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Based on the early consultation with stakeholders described above, the City of Edinburgh Council decided to start the development of a “New Transport Initiative” (NTI) in May 1999. Its aim was to take an imaginative approach to providing Edinburgh with a ‘world-class’ transport system that could sustain and facilitate the potential for economic growth, as well as being appropriate to its role as a major international city and Scotland’s capital. In so doing, the transport strategy would support Council aims of:

  • Promoting a healthy and sustainable environment

  • Developing the local economy

  • Tackling poverty and disadvantage.

The NTI was initiated at a time when national government policy on transport was going through a significant stage of development. Legislation was introduced at this time which, amongst other matters, proposed powers allowing local authorities to introduce road user charges. In Scotland, this was enacted in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001.
The NTI study examined the options for achieving a step change in transport quality. Funding issues were a key focus of the initial stage of the study, which included examination of road user (congestion) charging as well as a wide range of other potential funding sources. Alternatives ranged from tourist taxes to bus quality partnerships, from parking charges to the Private Finance Initiative.
At the same time, the Council started to develop an integrated and consistent set of transport policies, linked with an appropriate project portfolio. The biggest component was a proposal to develop a light rail network for Edinburgh. This would form the core of an upgraded public transport system, integrating with improved rail and bus services, as well as linking with Park and Ride sites around the edge of the city. The investment strategy also included significant enhancement of the city centre environment to maintain its attractiveness as a shopping and tourist destination.
Public views were always seen as a key issue in the development of the initiative. A major consultation was undertaken in 1999, including the distribution of a questionnaire throughout Edinburgh. The questionnaire sought views in relation to three strategic transport policy options, as well as testing key objectives and components of the transport strategy. Around 19,000 responses were received with high levels of support (62%) shown for the strategic option including the concept of congestion charging (see table below). In addition to the public consultation, there was also extensive consultation with stakeholders.


The conclusions drawn from the consultation and an initial technical appraisal were that congestion charging was feasible, would reduce traffic levels, could generate substantial revenue for transport investment and would have no or very limited adverse economic impact if the charge was set at an appropriate level. In addition, there was a high degree of acceptance provided that the overall package was right. This gave the Council confidence to develop the proposals in more detail. The Scottish Executive agreed to match fund the development studies, with some further funding provided by an EU research project “PRoGRSS”.

The evolution of the scheme between this point and the referendum in February 2005 broadly followed the guidance on development of an Integrated Transport Initiative (ITI) issued in August 2001 by the Scottish Executive1]. This included a two-stage decision-making process, with “in-principle” and “detailed” approvals required from Ministers for an ITI. As well as requiring technical appraisal (STAG2]), the guidance sets out four policy criteria that Ministers require a charging scheme to meet:


  1. the charging scheme must reduce congestion and/or noise and emissions;

  2. the net revenues from charging will be additional;

  3. there is fair treatment of those who pay the charge (and/or suffer the congestion or environmental problem) and those who benefit from the scheme;

  4. a range of public transport improvements are in place before charging is introduced, with further improvements to follow.

Separately from this guidance, Ministers also indicated when giving approval in principle to the scheme in December 2002, that they would expect “clear public support” for a scheme to be demonstrated at the detailed stage.


To meet these requirements and ensure effective delivery if eventually approved, the development of the scheme from inception to the detailed, charging order, stage had to consider and balance technical, organisational and acceptance issues. Accordingly the main work streams were:


  • public and stakeholder attitude research;

  • design and technical appraisal of alternative scheme configurations;

  • business case development linking the charging scheme with an appropriate transport improvement package; and

  • examination and establishment of organisational structures and procurement arrangements for implementation.

Consultation with the public and stakeholders was essential to assist scheme design and aimed to maximise the acceptability of the proposals. It also provided the opportunity for informing the public about the objectives of the scheme. A comprehensive programme of consultation and market research was developed for the Council by the University of Westminster3]. The programme built on the initial consultation undertaken in 1999 and was supplemented by direct discussions with key stakeholders. Neighbouring local authorities were particularly important in this respect, particularly in regard to their concerns about the impact that an outer cordon would have on their citizens. The most recent market research illustrated in Figure 3 was carried out in Autumn 20034].

The technical assessment on which early decisions were based was supported by the central Scotland transport model developed for the Scottish Executive. To provide more robust estimates of the impacts of the scheme, a more appropriate strategic transport and land use modelling package was commissioned in December 2000. In addition, a methodology to forecast the impact of the initiative on the local economy – already highlighted as of key importance to city stakeholders – was required. An approach based on accessibility change linked to the transport and land use model described above was selected. The models were used to examine the impacts of the charging scheme and its associated transport investment package1].

1] DAVID SIMMONDS CONSULTANCY in collaboration with MVA, Edinburgh Integrated Transport Initiative: Economic Impact of ECCS/ITI Package, Cambridge, March 2004.

1] SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT, Delivering Integrated Transport Initiatives through Road User Charging – Consultation and Approval Process: Guidance for Local Authorities, Edinburgh, August 2001.

2] SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE, Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG), Edinburgh, September 2003.

3] UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER, PrOGR€SS project: Public Consultation Strategy – Phase II: Preparatory Market Research, London, July 2001.

4] UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER, PrOGR€SS project: Edinburgh’s Integrated Transport Initiative – Phase V: Market Research, London, January 2004.