Massive city-centre traffic shake-up approved

EDINBURGH is on course for the biggest shake-up of its road system since the notorious city-centre traffic management scheme which had to be largely abandoned after a public outcry.

Monday, 5th March 2012, 12:12 pm

Councillors have approved plans to review one-way systems in the West End and city centre as part of a wider strategy to create a more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly environment.

Officials are expected to start drawing up detailed proposals later this year, but it could be up to three years before the changes are introduced.

As well as rethinking the one-way systems, the strategy proposes changes to the Tollcross junction, further restrictions in the Royal Mile, cutting traffic speeds and putting in place new pedestrian and cycle routes.

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Planning convener Jim Lowrie today vowed the council would avoid the mistakes made the last time it attempted to revamp the Capital’s road system.

The controversial 2005 Central Edinburgh Traffic Management cost over £4.5 million and included retractable bollards in George Street and Frederick Street and a series of road closures in the New Town.

The council reversed most of the measures after more than 1000 people backed an Evening News campaign to change the scheme, which had a chaotic effect on trade and traffic.

Councillor Lowrie, pictured lef, said any changes under the latest plans would be introduced in stages and on a trial basis.

He said: “We slipped up with the city-centre management system. Now we would do it in small sections, perhaps for three- or six-month periods, to see how it operates.”

A masterplan approved by the council’s planning committee, covering the city centre’s “southern arc” from Haymarket to Holyrood, says the ambition is for Edinburgh to become “one of the most liveable cities in the world” and backs projects which will “create better conditions for pedestrians and cyclists”.

It highlights Morrison Street as a key pedestrian route between Haymarket station and the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, but says the journey is uncomfortable because the area is dominated by traffic. “Changing the one-way system to two-way traffic has many benefits – more space for pedestrians, slower traffic and a safer environment at night.”

Senior planner Will Garrett said changes to Morrison Street would mean a review of traffic in a wider area. “Morrison Street is at the core, but it links to the Haymarket one-way system and Shandwick Place into Morrison Street and you can’t look at that without looking at what is happening with the trams.”

The review would also extend to the one-way systems at Semple Street, Fountainbridge and Bread Street; and Lady Lawson Street at West Port.

The plan proposes reducing road space at Thornybauk, West Tollcross and Lochrin Place, with knock-on changes to the road and footpath network.

Neil Greig, head of policy for the Institute of Advanced Motorists in Scotland, said one-way systems were a good way to get the most out of limited road capacity, but it was right they should be reviewed to make sure they were working.

He said: “I understand that for pedestrians, crossing four lanes of traffic in Morrison Street is not pleasant.

“But they have to get the detail right. It was the detail they got wrong the last time – people found themselves in illegal cul-de-sacs, it didn’t make sense and the sign- posting didn’t work.”

Local business owners today welcomed any change to Morrison Street’s one-way system.

John Berry, owner of the Kinnaird Guest House, said: “It couldn’t be any worse than the way it is now. It’s a wide street with four lanes of traffic and at times you’d be taking your life in your hands to cross it.”

At Tollcross, where pedestrians currently have to cross several separate stretches of road to reach the other side, one option is to halt all the traffic at the same time so people can cross in one go.

Councillor Lowrie said: “Tollcross is a major issue – it’s very difficult to get across.

“I think we need to phase the lights so you can walk straight across. It does slow the traffic flow down, but not hugely.”

Bilkis Ali, of Tollcross Pharmacy, said: “It would be easier to just have one junction but the traffic from Lothian Road does have to go somewhere.”

The council is keen to cut traffic on Chambers Street and plans to remove the central car parking aisle to create more space for events.

Cllr Lowrie said one option would be to make it a one-way street, using Nicolson Square for vehicles going in the other direction.

He said: “We want to get the road clear in front of the museum which now has such a super entrance.”

Traffic controls on the Royal Mile could be extended. Cllr Lowrie said the existing restrictions on the stretch between North Bridge and George IV Bridge were working well and could be extended down towards St Mary’s Street.

He said: “We would probably keep the bus that runs down there, but try to limit the cars.”

The plan also proposes a family cycle route between the West End and Holyrood and new footpath routes, for example at Quartermile from the Meadows to Lauriston Place, a safe pedestrian and cycle route between Tollcross and the Lochrin basin and a new pedestrian crossing in Lothian Road between Festival Square and the Usher Hall.

Traffic systems under review

1. Semple Street: Changes to one-way system

2. Morrison Street: Highlighted as key pedestrian route. Proposed changes include removing one-way system

3. Lady Lawson Street: Changes to one-way system

4. Thornybauk, West Tollcross: Reduce road space and create more room for pedestrians

5. Chambers Street / Nicolson Square: Cut traffic on Chambers Street and use Nicolson Square for vehicles going in the other direction

6. Royal Mile: Extend traffic controls to limit cars

WHAT THEY SAID..

Comments from community groups in a consultation which helped in drawing up the strategy.

• Tollcross Community Council: “Twelve lanes of traffic flow into [Tollcross] junction and eight lanes leave it. Pedestrians have complained for years about it. The difficulty for pedestrians has almost made the east side of Earl Grey Street a no-go area, causing retail blight.”

• West End Community Council: “Changing the one-way traffic system in Morrison Street, West Maitland Street and Torphichen Street could go a long was to creating a user-friendly, healthier environment.”

• Sustrans Scotland: “Widening pavements is necessary on several streets, for example Morrison Street and West Port, especially given the high volumes of pedestrians on sections of the route.”

• Cockburn Association: “The improvement of the pedestrian environment on the Canongate and a reduction in the dominance of vehicles on street is critical to improving its attractiveness to tourists and therefore its role in the local economy.”