4 Consideration of Alternatives

4.1 Introduction

The SEA Act requires the environmental effects of ‘reasonable alternatives’ to be identified, described and evaluated. The Act also states that the Post-Adoption SEA Statement should include:

  • "The reasons for choosing the plan or programme as adopted, in the light of the other reasonable alternatives considered."

This section sets out the alternatives that were considered and explains the selection of the preferred option.

It should be noted that the STPR’s development was as a result of commitments made by the then Scottish Executive in 2003. The process of developing the STPR began in 2006 and drew on the National Transport Strategy in setting its high level objectives. This was subsequently reaffirmed by linkage to the strategic outcomes supporting the Scottish Government’s Purpose and the [then] emerging National Planning Framework (NPF2).

As such, the range of alternatives was, in practice, shaped by the wider policy context within which STPR developed and the alternatives that could reasonably be considered reflect this.

4.2 Appraising Alternatives

The STPR was conducted using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG). STAG itself encourages the consideration of alternatives in that it is an issues led, objective driven appraisal process. It is predicated on the identification of potential alternative solutions through their assessment in terms of addressing identified issues. It is not intended to allow the consideration of predefined outcomes developed in isolation or in advance of a consideration of the issues existing in a particular situation.

4.2.1 Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance

STAG is the appraisal framework developed by the Scottish Government to aid transport planners and decision-makers in the development of transport policies, plans, programmes and projects in Scotland. It is a requirement that all transport projects, for which Scottish Government support or approval is required, are appraised in accordance with STAG.

The first element of the STAG process is consideration of problems, opportunities, constraints and uncertainties followed by the development of planning objectives. After confirmation of the objectives, there is a process of option generation and sifting. This explicitly includes a consideration of potential alternatives and so supports the SEA requirement in this respect. The stages of the STAG process, as followed for the STPR, have been presented within a series of reports prepared for the study.

The relevant reports are Report 1 (Network Performance), Report 2 (Gaps and Shortfalls) and Report 3 (Option Generation and Appraisal). Together these set out the stages of the STAG process undertaken for STPR. They feed from one to the next and present the findings and outcomes of each stage of the process.

Report 4 (Summary Report), sets out an account of the background to the STPR, its development and context and the results of its technical recommendations. A short summary leaflet is also available, in addition to the draft Environmental Report and its non-technical summary. The Final report, published in conjunction with this Post Adoption Statement, refines Report 4 to reflect the results of consultation responses and further updates where these are available.

4.3 Assessment of Alternatives

A specific "do nothing" scenario, in which no interventions other than those already committed or otherwise programmed were delivered, was not considered to be a realistic alternative. The wider policy context within which STPR sits does not acknowledge the likelihood that "doing nothing" offers a realistic possibility of addressing the strategic transport issues that exist across Scotland, or supporting the Key Strategic Outcomes of the Scottish Government’s Purpose.

Equally, throughout the development of the STPR, thinking on the range on measures that might be employed to address identified issues was not constrained by the wider policy context as this was not so prescriptive as to generally limit option generation within the STPR’s remit.

Mode choice and travel reduction are not specifically encompassed in the interventions of the STPR. These are more properly dealt with under the National Transport Strategy, which the STPR supports. It should be recognised, however, that some of the interventions arising from STPR, for instance rail proposals, may offer mode choice for both passenger and freight movements. As such, they accommodate wider shifts in transport use.

The design development, mitigation and monitoring of STPR interventions will also, where appropriate, accommodate walking, cycling and other active travel routes. The maintenance or provision of such routes has been requested in some of the consultation responses for various corridors. Similarly, whilst the role of local and regional proposals is not included in the STPR, opportunities for synergies are recognised and these will be explored where appropriate.

4.4 Strategic Alternatives

STPR Report 3 (Option Generation and Appraisal) presents the process and outcomes of the Generation, Sifting and Appraisal of Interventions considered for the STPR. In summary, a long list of over 1,000 potential options was developed and was then subject to an initial sifting process. The list included proposals drawn from then emerging Regional Transport Strategies, discussion with stakeholders and various workshops. As such, it reflected, in part, an existing body of analysis and planning, which was augmented by STPR specific option generation. It also included a range of proposals that offered alternatives for particular areas or corridors.

Many interventions were rejected, or combined and redefined to form packages, either because they were not feasible in their original format or because they did not, in themselves, satisfy the planning objectives for the relevant corridor, node or network. This included consideration of options on environmental grounds which fed into the overall appraisal of alternatives (highlighted in section 6.1 of the draft Environmental Report).

Following the initial sift of potential interventions, most were carried forward for further appraisal, whilst others were dismissed. Interventions were assigned to one of two categories. These are listed in Appendices A and B of STPR Report 3.

Those interventions in Appendix A were further appraised and, though a process of refinement and, occasionally combination with other interventions. They were, generally, established as packages of potential measures. These packages were, in turn, subject of more detailed appraisal. Measures on some of the less trafficked trunk routes in the highlands or arising to develop a network of strategic park and ride facilities illustrate outcomes of this combination process. The individual proposals might not, in themselves, appear strategic, but, as a package, they offer nationally significant benefits, or frame a nationally significant programme of works.

On appraisal these interventions were, in turn, categorised in terms of;

  • their effectiveness in meeting defined objectives, including environmental objectives, and;
  • the scope of their impact in terms of their strategic nature.

