Background and setup
Huntly and District Development Trust run the Huntly Green Travel Hub (HGTH) which includes three low emissions cars and 14 (soon to be 24) e-bikes. The organisation has a broader green initiative, including a farm and eco-bothy, sustainable regeneration, and work on active travel routes.
The group developed HGTH to provide more sustainable travel options for the local community. Local consultations with residents showed that access to travel was a key issue and in need of improvement. As part of the investigations, they explored a range of options but decided that a franchise option, working with Co-Wheels as a delivery partner, would be best suited to their ambitions and local needs. This model is more expensive to run than other approaches, but there are fewer burdens on the group and less strain to manage the day to day operational requirements.
The cars are located in Huntly: one at the train station, one in the town square, and one at the Market Muir Car Park near a major road into the town. The e-bikes are kept in a building that is in the process of being redeveloped. The e-bikes are rented out on weekly or monthly contracts, rather than on a short-term (hourly or daily) basis.
Users and impacts
The scheme was launched in 2015 and the vehicles were replaced in early 2018. Since then they have driven 23,500 miles, which equates to around 783 miles per month travelled by car club users. The car club has 70 members, with 10 core users from whom the car club has replaced their vehicles, meaning 10 cars removed from the road. There are around 20 members who use a car once a month, and the remaining members use the car on a one-off basis. Feedback from regular users reported they saved around £1,500 to £2,000 per year, compared to the cost of a privately owned vehicle.
One of the challenges of being based in a rural area is a lack of users in close proximity to the cars. In small satellite villages and hamlets with five hundred or fewer residents, there is no business case for a vehicle which is within a short walking distance of enough houses. The development trust is exploring how they can connect residents from across the community to the car club. Options being explored include a shuttle minibus and peer to peer car-sharing. The rural roads are problematic for e-bikes; many are unsafe for cycling and this can impact people’s confidence. Work is being undertaken to improve active travel routes.
What has made them successful?
For HGTH, proper staffing of the scheme is vital in ensuring its success. There is an ongoing challenge to secure enough funding to employ enough staff. Most available grants are for capital investment and not revenue for staff. When the scheme was managed by a part-time staff member it struggled to gain traction. It was only after appointing a full-time member of staff that they were able to make significant progress.
The car club and e-bike schemes are integral to the suite of activities that the Huntly and District Development Trust deliver. They use the cars for their own activities, and they help them achieve their aspirations for the redevelopment and regeneration of the town centre.