CONCERNS that Scots will become more reliant on their cars post-lockdown has added impetus to plans to introduce European-style mini-transport hubs that combine public transport with bike and car sharing in one place.

Social distancing has meant many people now working from home rather than in an office - but that has impacted businesses in town and city centres and has meant Scots have become more used to just using their cars.

Now there are plans for new hubs, which are particularly common in Germany and Austria which are seen as a way to revitalise the high street, improve use of public transport and provide a greener environment.

The idea has been backed in a consultants' review of projects for Transport Scotland, which says it has the potential to cut private car dependency and increase the use of greener modes of travel, as the nation emerges from lockdown.

The review warned that there was a "risk" that the pandemic will result in a long-term shift to private car use and that it was "more important than ever that public transport is attractive and competitive to ensure that the network remains viable for those who need it, and to minimise carbon emissions".

And it recommended a framework is drawn up to assess future funding decisions and the most appropriate locations and facilities.

The study by Jacobs UK says part of the reason an intervention is that it would make it more attractive to use public transport. It warned said that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in increased home working, resulting in a reduction in public transport use.

But it warned that while the amount of homeworking is likely to decrease to some extent as restrictions are eased, there is the potential that there will be some "lasting increase" in working from home in the future.

And it is hoped that, if the scheme is successful, every resident in the country would live within walking distance of an access point for public transport.

Demonstrator projects could be introduced initially at a range of different sites and localities, both urban and rural.

There were 80% fewer rail journeys in Scotland between 16-22 November 2020 than for the same period in 2019.

And the consultants' study warned: "There is a risk that this will lead to a shift to private car use in the long term, potentially threatening the viability of the public transport network.


"Scotland’s town centres were already facing significant challenges prior to the global pandemic; however, they have the potential to contribute a great deal in the response to climate change, and to meeting the future needs of our diverse population. In combination with walking, wheeling, and cycling, public transport provides a key mode of transport for replacing car journeys, with research showing that the average number of cars per household rises as public transport accessibility decreases.

"Mobility hubs therefore have a role to play in reducing the need to travel unsustainably, whilst maintaining and enhancing the character and identity of Scotland’s towns and villages, supporting place-based investment."

The report added: "There is no 'one-size fits all' model for the hubs, as the form must take cognisance of the local environment and existing active travel and public transport provision."

The shared transport charity Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK) which is working with the Scottish Government on the plan as part of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), says the project can reducing the need to travel "unsustainably" and re-energise towns to help local businesses recover.

The hubs would contribute to the goal of ‘20 minute neighbourhoods’ which enable people to live, learn, and meet their needs within a 20 minute walk of their home.

They would bring together public transport stops for buses, trams and trains with bike share schemes, car clubs, e-scooters, electric vehicle charging points, bike racks and shared taxi rides.

It would also bring in community facilities such as cafés, fitness areas, green space areas, package collection points and wifi and phone charging, all with covered waiting areas, real-time journey planning information, walking areas and disabled access.

CoMoUK say the mobility hubs will lead to less congestion by cutting the dominance of the private car and associated problems of carbon emissions, air quality and social exclusion.

READ MORE: Scotland's green transport plan risks being 'left behind'

It will provide the opportunity for what they call "multi-modal trips" meaning you can switch between different types of transport.

The charity says it will also improve the public transport network by plugging the gaps to deliver ‘first or last mile’ connection to the nearest bus or railway services.

It also provides safety and better accessibility and lead to improved access for more vulnerable users.

Lorna Finlayson, Scotland director of CoMoUK, said: “There have never been so many pressing reasons why we need to rethink how we move and allocate street space to travel – from addressing air quality problems, decarbonisation of the transport sector, supporting the active travel agenda, decongesting and revitalising city centres and helping local businesses.

“The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we move around, and it’s vital that as we recover we properly manage space for public transport and shared mobility modes as an alternative to private cars. Public transport is the original shared mode, however, the lines between public and shared transport are blurring – there are many new shared modes from bike share schemes to car clubs which are changing behaviour and user needs.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to introduce mobility hubs here and learn from our European neighbours how to transform the way we get around our cities.”

According to a consultants' report, between 2014 and 2018, 52.6% of people who travelled to work by car or van said that they could not use public transport.

When asked their reasons for not using public transport, 23% of those who could use public transport but did not said there was no direct route, and 20% said it was inconvenient.

When those who could not use public transport were asked why they could not, 35% said there was no direct route, and 13% said it was inconvenient.

"This suggests that there is an opportunity to encourage more people to use public transport by making it more convenient and better connected," the consultants said.