The next ten years or so will see 55,000 new homes built in Edinburgh, and many more will be constructed in the surrounding local authority areas. These homes, and the people that live in them, will put huge pressure on our capital. In Edinburgh we will have to ensure that they come with, for example, GPs and school capacity, and good transport links. Edinburgh now has an administration which is committed to showing the leadership needed to tackle these challenges head-on.
Giving people in these new developments in and around Edinburgh access to viable alternatives to using the car is essential if our city is to thrive whilst also responding to the climate emergency. Our capital is already one of the most congested cities in the UK and has a real air quality problem, and this impacts on the economy and our wellbeing. It’s Clean Air Day this week, but many vulnerable people in our city need clean air 365 days a year.
I hope that the next ten years will see a significant increase in active travel in our Capital, but I feel that public transport has the potential to deliver a real step change on the path to making Edinburgh a more liveable, cleaner and greener city.
Our first aim must be to ensure that all developments are on good quality public transport routes, and residents can meet their day-to-day needs within a 20 minute walk of their home. This is how things used to be!
To help support this, the council is now consulting on sustainable transport improvements next to new developments in Leith, Lochend and Easter Road, Queensferry and Burdiehouse.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is my determination to work collaboratively with surrounding local authorities to reduce commuter traffic coming into Edinburgh.
Pre-covid, 63,300 people were commuting into Edinburgh every day by car. We have to reduce this number, and I feel providing reliable and efficient public transport links are key to this. Where possible, I would hope that the aim is people completing their whole journey via public transport, but I am also open to more investment in park & ride schemes and tram extensions if Scottish Government funding can be found.
Whilst some may question this agenda, I hope we can all agree that we can’t drive our way out of the challenge these new homes will bring.
Dealing with this challenge, and the others we face in Edinburgh will test the best of our energies and skills, but it is a challenge I am willing to accept, one I am unwilling to postpone, and one which I intend that we win.
To do this, however, will need a change of culture. Not only will we have to listen to residents and work collaboratively with surrounding local authorities, we will have to do the same within the council. We shall have to set aside political tribalism, and work together to take our city forward. I can’t wait!
Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener