Following wide-ranging scrutiny of the Bill, the Committee in its Stage 1 Report has recommended that the Bill be agreed to. However, it has called for clarity on how several of the proposals set out in the Bill will operate in practice and expressed concern that some of these measures may be of financial burden to local authorities.
The Transport Bill covers six different transport topics – the creation and enforcement of Low Emission Zones (LEZ), options for more flexibility in the provision of bus services, smart ticketing, a ban on pavement and double parking, Road Works, the financing of Regional Transport Partnerships and the governance of Scotland’s canals.
Convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Edward Mountain MSP, said:
“Having listened to a wide-range of evidence from stakeholders and individuals, the Committee supports the general principles of the Bill which considers a number of different transport elements, including smart ticketing, Low Emission Zones, pavement parking restrictions and tools intended to help improve bus services.
“However, greater clarity is required on a number of issues as the Bill continues its parliamentary passage.”
Some of the findings of the Committee include:
• When considering Low Emissions Zones (LEZs), the Committee noted that there is an urgent need to address the environmental and public health issues caused by poor air quality in Scotland’s towns and cities. However, for LEZs to be a success, the Committee calls for improvements in public transport provision and park and ride facilities and for the Scottish Government to set a national minimum technical emissions standard for vehicles entering a LEZ.
• The Committee noted that as a result of LEZs motorists and businesses may face a financial burden in having to upgrade or replace vehicles to meet emissions standards, and this could be a particular challenge to those on lower incomes.
• Whilst the Committee acknowledges the widespread concern over the decline in bus use across Scotland, it notes that the bus service provisions proposed in the Bill may not be sufficient to address the underlying causes.
• The Committee believes that the current provisions in the Bill to allow councils to run their own bus services may not deliver the desired policy outcome, given that it was strongly suggested in evidence that few local authorities are likely to have the financial resources to take advantage of the options set out in the Bill.
• The Committee notes that, in practice, the proposals in the Bill for local bus service franchising may only be taken up by a small number of local authorities which have the time and resources to establish a framework. Whilst the proposals for Bus Service Improvement Partnerships are generally welcomed, some councils questioned whether they will be able to take up a partnership agreement in practice, given the resources that would be required.
• The Committee is concerned that the provisions on ticketing arrangements and schemes in the Bill lack ambition and feels that an opportunity has been missed to deliver a meaningful step change in integrated public transport provision in Scotland. The Committee is of the view that this can only be achieved through the introduction of a single ticketing scheme operating across all modes and operators.
• The Committee has therefore called on the Scottish Government to bring forward proposals for the development of a single ticket scheme to be inserted into the Bill.
• With regard to the proposals in the Bill to prohibit pavement and double parking, the Committee acknowledges the vital importance of maintaining clear pavements and walkways. However, it recognises the need to balance this with the desire for those to park near their homes, and for vital services to have access.
• The Committee has called for clarity on the exemptions that will apply to its proposals on parking, as well for the 20-minute exemption for deliveries and loading to be removed from the Bill. A more appropriate and workable mechanism should be developed and included in guidance.
• The Committee has also called on the Scottish Government to bring forward an amendment at Stage 2 to prohibit parking across dropped kerbs at pedestrian crossing points and other public access points as it considers this is a significant a barrier to accessibility.
Find the full Stage 1 report here.