Scottish Government transport strategy 'grotesquely skewed towards supporting more car use', campaigners warn
The Scottish Government has come under fire from active travel campaigners after new statistics showed increases in single occupancy car journeys alongside falls in walking and bus use.
New figures from Transport Scotland showed the proportion of journeys made on foot fell from 21.3 per cent in 2017 to 19.8 per cent in 2018, while bus use dropped from making up 8.2 per cent of journeys to 8 per cent.
In 2018, 1.8 per cent of journeys under five miles were made by bike, the same proportion as the year before, while 43 per cent of journeys under two miles were made on foot, a 2.3 per cent fall from 2017.
Meanwhile, with cars making up 52.9 per cent of journeys in 2018, up from the year before, campaigners warned that “expenditure plans remain grotesquely skewed towards supporting more car use”.
The survey found the percentage of adults very or fairly satisfied with their local public transport dropped from 75 per cent in 2014 to 65 per cent in 2018.
Transform Scotland director Colin Howden said: “Today’s new statistics come as no surprise. We’re paying the price for a decade where the bulk of new capital spending has gone into new trunk roads rather than investing in local transport such as walking, cycling and buses.
“Despite last week’s welcome announcement of £500m investment in bus services announced as part of the Programme for Government, the Scottish ministers’ expenditure plans remain grotesquely skewed towards supporting more car use, with £6,000m devoted to just two roads [the A9 and A96 dualling projects].”
Howden added: “There is no reasons why Scotland shouldn’t be performing better on sustainable transport. Today’s figures show that the majority of all journeys are short in distance, the type of journeys where many more should be being made on foot, by bike and by bus.”
Among those who drove to work, fifty three percent said they could not use public transport for the journey. The main reasons given for not using public transport, when it was available as an option, were that it takes too long, at 45 per cent, that there was no direct route, 23 per cent, that it was inconvenient, at 20 per cent, and with 16 per cent saying they preferred to use a car.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “The Scottish Government is fully committed to delivering a sustainable, accessible and fairer transport system as outlined in our draft National Transport Strategy which identified the challenges and sets our vision for the future. We are taking forward a range of actions to help address the global climate emergency and some of the trends highlighted in these statistics.
“We are investing more than £1 billion in public and sustainable transport each year, the number of rail journeys continues to increase and last week’s Programme for Government included a commitment of more than £500 million for bus priority measures which will reduce the impacts of congestion on bus services and encourage more people to make sustainable multi-modal journeys. Almost two thirds of passengers are very or fairly satisfied with public transport services but we recognise that there is more work to be done by our delivery partners to help address a decline in this area over the last few years.
“Walking, cycling and shared transport options are key parts of our future vision and we expect to see user rates improve as new infrastructure comes online, making active travel a more attractive option than the car for shorter trips and as part of a public transport journey, encouraging modal shift and improving health and well-being in the process.
“The substantial increase in the number of households willing to consider buying an electric vehicle is welcome with the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles central to our Energy Strategy, our Climate Change Plan and our goal of making Scotland’s air quality the best in Europe.”