The South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran) Strategic Network is a comprehensive plan to create a region-wide walking and cycling network. The ultimate goal of the project is to facilitate a measurable shift towards increased use of active travel. Driven by a need to move beyond the delivery of one-off travel projects and investments, this active travel network is designed to transform walking and cycling within the South East of Scotland by connecting cities, towns, neighbourhoods, settlements and public transport hubs.
Active travel schemes are often city focused, but in this case it was important to respond to the needs of South East Scotland as a region. Working in collaboration with SEStran, through its partnership with Sustrans Scotland, and eight local authorities, Arup was appointed to determine the optimal network for high-quality active travel routes within the SEStran region. The result is a proposed network of 600km of continuous off-road routes that join the region through new and existing active travel infrastructure.
Our team completed our work during a period of COVID-19 restrictions, adapting our approach but retaining our focus on the project’s original long-term outcomes. Our recommendations were tailored to communities across South East Scotland and designed to provide safe, accessible active travel routes whilst delivering economic benefit and encouraging a reduction in carbon emissions.
600km network of high-quality walking and cycling routes
£1,400min benefits for the SEStran region
7,000tonnesreduction in CO2 emission each year
Comprehensive data analysis
Building on existing research, we considered major development proposals, existing and proposed public transport interchanges and the most significant rail and bus linkages to inform the design of the strategic network. In addition, our research highlighted areas that could be better utilised through more accessible active travel infrastructure. A geospatial database was created to compile the transport reference data and to justify the routes ultimately chosen. This helped guide our subsequent site audit and stakeholder engagement activities.
Taking a digital-first approach
Our team conducted both physical and virtual site audits to make the best use of time and to utilise existing data about infrastructure and its characteristics. Audits focused in particular on cross-boundary connections, linking towns and cities and public transport hubs. A digital approach was adopted throughout the project ensuring data collection was accurate and streamlined. The team used GPS-enabled iPads to note areas of interest and to take photos that were synced directly with the geospatial database.
Creating a network for the region
Over 250km of on and off-road and routes were audited throughout the SEStran region. This effort revealed existing high-quality active travel infrastructure that is already in place, but where intermediate connections to make a coherent and strategic network were missing. Issues including lighting, path maintenance and a lack of safe crossing points were noted. When these issues are addressed, South East Scotland will be home to a high-quality, region-wide active travel network.
Engaging for inclusivity
A series of consultation events took place and these were essential to ensuring the strategic network design was inclusive. This stage of the project was highly collaborative, involving all key stakeholders, and with a focus on understanding key issues from their perspective and their thoughts on strategic network corridors across the region. We liaised with an extensive network of stakeholders, including local authorities, universities and colleges, to elicit comments and information and to identify common themes using the Collector app.
A better-connected future
Information collected across all stages was collated to develop the final strategic network design. In many cases, a clear route that best suited the strategic network development criteria emerged easily. A multi-criteria assessment was used to develop implementation phases for the network, with routes offering the greatest benefit planned for early introduction. Delivery of the strategic network will ensure that South East Scotland is well connected, healthy and ready for a more sustainable and environmentally sound future.