MSP calls for government to step in over Edinburgh's street closures

LOTHIAN Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour has called on the Scottish Government to intervene in Edinburgh’s traffic problems after a bus users’ group branded congestion during this year’s Festival “the worst ever”.

Friday, 4th October 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 4th October 2019, 6:51 am
A large section of the Royal Mile was closed to through traffic during the Festival.

Mr Balfour claimed the closure of a large section of the Royal Mile had left many residents and workers cut off from public transport and caused “massive congestion” in other parts of the city.

“The council seemed happy to accommodate tourist buses and re-routed them but the 35 - the only bus that runs regularly from down the Royal Mile - was re-routed away altogether.

“So if you were a local resident or you worked in the Royal Mile you had no transport access over the festival period.

Margaret Bishop and Margaret Durkin were among those upset the No 35 bus did not come to their stop on the Royal Mile during the Festival period.

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He said he believed there were times when government needed to step. He raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament but Transport Minister Michael Matheson said his comments would be “better addressed” to the council.

But Mr Balfour said: “I think the government, through Transport Scotland, could sit down with the local authority, with Lothian Buses, with businesses and try to have a grown-up conversation to say ‘How do we keep traffic moving and in particular, if we’re going to close streets off what effect does this have on older people and disabled people who need buses?’”

The council pointed out it had provided a dial-a-taxi service for residents affected by the rerouting of the No 35 and had sent out letters informing them about it. But Mr Balfour said he believed many were not aware of this service.

“We made every effort to maintain transport links where possible and had originally expected Lothian would find a way to continue the number 35 service on the Royal Mile.

“As an alternative, the registered taxi service provided by the Council aimed to minimise the impact of the temporary change on our central residents, especially those who are vulnerable.

“We will of course seek to learn from this, our first year of the initiative, and will take on board all feedback and experience to improve and adapt the scheme in future.”

Lothian Buses said it had diverted the No 35 away from the Royal Mile altogether because it could not guarantee reliability if the bus continued to use only part of the normal route.

A spokeswoman added: “We welcome any support from both national and local government to address the impacts of ever increasing congestion.”