Edinburgh George Street revamp: Private hire vehicles to get access to pedestrianised street as trial

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Private hire vehicles are to be allowed into Edinburgh's revamped George Street on a trial basis under the same conditions as black cabs.

The key city-centre street is due to become a largely traffic-free zone in a £36 million project which will see the current parking down the centre of the street removed, buses rerouted, pavements widened and the carriageway turned into a "cycle street" with vehicles treated as "guests".   

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General traffic will be excluded between 10am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and between 12.30pm and 7pm on Sundays. But taxis will be allowed in  for disabled people during these hours - and now private hire cars will also be able to enter on the same conditions.

And the council plans to use information technology to establish a booking system to allow them access. Taxis and private hire cars will also be allowed free access to the street between 7pm and 6am when other traffic is still excluded apart from "permitted vehicles" such as delivery lorries. 

Transport convener Scott Arthur said the decision had been based on feedback. "We had a consultation with people using the space and businesses - and there were a lot of concerns coming back on the safety of individuals in the evening, so we're proposing to allow PHC vehicles into the area on the same basis as black cabs on a trial basis.

"It has not been an entirely easy decision because of the number of vehicles in the PHC fleet but we have to stress this is a trial."

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On the daytime access he said: "The idea is that if a PHC vehicle wants to enter the space, the focus of course is to support people with disabilities, so we're going to set up some IT which would allow someone to book a PHC to come into that space using their blue badge number or similar and that would allow the PHC to get access to George Street.  The same would apply to black cabs as well."

Coaches taking people to hotels or other venues will also be allowed into the zone during the restricted hours, but this will be limited to a maximum of one coach per block at any one time, managed through a booking system.

Cllr Arthur said it was also now planned to make each section of George Street one-way.  But he added: "We've not worked out the configuration of that yet. There are 81 different configurations of how we can make it one way. It's just to ensure that those extra vehicles have a minimal impact on the safety of people moving around the street."

Work on the project is due to start in late 2026 and be completed by late 2028.

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The streets which intersect with George Street are also included in the overall project. Cllr Arthur said it had been hoped to carry out the changes on these at the same time, but the funding stream for most of them was "now looking a bit more uncertain" so they might now come later - except for Frederick Street, which has been allocated funding to re-sett the carriageway.

Cllr Arthur said the George Street revamp was vitally important for the Capital.  He said: "There's so much happening in the city about getting transport more sustainable and helping to boost our economy and George Street, both in terms of these plans but also physically, is right at the heart of that.

"It's going to be a fantastic project if we get it right - and we absolutely have to do get it right.  Coming out of this, George Street has to be much more accessible for everyone.  It works fine for some people just now, but a lot of people feel excluded, so we have to get this right.

"Hopefully when we see this project delivered we can all be proud of it and it will help boost our economy."

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