New Edinburgh walking and cycling route delayed because council too busy on Spaces for People
Plans to turn an old rail route into a green corridor for pedestrians and cyclists have been held up because the council is too busy on the Spaces for People programme.
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Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs wrote to the authority asking for an update on the Powderhall Railway Path project, which would create a new east-west footway and cycle route on redundant track between Powderhall and Meadowbank.
But the reply from the council’s active travel department said: “Progress on this has been delayed by the need to re-allocate staff resources to develop and deliver temporary Spaces for People (SfP) schemes.”
The letter added that the council was aiming to complete the feasibility stage of the project at the earliest opportunity, which was likely to be during this summer.
And it said there had been “early engagement” with Network Rail on land acquisition, with the rail company amenable to the “repurposing” of the Powderhall spur line into “a high-quality urban green corridor for people to walk, cycle and wheel on”.
But it added: “Further discussions and negotiations are required to take place due to the sidings lease that Network Rail currently has in place with a freight operator.
"Once the feasibility stage is complete, we will then be able to commence more comprehensive discussions regarding the land acquisition required to deliver this project.”
Mr Briggs, said he was pleased talks with Network Rail were going well and they were open to transforming the spur line into a green corridor.
But he said: “It is disappointing that the project team looking at the green corridor transformation has been delayed due to working on Spaces for People schemes.
"The council is talking about creating all this safe spaces with Spaces for People – well, here’s a prime project which can create a separated walking and cycling route and they are kicking it along the road. It questions the priorities around Spaces for People and opportunities to improve walking and cycling in the city.
“This is a great opportunity to create a safe green space to connect Powerhall to Meadowbank and beyond. The new Powderhall green corridor will be excellent for people to walk, cycle and wheel on, as well as fitting in with Edinburgh’s active travel strategy.”
Transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes said: “We’re still at the early stages of exploring the possibility of delivering an active travel corridor here, including engaging with Network Rail about land acquisition and undertaking a feasibility study for the project.
“Like many schemes around the city, Covid has impacted progress here. Over the last year we’ve had to respond to an emergency situation and transport teams have been required to support the introduction of measures to provide much-needed space for physical distancing on our streets – something both the Scottish and UK Governments have encouraged local authorities to do.”
Transport and Environment Vice Convener Councillor Karen Doran added: “Work on the Spaces for People programme in no way detracts from our aspirations to significantly improve walking and cycling infrastructure across the Capital, with work continuing on many permanent schemes around the city.”