When Scotland went into lockdown in the Spring of 2020 our roads became quieter and many people took up cycling or walking. Despite continued restrictions traffic is busier again. Have Scots reverted to the car or will we continue to cycle and walk in greater numbers than before Covid ?
According to a public attitudes survey by Transport Scotland:
76% of respondents agreed that “The information and guidance on travel and transport restrictions issued by the Scottish Government has been clear”.
Although Orkney is currently at Level 0, other parts of Scotland have more restrictions. Everywhere there are still Covid procedures in place, for instance on buses limited numbers can travel and users have to wear a facemask.
People continue to be concerned about using public transport because of physical distancing not being observed and their own fears of taking the virus back to family and friends.
Most of the journeys we take by car are to go shopping. Even with online deliveries, people like to shop for themselves, visiting the supermarket or supporting smaller local shops. This year, with all governments in the UK encouraging ‘staycations’, drivers are committing themselves to longer and longer journeys to take a holiday within the UK.
A survey by Euro Car Parts (www.eurocarparts.com) of its customers found that:
“UK motorists are planning to drive an average of 212 miles further for their UK holidays than they have in previous years”
Many of the tourists are using this time to explore parts of the UK they may not have been in before or to return to favourite haunts but 27% are planning to go on multiple ‘staycations’.
As Scotland and our islands opened up again to visitors, cars, campervans and a few tour buses are sharing the same space as the cyclists and walkers.
“I will go back to doing all of the things I did before including vacations and travel”.Transport Scotland, Covid-19 Public Attitudes Survey
The Scottish Government has committed funding to support more active travel with over £1.2 million being provided to build on the increases Scotland has seen in cycling over the last year.
£900,000 is being allocated from the Active Travel budget to support Energy Saving Trust’s eBike Grant Fund in 2021/22. The new round of funding will enable more organisations to take advantage of e-bikes, adapted cycles and e-cargo bikes to meet the needs of their local communities.
Over £390,000 will support Shift, Cycling UK Scotland’s new project for 2021/22. It will enable a wide range of organisations across the country to use the power of cycling to transform their communities and create thriving and liveable neighbourhoods through small grants awards.
You can find out more about funding by clicking on this link: Active Travel Funding
Graeme Dey, the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister said:
“We’re committed here in Scotland to building an Active Nation, where people choose to walk, wheel and cycle for everyday journeys. To support this, funding for active travel is now at record level of £115 million pounds for 2021/22.
“We will continue to fund infrastructure and behavioural change projects which can help us bring about the transformational shift that we need to see, in order to meet our world leading target of net zero by 2045 – and I look forward to working with our active travel partners to help achieve this.”
Whilst continuing and extending funding is good news, behaviour change takes much longer, and who can blame anyone for opting for the car when most roads continue to be unsuitable for walking and cycling. It is the old ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Limited cycleways and pathways are being created in many of Scotland’s towns and villages but most people are reluctant to become more active simply because they don’t feel safe sharing the road with vehicles.
It is also important to remember that there are many with mobility issues who are unable to walk or cycle and for them accessibility to safe wheeled spaces is an even greater issue.
Scotland is a nation of islands and in this pursuit of cleaner more active travel we must also look at our ferries. In Orkney booking for ALL ferry users is required due to Covid restrictions. Even with reduced fares, travel by ferry is not cheap and using old vessels is a significant contributor to our carbon emissions.
The contract has been awarded to a project which would lead to the development of a hydrogen fuelled ferry, which could eventually operate on the Kirkwall to Shapinsay ferry route.
The HySeas III project will develop, construct, test and validate data in a full-sized drive train, the group of components that make up a motor vehicle, on land. The aim is that this will lead to the design of a double ended passenger and car ferry, with capacity for 120 passengers and 16 cars or two trucks. It has been awarded by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) to Aqualisbraemar LOC Group. HySeas III is an EU funded initiative. The consortium also includes the University of St Andrew’s and Orkney Islands Council, alongside several European organisations.
London based Aqualisbraemar LOC Group is a leading global independent energy and marine consultant. Commenting on the project which will see Aqualisbraemar’s Aberdeen operation using its sister company Longitude Engineering to deliver the design, Graham Dallas, Business Development Manager for AqualisBraemar LOC in Europe, said:
“AqualisBraemar LOC understand the important role the maritime industry has to play in the global fight for climate change. Whilst tackling marine emissions is a global responsibility, we are also proud to be supporting CMAL, in its role as part of a Scottish-led consortium, in building up world-leading competence in alternative clean fuel systems, which harnesses local marine renewable sources.”
If successful, it will pave the way for the first seagoing vessel that uses this fuel technology.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) is wholly owned by the Scottish Government with Scottish Ministers the sole shareholders.
John Salton, Fleet Manager and Projects Director at CMAL, said:
“The contract award represents a significant step forward in establishing a new, innovative vessel concept, and marks an important shift towards entirely emissions-free marine transport. Hydrogen ferries exist, but this concept is built around using hydrogen fuel cells to power a seagoing ship, the first in the UK and Europe. If successful, the next step will be to take the knowledge and know-how into building a ferry.”
The Shapinsay route in Orkney was chosen because wind power is already being used to produce hydrogen in the island through the Surf N Turf and BigHIT projects.
Councillor Graham Sinclair, Chair of the OIC Development and Infrastructure Committee, said:
“As the maritime industry looks to reduce its carbon footprint and makes moves toward emissions free marine transport, the findings and outcomes of research programmes like HySeas III will play a vital role – and to see the programme take such a step forward is heartening.
“Orkney’s reputation as a leading light in the development of green technologies is down to the tremendous entrepreneurial and go-ahead attitude that exists here whether that be through the private, public or voluntary sector – and Orkney will no doubt continue to play a pivotal role in the months and years to come.”
Commenting on the project, Dean Goves, Small Craft and Vessel Design Director, Longitude, said:
“Hydrogen ferries exist, but this concept is built around using hydrogen fuel cells to power a seagoing ship, the first in the UK and Europe. If successful, the next step will be to take the knowledge and know-how into building a ferry.”
Scotland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Meanwhile Scotland has a long way to go if it wishes to meet its climate change targets because we’ve stalled.
The report on Scotland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions states that in 2019, Domestic transport (excluding International Aviation and Shipping) was the largest source of net emissions, followed by Business, Agriculture , Energy Supply and Residential.
Since then we had the lockdown in 2020 but as we have seen in 2021 we have quickly reverted to our pre-Covid behaviour. And even if a few more people are choosing more active ways to travel by cycling and walking, it is simply too little and too slowly for the change needed. Over 60% of Scotland’s energy supply in 2019 was from renewables and this will continue to increase.
All good news but it is transport we really need to tackle. We have to do it with much more haste, a lot more planning and taking decisive action if citizens are to be supported to become more active in their daily travel choices.
Until people feel safe and confident about using our roads, cycling, walking and wheeled transport, will continue to be a limited choice for most.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame