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Park and Ride in Scotland - Research Findings

DescriptionThis report aims to identify the barriers to implementation of Park and Ride schemes, and to make recommendations on how such schemes might be successfully promoted and developed.
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 20, 1999
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No 74
1999Park and Ride in Scotland

TRL in association with Strathclyde Passenger Transport

Park and ride is a transport option which, through encouraging use of public transport and providing a 'seamless' journey for the travelling public, fits in well with Government objectives for integrated and sustainable transport. However, park and ride schemes have not developed at the same rate in Scotland as in the rest of the UK, and in 1998 The Scottish Office commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (Scotland) and Strathclyde Passenger Transport to explore reasons for this, to identify the barriers to implementation, and to make recommendations on how such schemes might be successfully promoted and developed.

Main Findings

  • Barriers were identified as a shortage of appropriately located and affordable sites, a lack of dedicated funding and no high priority being accorded to park and ride policy.
  • Many schemes are implemented on an opportunistic basis and appraisal of park and ride schemes is generally simplistic or not undertaken.
  • Successful schemes offer a fast, frequent and less expensive means of accessing an urban area, whilst those that fail have to 'compete' with easily accessible town or city centres with free or low cost parking.
  • The potential for further development exists in schemes located at convenient and easily accessible sites, which are implemented as part of a sustainable, integrated transport strategy.
  • Successful implementation and promotion rests with a policy to provide park and ride being integrated within an overall strategy of controlling traffic demand and managing the use of road space.


The study involved undertaking a questionnaire survey of local authorities and transport operators in Scotland in summer 1998 to derive an overall picture of bus and rail based park and ride. Following analysis, this information was used to select 11 case studies for detailed examination; conclusions were then drawn to identify the barriers to successful Scottish park and ride.

Survey of Scottish Park and Ride

A total of 66 questionnaires were issued to Scottish organisations and 16 to English local authorities, to provide comparative information. The Scottish response (48%) identified 9 operational bus, 89 rail based and 4 underground based park and ride schemes.

Reflecting the extensive rail network within the Glasgow and Clyde Valley conurbation, rail based schemes dominated in this area with only 7 of the 89 being located elsewhere in Scotland. Bus based schemes are geographically spread throughout Scotland.

Park and ride in Scotland, outwith the SPT area, is a recent feature of the transport landscape with operational bus sites being implemented during the 1990's. These are very limited in Scotland, with only Aberdeen City, Stirling and Perth & Kinross, successfully pursuing this option. Planned schemes are evident, with these being most pronounced in the area around Edinburgh, extending to Fife, as components of strategies such as Crossrail (Edinburgh), to reopen disused rail lines, and Forth Transport Infrastructure Partnership, to address the issues of cross-Forth movement. Rail schemes are unique in utilising redundant land adjacent to rail halts or stations, often this has been freight handling sidings, however they are generally on a smaller scale than bus schemes.

After excluding the Strathclyde Passenger Transport rail schemes and concentrating on the bus based sites outwith this area a broad variation in scheme type emerged from an analysis of the survey results. Scottish park and ride car parks, range in size between 70 and 600 spaces, with 3/4 open all year. Service frequency also illustrated a wide variation with some sites serviced by only 2 vehicles per day, whilst others were served by 65 per day, affording a 10-15 minute service frequency over a 0730 to 1830 hour day.

Park and Ride Case Studies

The study selected 11 schemes for more detailed investigation and assessment, to seek to gain an understanding of the barriers to successful implementation of park and ride. This sample contains bus and rail examples which currently operate and are planned, it also examines sites which have closed.

Case Study Schemes


Local Authority

Related Organisation


Bridge of Don, Aberdeen

Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeenshire Council, First Aberdeen

Successful, bus, 6 days/week

Altens/Calder Park, Aberdeen

Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeenshire Council, First Aberdeen

Closed, bus, replaced by Calder Park

Inverkeithing, Fife

Fife Council

Railtrack, ScotRail

Successful, rail

Ferrytoll, Fife

Fife Council

Fife Scottish

Planned, bus

Drem, East Lothian

East Lothian Council

ScotRail, Railtrack

Successful, rail

Newcraighall, Edinburgh

City of Edinburgh Council


Planned, bus

Dumfries, Retail Park

Dumfries and Galloway Council

Private Developer

Planned, bus

Wishaw, Lanarkshire

North Lanarkshire Council

SPT, Railtrack, ScotRail

Poorly used, rail

MacDowall Street, Paisley

Renfrewshire Council

SPT, Arriva Scotland West Ltd

Closed, bus and rail

Kildean Market, Stirling

Stirling Council


Successful, bus

McDiarmid Park, Perth

Perth and Kinross Council

Stagecoach, St Johnstone F.C.

Unsuccessful, bus.
NB Since completion of this project this service has been withdrawn

There is wide variation in the relative success of schemes. Drem, despite having had no effort applied to improved facilities and little information and publicity, is extremely successful. Others, despite considerable effort to attract patronage, through bus identification and a high standard of facility, such as MacDowall Street, Paisley, have failed.

Site Selection

Selection of a site for a park and ride facilities in Scotland has focused on identifying sites close to major road links that are known to be heavily used commuter routes. Intuitive local knowledge and the use of site availability are the main influences on site selection.


Local authority capital and revenue budgets are the principal means of funding. Increasing use of Private Finance Initiative and Capital Challenge Funding, are evident.


All the case study examples were planned and are (or will be) operated on a partnership basis. Such partnerships are split between service provision and operation; ScotRail, Railtrack, First Group, Stagecoach and Arriva; and capital costs of construction and (in some cases) revenue running costs, being borne by the local authority. In addition, the local authority often provides the necessary staff resources involved in forward planning, marketing and appraisal activities.

Marketing and Publicity

An important factor in the success of schemes is related to public awareness. Targeting potential regular users and those who might be visitors or business travellers to the area is critical. The main forms of information and publicity were posters, leaflets, telephone information systems, signing and bus advertising. The use of interactive/non-interactive information systems was an area that most councils and operators would like to develop. These systems could give the car driver directions to the nearest park and ride site, the time of the next service and the availability of parking. Further information might provide estimated travel times to the town centre, both by car and by the park and ride service, and information on fares.

Success or Failure

Schemes which are operating unsuccessfully or have closed proved useful in illustrating the barriers which may prevent realisation of the aims of park and ride. These barriers relate to the physical characteristics of the site; its location, accessibility, security measures and the quality and frequency of the service operated; but also to the potential for time and cost savings over an equivalent car, or in the case of Paisley, rail journey. Park and ride must provide a lower cost travel option than available by private car: The 'stick' to deter car use and the 'carrot' of a high quality park and ride scheme. Ultimately, park and ride requires to be one element of an encompassing transport strategy to improve alternatives to the car, as illustrated by the Aberdeen example.


The research concludes that the main reason park and ride is not more prevalent in Scotland is that lower traffic levels has meant that the need for measures to relieve congestion has not been a major consideration until now. Differences in Scottish and English experience relating to curbing car use and promoting sustainable public transport are also evident. This situation has been addressed by the recent publication of "Travel Choices for Scotland" which seeks to ensure sustainable public transport and alternatives to the car are pursued.

However successful development of existing or planned park and ride can be assisted through close attention to site selection and availability, and service quality and frequency. That this is undertaken as an element of a comprehensive, integrated transport strategy, is shown to be imperative, by study of schemes which have failed. The study has also highlighted the importance of thorough ex ante appraisal of park and ride schemes.

"Park and Ride in Scotland", the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £5.00. Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office and addressed to:

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