Festival car ban bid to ease crowd pressure

Fringe performers draw big crowds. Picture: Jane Barlow
Fringe performers draw big crowds. Picture: Jane Barlow
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WIDESPREAD road closures during the Edinburgh Festival are being considered to ease congestion and improve pedestrian safety.

The council is examining proposals to shut city-centre streets to vehicles to give Festival-goers more space.

Pedestrians’ campaign group Living Streets is concerned that narrow pavements are becoming overcrowded, particularly in the Old Town, which hosts many Fringe venues.

Streets that could be part of the traffic ban include the Cowgate, which is already shut at night because of the number of nearby nightclubs.

Others could include George IV Bridge.

The Festival and Fringe have grown significantly in recent years, with a record of nearly 2.3 million tickets sold for Fringe shows this year, five per cent up on 2014.

The number of Fringe venues has also grown by a quarter to 313 over the last seven years.

Living Streets Scotland director Stuart Hay said streets had been closed and an extra park-and-ride facility opened during last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which attracted similar numbers as the Festival.

He said: “Living Streets Edinburgh would like to ask that the council formally considers the widespread closure of streets during next summer’s festival season. This year, many of our members noted how many city centre pavements were so crowded – especially in the Old Town – that they were not only uncomfortable, but also felt unsafe.

“Narrow pavements were occupied by hundreds of people, while wide roads were occupied by a handful of vehicles.

“The situation was exacerbated in streets like the Cowgate, where pavements were also frequently blocked by vehicles servicing venues.

“Unlike Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games – with similar attendances – there are no special provisions such as park-and-ride.

“As a result, the way that Edinburgh’s streets are used at this time of year has become completely out of balance.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists said it had no objection in principle to the scheme.

City council transport leader Lesley Hinds said officials were investigating the plans.

She said: “This is an interesting proposal. Streets during the Festival can become quite busy, especially around venues in the Old Town and Southside. I have asked officers to look at areas where there are particular problems and where closures could be considered.

“Edinburgh is a very walkable city and, where we can, we want to make it even more attractive.”