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New scheme launched to tackle transport poverty in Scotland’s largest low emission zones

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The Shared Transport for All scheme will work with people in Scotland’s two largest cities. 

A new project is being launched to help people in deprived communities access shared transport options in Scotland’s largest low emission zones (LEZs).

The Shared Transport for All scheme will work with people in Edinburgh and Glasgow who live in poverty and are most likely to be impacted by the introduction and enforcement of LEZs.

It has been funded by national shared transport charity Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK) and Smarter Choices, Smarter Places to prevent people being cut off from key services and opportunities.

The £44,000 project will see a community engagement officer appointed help establish and develop low-cost communal transit.

LEZs, which are designed exclude the most polluting vehicles to improve air quality and reduce congestion in cities, were introduced in Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh this year.

A scheme already running in Glasgow has also been extended to cover most vehicles.

Full enforcement in Edinburgh and Glasgow will begin in June 2024, with many older vehicles banned from city centres.

Penalties for bringing a non-compliant vehicle into the LEZ are set at £60 but will be halved to £30 if paid early.

According to the Poverty and Inequality Commission, there is a relationship between areas of deprivation and fewer transport options.

Transport Scotland figures also show just 19 per cent of households earning less than £10,000 a year have access to a bicycle.

Glasgow and Edinburgh rank in the top three for most registered vehicles per council, indicating a high availability of cars.

Many face ‘forced car ownership’ because of a lack of public, shared and active transport and could struggle to switch to a vehicle that meets LEZ standards.

Rachael Murphy, Scotland director of CoMoUK, said: “Scotland’s low emission zones offer an opportunity to radically change our city centres and reduce our reliance on the private car.

“However, there is a risk that some communities impacted by transport poverty due to a lack of affordable, accessible public and shared transport options will struggle to part from the private car, despite penalties being applied.

“The cost-of-living crisis, driven by record inflation and fuel costs, makes this a more pressing problem as communities face being cut off from key services and opportunities.

“Car clubs and other shared transport modes like bike hire and ride sharing schemes have the potential to dramatically reduce congestion on our roads and carbon emissions.

“The Shared Transport for All scheme will offer vital support to communities in designing projects that work for them.”

CoMoUK is already working with communities impacted by poverty in Edinburgh and Glasgow to understand their knowledge of LEZs and which shared transport modes can work for them.

The latest project will build on relationships with the likes of community groups and housing associations to develop shared and active transport plans including bike hire, car clubs, or ride share schemes.

A community engagement officer will guide them through funding applications, procurement, and implementation.

Operators will also be encouraged to increase access to shared transport in deprived areas.

Recent research by CoMoUK found 37,993 people were part of pay-per-drive car clubs in Scotland in 2021, up 24 per cent on the previous year.

Almost a fifth of car club cars in Scotland are electric – compared to only 1 per cent of privately-owned cars across the UK.

Hannah Box, senior development officer (communities) with CoMoUK, said:

“I am excited to be delivering our Shared Transport for All project, as it supports communities facing deprivation to access more sustainable and reliable transport modes.

“This project will empower communities in Glasgow and Edinburgh to access their local shared transport schemes or make plans to implement their own schemes.

“Where the low emission zone will limit car journeys into the city, people travelling from deprived areas who rely on their car may be greatly impacted.

“I look forward to collaborating with partners and communities to explore the opportunities and address the challenges of the low emission zones.”

A survey of car club members in Scotland showed 73 per cent of respondents in Scotland agreed that membership had saved them money compared to owning their own car, and around a quarter said saving money was their reason for joining.

It also found that 92 per cent walked and 49 per cent used public transport at least once a week, while 36 per cent cycled at least once every seven days. 

Graham McQueen, Smarter Choices, Smart Places manager, said:

“The Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme is proud to be supporting CoMoUK in their delivery of Shared Transport for All.

“As we work to find ways to reduce our reliance on car transport, it is vital we ensure accessibility for all and support everyone to find fair alternatives.

“Shared Transport for All will ensure these opportunities for access are there for Glasgow and Edinburgh communities near the Low Emission Zones.”