Employers allowing flexible start and finish times and commuters making more active travel choices will be vital when Scotland eases some of its lockdown measures from tomorrow, the country’s new Transport Transition Plan urges.
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Outlining the plan in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure & Connectivity Michael Matheson said the level of physical distancing required as restrictions are lifted will reduce capacity on public transport.
“Operators estimate capacity will be between 10% and 25% of normal availability even with full services resumed,” he said. “A system that previously had 1.5 million journeys per day will be significantly constrained.”
This, he added, means reducing the demand for public transport is “vitally important”. The Cabinet Secretary said: “I am urging employers, operators and the public to embrace these changes and help us all adapt to a new environment which has flexible and remote working at its core, for the immediate future at least, flattens peak travel demand and has a strong focus on active travel.”
The Transition Plan calls on employers to be as flexible as possible to allow earlier or later starting and finishing times for those who have to travel to work. Those using public transport must continue to keep 2m physical distance wherever possible, wash hands regularly, and are expected to wear face coverings, the guidance states.
Michael Matheson also reiterated plans to increase the availability of road space and priority for walking and cycling through its Spaces for People fund. “We have a real opportunity to secure a positive and lasting change, one which supports sustainable travel habits,” he added. “I am therefore delighted to confirm that the Spaces for People fund for local authorities has proven so popular that it is being increased to £30M (from £10M).”
Scotland’s Transport Transition Plan comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the country’s route map out of lockdown last week, announcing that some restrictions will lift from tomorrow.
This includes allowing construction sites designated as ‘non essential’ to make initial steps towards returning to work. Unlike in England where in many cases construction activity has continued under social distancing throughout the pandemic, Scotland moved to halt all non essential works.
This has put supply chains under pressure and caused what some have termed a ‘cashflow crisis’. Scotland’s Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum welcomed the “first tentative steps” to getting the sector back to work, but insisted that health and safety and collaboration must sit at the heart of the phased return.
The group’s chair Alan Wilson said: “We all understand the reasons why Scotland has been in virtual shutdown since March, and we all need to work together to assist the sector as it faces an uphill struggle to recover.”
(Photograph: Alastair Lloyd)