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Chance to change the daily commute 'for good' says Scottish Government transport secretary


By Hector MacKenzie

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Streets are likely to start getting significantly busier.
Streets are likely to start getting significantly busier.

MEMBERS of the public and business are today being urged to grasp a chance to change the daily commute in Scotland for good.

As part of phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s route map, a travel demand impact assessment suggests Scotland’s cities and surrounding areas are set to welcome back hundreds of thousands of commuters, visitors and shoppers over the coming weeks.

The number of people cycling has increased during lockdown, however, with roads expected to become busier again because of reduced capacity on public transport due to physical distancing, people are being asked to play their part by “staying local” and embracing cleaner and greener methods of travel.

Speaking after a recent visit to Scottish Power in Glasgow, a company which has embraced change and brought in a series of new practices to encourage staff to work flexibly and avoid peak travel, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “Phase 3 sees more parts of our society and economy reopening and will be one of the most challenging for the public, operators and employers.

"A combination of life slowly returning to some form of normality, the lifting of the five-mile travel rule, the retail sector fully reopening, more people returning to work, and the tourism sector restart, means demand on public transport will be significant.

“However we know that even with public transport service levels increasing and physical distancing being relaxed to one-metre for some services, capacity is still significantly restricted compared to pre-Covid levels. This means people are being asked to continue to work from home if they can, and walk, wheel and cycle where possible. The obvious temptation for households with access to a car will be to take that option, however we know many journeys are less than a few miles and could be covered via active travel, especially over the summer and autumn months.

“Our transport operators are continuing to take steps to improve confidence in public transport – this includes measures such as enhanced cleaning measures, more sanitisers, mandatory face coverings and screens and we hope confidence will begin to return.

“My visit to Scottish Power is a good example of how employers can embrace change in the current climate and adapt to changing circumstances. Around three quarters of staff were able to work from home and continue to do so. A series of safe working practices have been introduced and I was particularly impressed by the scheme to support staff to purchase or repair bikes and e-bikes. The staggered and flexible start times in place for staff coming into the office is another good way to help manage demand on our transport network.

“The recent increase in cycling is supported by the £417 million invested in active travel choices since 2014/15. Through Community Links Plus and Places for Everyone, we’ve delivered 240 miles of completely new infrastructure. To specifically assist the increase in active travel over the lockdown period and enable physical distancing, we repurposed £30 million from the Places for Everyone programme to support ‘Spaces for People’ which is funding local authorities across the country to implement temporary pop-up infrastructure.

“As part of our green recovery, we will continue to fund high-impact permanent infrastructure and behavioural change projects. Our Places for Everyone programme is delivering over 200 permanent schemes in Scotland, making towns and cities both safer and friendlier places to travel and spend time in, and our new Programme for Government will seek to build on this theme, with green economic recovery at its heart.”

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