Major push forward in energy transition for city

Three reports which will be a major push forward in the green energy transition for Aberdeen and encourage more journeys by foot, cycling, buses and by electric vehicles were today approved at an Aberdeen City Council committee last night (Wednesday 3 February).

The agreement by City Growth and Resources committee members will help the council’s target of 42.5% to reduce carbon emissions in the city by 2026.

The decisions were on the five-year active travel plan from 2021 to 2026, agreeing to put forward a bid to the Scottish Government’s Bus Partnership Fund (BPF) of up to £200 million, and investing in further infrastructure for electric vehicle charging.

The committee also instructed the Chief Officer for Strategic Place Planning to explore options for improved access and integration for Aberdeen Bus Station to improve customer experience. as well as accelerating the city centre aspects of the Bus Partnership Bid to help drive recovery, improve transport systems and insure integration of current projects.

City Growth and Resources Convener and Council Co Leader, Councillor Douglas Lumsden said: “The three reports agreed at committee are part of an ambitious and achievable target in reducing carbon emissions for Aberdeen which will benefit all our residents through cleaner air.

“The measures introduced through more active travel, increased bus journeys, and a greater number of electric vehicle charging points are a major push forward in the energy transition of the city from its reliance on carbon-based fuels.

“Aberdeen City Council is committed to playing our part in helping residents live a more carbon-neutral life as part of our everyday journeys.”

The report to committee for the 2021-26 active travel plan said it will support the reduction in carbon emissions by 42.5% by providing the opportunity to move away from dependence on the private car for short journeys towards more sustainable and carbon neutral forms of transport, such as walking and cycling.

The report noted that due to the lockdown restrictions with the Covid-19 pandemic, monitoring around the city has shown that the current level of pedestrians is 115% compared to last year, the current level of cyclists is up by 171%, and NO2 concentrations are at 59% compared to last year.

The report said areas of importance include the key radial and secondary corridors to and from the city centre remain priorities.

The active travel action will complement existing plans for these areas of importance and consider what else may be required beyond the city centre and main transport corridors to ensure a coherent and holistic active travel network can be developed throughout the city.

The report to committee has a list of almost 60 priority areas and projects divided into infrastructure projects, behaviour change projects and complimentary measures which can be viewed at Active Travel - List of Projects - App 6.pdf (aberdeencity.gov.uk)

The report for councillors on the electric vehicle (EV) framework for Aberdeen explained in 2017, the Scottish Government set out plans to phase out the sale of cars and vans powered solely by petrol or diesel by 2032 which has now been brought forward to 2030. In November 2020, the UK Government stated that new cars and vans powered wholly by petrol and diesel will not be sold in the UK from 2030 with plug-in hybrids removed by 2035. This creates huge opportunities for a switch to lower carbon forms of transport and is likely to lead to an increased demand for electric vehicles.

The committee agree that council officer should explore opportunities for external funding opportunities as well as encouraging and facilitating the entry of commercial operators into the city to support the further roll out of charging infrastructure in order to meet demands post 2025, and to explore opportunities to pilot on-street charging infrastructure in the city.

Lastly, the committee agreed to the council should apply to the Scottish Government’s Bus Partnership Fund (BPF) for up to £200 million on behalf of the North East Bus Alliance, of which ACC is a partner.

The report said about a third of Aberdeen households do not have access to a private car.

The Bus Partnership Fund grants throughout Scotland are to be used for investment in ambitious bus priority infrastructure, and supporting local authorities in partnership with bus operators to tackle the negative impact of congestion on bus services so that journeys are quicker and more reliable – encouraging more people to travel by bus.

Any grant would also be expected to leverage other bus service improvements to tackle the climate emergency, reduce private car use and increase bus patronage.

The report to committee acknowledged while there is currently a short term supressed demand for public transport due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there is a medium to longer term need to enable and encourage people to travel sustainably remains a key local transport strategy objective which supports the council’s net zero carbon objectives, plans for a low emissions zone in the city centre, and community planning partner objectives facilitating access to education, jobs, services and leisure for everyone.

If the Aberdeen bid to the fund was successful, the money would be used for:-

  • Development of an Aberdeen Rapid Transit vision, strategic, outline and full business cases, delivery framework options and prioritised pipeline of projects.
  • Continuation of strategic, outline and full business cases then delivery of approved measures along the bus alliance priority corridors:
    • Westhill to Aberdeen (strategic outline case complete; outline/ full business cases to be undertaken)
    • Ellon to Garthdee (strategic outline case underway)
    • A96 Inverurie to Aberdeen (strategic outline case underway)
    • Stonehaven to Aberdeen (scope to be determined following consideration of the Wellington Road Multi Modal Corridor Study by this Committee in summer 2021)