Pupil power at heart of Union Canal bridge revamp

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A HISTORIC landmark over the Union Canal will be revamped under plans to boost pupil access to a state-of-the-art replacement campus for Boroughmuir High.

City planners are looking at reducing traffic on the 113-year-old Viewforth Bridge while also widening its pavements to accommodate hundreds of pupils travelling to the school’s new premises when it opens on the site of the former Fountain Brewery in summer 2016.

New traffic lights will also be installed as city leaders inject around £125,000 to control vehicle flow in one of Edinburgh’s most congested areas ahead of the move by Boroughmuir’s 1100 pupils and 100 staff.

The plans have been welcomed by locals, who had expressed concern over pupil safety.

Mairianna Clyde, planning leader at Merchiston Community Council, said: “It’s to be welcomed – I’m sure parents will be very reassured that these improvements are taking place and that there’s been some thought given to how this is going to affect what will be lots of people.”

The bridge – built in 1900 and bearing intricate carvings of the arms of Edinburgh and Glasgow – is a key feature on the Capital’s section of the Union Canal and the planned revamp marks the waterway’s ongoing revitalisation as residents and businesses return to its banks.

City leaders are now drawing up an application for converting the bridge into a single carriageway, with detailed documents set to be submitted by the end of the year.

Councillor Gavin Corbett, Green member for Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart, said: “Reducing the Viewforth bridge road width to a single lane is definitely a step in the right direction, as it would increase space for pedestrians from what is currently a very narrow pavement and, with traffic lights in place, it would slow down cars which presently hurtle over the hump of the bridge down to Fountainbridge.”

City education chiefs said the planned changes were driven by the need to ensure pupil safety.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Traffic impact assessments have identified that these measures will not adversely affect traffic flow in the area.

“We will, of course, consult with local people on any proposed road design.”

CROSSINGS WERE BUILT AT YOUR CONVENIENCE

WHEN canals were built they cut across estates, farmlands and roads.

Canal companies were required by Acts of Parliament to ensure no-one was inconvenienced – therefore large numbers of bridges were required, often doing no more than linking two fields.

Most were simple brick or stone structures, with moveable bridges also built because they were cheaper. Much more ambitious structures were erected when country estates were crossed and the permission of rich landowners was sought.