Peter Cockhead began his presentation by outlining the development of voluntary regional transport partnerships post local government reorganisation in 1996, and in particular the origins of the public/private partnership which comprised Nestrans. During the seven years of its existence, with Peter at the helm as Co-ordinator, the organisation raised the profile of transportation issues in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, developed a strategy comprising 14 project/policy strands to integrate with the Councils' Local Transport Strategies, and secured commitments and funding. In January 2003 the Scottish Executive endorsed Nestrans' strategy, coined the Modern Transport System by Moir Lockhead of First, which encompassed road, rail freight, ports, bus and rail public transport, park and ride, and travel plan initiatives.
Peter then outlined the Scottish Executive's 2004 Transport White Paper which promoted a new National Transport Agency (Transport Scotland), a new National Transport Strategy and a new Regional Transport Partnership network. On 1 April 2006 six such statutory RTPs were established to co-ordinate strategic projects and with optional powers to take on the delivery of local authority transportation functions such as: quality partnership/contract schemes ticketing arrangements, bus service information, bus lane installation, provision of supported local bus services, road user charging schemes, the operation of tolled bridges, the operation of airports and air services, and support for ferry services. The change from a voluntary to a statutory partnership has not seen large-scale changes within the Nestrans area to date, with Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Councils retaining their transportation functions.
So, what of the new Nestrans? Its vision is for "a transport system for north east Scotland which enables a more economically competitive, sustainable and socially inclusive society". And its priorities are to:
- submit to the Scottish Executive by March 2007 a Regional Transport Strategy to 2021, which is integrated with revised Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Local Transport Strategies and the emerging National Transport Strategy.
- support or promote major infrastructure projects such as the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, rail freight gauge enhancement and Aberdeen Crossrail
- promote travel planning and;
- instigate a £3m per annum capital investment programme including, in 2006/07, Quality Bus Corridors, strategic cycle routes, enhanced railway station facilities and provision of vehicles for demand responsive transport projects in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Looking towards the future, whilst there are clear procedures on the steps required for the transfer of functions from local authorities to RTPs, with any such action requiring the agreement of Scottish Executive Ministers and constituent Councils, it is unclear what or when functional transfers may take place within the Nestrans area.
Further information on Nestrans can be found on their website at www.nestrans.org.uk.
Report by Marion Mackay.
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