Martin Hannan: That bypass is driving me mad

The bypass is a byword for traffic jams morning and night
The bypass is a byword for traffic jams morning and night
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There can surely be few more annoying exercises in frustration on the planet than driving on the city bypass during the rush hours.

I’ve always thought that term was illogical – they should be called slow hours, and on the bypass the term should be “dead slow and stop” hours.

Morning and evening, and often at other times of the day, the A720 is a living nightmare. From Millerhill all the way round to Gogar Junction, the bypass has become the nation’s byword for traffic jams.

It is even worse than usual at the moment, especially around the horrendous Sheriffhall roundabout, apparently because of the work for the Borders Railway – I don’t know that for certain, because at the moment I simply refuse to travel on the bypass east of Lothianburn since you risk being trapped in a line of slow-moving or even stationary cars stretching from Midlothian into East Lothian.

As for the westbound trip, it never ceases to amaze me that every single weekday without fail, a traffic jam occurs between the Straiton and Dreghorn junctions, and often further west as well.

The trouble happens because the bypass is the worst-designed road in Scotland. It was built in a hurry, and that’s the last time there was any pace connected to the A720.

Don’t get me wrong, it has been a vast improvement on the old ring road route, but the bypass just doesn’t make sense in places.

At Baberton junction, for instance, you exit from the A720 going west but do not have direct access to the main A70 Lanark road. Why did that happen? Was there some insurmountable problem that disallowed a slip road? That’s without even mentioning the disaster area that is the Calder and Hermiston Gait junctions. It seems to me that the road management wallahs have been tinkering with these two junctions for years, and still have not got it right.

It is blindingly obvious that if you have a full motorway joining a dual carriageway with another junction less than half a mile up the road, then you are going to get serious congestion – a quart does not ever fit into a pint pot.

As for Sheriffhall, the people who decided to site a roundabout there and then add traffic lights to really screw things up should be made to dress in sackcloth and ashes and stand in the middle of the roundabout beating themselves up, 24-7. Yes, there is said to be a geological fault that stopped a bridge being built, but surely some other more sensible way of linking to the A68 and A6106 could have been designed.

(The plan to close the A6106 as a consequence of the Borders Railway may yet go awry. I hear that local businesses have consulted their learned friends and there could be very bad news coming the way of the railway builders and planners.)

Believe it or not, the bypass is a “special road”, so designated under the Highways Act 1980.

I say the Scottish Government should go further and upgrade the A720 to full motorway status, with proper junctions all round.

If our green-obsessed politicians are looking for justification for an expensive upgrade, they should just think of all the extra carbon emitted by cars stuck in jams on the bypass.

Let the makers of bad laws pay up

The row over Edinburgh City Council forcing its staff to pay £59 for their criminal background checks has singularly failed to point the blame at those responsible for this controversy.

In both Westminster and Holyrood, well-meaning but misguided politicians brought in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 for England and Wales and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act 2007 for Scotland.

Both acts were brought in largely due to tabloid hysteria following the Soham murders, and that’s why both acts are among the worst examples of the nanny state you could name.

Still, they are law and their strictures must be followed. But when the Scottish Government brings in such a law, it is the Government

which should pay, not councils or individuals.

Can we not just do the basics?

I see the road planners are turning their attention to Leith Walk, no doubt to inflict more of their madness on us. The plans sound good, I’ll admit, but what will they be like in practice?

They would be much better fulfilling the pledge to tackle the horrendous backlog of potholes across Edinburgh first.

Ferdie & Co set the benchmark

Regular readers will know that I love to talk up small businesses in the Lothians that are doing well, and I’m delighted to recommend Scaffa and its products.

Owner Ferdie Le Fevre, pictured, had the simple but brilliant idea of turning scaffolding planks into furniture, and since early last year he has been turning out some seriously beautiful benches, seats, shelves, tables and chairs from his base in Midlothian.

The garden furniture, in particular, is very impressive, as it’s both sturdy and very comfortable. It’s not cheap, but it is terrific quality for the price. Check it out at

welcome … brake!

Is it just me or are there more tourists driving their cars around the Capital this year than last? What a pity that none of them have

ever learned

to drive.