Drivers will face seven weeks of diversions – adding an extra 15 minutes to journey times – on a major road artery undergoing engineering works to rebuild a bridge.
Work to demolish a crossing over the railway line at Duddingston Road West began yesterday, with contractors tasked with building a taller replacement.
But it will mean many motorists travelling to Craigmillar and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary are forced to take detours along Niddrie Mains Road, Duddingston Park South and Milton Road West – adding a quarter of an hour to journeys.
Residents have predicted tailbacks on surrounding roads as drivers struggle to navigate unfamiliar streets.
Officials at Network Rail insist the engineering work will ensure the upgraded line could be electrified in future and accommodate larger freight cars.
The largest freight trains usually use the West Coast Main Line, but improvements to the rail network linking Edinburgh to London will soon allow trains to run along the east coast as well.
A shuttle bus is being laid on by contractor Balfour Beatty to replace the disrupted 42 bus route, and a temporary foot bridge is being erected to allow pedestrians to cross the railway while work is ongoing.
But John Fayrer, chairman of Northfield Community Council, said the work would “create an awful lot of disruption”, particularly for elderly bus users.
He said: “The public transport is going to have to go around via such an extraordinary route – it just seems a nonsense to me.
“It is going to be extremely difficult for elderly people who live in Duddingston village who rely on the 42 bus.
“It is a major artery. I don’t think the plans have been well communicated, and I think there are going to be a lot of people caught out by it.
“The traffic is going to be horrendous while drivers get used to it. The diversion will take 15 minutes to get around, probably 20 at the beginning when people don’t know where they are or what they’re doing.”
Mr Fayrer added: “The thing has got to go-ahead, but we could have had some more notice.”
Cllr Alex Lunn, who represents Craigentinny and Duddingston, said residents accepted the significance of the work. He said: “The level of disruption is obviously incredibly inconvenient but most people I’ve spoken to recognise that this work is necessary. It’s important to stress the point that a free shuttle bus service will be provided. I have faith that the work will completed in a timely manner.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “This will increase the amount of freight allowed on the East Coast Main Line. The main reason this is needed is so that the line can accommodate newer, larger freight wagons.
“By raising the structure, it will also create space for future electrification work. Letters were sent out in January, April and August to let people know that there was going to be work and disruption.”