Call for U-turn on Princes Street coach ban

Coaches face being banned from Princes Street. Picture: Jon Savage

Coaches face being banned from Princes Street. Picture: Jon Savage

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Scotland’s tourism leaders want to block a proposed ban on private coach tours travelling along the Capital’s flagship thoroughfare.

Scotland’s tourism leaders want to block a proposed ban on private coach tours travelling along the Capital’s flagship thoroughfare.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing and national agency VisitScotland have called for a rethink over plans which would see the buses forced off Princes Street.

The council’s plans do not affect the open-top bus tours run by publicly-owned Lothian Buses.

The Scottish Tourist Guides Association (STGA) has been campaigning to have the city council proposals overturned since they were announced in October.

It fears that tens of thousands of visitors will miss out on the “wow factor” of the views currently enjoyed. And it is thought the move may have a major impact on coach tours which are provided for visitors on cruise ships which drop anchor in the Firth of Forth.

Concerns have also been raised about the prospect of elderly and frail visitors having to walk lengthy distances to their accommodation if buses are re-routed.

Council officials said tour coaches have “exacerbated” congestion problems by using Princes Street as “a through route” and said a ban would improve the environment.

Under their proposals – to be decided on next month – tour buses and long-distance coaches would be banned from Princes Street in both directions between 7am and 8pm.

However, tourism industry figures have claimed that tour coaches are not the major source of congestion on Princes Street.

Sue Gruellich, chairwoman of the STGA, said: “It would be quite significant for people to miss out on that wow factor of the iconic views of Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens. They won’t get that first great impression of the city and would lose the whole impact of Edinburgh as a dramatic cityscape.”

Mr Ewing met with the city council’s tourism leader, Frank Ross, earlier this month to take up the industry’s concerns.

In a letter to Ms Gruellich, he said: “Coach tourism is an important sector within the visitor mix that Edinburgh attracts. This can include both coach operators from other parts of the UK and mainland Europe, as well as coach tour operators who use Edinburgh as their base for their operations.

“To remove access to Princes Street would cause operational issues for many of these tour operators.”

Manuela Calchini, VisitScotland’s regional director, said: “By denying day-time access, a part of the visitor experience will be impaired. Many visitors on coach tours are also elderly and on occasion infirm – walking around is not always an easy option.”

City transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “Our aim is to alleviate congestion, improving the environment and ensuring public transport is as efficient and reliable as possible.”