Edinburgh taxi drivers left baffled over Old Town road closures plan

CONFUSED cabbies have been left scratching their heads over plans to shut Capital streets - wondering where to drop-off fares.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 14:19 pm
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 14:22 pm

The Evening News reported this week how roads will close monthly to traffic as part of the Open Streets project – which could lead to a regular closure of a loop of the Old Town.

City chiefs backed the scheme to create more a “relaxed and welcoming” atmosphere but cabbies were left wondering how they get tourists to hotels.

Driver Ronnie Wood said: “Questions: I’m a taxi driver, I pick up passengers at Edinburgh airport ,they wish to go to the Holyrood Hotel, where am I to drop them off.

Plans to close key routes in and around the Old Town could result in many local cabbies scratching their heads. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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“St Mary’s Street tell them they have to walk half a mile to their hotel – that will go down well. Clowncil making ridiculous decisions as per usual, roll on the local elections.”

And Ali McPherson, of the Edinburgh Taxi Association, asked: “Surely they must keep roads open to cabs, buses, emergency vehicles and residents? Another ill-thought out council plan.”

Councillors agreed to press ahead with the monthly Open Streets project – while the authority’s preferred strategy for the city centre transformation project will be tabled in May. The council’s transport and environment committee approved plans for streets to be shut to traffic on the first Sunday of the month from May – with an “aspirational loop” of the Old Town, including the Royal Mile, Cowgate and the Grassmarket, to be pushed forward during the 18 month trial.

Details on the first Open Streets events will be provided at the additional transport and environment committee tomorrow after concerns were raised over “retrospective scrutiny” of the plans by councillors.

A public consultation showed that 88 per cent of people want to see a change in how people move around the city – while 51 per cent backed “radical change” through the city centre transformation.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, welcomed the intiative.

She said: “Open Streets will initially focus on a small number of streets within the Old Town loop, though we do intend to expand this over the period of the programme, in close collaboration with key stakeholders, including the taxi trade, to assess operational and access needs.”

Cllr Macinnes said similar schemes have proven successful when trialled in other areas of the city centre.

“Ultimately these events, which will last a matter of hours one Sunday a month, are about creating a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere for both residents and visitors, enabling enjoyment of the historic surroundings and the opportunity for everyone to interact and play,” she added.

“We’ve already seen how successful such events can be during the Summer Summit last June, when we closed parts of the Mound and George Street to traffic, and the majority of respondents to our own consultation have told us they want to see this continue with more events of this kind.”