Ambitious plans to transform travel across East Lothian
EVERY East Lothian resident will live within walking distance of new public transport hubs under ambitious new plans to transform the way people travel in the county.
A £30,000 pilot project to trial the first of the new multi-hubs in Musselburgh is set to go before councillors next week for the go-ahead.
It would see a central place where people could access public bus routes, car pools and e-bicyles, with pick-up points for people to car share and free Wi-Fi at major hubs.
The innovative proposals for future travel in the county aim to make sure every household is within walking distance of a standard hub, with major hubs in easy driving distance.
Incentives to car share could include priority car park spaces for people who take part at the hubs.
Talks with Sestran, Paths for All and Transport Scotland are taking place to source funds for the pilot, with an initial cost of £30,000 included in a report on the proposals which will be considered by East Lothian Council’s cabinet at a meeting next week.
The pilot, due to start operating at The Brunton this winter, faces delays amid Covid restrictions on public transport, which also rules out car sharing if possible.
A report to cabinet by asset manager Peter Forsyth said: “It is appreciated that introducing the concept of change to travel behaviour during a global pandemic, when the Scottish Government message is not to use public transport and only travel if absolutely necessary, appears to be a conflict.
“However, the programme will not actively promote the multi-hub proposal until it is reasonable to do so.”
The report revealed that the model for the new hubs was referred to as mobility hubs elsewhere; however, a focus group set up to look into the new proposals felt the word mobility was “more medical and was also associated with disabilities and mobility scooters”.
The key to the success of the multi-hubs will be a journey planning app that the council is looking to develop through the Mass Innovation Fund alongside various companies which want to use the hub.
They could include East Coast Buses, CoMoUK – which promotes shared cars, bikes and scooters – Sestran and Scottish Water, which is in talks to provide water bottle filling stations at hubs, particularly where e-bikes are introduced.
Most of the major hubs proposed following the Musselburgh trial will be centred at train stations or central bus interchange points such as Haddington High Street.
Subsidised taxi services are being considered for people who are unable to get to a hub by themselves either walking or on bicycle.
As the trial progresses, there is talk of expanding hubs to Musselburgh Railway Station and Queen Margaret University before moving out to Wallyford Railway Station to help ease pressure at the park and ride and improve bus services.
Prestonpans and Longniddry stations could then see e-bike stations provided to create additional hubs, with North Berwick station also likely to see additional services added such as e-bikes on council land across from the bus shelter/train station.
Dunbar station will see improved walking routes to access it and changes to bus access to make interchanging between bus and train easier.
Haddington High Street is seen as a potential site of a major transport hub and e-bike hire station.
Also included in the plans are potential for major hubs at Blindwells and East Linton as part of its new train station.
The pilot was welcomed by East Lothian politicians.
Iain Gray, East Lothian MSP, said: “We know that the pandemic has had a profound impact on public transport across the country, with passenger numbers down as people work from home or use alternative means of transport.
“However, lockdown restrictions have also had a positive effect on the number of people cycling and walking.
“As we looks towards our post-Covid recovery, it will be vital that sustainable public transport options remain viable and available and that people are encouraged to use them.
“Given the importance of this issue, I welcome the council’s plans to pilot these multi-hubs to explore new ways of providing information and making it easier to access public transport and other forms of sustainable travel.”
Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian MP, said: “Action to support public transport is required. Creating hubs is sensible as is a trial to see how it works. But to tackle both congestion and climate change affordable and accessible public transport that runs quickly and is convenient is vital. This can be a start.”
Marie Sharp, Local Democracy Service
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