Scotland's first Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was launched in Glasgow last month and will be fully implemented by the end of 2022. Along with the recent work of the Connectivity Commission, it has put the focus on Glasgow city centre and the sustainable future we want from our urban hubs to make them healthier places and more attractive to visitors, businesses and citizens.

Future LEZs will also focus on those busy urban corridors in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh city centres. Setting engine standards to reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide, the greatest proportion of which come from diesel cars, will have a positive impact.

It is only part of the solution to the air quality and congestion challenge facing cities and major towns across Scotland. Journeys don’t generally begin and end within a city centre or LEZ. There has been a trend over many years of commuting to work from suburbs or further afield to reduce the burden of mortgage payments, so it’s critical we also look at policy interventions that can help deliver more sustainable end-to-end journeys.

Urban motorways were once hailed as the future but the extra road space has simply encouraged greater traffic and resulted in gridlock at peak times. Manchester’s M60 and the Inner Ring Road around Birmingham have become synonymous with daily tailbacks and wasted hours behind the wheel.

HeraldScotland: The M8 Motorway and the possibility of opening up the hard shoulder during peak traffic times.  Picture Robert Perry for The Herald and  Evening Times 13th March 2015..Must credit photo to Robert Perry.FEE PAYABLE FOR REPRO USE.FEE PAYABLE FOR ALL INTERNE

Glasgow’s urban network, including the heavily used M8, M77 and M80, has similar challenges. The solution is switching journeys from car to mass transit solutions and better use can be made of the existing road space on the Glasgow urban motorway network.

One option is to allow buses and coaches to access the hard shoulder.

Bus and coach priority measures such as this have real potential to benefit the thousands of passengers travelling into Glasgow on services operated by multiple operators, including Scottish Citylink, National Express, Stagecoach, First, McGills, Parks of Hamilton and Stuarts Coaches.

Motorway priority measures have already proven safe and successful on the M90 connecting Fife and Edinburgh.

Buses and coaches are permitted to use the hard shoulder, with the safeguard of a speed limit, from Halbeath to Ferrytoll. They then continue across the Forth Road Bridge, now a dedicated public transport route, on to the A90 with queue relocation measures from Dalmeny to Cramond Brig. Stagecoach Fife to Edinburgh services which benefit from these measures have seen passenger numbers increase by 10% year on year.

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Many bus and coach services using the M77 and M80 could be protected from bottlenecks at motorway junctions by being given sole access to the existing outside lanes, with the hard shoulder becoming a running lane for general traffic.

These would then naturally become the lanes buses and coaches use to leave the motorway at the Kingston Bridge or to access Cathedral Street to get to Buchanan Bus Station. This could equally be made to work on the M8, one of the busiest motorways in Europe.

Such initiatives will not reduce the road space available to general traffic but will encourage modal shift. The vast majority of Stagecoach buses accessing Glasgow city centre are Euro VI standard, and along with high interior quality this gives passengers the optimum journey experience, only let down by the significant variability of journey time caused by congestion on the motorway network.

All of these strategic transport links are critical to connectivity for our communities and growth in our economy. If we are serious about these objectives, it’s time for bold thinking to prioritise buses and coaches on our urban motorway network, not just in our city centres.

Robert Andrew is Chair, Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland

For more information please visit www.cpt-uk.org

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