Queues brought in to tackle ‘crush’ at Christmas celebrations

Crowd management brought in at Edinburgh market. Picture; Jon Savage
Crowd management brought in at Edinburgh market. Picture; Jon Savage
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CROWD control measures have been put in place to deal with record numbers of revellers at Edinburgh’s Christmas celebrations.

Bosses have been forced to bring in queues for the first time ever as more than 1.5 million visitors have descended on East Princes Street Gardens – almost 25 per cent more than in 2015.

Councillor Brian Weddell, Convener of Finance Committee, City of Edinburgh Council.

Councillor Brian Weddell, Convener of Finance Committee, City of Edinburgh Council.

They admitted the market had been “very full” over the past couple of weekends, but insisted new measures were now in place to reduce numbers.

And they revealed festive attractions may have to move into other areas of the city if they are to keep expanding.

It comes as residents complained of being like “sardines in a tin” – with some even raising safety fears as crowds pushed out on to the roads.

Locals blasted it as “dangerous and not a pleasant experience” and a “crush of people”.

Charlie Wood, director of Edinburgh’s Christmas, told the Evening News it was “by far” the busiest it had ever been, adding: “We are getting more people from Edinburgh, and we are also getting substantially more people from outside Edinburgh.”

But he insisted: “It’s definitely always been safe. I have never had any concerns about the safety of the Gardens at all.”

He said his team were “obviously aware of the crowds and some of the issues we have been having”.

A queuing system has now been introduced at weekends, with revellers expected to line up at the Waverley Bridge entrance and the access point at the Mound.

Meanwhile, a “one-way” system is in place on either side of the Playfair Steps handrail, while the entrance to the Christmas stalls from Princes Street is closed when it gets too busy. Access to Santa Land has also been tightened, with crowds redirected to the south.

Mr Wood said: “We have formed a queue at the gate into the gardens from Waverley Bridge. We have also formed a queue between the galleries.

“And that’s simply to reduce the crowd density in the gardens. That worked OK on Saturday, and it worked extremely well on Sunday. On both days, the queue at the galleries went all the way up the Mound.

“This is the first time we have had to kind of organise and marshal the queues. I obviously accept that we have had lots of crowds.

“We are doing our absolute best to make it as pleasurable an experience as we can.

“The pinch points are the entrance into the garden from Waverley Bridge, and the entrance from the Mound.

“There’s no doubt that Edinburgh’s Christmas is successful. It’s definitely one of the best events in the UK – and that’s what people are responding to.”

While insisting the celebrations would remain at East Princes Street Gardens in the coming years, Mr Wood said it was time to think about further expansion.

He said: “I do think we need to think about what places in the city we could potentially expand into.”

In 2014, Edinburgh’s Christmas brought an estimated £119 million of outside spending into the Capital.

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk