​Plan to ban private cars from city centre comes up against reality- John McLellan

The faint crunching sound you hear is that of Edinburgh Council’s grandiose plans to wipe out private car access to the city centre smacking head on into reality.

Problems of traffic displacement, unaffordability and sheer impracticality of much of the “Our Future Streets” plans, which were obvious from the start, have now been laid bare in reports to today’s Transport and Environment Committee.

And while it’s easy for Transport Convener Scott Arthur to blame the Scottish Government for uncertainty about funding, it was always fanciful to expect a blank cheque to meet the expense involved in trading off the creation of a city centre theme park with chaos everywhere else.

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“Removal of through traffic from the Bridges Corridor is anticipated to have significant impacts and planning for which is likely to identify the need for changes elsewhere on the road network, for example (but not exclusively) on the Pleasance and Lothian Road,” says the Business Bulletin update. Well, whaddaya know?

“Early closure would divert traffic on to the Mound/Bank Street, which is undesirable in the context of the Meadows to George St project proposals” Who’d a-thunk it?

But now officers are going to start work on an implementation plan, including an analysis of benefits, opportunities, risks and constraints, when the latter two are becoming crystal clear.

The answer? Prepare “communications and engagement plans”, presumably to persuade everyone there are only benefits and opportunities.

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Meanwhile, over in the New Town, the George Street and First New Town project (known as GNT… how droll) and the plan to ban all vehicle access to George Street from 10am to 7pm every day except Sunday hasn’t quite hit reality, because despite being approved a year ago, they still don’t understand what impact it will create.

“There is still some uncertainty given the scale and complexity of business operations and user demands as to how proposed changes will work in practice,” says a report.

But the birds in St Andrew Square know the result will be mayhem, especially with a proposal to only allow one coach to park up per block into a pre-booked slot.

And if the coach misses its time because it’s been stuck in peripheral jams, presumably that’s just tough? For hotel guests, certainly.

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The GNT bill is already estimated to be just shy of £40m, and that doesn’t include accompanying alterations for the crossing streets, for which as yet there is no budget at all.

But to illustrate how stark-staring bonkers some of these road “improvements” can be, look no further than Leith Walk and the ban on left turns into London Road which for the last two years has forced drivers to loop round Picardy Place and back down to turn right.

It was insane then, but only now has “on-going monitoring” revealed what even the metal Elm Row pigeons knew would happen; “an increase in congestion around Picardy Place and particularly Leith Street which is having an impact on the public transport network.”

In such a thrall to the “active travel” lobby are officers − if they are not paid-up members − that practical concerns are dismissed as those of selfish petrol-heads until the truth can no longer be avoided.

But if only they were prepared to listen it would save the thousands, if not millions, frittered away proving what was blindingly obvious in the first place.

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