Highland Council has secured an initial £2.7million to launch a bus revolution across Inverness and the north.
The authority has ambitions to cut car use in the city and at beauty spots to ease congestion and reduce the impact of climate change.
The cash secured from Transport Scotland’s Bus Partnership Fund is the first round of funding from a vision that could eventually stretch to £55million.
Bus revolution to begin in Inverness and Fort William
Highland Council says the initial award of funding will focus on “quick wins” and develop options for bus priority schemes on roads.
It is hoped that if public transport is less affected by congestion then more will choose to leave the leave the car at home.
Priority projects will be delivered at Raigmore Hospital and Rose Street in Inverness while bus-only links will be developed at Blar Mhor and Upper Achintore in Fort William.
The rest of the first round of funding will be used to develop business cases and studies for a second round of funding, which could unlock a further £21.7million.
Trish Robertson, chairwoman of Highland Council’s economy and infrastructure committee, said: “One of the best ways for us to reduce our carbon footprint is to change how we make every-day journeys.
“The Bus Partnership Fund centres on tackling congestion, which is most pronounced in our biggest urban areas, Inverness and Fort William.
“We look forward to developing options and engaging on these exciting projects that will help to create a healthy, sustainable transport network that is fit for an age of climate and ecological emergency.”
Other Highland communities could benefit
Highland Council also has aspirations to use the possible bus revolution to tackle long-standing issues of congestion at beauty spots.
However, the authority’s bid for funding projects in Skye has been unsuccessful with officers now exploring other opportunities for the island in the bid.
Park and ride facilities on the A96 Aberdeen road, A9 Thurso road and A82 Drumnadrochit approaches to Inverness have also been proposed for future phases.
Transport Minister Graeme Dey announces the first awards from our #BusPartnershipFund.
Up to £23.6 million has been awarded to tackle the negative impacts of congestion on #bus services.
— Transport Scotland (@transcotland) June 22, 2021
David Beaton, managing director of Stagecoach Highland, explained securing the first phase of funding would help connections across the north.
He said; “This result demonstrates the strength of our partnership working and our commitment to continuing to deliver a high quality public transport service across the region.
“Getting our buses through congestion hot spots is one of the best ways to reduce bus journey times, improve reliability and therefore make travelling by bus the best way to move around.
“We look forward to continuing this essential work with Highland Council and our other partners.”