Helen Martin: Piles of rubbish one of festival downsides

The city is at saturation point during the Festival. Picture: Alex Hewitt
The city is at saturation point during the Festival. Picture: Alex Hewitt
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IT had been a busy, sad but also happy reunion for the past 34 hours, travelling down to London, staying overnight for a family funeral the next day, and returning to Waverley Station around 11.30pm.

IT had been a busy, sad but also happy reunion for the past 34 hours, travelling down to London, staying overnight for a family funeral the next day, and returning to Waverley Station around 11.30pm.

Alex Polizzi, the Hotel Inspector

Alex Polizzi, the Hotel Inspector

Tired and lugging our overnight bags around, it was the first time in ages we’d experienced attempting to get a taxi home from the station.

As regular rail travellers will know, the rank is now up on Market Street, where about 30 people were queueing with no taxis in sight.

Well, since it’s Fringe time in the city, that was only to be expected. So, having already climbed up two flights from the station concourse, we decided we had to climb again, up Fleshmarket Close and across the High Street towards South Bridge.

The area was full of black cabs and private hires – all taken, with winding queues at bus stops. We walked 
on, past mounds of rubbish, take-away debris, cans, bottles and broken glass, some of which had been swept into piles presumably to be collected later.

Just before we were level with the Meadows, we managed to hail a cab, clambered in and sank gratefully into the seat, explaining to the driver how we thought we might have to walk all the way home.

Most people assume taxi drivers must benefit from a city heaving with tourists... but not our man.

He spoke about there being too many people taking the city to saturation point with himself and fellow cabbies complaining it was impossible to provide the service expected because of the intense traffic and blocked off routes. It had a negative, rather than positive, effect on his work and income.

That certainly chimed with me, as regular readers will know.

But what really disgusted me was the state of the city and the level of refuse we had to wade through, turning it from a World Heritage site to a vista of slummy side streets.

By comparison, Brixton and Electric Avenue that afternoon had been tidy and clean despite being mobbed in the London rush hour.

It’s been several years since I’ve been out around midnight in Edinburgh Fringe season, so I had no idea how awful it had become.

By the next morning, the council teams and sweepers would have been out and about clearing up to start the day on a cleaner note. For all I know they could have had street cleaning operations running every two hours, and probably industrial vacuums perpetually charging up and down George Street, but whatever system had been employed, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Old Town becoming a rubbish tip.

Technically, Himself and I are “pensioners”. Fortunately, we only just qualify. If we’d been older and frailer, we would have been doomed in our efforts to get home.

Cancel the Fringe? Certainly not. It’s an international, world-renowned event. But that comes at a cost, especially if we want it to be a showcase for the city.

We need a band of Fringe “marshalls”, litter wardens, more taxis, fewer road closures, and a programme to ensure locals, Fringe-goers and general tourists all treat the host city and its streets with respect rather than turning it into an unnavigable trash party scene of chaos.

Stocking up on food seems sensible option

IN one way, Virgin can up its game. It’s not the first time I’ve been on a highly-packed late train home, spanning dinner time to bed-time, only to discover the railway buffet cupboard is sparse, if not bare.

One hour out of London, the Food Bar – despite a vast and delicious menu of stuff displayed on the wall – had no hot food, only a small number of two rather dull sandwich choices, chocolates and crisps. The server’s excuse was “Sorry, I’ve sold out”.

You don’t have to be Alex Polizzi, the Hotel Inspector, to figure out the real problem was that the train (at a time when catering is most necessary) wasn’t sufficiently stocked up when it left King’s Cross!

If the average person had lunch by 2pm they may well have done without food for ten hours, which doesn’t make for an enjoyable journey. It doesn’t help Virgin buffet sales much either!

Accept it – the unexpected happens

LEAVES on the line, no explanation for late trains? These are things to complain about. But I actually felt sorry for Virgin East Coast on our journey to London when trains were delayed in both directions for 40 minutes because someone trespassed on the viaduct line outside Durham. Squads of police lined the track.

The train manager announced some passengers would be due a rebate on their tickets because of the delay and claim forms would be available from ticket offices. How could Virgin be held responsible for that stoppage? What else could the driver have done other than speed on, mowing down police and the fugitive trespasser? We can’t have regulations for everything. In fact, we seem to be losing the simple realisation and acceptance in life that sometimes, unexpected s*** happens.

Fresh air would be welcome

ONE last travel nugget. Air conditioning is the modern standard for trains and buses, supposedly for temperature control, though it doesn’t usually work. Yet hermetically sealed windows and recirculated stale air simply share viruses and infections among passengers and crew. How did ventilation and fresh air go out of transport fashion?