Edinburgh's City Centre Transformation: North Bridge traffic changes could see Princes Street completely closed to cars

CARS could be banned from driving along any part of Princes Street amid proposals to transform the famous route into a public space to tackle its “chaotic and uncomfortable environment”.

By David Bol
Monday, 23rd September 2019, 5:46 pm
Cllr Lesley Macinnes on North Bridge
Cllr Lesley Macinnes on North Bridge

Vehicles are currently able to turn left from North Bridge onto the east end of Princes Street – but plans in the final strategy for the council’s £314m city centre transformation project would stop cars from moving along the road in an initial trial – which could pave the way for a permanent halt to general traffic. Waverley Bridge is also set to be closed to all traffic and transformed into a plaza, while bus stops on Princes Street will be “rationalised” in a bid to speed up journey times.

In a report to councillors, officials recommend that “at the east end of Princes Street, there is no left turn to general traffic from North Bridge”. Council officers say this could improve the space outside Waverley Station and Waverley Mall – which could “reflect the setting of surrounding buildings including General Register House”. They add that “access for taxi drop-off to the station and loading for The Balmoral hotel would be retained”.

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“Ultimately we want to make sure the city keeps moving. Princes Street outside of Waverley and The Balmoral is not very pleasant at all – particularly for people with a disability or mobility issue. It’s about trying to solve a current problem in a way that doesn’t impact on people. We need to understand what the impacts would be first.”

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes added: “Currently Princes Street looks like a bus park. It doesn’t help us as a city so we have to find a way to make that work much better.”

Council bosses are also proposing to stop Market Street being available as a rat run across the city centre, by stopping it as a through-route – again as an initial trial. Access to Waverley Station would be maintained.

The strategy document points out the need for improvements for pedestrians on Princes Street and North Bridge.

It says: “There are specific challenges at the east end of Princes Street and on North Bridge. Around Waverley Steps and The Balmoral hotel, the mix of pedestrians from the station, together with bus stop locations and limited footway space, combine to create an often chaotic and uncomfortable


“They have not showed their working and ultimately we don’t know what it’s going to look like or what impact it will have. None of this works without this reduction in traffic – but the reduction in traffic is not tackled in this strategy, other than shutting off some roads.”