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  • I see technology as being about changes in the supply of goods and services (as distinct from purely managerial/organisational changes within supply (and marketing/publicity). The actual take-up (or rejection of technology) is influenced by demand including cultural, fashion and land use/pricing factors but also, and importantly, the levels and distribution of spending power. These attitudes influence how technology is taken up or found to be unattractive compared to other options

    One example is the problems experienced in trying to explain why rail passenger usage has been rising so sharply since the late 1990s, increasing (from a low base) rail modal share while car use per head has stabilised or indeed fallen in larger cities, especially London. London can be explained partly by its size and the major problems of accommodating moving and parked cars but why has rail use risen in other parts of the country, including Scotland – despite a growing proportion in higher age groups and having free bus travel throughout Scotland . Scott le Vine has written on this and Brian Soutar has referred to marketing and management changes – related to pricing (relative to road use and parking costs), service levels, trip times and changing attitudes (especially among the young) making car ownership and use less attractive than in the past – full ownership of a private vehicle is becoming less attractive than the alternative of more selective car use and shifts to other options such as walking, cycling and frequent and reliable public transport offering shorter trip times – and some personal budget redeployment to other preferences in an electronic age – more time spent ‘viewing/texting’ at home, on the move and at other locations (possibly with a different kind of risk to health). The historical period when car ownership and use seemed much more attractive than alternatives has passed due to the circumstances of little further gain from improved roads compared to improved public transport, attitudes to personal health and other options for spending outwith transport.

  • An edited summary of the comment below was published today by The Scotsman newspaper http://www.scotsman.com/news/comment-time-we-did-more-to-meet-transport-targets-1-4017973

    The full article is as follows:

    Prosperity, Fairness and Participation in Transport Delivery

    “A lost decade” was how transport campaign group Transform Scotland described the outcome of the latest review of the national transport framework. The national review published on 21st January showed levels of walking and public transport down, and car traffic up. Scotland is not on track with its transport targets, and the following day, when the Committee on Climate Change visited Edinburgh, they reported that Scotland needed to do more on transport.

    When publishing the review Transport Minister Derek Mackay said “reassuringly the NTS focus on improving journey times and connections, reducing emissions and improving quality, accessibility and affordability remains as valid as ever” but that “my conclusion is that we should reconsider the NTS more fully through the lens of prosperity, fairness and participation”.

    As the largest professional body representing the transport sector in Scotland CILT is keen to work with government to help it focus its “lens” at the practical changes which will achieve prosperity, fairness and participation. These aims align with the day to day activities of our members helping people to get to work, moving goods and building a better connected and more equitable society.

    Government wants to be judged on outcomes for improved journey times and connections, reduced emissions and the improved quality, accessibility and affordability of transport. Rail passengers and cyclists can report some improvements in journey times and quality over the last 10 years, however for most others journey times have been rising, and air quality has been declining, so the campaigners rightly highlight the lost decade. It seems that government has been better at stating policy aims than turning these aims into results.

    Weak partnership delivery has probably been the greatest obstacle to better transport. The lack of priority for people movement, rather than car movement, on the roads has been hurting the public transport industry. Much more bus priority is needed to ensure faster bus journey times and much higher quality walking routes are needed connecting homes and local destinations including bus stops and rail stations. Constrained delivery times for lorries have been adding to freight costs. Only partnership working can deliver the breadth of participation needed for successful solutions. Working through the details for practical project delivery helps to optimise commercial goals with social and environmental aims, but such partnership working has been very rare. As a result, public funding has delivered poorer value and less effective solutions than hoped.

    If the last 10 years have been defined by the failure of partnerships, how can the barriers to delivery now be overcome? The Minister says “we are now forging new partnerships with bus operators and authorities to deliver smart and integrated ticketing, tackle congestion and use our existing road space to give bus the priority it needs”. Most Scots know that they can already buy some smart integrated tickets, such as buying print at home or mobile tickets for parking with an air ticket purchase. However, rail and bus have fallen behind and will continue to do so without a new more flexible approach towards paying for public transport. The prospects for employers or shops to provide as many free smart bus tickets as free parking spaces for their customers are currently very slim.

    The new strategy explains how Scotland’s new legislation, including the Community Empowerment Act, can help to offer a more participative approach. More action on local social priorities is certainly a promising step forward. The government sets out the “current roles, responsibilities and key interrelationships that are essential to make transport delivery as effective as possible”. However, the partnerships did not form over the last 10 years because the organisations involved were unclear about their roles, but due to a lack of will to work jointly.

    Perhaps more than any other sector transport will need to change fast over the next five years as industry restructures in response to changing technologies and new business models for a low carbon economy. The Minister hints at these bigger challenges by calling for a more thorough review of the National Transport Strategy after the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

    Scottish transport think tank STSG has published a report suggesting that these changes are very controversial and Scottish political parties only have until May to gain a democratic mandate for reform. Without that mandate, the Minister’s aspirations for an effective transport strategy could struggle after the election. Weak governance would harm prosperity, fairness and participation, but if politicians do not lead then they end up following.

    National and local partnerships between the Scottish Government, local government, rail, bus and freight operators can deliver transport where space is shared for the benefits of all in society. High quality streets funded by profitable transport and development delivery could ensure everyone’s needs are met from vulnerable travellers to large businesses.

    Over the last decade, the organisations that developed strong contractual networks with their customers and suppliers shaped the transport systems. In contrast, the 2006 National Transport Strategy was not accompanied by the required contracts with industry, nor did the government gain an effective contract from its citizens to deliver on controversial policy ideas. 2016 seems like a good chance to put that right and perhaps January 2016 will have been a turning point if the political parties now each publish their plans about how they plan to reform transport in Scotland.

  • The STSG paper seems confusing and unclear on what early reforms should actually be made. On the one hand, it seems to argue that reforms allowing more people to decide how to spend their own money in a world where technology is changing would allow a lowering of taxation and government involvement giving more equitable outcomes- a ‘democracy’ led by spending power. On the other hand, it seems to argue that reforms in taxation, regulation and government spending patterns are essential to improve equity (an issue going well beyond transport) with devolution of more powers and funding to a regional level within Scotland and further down the scale to empowered local communities with a higher level of assured funding and the ability to secure other sources of funds (as Mike Russell has again argued recently).

    Issues of equalisation (both spatially and in terms of income – and going well beyond transport) have been present in national and local government for well over a century. There is a tendency for politicians to exaggerate the advantages of major schemes compared both to alternative opportunities for using the same level of funding (and often public borrowing) in other ways – including spending outwith transport and smaller transport, access and health packages for investment in association with pricing, management, governance and other regulatory changes.

  • Tom Hart’s obervations are useful in highlighting the reason why the STSG paper focuses on a partnership approach to regulation, taxation, equity and participation in transport delivery. The commitment to work together is what matters. Instead of wasting another decade arguing about powers over vitally important parts of transport delivery (EU, UK, Scottish Government, Regional Transport Partnerships, Local Government, Communities, or Business), the manifesto paper calls for more effective partnerships where each partner delivers what they can towards shared goals. The STSG paper explains in the table how leadership of each partnership might be managed using a level of detail appropriate for a manifesto.

    It is far less important where the power lies than whether or not those with power use it for the benefit of society. Power is currently shared between different organisations who collectively have all of the power to deliver in partnership. Demanding more powers from the treasury on a tax change, rather than help from them with delivery, is like a badly behaved child saying they won’t eat their vegetables till they get some sweets. The politicians that seek a democratic mandate to develop fair taxation for scots motorists by working in partnership with the Treasury might just get more votes than the ones that want to delay important transport change until they get more power.

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