AN URGENT investigation is to be launched into Edinburgh’s ageing traffic light system after a computer fault brought gridlock to the Capital.
Vehicles were nose to tail for periods between Thursday afternoon and 2pm yesterday, with reports that traffic lights were changing much more rapidly than normal and disrupting vehicle flows.
Haymarket, Gorgie and Dalry were the worst affected areas, and there were delays on George Street. City leaders said the problems were due to a software malfunction and confirmed they will hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss improvements.
Among the options being considered is whether to divert funds previously earmarked for traffic modelling to updating signalling systems in the city centre.
Transport leader Gordon Mackenzie apologised for the disruption and said: “Something like this shows that we have an ageing system, and we will be looking urgently at how we can improve its resilience.
“This could involve getting a replacement for the existing system, which is now ten years old. Of course, there will be a cost associated with that but we have to have a traffic management system that’s functional.
“A few weeks ago we put £100,000 into the budget for traffic modelling on the outskirts of the city and we’ll be looking at whether that can be diverted to signalling systems in the short term.”
Commuters, business owners and opposition politicians reacted angrily to the latest disruption to hit the city centre, on top of the inevitable tram works. A member of the public, who did not want to be named, said: “George Street was gridlock – a journey that normally takes five minutes was taking half an hour.
“When you went up to the West Approach Road, all the buses and traffic were turning right down the link road to Morrison Street and it just wasn’t moving at all. With everything else that’s been going on in the city, it’s just not acceptable.”
A George Street trader added: “I was driving to work through Polwarth then on to Ardmillan Terrace and Dalry Road. The traffic volumes were heavier than normal – Dalry Road was one long line of buses and when the lights changed only about three cars were getting through each time.
“It hasn’t had any noticeable impact on trade but you hope it’s not going to put people off from coming into the city centre.
“I get the feeling people are now getting to the end of their tether. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to smack your head on the steering wheel.”
Opposition councillors questioned why it took more than a day for the signalling problem to be repaired and called on transport chiefs to take urgent action to avoid a recurrence.
Labour transport spokesperson Lesley Hinds said: “The council is so keen to get everything moving along quickly with the trams but with that comes lots of disruption and it just takes one small glitch to cause total gridlock.”
Allan Jackson, transport spokesman for the Conservatives, said: “Given the current state of roadworks in Edinburgh, everything must now be done to make sure there’s no repeat of this problem.”