Comment: Sheriffhall improvement must be priority

Sheriffhall roundabout on the Edinburgh City Bypass. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Sheriffhall roundabout on the Edinburgh City Bypass. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A partnership has been drawn up by local authorities in Edinburgh and South-East Scotland to boost economic growth and transport connectivity.

Central to this aim is the completion of the city bypass upgrade and its notorious bottleneck – the Sheriffhall roundabout. But now comes another and more urgent reason for pressing ahead with this project: it has been named the most dangerous junction in Scotland.

The roundabout has been the scene of no fewer than 65 injuries in the ten years to 2013, official figures have revealed.

Upgrading at Sheriffhall, which handles 21,000 vehicles a day, has already included innovative new road studs which highlight lane markings and encourage drivers to stay in lane as they approach and drive round the six-prong junction.

Further major work is planned to separate traffic taking different routes – widely held by road 
experts as long overdue.

Sheriffhall is one of the top blockage points in the trunk road network in Scotland. An ideal solution would be full-grade separation – overpasses and underpasses – so the traffic does not have to stop. In terms of sheer numbers and problems caused by congestion, it should be the priority for Transport Scotland.

Ranking the “worst-performing” trunk road junctions was a key commitment by ministers in their action blueprint, Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020, published as long ago as 2009. It also pledged to “prepare a programme to improve selected locations”.

Even without accident and safety concerns, Sheriffhall has been long overdue an upgrading. The Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region – comprising Edinburgh, Borders, Fife, Mid, East and West Lothian councils – will work together to develop a deal with the Scottish and UK Governments designed to grow the local, national and UK economies.

At the heart of the proposition lies a £1bn infrastructure fund, with priority areas for investment likely to include transport, housing, economic regeneration, energy and digital connectivity.

With such ambitious plans and the massive amount of development planned in Midlothian and the south-east of Edinburgh, this problem is only going to get worse. Improvements have to be a priority. A flyover is the obvious answer – and this should be included as a key feature in the proposed City Deal for the region.