MOTORISTS are set to pay out almost half a million pounds in additional petrol costs after it emerged one of the key roads between Edinburgh and Dalkeith could be closed until next spring.
A major section of the A6106 Old Dalkeith Road was closed after a series of mystery cracks running along a 100ft stretch emerged two months ago, followed by fears that the road is subsiding.
Today, the Evening News can reveal that the problem could see the busy road closed until April, forcing drivers into a long detour that collectively will see them pay an extra £480,000 for petrol over that period.
Motorists are now being forced to take a 1.7-mile diversion through the residential streets of Eskbank to cross the River Esk, as it is one of only two direct routes in Dalkeith which bypasses the damaged section of road.
Some vehicles have been avoiding the route by cutting through Lugton Brae, a quiet road populated by a handful of upmarket villas, but they have also been forced to take the long detour after complaints from residents saw the road closed to through traffic.
The problem even saw police monitor the entrance to the street to inform drivers that they had to use the longer, official detour.
More than 10,000 cars use the route each day, with the detour expected to cost the average family car driver an extra 23p for every journey.
There is also likely to be a considerable cost to the environment should the detour run on until next spring.
The diversion has been criticised for hitting businesses, with several traders in Dalkeith reporting a significant slump since the rerouting was put in place. One major car dealer said it had experienced a 70 per cent slump in sales, while firms in the town’s Grannies Park Industrial Estate reported being cut off from passing trade.
It seems there is no end in sight, however, with no information on the cause or scale of the problem yet put forward.
Midlothian Council admitted that, two months on from the closure, it is still unable to explain the exact cause of the road collapse, although heavy rain in early summer has been suggested.
It has hired an external consultant to examine the area to determine what work needs to be carried out and said it expected the full survey results at the end of next month.
Early indications suggest that the section of the A6106 may have to be partially rebuilt, with businesses told the work was likely to involve the lengthy process of tendering the work to private contractors, delaying any finish until March or April next year.
Gordon Close, principal dealer at the Dalkeith Ford Centre, said the showroom had experienced an upturn in trading this year but has seen a dramatic slump since the road closure in July.
He told the Evening News: “We had been doing exceptionally well over the past 18 months, but since this happened with the road, cars just stopped selling.
“We’re probably 70 per cent down on used cars on last year. We had been up 25 per cent year-on-year before the road closed.
“The council is directing people to Eskbank and we’ve expressed real concern.
“Lugton Brae is a perfectly good road and removes the need for such a long diversion around Dalkeith, but a handful of Lugton Brae residents are complaining and we’re now in the back of beyond.”
Mr Close said he was “astonished the police have been so heavily involved” at the diversion, although the force insisted there was no formal enforcement and officers had simply been on general traffic enforcement duties .
He added: “We’re willing to be patient and we’ve waited since July, but having it closed until next year is unacceptable.”
Alex Bennett, Labour councillor for Dalkeith, said he had been contacted by motorists and businesses who are being forced to take the diversion several times each day.
He said: “I drove through Lugton Brae on Tuesday morning and the police were there warning people not to use that route again.
“When I spoke to the officers, I told them I didn’t know why drivers couldn’t use the route and neither did they.
“I have spoken to businesses and it’s having an effect on trading because no-one can reach north Dalkeith. I’ve asked for a meeting with the council director and police next week.”
He added: “I can only speculate that it’s affluent people that stay in that area and they aren’t keen with all the traffic coming up their street.
“It might upset some residents but what can you do? The road is subsiding and it will take months to put right.”
A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “A Temporary Traffic Regulation Order has been in place since August 16. We have suggested that residents get in touch with the police if they are concerned about drivers breaching the order. If police were out on Wednesday, it suggests local people have done so.
“We have improved signs at the site to reinforce the message that the road is for local access and some buses only.”
He added that in excess of 10,000 vehicles would normally use the road and that it may be that the work is not completed until the spring of next year.
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION
Number of journeys affected: 2.1 million
Extra miles covered: 3.57 million
Cost of extra journeys in petrol alone: £483k
Environmental impact carbon:
equivalent released into atmosphere: 880,950kg
Frank Allison, 58, machine operator, Bonnyrigg: “I work up at Thornybank, so I don’t have to go down that road, but I’m being affected by the traffic from the diversion. Some nights I’ve had to sit in traffic for 20-25 minutes to get home.”
Suzanne Barrie, 25, swimming teacher, Dalkeith: “I have to drive on the main road through Dalkeith to get to work. It’s so busy because of the diversion that I’ve been late for work a couple of times.”
Sheila Ross, 63, retired, Eskbank: “I have definitely been avoiding that road. The traffic is definitely bad.”
‘THE STREET IS WORSE THAN THE M6’
DRIVERS have been left infuriated after a road which provided the shortest possible bypass to the closed section of the Old Dalkeith Road was shut off.
Lugton Brae had been used as a diversion in the days following the road closure, as it provides the most straightforward route around the damaged section of road and takes about the same time to travel.
Following complaints from local residents in the affluent area, however, the longer diversion was put in place.
Earlier this week, signs appeared at the entrance to Lugton Brae, indicating that the closure would be long-term.
Despite this, and the intervention of police, drivers have continued to use the shortcut, infuriating residents who claim they are travelling at high speed and turning a residential road into a motorway.
Professor Robert Donovan, 71, retired, said: “Nobody is paying any attention to the diversion – the street is worse than the M6.”
Hayley Shipworth, 46, a marketing campaign manager, said: “It’s absolutely awful, people are just ignoring the diversion.
“People are just taking the Mickey – there was one guy going along the road at around 60mph.”