Tram lights cause chaos at Haymarket junction

Taxi driver John Beaton says his passengers are being hit in the pocket by the snarl-ups at the Haymarket junction. Picture: Jane Barlow
Taxi driver John Beaton says his passengers are being hit in the pocket by the snarl-ups at the Haymarket junction. Picture: Jane Barlow
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TRAFFIC lights which give priority to trams are causing chaos at one of Edinburgh’s busiest junctions, it was claimed today.

The automatic green light given to trams at Haymarket is leading to tailbacks and delays of nearly a quarter of an hour.

Taxi drivers claim fed-up passengers are being hit in the pocket due to journey times jumping up.

Their fears are underpinned by a News probe which found some taxis were taking as long as 12 minutes to negotiate a 350-yard length of road.

One cabbie, John Beaton, said motorists held up as one tram passed through the junction could miss out on their phase of the lights if another tram appeared in the opposite direction immediately afterwards.

And he argued instead of easing the Capital’s traffic problems, the trams were now making them worse – while other cabbies said there were similar problems caused by lights at Waverley Bridge.

Mr Beaton, 55, who drives for City Cabs, said: “It took me nine minutes to go from Haymarket Station to Coates Crescent the other morning, costing my customer an extra £1.50.

“If someone got a taxi at Haymarket and wanted to go to Shandwick Place it would probably normally cost about £2.60, but waiting for a tram to pass adds 25p a minute, so that could easily double the fare.”

Trams have automatic priority at traffic lights along the entire route in a bid to guarantee consistent journey times. But the council admitted it was now “refining” signal timings to ease the effect on other traffic.

Mr Beaton, who has been a taxi driver for 11 years, said: “During peak periods, you can be sitting at the traffic lights and a tram comes one way, then a couple of minutes later there’s another one in the opposite direction and you can easily be sitting there for six or seven minutes with the lights at red.

“The trams are supposedly being brought in to ease the city’s traffic problems, but I feel they are making them worse. The Haymarket area is a joke when trams are passing.

“As a taxi driver, it means my fares go up. Earlier this week I ended up knocking £2 off one passenger’s fare. I didn’t have to, but I understood his annoyance because I was annoyed too.”

Grant McKeeman, owner of the Copymade print shop in West Maitland Street, said there was no doubt the traffic lights were taking longer.

He said: “I rarely bring my car in but I have had the car in for the last couple of days and it took me four minutes to get through Western Corner, through Haymarket Station and then another 12 minutes to get from the station to the traffic lights [at West Maitland Street].

“We hear what goes on – horns tooting all day, people in the wrong lanes – and, for me, it’s a matter of time until someone gets killed out there.”

Cab driver Graham McNeil, 45, said: “It’s a shambles. A few days ago during morning rush hour, the traffic was tailed back from West Maitland Street as far as the old Donaldson’s school. If you catch a couple of passing trams, you can be stuck at a red for four minutes.”

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “We would expect trams to get priority, but a wait of six or seven minutes is fairly excessive.

“That means traffic sitting, churning out pollution in the city centre. We would hope this is just a teething problem.”

A council spokeswoman said: “As part of the ongoing testing we are working to refine signal timings in order to balance green time for all.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com