Welcome to the first edition of the new Nestrans Bulletin, a newsletter featuring updates on a number of transport issues and projects in the North East.
Virtual June Board
Our next Board meeting will be held remotely on 24th June. A recording of the proceedings will be uploaded to the Nestrans website as soon as practicable after.
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When Government guidance was issued suggesting that staff work from home where possible, the Nestrans office quickly responded by enabling all staff to do so.
Officers have been working from home for a number of weeks now and have settled into a 'new normal'; internal and external meetings have been conducted, primarily using Microsoft Teams, and we have been keen to demonstrate a business-as-usual attitude as far as possible, although inevitably there have been some impacts.
Transport Scotland have been in regular contact with Scotland’s Regional Transport Partnerships, with a view to sharing experiences and data. We were asked to try to match up volunteers to help with the crisis to the Grampian Response Hub and have been keeping an overview of requirements.
Officers are in regular contact with our regional partners and other stakeholders with respect to the immediate transport and travel response to Covid-19, as well as contributing to the planned recovery from lockdown. A paper is due to be considered on this at the next board meeting in June.
Although restrictions on travel have had a huge impact on rail services, ScotRail and LNER have continued to operate a limited service to allow key workers to get to work and other essential journeys’ with temporary timetables. Most notably, this includes the delay to opening of Kintore station which was due to have seen its first trains in mid May.
Construction of Kintore station had to be halted, but as lockdown is eased, the contractors should be in a position to recommence quickly and we can plan towards an opening of this key new opportunity for rail travel locally. A fifteen-week programme to opening is anticipated following permission to re-commence work.
Consultants AECOM have been progressing with the study to identify and address access issues at Insch station. A Preliminary Appraisal report was submitted to Transport Scotland for gateway review on 24 April 2020 and we are awaiting comments from Transport Scotland.
Transport Scotland have agreed to provide a further £13,500 of additional funding through the Local Rail Development Fund (LRDF) to enable Detailed Appraisal and design work to be done. It is hoped that the final Detailed Appraisal report for this study with recommendations will be available in Summer 2020.
At the same time, discussions continue with Transport Scotland, Network Rail, and partners at Tactran regarding the progression of the Aberdeen to Central Belt rail improvement study, and officers heard of the progress being made at the mid-April meeting.
Nestrans has also secured LRDF funding of £80,000 to enable a detailed study ‘Aberdeen to Laurencekirk strategic corridor multi modal feasibility study’.
The study will will look into the potential for additional stations between Aberdeen and Laurencekirk alongside other potential interventions. An Invitation to Tender has been advertised through Public Contracts Scotland with the intention of appointing a consultant in June and a study in phases being complete by Spring 2021.
E-Cargo Bikes take to city centre
All six of our new electric cargo bikes have now been delivered and are starting to take to the streets of Aberdeen as the project gets underway.
Although originally intended for use in and around the city centre in support of the proposed Low Emission Zone, Nestrans has been able to adapt the criteria to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic by offering free loans to businesses and charities delivering essential supplies during the current lockdown.
E-cargo bikes are currently being used by the Community Food Initiative CFINE to deliver food parcels, and by Poldino’s restaurant who are offering a delivery service whilst the restaurant is closed. Other expressions of interest are being assessed and further applications are invited.
Photo: Cycling Development Officer Jon Barron delivers a new bike to Poldino's Restaurant.
Spaces for People
The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity has announced a fund entitled Spaces for People, which will provide for temporary active travel measures to ensure that safe social distancing can take place.
With less traffic on our roads and an increase in walking and cycling, the opportunity exists for widening footways, implementing new cycle lanes and ensuring space for people queuing at bus stops, outside shops, etc. This will contribute to enabling effective social distancing, giving more confidence to pedestrians and cyclists.
Nestrans is supporting the Councils, in their bids for funding such measures.
Bus operations and services have been particularly hard hit by the situation around Covid-19 and the weeks of lockdown.
Independent watchdog, Transport Focus are carrying out weekly attitude surveys into people’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and their reactions towards easing of restrictions. The results form a weekly blog.
Transport Scotland have announced a Covid-19 Support Grant to help bus operators maintain a level of service which is necessary to provide essential travel options for those who don’t own a car and are unable to walk or cycle.
With uncertainties and rapidly changing scenarios, the Getabout website has been a valuable one-stop shop for travel information in the north east.
Nestrans has been approached by bus operators and ScotRail, ensuring that the Getabout website functions as a conduit to up-to-date information such as temporary timetables and restrictions.
As we ease from lockdown, there is a key role in raising awareness of changing timetables, advice on social distancing requirements or changes to operations and in helping to rebuild confidence amongst the travelling public.
Nestrans are leading the considerations on travel planning in the "new normal" and will coordinate and communicate advice and information for travellers through the Getabout partnership.