‘We pay our council tax but we’re treated like second-class citizens.”
I’ve gotten used to hearing those words on the doorsteps of Queensferry and Kirkliston – and it’s difficult to disagree with the criticism. Take transport connections.
You can travel from Edinburgh to Penicuik for £1.50 on a Lothian bus – that’s roughly the same distance from Princes Street to the Forth Bridge. But if you live in Queensferry, a single ticket to the city centre with Stagecoach is double the price. What’s more, Stagecoach’s weekend night services are limited.
The trains aren’t much better. A relatively short return (peak) journey from Dalmeny to Waverley costs £7.90 for the privilege of riding on an overcrowded carriage on the Fife Circle. Often people are left behind at the platform and those who do make it in are packed like sardines. The problem only gets worse for passengers joining at South Gyle.
The transport debate in rural west Edinburgh rumbles on. Scores of new homes have been built in both Kirkliston and Queensferry, and with 700 new homes earmarked for Builyeon Road, now is the time to reopen that debate. Indeed, Queensferry alone could see up to 1500 new homes built if planned housing developments are green lit. But new houses must be supported by new infrastructure.
Given that some residents are struggling to reach their nearest hospital, I was surprised to read that the Lib Dems are campaigning for yet another bus link to the airport. If money was no object we’d have bus routes to the airport from all parts of the city – but when transport services are under increasing pressure, any calls for more buses must, above all, connect the cut-off communities of west Edinburgh to their nearest hospitals and public services.
Regardless, having spoken to hundreds of residents in Blackhall and Barnton, not one of them raised the issue of bus routes to the airport. What they want is adequate services linking them to hospitals and better connections to the city centre. Another route to the airport is a luxury.
Two of my priorities are to lobby Lothian Buses to expand its services to the west and for ScotRail to set up a “City of Edinburgh radius” price scheme to make local journeys more affordable. Indeed, I’ve called for a meeting with Lothian Buses, ScotRail and the transport convener asking them to respond to the pressures of new housing and propose new plans to improve connectivity in the west of the city. I don’t accept that there’s no case for action: if services are improved, more people will use them.
For now, many in west Edinburgh will stick to their cars – we’re not giving them much choice. Let’s give them one. Local residents can support the campaign on Change.org by signing the petition: “West Edinburgh needs better public transport.”
Toni Giugliano is SNP candidate for Edinburgh Western