Why Edinburgh Council's traffic plans are set to get a Green light tomorrow – Steve Cardownie

The City of Edinburgh Council will convene tomorrow when traffic matters will once again be to the fore and, although the outcome can be confidently predicted, it should still prove to be an interesting event.

By Steve Cardownie
Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 7:00 am
The Spaces For People project has seen significant changes to Edinburgh's road layout, some of which have proved controversial (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
The Spaces For People project has seen significant changes to Edinburgh's road layout, some of which have proved controversial (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

The SNP-Labour coalition can always count on their allies in the Green group to support the new traffic proposals under the “Spaces for People” banner and this will ensure that even if all the other councillors vote as one they will still not have enough combined strength to overturn the administration’s preferences.

The Conservative leader, Iain Whyte, managed to drum up enough support to ensure the report containing the traffic proposals that was presented and agreed by the transport and environment committee last week was kicked on to the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting but despite his concern that “there are huge numbers sending emails objecting to the whole scheme, when actually, the vast bulk of the rest of the scheme is accepted by the public, but we haven’t been able to address their concerns”, he does not stand a chance of getting the committee’s decision overturned and he knows it.

Having won the day by seven votes to four at the committee stage, the administration is not likely to budge from its position and although opposition councillors will be afforded the opportunity to vent their collective spleen via their laptops, at the end of the day it will be for nought.

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In another interesting development, it looks like the private hire car (PHC) trade has managed to enlist the support of Councillor Gavin Barrie of the Epic group in its attempt to ensure that it is treated fairly when the traffic initiatives are implemented.

On the proposal to ban PHCs from passing through the soon-to-be erected bus gates, he has tabled a motion which amongst other things points out: PHCs are licensed for public transport by the council, the council uses PHCs by contract for both school and social work journeys, pre-Covid demand was such that PHC made circa seven million journeys in the city, PHCs are an integral part of the city’s public transport network and PHCs are by council regulation clearly marked, nearside, offside, front and back as private hire vehicles.

His last point makes it clear that PHCs can be clearly differentiated from other vehicles, which eliminates any confusion as to their right to pass through the gates as opposed to privately owned cars doing so which would be in violation of the regulations.

Councillor Barrie reiterates this particular point with his motion suggesting “council further recognises that to deny such access on the basis of what other non-licensed vehicles might do is wrong thinking and the PHC trade should not be penalised on the basis of what other drivers may do. Council therefore resolves that where bus gates are instigated using emergency measures licensed, PHC vehicles will enjoy the same privileges as other CEC licensed public transport vehicles”.

The administration is unlikely to agree to this however. As a former SNP group member who “crossed the floor”, Councillor Barrie will be hard-pressed to get support from the coalition for any proposal he tables – however merited. It would seem likely then that PHC users will have to wait to get “a fair crack of the whip”.

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