A THOUSAND extra cars an hour will be channelled through narrow New Town streets after a key city route was shut for tram works.
The closure of York Place – which took effect at 5am today – is expected to mean rush-hour delays and tailbacks with cars, taxis and HGVs rerouted via Broughton Street, Albany Street and Abercromby Place for the next 16 months.
One local business owner said he did not know how the streets would cope with the extra traffic, while residents branded the disruption “horrendous”.
An average of 1600 vehicles per hour normally use York Place at peak times – between 7am and 9am and 4pm and 6pm.
The Picardy Place roundabout at the end of York Place is the second busiest roundabout in Scotland.
But council officials say extensive traffic modelling and experience of how other diversions work suggest many motorists will find their own routes, and that the number of vehicles using the official diversion at peak times will be around 650 westbound and 350 eastbound every hour.
Based on official projections, millions more cars will pour into the affected streets until the end of next year.
Although the closure began today, the first real test of the diversion route will come at rush hour on Monday.
Audrey Cavaye, secretary of the New Town and Broughton community council, said: “A lot of traffic is going to be forced down Broughton Street and along these narrow streets. At busy times it could be horrendous.
“There have already been tailbacks and they’ve not even started yet.”
City Centre councillor Joanna Mowat said: “York Place is a busy street and diverting that traffic through the New Town is going to mean a lot of disruption for residents from the sheer volume of traffic.
“Luckily they won’t have the buses, but they will have all the other traffic, taxis, HGVs and so on.”
She said local people had already voiced concerns about the planned closure and diversions, but she expected more anger and dismay once the full effects became clear.
“When the reality hits about the difficulties of going through there, I’m prepared for a lot of people getting in touch,” she said.
“It’s already easier to cross Princes Street than to cross Abercromby Place.
“I’ve been through this before as a councillor at the West End and there are going to be a lot of people wondering ‘What the hell is going on?’”
She said she was sure the council’s traffic engineers would do their best to keep the traffic flowing. But she said: “That does nothing to mitigate the fact that residents are going to have to put up with a pretty unpleasant situation for the next 16 months. And it’s not just these streets which will be affected. It will spread further because the New Town streets are a grid system. It will have an effect right down to Stockbridge and Canonmills.”
The current nose-in parking in Albany Street has been changed to parallel parking in a bid to increase the width of the road, but it has meant the loss of around 45 parking spaces.
The lost parking spaces are split between residents and pay-and-display, but the council says Zone 2 permit holders are also being allowed to park in pay-and-display spaces as a concession.
Charles Kivlin, of Charles Kivlin Hair Studio in Albany Street, said: “I’m not sure how the road is going to cope with the traffic. I think the traffic will be backed up from Broughton Street as far as Heriot Row. It’s hard enough to get out of Albany Street into Broughton Street as it is.
“Residents are unhappy about the number of parking spaces being lost and they’re concerned about the volume and speed of the traffic. It’s the heavy traffic, the lorries and the HGVs most people are concerned about.”
Nisha Sharma, whose family owns the Ballantrae Albany Hotel in Albany Street, said: “We like to think of ourselves as being in a more secluded location, not on a main road, so it’s not great for our guests.”
The speed limits on the affected roads will remain at 30mph, but the council said it could introduce lower advisory limits if necessary. Traffic heading east along Queen Street is being recommended to turn left down Queen Street Gardens West, where a change to the road layout means there are now two left-turning lanes. Then the route takes them right along Heriot Row, across Dundas Street into Abercomby Place and Albany Street to Broughton Street.
Meanwhile, westbound traffic from Broughton Street will go along Albany Street and Abercromby Place and is then recommended to turn left up Queen Street Gardens East and on to Queen Street, where two right-turning lanes have been created. Buses will continue to use York Place until September, when it closes completely, and will then be diverted via Princes Street.
Council transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “I am acutely aware of the concerns that local residents and businesses have as to the effect these works will have and we will continue to take their views into consideration. The team will consider any measure with the potential to reduce disruption and, as work progresses, our plans will remain under constant review.”
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