The results of this sifting and appraisal are presented as Appendices C, D and E of Report 3. The 29 interventions included in Appendix D are those recommended for delivery under STPR.

The 17 interventions included in Appendix E have been assessed as supporting the Scottish Government’s Purpose, but, for a variety of reasons, have not been recommended for delivery. It should be noted that interventions in Appendices D and E have generally been subject to equivalent degrees of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment.

4.5 Intervention Specific Alternatives

In addition to the wider consideration of alternatives in achieving the overall and corridor specific objectives developed for STPR, the SEA process led to three of the interventions themselves being considered for intervention specific alternatives.

These were;

  • D14 - A9 Upgrading from Dunblane to Inverness
  • D16 - Upgrade A96 to Dual Carriageway between Inverness and Nairn
  • D24 -Targeted Road Congestion / Environmental Relief Schemes

4.5.1 A9 Upgrading from Dunblane to Inverness

An SEA alternative to the A9 Upgrading from Dunblane to Inverness intervention suggested a move away from a road based solution to one that focused on enhancing public transport options and comprised the following four elements:

  • The provision of additional coach services between Perth and Inverness;
  • Improving the rail infrastructure on the Highland Mainline between Perth and Inverness, to improve passenger and freight rail services (which was considered separately under D15 Rail Enhancements on the Highland Mainline between Perth and Inverness);
  • Improving the rail infrastructure for freight between freight terminals in the Central Belt (such as Grangemouth and Mossend) and Inverness (which was considered under E7 Rail Freight Enhancements between Mossend, Grangemouth and Aberdeen/Inverness); and
  • Speed enforcement cameras on the A9.

The SEA alternative would have involved enhancements to existing public transport opportunities between Perth and Inverness in the form of both coach and rail services as well as enhancements to the existing rail infrastructure. There were intended to allow more freight services to use rail over road as a viable means of transport. It was considered, in this case, that the public transport elements of the alternative would address STPR objectives to promote journey time reductions and increase opportunities to travel between Perth and Inverness. Speed enforcement cameras were considered to assist in reducing accident severity, so supporting safety objectives.

Three parts of the proposed alternative were not taken forward, for the following reasons:

  • Additional Coach Services between Perth and Inverness: Would not meet the STPR objectives to the same extent as the proposed rail service enhancements on the Highland Mainline between Perth and Inverness (considered in Intervention D15 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3);
  • Railfreight Enhancements between Mossend, Grangemouth and Inverness: Would not meet STPR objectives in the same cost effective manner as the proposed alternative of rail freight enhancements on the Highland Mainline between Perth and Inverness (considered in Intervention D15 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3); and
  • Speed Enforcement on the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness: There are several key reasons why accidents occur. Typically, these are not solely related to the speed of the vehicles involved and, where appropriate, speed cameras are already installed on this section of the A9. As such it is considered that speed management measures of this type, operating in isolation, would not fully address the STPR objectives.

4.5.2 Upgrade A96 to Dual Carriageway between Inverness and Nairn

An SEA alternative has been considered for upgrading A96 to Dual Carriageway between Inverness and Nairn which aims to promote public transport improvements rather than the implementation of a new dual carriageway. It comprises the following three elements:

  • The introduction of rail Park & Ride facilities at Inverness and Nairn, to provide a public transport alternative to car travel;
  • Improvements to the rail infrastructure between Aberdeen and Inverness to improve passenger services and provide a public transport alternative to car travel (considered in Package D17 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3: Rail Enhancements between Aberdeen and Inverness); and
  • Implement speed enforcement measures on the A96 between Inverness and Nairn to reduce accident rates.

It was proposed that the SEA alternative could address the objectives associated with D16 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3 with improvements to rail services, improving connectivity and journey time by public transport between Aberdeen and Inverness and safety concerns through the introduction of speed enforcement cameras.  The SEA alternative has been assessed as having an overall minor beneficial effect on the environment.

While it was considered that the proposed alternative would contribute to the STPR objective of "Improved Connectivity, Journey Time and Opportunity to Travel by Public Transport"; it would not fully address the safety related objectives on the A96 east of Inverness. The alternative Park-&-Choose element could contribute to the objective but the proposed Park-&-Choose as part of a new Dalcross Station (considered in part of D11 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3) would address the objective more fully.  The speed enforcement measures would not fully address the STPR safety objective for the route.

4.5.3 Targeted Road Congestion / Environmental Relief Schemes

The SEA alternative to this intervention focuses on enhancing passenger and freight rail services as opposed to the construction of new bypasses. This alternative comprises the following three elements;

  • Improvements to rail freight services to increase the opportunity for freight to utilise rail;
  • Improvements to rail passenger services to improve service frequency (this was considered under D17 — Rail); and
  • Speed enforcement measures.

The alternative approach would not alleviate poorer air quality caused by congestion, so causing a minor adverse impact on both human health and air quality.

4.6 Conclusion

The STPR is set within a wider policy context defined by, amongst others, the Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy, the National transport Strategy and the National Planning Framework. These frame its consideration of potential alternative interventions. The STPR does not include interventions that do not sit within this framework, or which are more properly delivered by other elements of the framework.

The STPR has considered alternatives throughout its development. The underlying STAG process explicitly requires such consideration and the SEA process brought added value through identifying environmentally focused possibilities which were tested against the STPR objectives to determine their effectiveness.

The 29 recommendations of the STPR reflect the outcomes of this process and the comments received in response to the consultation have been considered in terms of their impact on these recommendations.