MOTORISTS are to be ushered away from the tram corridor by transport chiefs determined to ensure the smooth running of the £1 billion service.
After years of diversions caused by the tram works, the Evening News can reveal fresh signs are to be erected with the sole aim of steering drivers into streets at arm’s length from the tram track.
Tram bosses are desperate to keep the carriages running smoothly when the system goes live in May and see this step as vital.
Evidence of how quickly the maligned project can be brought to its knees was clear this week when a dozy parker left his BMW jutting perilously close to the tram tracks, causing a ten-minute hold-up.
City chiefs have said their plan will be open to review, but that has done little to quell the anger of motoring groups.
Under the plan, drivers approaching the city centre on main routes such as Lothian Road, Shandwick Place and Queensferry Road will be directed away from a head-on meeting with the tram.
It is hoped the step will also clear up confusion and the practice of lost drivers undertaking illegal manoeuvres as they find their way blocked or turns they had previously taken no longer available now that tram works have left the city centre and West End.
Problem spots that have been identified include the junctions of Lothian Road and Shandwick Place, North Charlotte Street and St Colme Street, Hope Street/Charlotte Square and Queensferry Street, and access to the east side of St Andrew Square.
Instead, streets such as Torphichen Street, Melville Street and Manor Place will bear the brunt of traffic as cars are funnelled down them and away from the tram route. Signs will be erected at numerous locations such as Dean Bridge, West Coates Avenue and Tollcross.
A year-long monitoring scheme will be undertaken with CCTV fixed on key junctions in a bid to identify “pinch points”.
The review of city centre traffic management will also see the removal of street clutter in the form of defunct sign poles and redundant concrete blocks left over from the tram works.
Numerous empty traffic posts currently stand outside the Caledonian Hotel and along Lothian Road.
City transport convener Lesley Hinds hopes the plan will enable the city to run more smoothly.
She said: “We intend to provide people with information on how to cross the city from as far out as possible so that we can avoid people driving into the tram system and having to execute U-turns or illegal manoeuvres.
“It’s about providing guidance on how best to go because at the moment following all the upheaval it’s a bit unclear. Routes that people could take during the tram works are no longer available such as turning left on to Shandwick Place from Lothian Road.”
She added: “We will monitor the situation and review it in a year’s time. We are open to suggestions and changes from all road users.”
Motoring groups remain wary this is “the thin end of the wedge” in regards to banning cars from the city centre.
Brian McDowall of the Alliance of British Drivers said: “My worry is that this is a further step towards banning cars from city centres. The UK motorist provides the Treasury with £586 billion a year but is expected to give up more and more road space to public transport.”
City centre councillor Joanna Mowat has meanwhile welcomed the plan to “simplify and make it easier to navigate through the city”.