The final strategy for Edinburgh Council’s city centre transformation will be considered by councillors on Thursday – including plans to close Waverley Bridge to traffic and open it up as a pedestrian plaza.
A report to the council’s transport and environment committee says that Network Rail has given the vision for Waverley Bridge the thumbs up.
It adds: “Network Rail support the strategy’s proposals, in particular the closure of Waverley Bridge to traffic to form a plaza, which aligns with the Waverley Station masterplan.
“Improvements to footways, public realm and the relocation of bus stops to ease footway congestion around Waverley and Haymarket stations are supported. The proposed pedestrian/cycle bridge across the Waverley valley should explore a variety of options for crossing the railway, including integration with any new station development.”
The final 10-year city centre transformation strategy, set to be approved by councillors, says that moving tour buses from Waverley Bridge will mean that “local bus travel will be prioritised, benefiting residents and the wider city economy.
It adds: “East–west peak period bus journey times on Princes Street will become significantly more reliable. The simplified junction arrangement will also allow more trams to run. This supports tram completion to Newhaven.
“Airport bus service 100 will be accommodated at a central location, ensuring interchange with rail and city bus and tram services, in co-ordination with the re-development of Waverley Station.”
As proposals stand, Waverley Bridge will be opened up to pedestrians between 2022 and 2023. But one of the first actions, scheduled to start in January 2020, will see an integrated operations and management plan for the city centre drawn up. The plan will set out how tour buses, coaches, freight vehicles and other traffic will be integrated to fit into the proposed overhaul of the city centre.
Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “By closing Waverley Bridge to motor traffic we want to create a world-class space and gateway to the unique Old and New Towns, providing a significantly improved pedestrian environment, connecting to the wider city centre, and celebrating the iconic view from Waverley Bridge across Princes Street Gardens.
Opposition councillors have welcomed plans to reduce the number of vehicles on Waverley Bridge.
“Edinburgh’s residents need to be able to get around the city, while also letting visitors take in their first impression of our amazing Old and New Towns when they come out of the station. The current stramash needs to end – we need more space for people in this highly congested part of the city.”
But Conservatives have warned no details have been published as to where airport and tour buses will pick up passengers in the city centre.
Tory city centre Cllr Joanna Mowat said: “There’s no consideration for the reduction in tour buses or what is going to happen to them.
“There are just no details as to how the council is going to solve a quite obvious problem if Waverley Bridge is shut off.”