WORK on the Capital’s beleaguered tram system again caused chaos for commuters, after new work to the route brought the West End to a virtual standstill.
Commuters faced delays of up to 20 minutes during rush hour yesterday as contractors started installing cabling at the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road.
A dozen buses could be seen backed-up 300 metres at the junction during rush hour yesterday.
Despite this – and questions from Lothian Buses about the impact the work will have on its routes – the city council has vowed to press on with the work, which will not be completed until March 15.
The council also admitted a further six weeks would then be needed to complete changes to the intersection including road and footpath surfacing, kerbing, signals and traffic islands.
It means congestion caused by the site is not likely to ease until at least the end of April.
While commuters face weeks of delays, no alternative has been offered, with officials saying the route – which sees four lanes of traffic merging into one – was still open.
They did advise drivers to “be aware” of the work, but came under fire from the AA for not warning commuters sooner about the planned change to the traffic system at one of the city’s busiest junctions.
The jam stemmed from two lanes along both Princes and South Charlotte streets merging into a single westbound lane at the junction outside the former Caledonian Hotel.
One lane has also been closed to vehicles travelling north up Lothian Road. Signalling and street light cables are among those being installed at the location around the tram route.
Journalist and public relations manager Ken Houston, who arrived in the city centre by bus just after 9am yesterday, said funnelling four lanes into one at the major intersection had created a “complete, total shambles”.
He said: “There was a horrendous traffic jam, and when I got off the bus for half of Princes Street west-bound, it was nose-to-tail with buses.
“I work in George Street. It wasn’t as bad as Princes Street, but the final block from Castle Street on to South Charlotte Street was also nose-to-tail.”
Passengers took to social media to voice their frustration. Abbey Moffat tweeted: “Good to see traffic is a total nightmare on Princes Street west bound! Well done trams!”
A Lothian Buses spokesman said vehicles had encountered delays during peak hour, but it was too early to gauge any impact on timetables.
A nearby pedestrian crossing will be moved in a bid to ease congestion, but a council spokeswoman added: “There’s no diversion signs up as such because you don’t need a diversion, you can still go that way.
“But we’d just ask motorists to be aware that there are works going on there and it’s maybe going to add a little bit more time to their journey.”
Automobile Association spokesman Luke Bosdet said letting drivers know about traffic disruptions was crucial.
He said: “Hopefully this is just a one-off, but if parts of the city grind to a halt because there’s no warning of roadworks or disruption that could be forecast, it’s not only bad news for the council, but also for the city as a whole.
“There’s no excuse if arrangements aren’t made to try and direct traffic around different routes.”
A council statement said: “We appreciate that this work may unfortunately cause a degree of disruption to traffic and we will continue to monitor traffic flows and, where possible, take action to mitigate congestion.”
YORK Place has been at the centre of recent roadworks angst caused by the trams scheme.
Contractors were forced to rip up concrete foundations for the poles that carry overhead lines at the site only last month after realising they had been laid in the wrong position.
Motorists travelling on Broughton Street were also caught out early in the New Year, with traffic reduced to single file near the junction with York Place to instal a new drainage connection. York Place, normally one of the city centre’s busiest roads, has been closed since July and is not due to reopen until the end of this year.
The extra traffic directed along the diversion route of Albany Street, Abercromby Place and Heriot Row caused pothole damage in just a week last year, forcing extra repair work.