Calls for ‘bold action’ as Edinburgh set for crunch votes on trams and car-free days

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On D-Day for the future of transport in the Capital, Green politicians are calling for “bold action” after it emerged traffic on the city’s road has risen by 6.5 per cent in the last five years.

Councillors will today agree to push forward plans to extend Edinburgh’s tram line to Newhaven, subject to full council approval next month. Edinburgh City Council is also set to agree its first Open Streets events taking place from May – which would mean a loop of the Old Town is opened to pedestrians on the first Sunday of the month in an 18-month trial.

Traffic on Princes Street. Picture: TSPL

Traffic on Princes Street. Picture: TSPL

Both projects, along with the council’s future plans for low emission zones and its city centre transformation project are aimed, in part, at cutting traffic and associated air pollution – amid a rapidly growing Capital facing increasing traffic.

As councillors determine two big decisions for Edinburgh, Greens have called on Scottish Government ministers at Holyrood to take seriously a “stark” 31 per cent increase in traffic across the country since 1995, which has caused “ever more congestion and air pollution”.

Vehicles travelled a record 30 billion miles on the country’s road network roads in 2017-18, according to Transport Scotland – three per cent more than the previous 12 months.

Traffic on motorways and other main roads has more than doubled since 1975.

MSP John Finnie, transport spokesman for the Greens, called for a more imaginative and direct approach to the problem.

He said: “Bold action must be taken to address the thousands of deaths attributable to poor air quality every year.”

Mr Finnie also attacked opponents of the planned workplace parking levy to stem traffic growth, which is seen by supporters as a major step in the right direction.

He added: “Continued inaction is irresponsible, and those who would deny local authorities the powers necessary to save lives should seriously reflect on their position.

“Greens want to see a significant increase of vehicles on our roads, but these vehicles should be buses whose passage is eased by the removal of private motor vehicles from our currently heavily-polluted town and city centres.”

Gina Hanrahan, head of policy for environmental campaigners WWF Scotland, said: “Transport is Scotland’s biggest source of damaging climate emissions and these figures are firmly going in the wrong direction.”

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “Today’s statistics illustrate why our current policies to develop a more sustainable transport network in Scotland are so important.

“Through the steps we are taking to empower local authorities and support greener travel, we can work together to shift behaviour by encouraging more people out of their cars and on to public transport, walking and cycling.”