TRANSFORMING MOBILITY AND SERVICES IN 2019
By George Lowder, Chief Executive, Transport for Edinburgh
As we begin 2019, I am struck by the number of concurrently running consultations and strategic decision-making processes that will have an impact on the future of mobility and the provision of transport services in Edinburgh and our near neighbours. Many of these consultations and processes will culminate in critical decisions, or next steps, in 2019. My predecessor wrote an article for this magazine in January 2014, entitled ‘Integrated Transport for a Smart City’. The article, written shortly after Transport for Edinburgh was formed, explained the need for a new entity to integrate the municipally owned bus company and newly formed tram company, to incorporate other transport modes, to act as a focus for public transport coordination and collaboration and to champion an integrated public transport network, that would deliver on Edinburgh’s aspirations for continued growth and prosperity. These objectives are even more relevant today, as we step through some significant policy decisions in the coming weeks and months.
The strategic context for all of this is being set by The City Vision 2050 and we look forward to hearing how the four themes; Inspiring, Thriving, Connected and Fair, will be developed to shape the future Edinburgh. It is not entirely surprising that Connected features in this list. Access to safe, affordable, efficient and customer focussed mobility options, is a key enabler to achieve positive outcomes for all of the themes. There is much being done now to improve global, regional and local connectivity in the physical and data realms, but we should not be complacent. Perhaps the most challenging are the local, physical improvements, against a backdrop of significant pressures on local authority funding. In a difficult budget round let’s hope that measures proposed in the Public Transport Action Plan are resourced, to further help improve Connectivity. Of course, physical infrastructure developments cause a degree of disruption, especially to transport networks, but given that we cannot stand still, we must do everything possible to minimise disruption and mitigate the impact of ongoing development. You cannot have a Smart City without, for instance, super-fast broadband and a mass transit public transport system.
The City (Local Development) Plan 2030 will continue to be authored in 2019, making clear the city’s priorities for further development in the period 2020-2030. There will be emphasis on place making and I would be surprised if the hierarchy of walking, cycling and public transport did not feature prominently. We now have an Edinburgh Cycle Hire Scheme; a further component of the integrated system Transport for Edinburgh was established to develop and oversee. This scheme will continue to expand in 2019. Considering all the mobility options as part of the City Plan now seems to be fully inculcated in the planning process and this is a good thing. Linked to this, the decision on tram to Newhaven to be taken by full Council this month will be a key one, to help unlock further opportunities for Leith to thrive and be better connected.
The conversation on tram should not conclude with the Newhaven decision. To achieve Edinburgh’s aspirations for continued growth and prosperity the discussion should move quickly to tram to Granton and then, where next? I look forward to this dialogue in 2019 and beyond. We should continue to look to Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Copenhagen, Madrid and Helsinki, to understand how best to create a cost-effective network whilst remembering that every city is different and has its own unique set of challenges, freedoms and opportunities. One of the consequences of re-establishing a tram network and the growth of the city and our near neighbours will be the continued recasting of the bus network, with services focussed on serving new developments within and beyond the city boundaries.
The City Centre Transformation Project, Low Emission Zones and The City Mobility Plan will all be further developed in 2019 and will have potentially significant impacts on mobility and services. Again, I would be surprised if the triumvirate of walking, cycling and public transport did not emerge as key elements running through all these projects. There are of course other considerations, maintaining access to public transport for all those who wish to use it, considering how goods are delivered within the city, the proliferation of electric vehicles and their supporting charging networks and how emerging technologies, such as connected and autonomous vehicles will be incorporated into emerging networks.
Technology will offer huge potential, along with Edinburgh’s aspiration to be the data capital of Europe to become a truly Smart City. As the pressures on the city centre continue to grow, particularly during the peak of the festivals, we need to better understand the flows into, around and within the city. We are attempting to get at this through collaboration with partners; including, but not exclusively, the University of Edinburgh, the festivals, The List and public transport operators. This improved understanding will inform decision making to transform mobility and improve services. This will be further supported via the development and delivery of a “City Operations” capability. A single centre that manages the flows into, around and within the city by fusing all available data and making proactive decisions to keep Edinburgh moving. It is perhaps surprising that Scotland’s capital does not have such a single control centre, but it is heartening that the concept is firmly embedded in the city’s Plan for Change and Delivering Services 2019 – 2023. Better Wayfinding will also help residents, commuters and visitors navigate the city, improving mobility and dispersion at peak times. The city’s new Wayfinding system is being piloted at the moment and will become much more prominent this year.
All in all, 2019 promises to be a great year for the development of mobility in our wonderful city, with ample opportunity to influence the direction of travel (pun completely intended).
By George Lowder, Chief Executive, Transport for Edinburgh
RAIL REVIEW, BBC, PLANNING BILL, TRANSPORT IN EDINBURGH, AND MORE PLANNING
It’s here. After much hype, much anticipation, and much expenditure, the new BBC Scotland channel is now in its second month and the political bubble has been active in debating the good and bad, rights and wrongs, fair and unfair.
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