Cars parked in places that block the road during heavy snow will be removed by council staff under new plans unveiled today to keep the city moving this winter.
The city council has announced that the A71 – from Gorgie Road to the city’s boundary with West Lothian just past Hermiston – will be designated a new “snow clearway” this winter.
And nine residential streets where access issues have been a problem for buses and emergency vehicles during previous severe winter weather will also be given the special designation when heavy snow occurs.
It means that council parking staff will be able to use lifting trucks in each of the designated snow clearways to remove vehicles that are obstructing the road and move them to safe alternative locations nearby.
Messages will be displayed on electronic signs as soon as the roads become snow clearways, while flip down signs will also be used to provide specific information about what the rules are in each location. It is among a series of new measures being introduced this year to deal with heavy snow, including asking volunteers to help clear snow and adapting council machinery to help clear roads and pavements.
Council leader Jenny Dawe said: “It is vital for residents and for the city’s economy that Edinburgh is kept moving during periods of severe winter weather.
“Our preparedness and planned response has been informed through extensive consultation. The latest proposal to introduce snow zones to keep bus routes clear will better enable people to go about their business.
“We are confident that we are very well prepared for any severe weather this winter, and the proposal to offer greater guidance to community groups and individuals willing to help with snow clearance should also benefit Edinburgh residents and businesses.”
Edinburgh is thought to be the first Scottish city to introduce snow clearways – already used in parts of Canada – after buses and emergency vehicles suffered access problems last year because of the build up of snow and the number of cars parked at the side of the road. The new powers will mean the council can instantly remove the cars in order to ensure access is maintained.
But motorists will not face a fine in the way they would when parking illegally in normal weather – their car will just be moved to an alternative safe area.
Some of the scheme details are still to be finalised, but council staff that move a vehicle to a nearby location are likely to need to tell police where they have moved it to, so the car owner can find it.
George Mair, director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland – the trade association representing the bus, coach and light rail industries - said: “If we are going to have these periods of very adverse weather we have got to up our game, and anything that ensures that public transport operates as well as it can is to be welcomed.
“Last year, quite often it was cars that were parked in not the best way that caused problems.”
The council has ruled against introducing a by-law that forces individuals and businesses to clear snow from outside of their premises.
Councillor Jason Rust, convener of the Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnership, which includes areas affected by access issues last winter, said: “Last year, some people took their car in snow when it was clear that it was not appropriate driving conditions, then abandoned it. I would welcome measures that look at addressing that.”