Road Expo Scotland returns: New journeys, new directions

Dominic Browne

Registration is now open for Road Expo Scotland at the SEC Glasgow on 29-30 November, with the key focus this year on sustainability and net zero.

This flagship event – Scotland’s leading traffic and transport conference and exhibition – will bring the entire sector together to debate how challenges can be tackled and opportunities embraced to deliver a network fit for the future.

This has been a huge year for sustainable transport in Scotland, marking the start of a generational shift in policy. And once again Road Expo Scotland finds itself focusing not just on a cutting-edge debate but another world-leading target from Transport Scotland.

Last year’s event discussed Scotland’s ambition to have the best road safety performance in the world by 2030. This year, the theme for the conference will be around net zero and sustainability as Transport Scotland began the year by publishing a route map to achieve a 20% reduction in car kilometres by 2030.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth is hoping to provide a keynote address for the conference, which promises a wider programme than ever before as a record number of professional bodies have joined forces to collaborate on the conference agenda and discuss how to tackle the net zero challenge.

As always, Road Expo is delivered in collaboration with Transport Scotland, with CPD accreditation from the Institute of Highway Engineers. This year, we also enjoy the support of CECA Scotland, SCOTS, COSLA, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, the Road Surface Treatments Association, the Road Safety Markings Association and ITS (UK).

CECA Scotland is collaborating on the programme for the first time and will be discussing how the sector can build a ‘pipeline of people’ as it seeks to train the next generation in the skills of the future.

Giving his expert insight on the central ambition of reducing car travel, technical lead for transport and net zero carbon at WSP – headline sponsor for Road Expo – Andy Poole will be giving a keynote address on how roads authorities can reduce car use. He will be joined by his WSP colleague, Tom Goodyer, who will talk about net zero and asset management.

Iain Adams, WSP UK associate director, told Highways: ‘We are excited to be attending this year’s Road Expo and exploring how we can progress beyond developing strategy, and focus on the delivery of decarbonised transport projects in Scotland.

‘A key priority is how to enhance and maintain existing infrastructure over new builds. To successfully deliver this, the industry must provide a multi-disciplinary approach that embraces and brings together specialist skills, materials and innovative technology to transform the whole life value of our transport infrastructure.

‘This thinking is at the heart of WSP’s approach to our projects in Scotland, where we have been busy supporting net zero transportation. For example, WSP provided multi-disciplinary services for Blackford Freight Facility in Perthshire, which removes 8,000 lorry movements and saves 3,200 tonnes of carbon every year, simply by transporting cargo by rail.

'Similarly, we’re also exploring opportunities to develop mobility hubs and public transport interchange points in Inverness, which will not only reduce carbon emissions caused by car journeys but also strengthen overall connectivity for the region and support the social and economic growth of communities in the area.’

There will also be an innovation session full of insights from the supply chain on new products, services and ideas, including the use of drones and connected sensors to support maintenance.

ITS (UK) is once again a key event partner and will be holding an ‘open forum’ session, which will see its working groups in conversation with delegates on key issues in intelligent transport such as open and closed data and delivering ITS strategies.

Stefanie O’Gorman, director of sustainable economics at Ramboll and member of the Climate Emergency Response Group, will be discussing how to unlock Scotland’s response to the climate emergency and Sustrans will be giving a presentation on active travel delivery in the light of the Scottish Government’s record-breaking levels of funding.

In the spring, minister for active travel Patrick Harvie said: ‘I am delighted that through the Co-operation Agreement the Scottish Government is investing a record sum of £150m for active travel in 2022/23 and have committed to investing at least £320m or 10% of the transport budget for active travel by 2024/25.

‘What matters now is for that record investment to deliver on the ground, with exciting new ideas for footpaths and cycleways, increased safety, provision of bikes where cost is a barrier and making sure that more people feel confident to choose to walk, wheel or cycle – and so much more.’

This was further supported by the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government for this year, which made a raft of commitments supporting modal shift and sustainable transport. These involved a renewed commitment to active travel, ‘including multi-year funding, with a focus on new infrastructure and storage, access to bikes through schemes such as the Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme 2 and free bikes for school age children who are unable to afford one’.

Other headline announcements included:

  • freezing ScotRail fares until March 2023, and complete a Fair Fares Review – delivering options for a sustainable and integrated approach to all public transport fares
  • £300m for concessionary travel, making bus travel free for over two million people in Scotland, including all children and young people under 22, disabled people and everyone over 60
  • rolling out a national strategy for expanding 20mph zones, with more roads and areas reducing their speed limits to 20mph – making streets feel safer and encouraging active travel
  • working with the private sector to deliver £60m of public and private investment to double the size of the public charging network to at least 6,000 electric vehicle charging points over the next four years
  • introducing regulations to enable bus franchising and Bus Improvement Partnerships, giving local authorities more options to improve bus services.

Ms Gilruth said: ‘Just under a third of emissions here in Scotland come from the transport sector, so there’s a lot of work ahead to decarbonise transport and to encourage a shift towards sustainable transport for everyday journeys. The key thing is that even if we electrify all the cars in Scotland, that still won’t be enough to meet our net zero targets.

‘To meet our targets we need to reduce our use of cars alongside a switch to cleaner vehicles. We need people to travel less, stay local and switch modes and where those options are not possible to combine a journey. This will make us healthier, happier and it will reduce congestion too.

‘This plan is outlined in our route to reducing car kilometres travel by 20% by 2030, which is a world-leading commitment made by the Scottish Government. But we are taking action in Scotland today. We’re providing record funding for active travel so that more people can choose to walk, wheel and cycle.’

Head of operations at Transport Scotland, Jonny Moran, told Highways: ‘Road Expo is the leading event for the industry in Scotland. Our focus is how to make it inclusive to the wider industry including major contractors, utilities and universities.

‘Collaboration is key to how we deliver towards net zero. On the back of COP 26, industry and the people of Scotland recognise that climate change has to be tackled. Being in that position is a very important step forward.

‘We all know what we want to do but we need to sit down and discuss how. We need to make the best use of innovation. There is a lot of expertise within the industry we need to harness. Everyone can influence this positively no matter where they sit in their company and organisation.’

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