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‘Enormous challenge’ cutting car use in Angus as transport boss makes green journeys ‘top’ priority

Traffic in Forfar.
Traffic in Forfar.

Angus roads bosses have redoubled their efforts to get drivers out of their cars and choose greener forms of transport.

Transport head Walter Scott pledged greener journeys are “close to the top, if not the top” of his priority list.

He spoke before unveiling a “pipeline of opportunities” to encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport in county.

But Angus commuters remain firmly wedded to their private vehicles.

Newly published research shows fewer people in the county are walking to work, bus use is at only half the Scottish norm and falling numbers of children are either walking or cycling to school.

‘Not well co-ordinated’

Internationally-acclaimed transport consultants Systra, who wrote the Angus active and sustainable travel strategy, said existing projects are “patchy” and “not well co-ordinated”.

Angus councillors approved the strategy and action plan at a February meeting outlining the county’s ambitions to 2024.

Councillor Kenny Braes, SNP, said: “It’s an enormous challenge. I see so many potential chicken and egg situations here.”

They also appointed six active travel champions after an “oversight” meant the key role has been unfilled since 2017.

Mr Scott’s team highlighted new paths linking Arbroath to Marywell and Friockheim as well as existing multi-million pound projects in Monifieth and Arbroath.

Other schemes will work on improving and maintaining existing bus routes, supporting electric vehicles and on better education and awareness, among others.

A Nissan NV200E electric car for Angus Cycle Hub which picks up cycles from Angus Recycling Centres and deliver cycles to new owners.

‘Better leadership’ needed

Councillor Mark McDonald, SNP, said it was an “epic report with lots to commend in it.”

But consultants Systra suggested progress on growing active travel in Angus lagged behind other parts of Scotland in most areas.

The expert team called for “better leadership” to tackle poor accessibility across the county.

The report said 69% of Angus workers drive, against a Scotland figure of 62%.

Bus use in the county is only 5% compared to a Scottish average of 10%.

Cycling provided a more positive story for green transport leaders with 3.3% of people regularly biking to work against a Scottish average of 2.4%.

‘Huge numbers’ of people still driving

Councillor Bill Duff, SNP, said: “One of the strategic problems Angus has got in terms of active travel is the large number of our residents who commute to Dundee and Aberdeen.

“Those of us who live on the east coast have a good bus and rail link to Dundee and Aberdeen. There is more of a problem as we move inland.

“That’s a real problem for us if we really want to move into active travel because the reality is huge numbers of people are driving 30 or 40 miles to their work and back.

“I don’t see a way we can wave a magic wand and change that.”

Officers are investing millions of pounds in active transport projects across Angus amid a Scotland-wide drive to increase the number of sustainable journeys.

Cllr Braes said change was an ‘enormous challenge’.

Millions already invested

Councillors hope to cut car emissions in Angus by at least 39% by 2030.

High profile work includes the £9m Broughty Ferry to Monifieth  path, the £13m A Place For Everyone scheme in Arbroath and temporary 20mph zones in seven Angus towns and 25 villages.

The approved action plan parks more ambitious goals such as installing electric vehicle charging points in remote areas of Angus and building new paths over disused railway lines.

Instead, it focuses on a large number of actions including maintaining and improving existing bus routes between towns in the county, cycle storage, building better bus stops and more integration between different kinds of transport.

‘Challenges within challenges’

Mr Scott said there were “challenges within challenges” but said he had added resource to his team and would not have presented an action plan that he did not feel confident in delivering.

The research focused on methods of travel before lockdown.

An Angus Council spokeswoman said councillors had “set out clear leadership roles and responsibilities” for delivering active travel.

She said: “The report brought together the governance of active travel from strategy, to action plan, to pipeline of active and sustainable travel projects.

There had been “commitments to reporting on progress on these projects and the action plan,” she added.

Angus green transport schemes

Angus Council has attracted millions in funding from the Scottish Government, its agencies and charities to support its active and sustainable transport plans.

Spaces for People

More than £789,000 invested in making safe spaces for physical distancing and to promote active travel during the pandemic. This included 20mph speed limits in seven towns and 25 villages and 16 cycling shelters.

Electric Vehicle charging hub at Orchardbank

More than £440,000 from Energy Saving Trust and in council funding to install this Forfar resource.

Broughty Ferry to Monifieth path

Angus Council is working with Dundee City Council on delivering this £9m cross-boundary project to improve the coastal National Cycle Route 1 from Broughty Ferry to Monifieth.

Arbroath: A Place for Everyone

Project managers promise “an exemplar walking, cycling and wheeling route, accessible for all which will improve accessibility across the town” in this more than £13m scheme.

A feasibility study on electrical vehicle charging points in the town is also underway.

New links to Marywell and Friockheim have also been  proposed.

Health Centres

More than £57,000 from a Tactran administered fund to install dropped kerbs on strategic routes to health centres, hospitals and clinics.

Sidlaws Path Network

A £42,000 fund for a feasibility study into new paths.