Vital connection to reinvent Inverness city centre
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New multimillion-pound transport hub plans for Inverness have taken another major step forward.
Despite the privations of coronavirus and the challenges of lockdown, the major stakeholders in realising what is being referred to as the Inverness Masterplan have now held their first formal meeting.
As the Courier exclusively reported last year, several key city centre sites have been bought with Transport Scotland cash to pave the way for the development, including the former Royal Mail sorting office and car park, the TK Maxx and Sports Direct buildings, Strothers Lane car park and Highland Rail House, on the north side of Station Square.
Led by HiTrans and Transport Scotland, the group will oversee the creation of an integrated transport hub in the city centre.
Other partners include Network Rail, Abellio ScotRail and Highland Council who have now agreed terms of reference and the overall vision for the project, which they call “transformational”.
A report for the recent meeting said: “This investment by Transport Scotland will enable long held aspirations to improve facilities to be realised.
“Highland Council plans to transform the city centre, enhancing its public realm and its reputation as a destination, a desirable place to live and as a regional centre for business, educational, retail and commercial activities.
“Abellio ScotRail has a franchise commitment to carry out feasibility work to redevelop Inverness station.
“They worked with stakeholders to agree key priorities for the station and agreed a scope that would upgrade the station and improve connectivity with the centre of Inverness and other modes of transport.”
The vision also includes plans to include the local community, to encourage ‘ownership’ of the development which, as well as better integration between the city’s train and bus stations, will offer a range of new shop and café opportunities.
Frank Roach, HiTrans partnership manager, said: “This is a unique opportunity to redesign the city centre around an integrated public transport hub which will help us move towards Scotland’s 2045 net zero target.”
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “The meeting was extremely positive with all attendees recognising the exciting opportunity that the masterplan presents.
“The masterplan envisages a station that puts the needs of passengers and freight at its heart, operates as part of an integrated transport interchange, opens up economic and commercial opportunities, and becomes an integral part of Inverness’s public space through community engagement and placemaking.”
Inverness MP, Drew Hendry was delighted to hear of the latest developments.
“The progress of this masterplan is very welcome news as we all work to build what is needed for a truly 21st century city,” he said.
“It’s an exciting and vital part of our opportunity to create an even more vibrant and beautiful place to work in, to live in and to visit.”
The news was also welcomed by Mike Smith, manager of Inverness Business Improvement District.
“It is very exciting and we are looking forward to playing a role in that taking shape,” he said.
“We need to have a better connection for people who are local and those who are visitors coming to the city, and this project offers the opportunities that are needed to provide that.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart said: “As anyone living, working or coming regularly to Inverness will tell you, this investment has been badly-needed for many years.
“I look forward to seeing completion deadlines and shovels in the ground as quickly as possible.”