East Lothian aim to provide transport hub within walking distance of every resident

Every East Lothian resident will live within walking distance of new public transport hubs under ambitious 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.

The innovative proposals for future travel in the county aim to make sure that every household is within walking distance of a standard hub, with major hubs in easy driving distance.

It would see a central place created where people could access public bus routes, car pools and e-bicyles; there would be pick-up points so residents could car share and the major hubs would also boast free Wi-Fi. Incentives to car share could include priority car park spaces at the hubs.

Talks with Sestrans, Paths for All, and Transport Scotland are taking place to source funds for the pilot scheme, with an initial cost of £30,000 stated in a report to 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 at present.

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.”ADVERTISING

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 that 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.

A draft plan which will go before cabinet on Tuesday identifies The Brunton as the ideal place to trial the hub. The plan says: “As well as being a town centre location with frequent bus services and good local facilities, there is already public electric vehicle charging nearby, a Co-Wheels car club vehicle and taxi rank.

“Public e-bike hire is coming soon, and the site has been identified as a potential site for a trial of the inductive charging of car club and taxi vehicles.”

The report acknowledges that car pool companies had struggled to be financially viable in rural locations in the past but hoped the new hubs would increase use.

It points to Tripshare East Lothian, an online community which matches people travelling in the same direction to provide car sharing opportunities, as an important tool for the new hubs.

Subsidised taxi services are being considered for people unable to get to a hub by themselves either walking or on bicycle.

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.

Musselburgh ward councillor Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader expressed his disappointment the pilot was coming to cabinet and not full council, but welcomed it “in general terms”.

Iain Gray, East Lothian MSP, welcomed the plans, adding: “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.

Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian MP, said: “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.”

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