Glasgow Connectivity Commission reveals early findings | Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
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Glasgow Connectivity Commission reveals early findings

In a statement of its early findings, the Glasgow Connectivity Commission said “a significant rewiring of Glasgow’s transport system” is required if the city is to keep pace with other leading European destinations and compete for skills and investment. 

Chaired by leading transport academic Professor David Begg, the Commission has been looking at measures to support inclusive economic growth by enabling more people to live, work and visit the city region.

It was established by Council Leader Susan Aitken at last year’s State of the City Economy conference and is due to present its policy recommendations this November.

The commission has heard evidence that comparable cities which had created people-friendly environments, reduced pollution and congestion and developed high quality public transport networks were best placed to attract inward investment and highly skilled workers.

Professor Begg said encouraging work was underway to implement the same transformation in Glasgow and revitalise the city centre.

This included work to make areas more pedestrian-friendly with the ongoing Avenues project, building a network of high quality cycle lanes, establishing Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone and growing the urban population.

But the Commission heard evidence that the city’s current transport system presented structural barriers which could place limits on growth if not addressed. These include:

  • A dramatic decline in bus use in the west of Scotland over the last decade, with a loss of First Bus passengers of 40% over the last decade. In the four years to 2015/16 First has lost 27m passengers, equivalent to closing four of Glasgow’s five biggest stations. This decline was markedly worse than any other city in the UK.
  • Glasgow has a relatively low proportion (3%) of its population living in the city centre, placing a greater demand on commuting transport networks and lowering the quality of life in the city centre.
  • Glasgow devotes a far higher percentage of its land space to roads than other cities in the UK despite it having one of the lowest car ownership levels
  • Glasgow’s grid system allows far less space for pedestrians than successful comparator cities: 25% of land in the city centre is taken up by roads, with pavements taking up only 8% and other land accounting for 36%. The comparative figures for Edinburgh are 12% roads/10% pavements/49% land.
  • Glasgow lacks a fixed transport network linking some of the key transport generators in the city, including the Glasgow Airport and Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • While evidence on congestion is mixed – some evidence showed a recent fall in city centre traffic volumes – there is clear evidence that journey times on certain key road routes had suffered, having a particularly damaging impact on bus travel.
  • Active modes of travel, whilst increasing, are still relatively low.
  • Evidence suggested there is a surplus of car parking spaces available, with several city centre car parks being under-used at peak times.

Professor Begg said: “A generation ago Glasgow led the way across the UK towards what was seen as a modernised transport system, built for the car. Now, with rapidly changing demands and a trend towards low carbon infrastructure, the priorities of people have changed, quite dramatically. The dominance of the road is being questioned not only in social terms, with its negative impact on air quality and road safety, but also economically as its rival European cities transform their own environments in favour of pedestrians, cyclists and integrated public transport systems. This is what we are proposing, that the city lives up to its slogan by recognising that ‘People do indeed Make Glasgow’.” 

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce senior director Alison McRae said: ““We welcome the balanced approach of the Commission’s early process, with its focus on both the city centre and the city region. Its careful evidence-led approach is also to be applauded, as is its working in the context of economic growth.

“We support the extension and delivery of the Avenues project as a pedestrian-friendly initiative. Everybody at some time is a pedestrian, and we all benefit from such imaginative schemes.

“However, while we welcome the Commission’s broad move to have a Low Emission Zone with cleaner air in our city centre, we would encourage consideration of unintended consequences of policy development, with the likely impact on discretionary travel on city centre tourism, retail and leisure sectors.

“We are heartened by the observation that there is no evidence of increasing city centre congestion, which we believe undermines any case for a congestion charge. The pressure on city centre retailing from the rise of online trading would only be increased by such a charge.” 

  • The Glasgow Connectivity Commission was established by Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken in November 2017. It is chaired by Professor David Begg, Chief Executive of Transport Times, and is operating independently. Other commissioners are: Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce; Anne Ledgerwood, Operations Manager at St Enochs shopping centre; Iain Docherty, Professor of Public Policy and Governance at University of Glasgow University; Bill Reeve, Head of Rail at Transport Scotland; Damien Henderson, Board Member at Transform Scotland; Ross Martin, Economic Advisor at the Scottish Government; Gareth Williams, Head of Policy at Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

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