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Highland council 'gravely disappointed' as Transport Scotland puts Bus Partnership Fund on pause

By Federica Stefani

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Raigmore Bus Gate on Ashton Road opposite the entrance to Stratton Road. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Raigmore Bus Gate on Ashton Road opposite the entrance to Stratton Road. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Transport Scotland's announced they will pause the Bus Partnership Fund (BPF) – with ongoing projects to improve bus services in the Highlands at risk.

At yesterday's meeting of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, members said they would reply to Transport Scotland saying they were “gravely disappointed” with the decision.

The fund was introduced by the Scottish Government to enable councils to invest in facilities to improve public transport, with £500 million planned to be delivered by Transport Scotland over five years.

A report presented to the committee states that there is dedicated resource in place for the development of the BPF projects until the end of the 2023/24 financial year, that there are risks to the completion of each of the projects planned with the funding, and there is still uncertainty over the impact of this decision at this stage.

The focus will now shift on finishing those projects which are near completion this financial year – among which is the Raigmore Bus Gate which is now nearing completion and which is hoped to open by the end of March 2024.

Chair of the committee, councillor Ken Gowans said: “Funding for the Bus Partnership Fund projects have been placed on pause by Transport Scotland beyond the end of the 2023/24 financial year. We are liaising closely with Transport Scotland to seek confirmation of when funding will resume. We, of course, continue to proactively be look at alternative funding streams.

“Alongside walking, wheeling and cycling, public transport is a much more efficient use of road space and more environmentally friendly way of moving around.

“We are committed to continue our work to provide some of the exciting changes to modernise the local transport network.The overall aim is to cut congestion and car usage by offering more reliable public travel choices.”

The Highland Council secured Phase 1 funding of £2.9 million for seven projects in the Inner Moray Firth and three projects in Lochaber, with potential that a further £47 million could be secured for further phases.

Another project that will be unaffected by the funding pause is the City Centre Traffic Light Prioritisation to help the delivery of more reliable and punctual bus services throughout the centre of Inverness, with twenty sites being upgraded and six more are nearing completion.

Also, due to be completed this financial year is the new Torvean Mobility Hub which will be the first of its kind in the Highlands. Work is expected to be completed by the end of March and services will start soon after.

Changes to Active Travel funding have also been announced by Transport Scotland. The committee members were advised that officers will bring a further paper to them once more information has been received from Transport Scotland.

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