Barrier fatigue: Edinburgh too used to railings?

This set of railings in the Grassmarket has been in place for more than six months. Picture: Greg Macvean
This set of railings in the Grassmarket has been in place for more than six months. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE confusing maze of metal safety railings thrown up during the tram works has developed a worrying legacy – barrier fatigue.

And this set of railings – left abandoned in the bustling Grassmarket for more than six months – is key evidence of this worrying new phenomenon.

The eyesore barriers in the heart of the Old Town have seemingly been there so long that they have become invisible to passers-by inured to the seemingly ever-present sight of railings in the city.

The barriers were erected around a set of recycling bins in September 2013 when the work begun.

The council had been working on upgrading three sets of underground bins, but progress stalled after workers were forced to wait for a part “coming from abroad”.

A call to City Chambers revealed the barriers are expected to be in situ for at least another month and a half.

The length of time the work has taken has prompted one Twitter commentator to quip: “Can @edinburgh_cc make it a year since these barriers were erected in the grassmarket? Not far away”.

Bill Cowan, a member of the Old Town Association and former planning secretary of the community council, said it was becoming increasingly common for temporary barriers to be left for long periods of time in Edinburgh, adding that the problem was “endemic”.

He said the underground bins were a “marvellous idea” but was critical of the city council’s tardy timescale.

“I believe they have been having technical problems with the bin. They brought in all this stuff, including the barriers from Italy. They have done a pretty bad job of choosing stuff and of making it work.

“In the case of the bollards and signage, that was very flimsy and was quickly vandalised.

“So far as the bins themselves are concerned they are waiting for a part.

“That the barriers have been there for six months is symptomatic of the whole botch-up, selecting a thing that wasn’t robust enough, and did not have proper maintenance procedures. If it was me, I would have the spare parts on 

“Why couldn’t they just put a sticker on saying the bins are out of order instead of those barriers or they could screw the lids down. It is absolute overkill.”

A council spokesman stressed that the bins weren’t broken.

She said the work should be completed within the next six weeks, after which the barriers will be removed.

“We are in the process of upgrading the underground recycling bins to improve their efficiency,” she said. “This is the final set to be upgraded and should be complete within the next six weeks.”


PARTS of the city were virtual no-go areas for several years because of the controversial tram works.

Diversions and road closures became the norm – and visitors and locals alike found car satellite navigation systems were largely rendered useless by the changed priorities.

Shandwick Place – one of the worst affected swathes of the city centre – finally reopened last October.

Many businesses have blamed a drop in footfall on track-laying and barriers.

A number of businesses have gone bust because of the damage. A new multi-million pound marketing initiative, This is Edinburgh, has been launched to coincide with the trams going live. Its aim is to draw people back to the city centre.