Transform Scotland warns on flagship Bus Partnership Fund
Plans to reallocate road space on parts of the motorway network around Glasgow to high-occupancy vehicles such as buses have made little progress’
The Scottish Government’s commitment to investing over £500m in bus priority infrastructure has yet to be fully realised, according to a report by Transform Scotland.
The Bus Partnership Fund was launched in 2019 to invest in bus priority measures on local and trunk roads. The fund has allocated £25.8m for appraisals, business cases, and small-scale interventions, known as ‘quick wins’. However, Transform Scotland reports that no substantive infrastructure has been funded yet.
Transport Scotland temporarily paused work on the Bus Partnership Fund in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but announced the Bus Priority Rapid Deployment Fund, which supported local authorities in responding to congestion. This included temporary bus lanes and gates, with £10m drawn from the Bus Partnership Fund.
As the Bus Partnership Fund is currently closed for applications, the bulk of the funding may be spent on the major projects which have already received preliminary funding. Projects in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh have received funding for preparatory work, including evidence for bus-only streets, bus lanes, and traffic lights. However, major projects have yet to enter the consultation phase.
The Bus Partnership Fund is getting spent currently at less than £9m annually
“The funding allocated so far is being spent on a combination of ‘quick win’ projects and preparatory appraisals and development work,” said Transform Scotland. “Representing 5-10% of the total available, this might be considered to be a fairly typical spend profile.”
Meanwhile, the lobby group also reports that plans to reallocate road space on parts of the motorway network around Glasgow to high-occupancy vehicles such as buses have made little progress. The first phase of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review, recommended reallocation of road space on the M8, M77, and M80, but this has not happened as yet.
Transform Scotland suggests that without a heavyweight ‘champion’, or ‘champions’, it is possible that the project may slip off the radar. The lack of progress in planning to reallocate road space around Glasgow contrasts with the £500m investment in bus priority infrastructure, which has seen some progress but is still off target.
“It looks increasingly unlikely that the goal of investing over £500m in improved bus priority is going to be met in the short or medium term, although it may be achievable within the lifetime of the next Scottish Parliament,” said Chris Day, Transform Scotland’s policy advisor.
He admitted the Scottish Government’s plans were ambitious, particularly given the lengthy development and consultation phases of major projects. Day continued: “The challenge for scheme promoters and their allies is dealing with the opposition that inevitably arises when specific plans are published. The Bus Partnership Fund is getting spent currently at less than £9m annually, whereas the original plan implied that it would be spent in five years.”
This story appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.
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