Design work has started to create a major rail and bus interchange in Inverness.
Frank Roach, manager at north transport partnership Hitrans, said there is a lot of interest being generated in “creating something really significant” in the city centre.
It comes after Royal Mail announced £6.6 million plans last month to relocate its Highland sorting office from Strothers Lane to another city site in Seafield Road, freeing up the existing site for future use.
Yesterday Mr Roach said: “We have got a designer looking at the potential layout of a proper, integrated transport hub.
“We will be talking to the various stakeholders and trying to draw together what other people think could be a desirable development for the city centre, and then we will be looking at ways of funding it”.
Mr Roach said that the aim is to create a transport hub which links the bus station at Farraline Park to the train station, while providing sufficient parking for cars – including electric charging points – and bikes, while integrating green space into the plans.
He added: “Green space is something that is completely lacking in the city centre and this will form a key part of the plans”.
Mr Roach said previously that a revamp of the area would allow buses to make use of the Royal Mail site, rather than being hemmed in by buildings. He said this would provide more efficient access to the A82 trunk road, instead of exiting the station and turning onto Academy Street as part of a one-way system.
Local politicians and industry leaders welcomed the move as an opportunity to open up the “exciting possibility” of redevelopment around the bus and train stations.
Work is also due to start this summer on the £6 million revamp of Inverness train station and Station Square, including improving the entrances to Falcon Square and Strothers Lane.
Royal Mail said in a statement last month that their move is part of an ongoing transformation of its business to increase the efficiency of its operations and provide a service which is “fit for purpose” for its customers.
All 274 workers there will keep their jobs when they transfer to the bigger facility – potentially as soon as April next year – and extra roles could even be created.
The new building will provide more than double the floor space to meet the demand of the growing parcel and online shopping market, as well as for automated mail sorting facilities in the future.
The pace of housing growth in Inverness has also been a factor in the decision, with the prospect of new addresses and more parcel deliveries in the future.