 We anticipate longer-term opportunities arising from the opening up of new shipping routes across the Arctic. Several deep water assets, including at Scapa Flow, Stornoway, Shetland and in the Moray Firth, may present opportunities for new or expanded ports
to take advantage of this and of wider opportunities, including for tourism development.
Further south, Cairnryan remains a key gateway to Ireland.

5.38 As with rural areas, providing infrastructure to facilitate greater use of low carbon fuel options is particularly important in more car dependent coastal and island areas. Some areas, such as Islay and the Western Isles, have used innovative approaches to stimulate this, and there are likely to be further opportunities within island communities where travel range is relatively restricted. Ferry terminals provide a useful focal point for charging infrastructure, and electric vehicle rapid charging points are already available or planned at ferry terminals in the Inner Hebrides, the Western Isles and the Pentland Firth.

5.39 Strategic road and rail connections serve the north and west coast directly, and also the ports which connect to the islands by ferry. Commissioned improvements to the A82 and A9 will strengthen these connections, and we are working closely with Argyll and Bute Council to finalise the trunking of the the A83 between Kennacraig and Campbeltown. In the longer term, improvements to the A85, A87, A830, A835 and A828 will also help to support expected development in some of our more remote rural and coastal communities.

© Dennis Hardley photography © Phil Gilmour.


Email: Dr Fiona Simpson

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