TRANSPORT Minister Humza Yousaf has been accused of backtracking over moves to tackle congestion on the City Bypass just months after backing plans for a flyover at the Sheriffhall roundabout.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs questioned whether the Scottish Government was committed to prioritising the long-promised Sheriffhall junction improvements and broader action on bypass jams.
He spoke out after asking for an update on the Sheriffhall project and receiving written parliamentary answers from Mr Yousaf which said draft orders for the junction upgrade would not be published until 2019 and offered no timetable for construction.
The answers also said there would be “further consideration” of the rationale for reducing congestion on the bypass as part of the Strategic Transport Projects Review,
Mr Briggs said: “Lothian commuters and businesses, who face daily delays on the City Bypass at peak times, will be frustrated and indeed angry that the Transport Minister appears to be suggesting that the rationale to reduce congestion on this key road hasn’t been established. Is he really suggesting that there is a case for not reducing congestion on the City Bypass?”
He said studies had shown that four of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the whole of the UK occurred on the bypass and that congestion was costing the region’s economy millions of pounds each year.
And he said the Scottish Government had admitted an extra 10,000 vehicles per day would be using the City Bypass by 2022 compared to the 2014 figure.
Mr Briggs continued: “Last November Humza Yousaf told me ‘Transport Scotland is continuing with work to identify how best to mitigate congestion on the A720’.
“Now he is saying further consideration to the rationale to reduce congestion will be considered. He seems to be backtracking and Lothian drivers will be shocked at this.
“If the minister needs to be convinced of the rationale to reduce congestion on the road, perhaps he should try to use it each day at peak times and face being stuck in lengthy queues and traffic jams like so many of my constituents.”
He said the need to improve the Sheriffhall roundabout had been “patently obvious” for years.
“But we are facing another long wait just to have the draft orders for the preferred option published. The SNP government has dragged its feet on this key transport priority and it appears that it doing the same for the whole bypass.”
Mr Yousaf said the Government remained committed to undertaking improvements at Sheriffhall and it was currently progressing development and assessment of the preferred option, due to culminate with publication of the draft orders.
“Delivery of the scheme itself can only commence when the scheme is approved under the statutory procedures and thereafter a timetable for construction can be set.”