Issue 8: January 2014

TRANSPORT FOR EDINBURGH - INTEGRATED TRANSPORT FOR A SMART CITY

By Ian Craig, Chief Executive, Transport for Edinburgh

A City of Growth

Edinburgh has seen major population growth in the last 30 years and the rate of increase is expected to rise. The capital continues to attract new residents but the life expectancy of those already here is on the up too.

But a growing population is not the only challenge to moving people efficiently in and around the city. The built environment has developed, with the Scottish Parliament, Ocean Terminal and the new Royal Infirmary emerging over the last 15 years, and major projects planned for key areas across the city.

The revamped Haymarket station has opened, construction is well underway for the Borders Railway, and potential expansion to the west of the city will all swell the numbers travelling into Edinburgh.

While urban transport is, in many ways, a very local issue, we as a city are competing with others across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Connectivity is a vital element of our success.

Transport for Edinburgh

The scale of the challenge, and opportunity, facing Edinburgh has prompted two major developments in recent years.

The first is the Edinburgh Tram project, about which much has been written, and everyone involved would acknowledge that the last few years of construction work, have been the dominant issue in city life. The time will come when what went wrong is analysed and lessons learned. That is incredibly important.

However, in my particular role, the focus is on the future and how buses, trams and other modes will work together to provide the best possible services and facilities to travellers. That leads to the second development, which is the creation of Transport for Edinburgh, a body established last year by the City of Edinburgh Council to integrate bus and tram services and help develop the city’s total transport offering.

The initial priority has been to bring Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams together into one single economic entity.  For customers, this essentially allows for bus services and tram operations to be dove-tailed and common ticketing to be provided.

However, the umbrella brand of Transport for Edinburgh has been developed to also be used across ‘active travel’ modes such as walking and cycling. The city is committed to significantly increasing both in the coming years and there is now a tremendous opportunity to bring these together with our bus and tram services to present a credible alternative to the habitual car user.

Taken together, the vision is simple: to provide world-class environmentally-friendly and socially-inclusive transport.

Smart Transport

In achieving that vision, there are three key areas we need to get right, as well as integration across different modes: policy, technology and sustainability.

The board of Transport for Edinburgh will include senior councillors, transport executives and other transport experts. This will ensure that it is very well placed to pursue the four policy priorities of:
•    Parking provision and pricing
•    Priority routes such as greenways and bus lanes
•    Park and ride promotion and, ideally, expansion
•    Planning, with transport considerations being integral to decision-making at an early stage.

Within Lothian Buses we are already delivering new, innovative technology for our vehicles and providing our customers with more modern, convenient ticketing options.

While urban transport is, in many ways, a very local issue, we as a city are competing with others across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Connectivity is a vital element of our success.

Our Airlink service from the city centre already has free-to-use super-fast wi-fi and, subject to approval of government funding, we aim to introduce this to all our services. 2013 saw the introduction of our family ticket and a ticketing app that allows passengers the flexibility of purchasing tickets through their mobile devices.  There will be more to come, building on both of these successes.

There are further opportunities beyond bus and tram integration to include other modes like cycle hire, car hire, taxi and parking payment within a scheme that would deliver true transport mobility to Edinburgh’s residents and visitors.

Like other major cities, Edinburgh has improvements to make in its air quality and recognises the benefits of reducing its carbon footprint.

Lothian Buses already has two services that use twenty five hybrid buses and we have placed an order for a further 20 similar vehicles. ‘Plug-in’ hybrid technology is being developed and, looking further ahead, we are on the cusp of a revolution that will see traditional diesel engine relegated to a support role only, before eventually disappearing altogether. We will continue to be an early adopter of new technologies that will help to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions and maintain bus services as an acceptable part of our city centre environment.

we are on the cusp of a revolution that will see traditional diesel engine relegated to a support role only, before eventually disappearing altogether

Edinburgh’s trams will be powered by electricity with zero on-street carbon emissions. The vehicles themselves will have regenerative braking, meaning potentially wasted energy is reused.  The trams are also expected to help by encouraging people to shift from car to tram use and so help to ease projected traffic congestion.

An Integrated Future?

Those who founded the Edinburgh Street Tramways Corporation in 1871 could have had little idea about the changes that would unfold over the next 143 years. Similarly, none of us can predict what Edinburgh’s transport networks will look like in 2157! One thing is certain though, which is that to prepare for the future we need to plan today. We are already gearing up for the extra pressures of a growing population and a developing capital, with the creation of the new tram service and Transport for Edinburgh just two examples of that forward thinking.

But we must all look ahead to the longer-term, anticipating what future generations of Edinburgh citizens will need and working together to put that in place for our continued prosperity. A transport system that is fully integrated between modes is one aspiration, but what about integration with the economy, the natural environment and the built environment? If we can achieve that, and I believe we can, then Edinburgh really would be a smart city.

Ian Craig is Chief Executive of Transport for Edinburgh

 

 

 

By Ian Craig, Chief Executive, Transport for Edinburgh

Issue 8: January 2014

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