'We need to address the impact of congestion in Edinburgh' - Lothian Buses

Edinburgh is a world-class city and its popularity is growing year on year, from all those who want to live here and visitors who want to sample its brilliant culture.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 12:03 pm
Traffic on George IV Bridge earlier this month. Picture: TSPL

That is something which should be welcomed by all of us, providing a huge economic boost to the region. However, we also need to respond to the challenges that this brings to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In very broad terms, we need to address two critical situations: the ability to continue to provide inclusive year-round transportation and the impact congestion is creating, especially in light of changing environmental and lifestyle patterns.

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Secondly, we need to examine how Edinburgh is equipped to handle the specific demands of the Festival and many other events that it successfully hosts at the centre of the world stage.

On the first point, Lothian has been on record in stating that Edinburgh’s infrastructure needs to continually evolve. We want to see more bus priority lanes on key corridors into the city centre.

We would also like to see a reduction in bus stops in some locations, for example, consolidating two bus stops into one central stop and thereby reducing journey times.

The role on-street infrastructure, placemaking and faster journey times has is critical in ensuring buses are a desirable option. We continue to work with the council regarding both short and long-term plans in this area but urgent action is now needed.

As an operator we are making changes to speed up journeys and reduce congestion, progressively introducing contactless payments to our already speedy Ridacard solution, re-introducing twin door buses and managing high frequency routes in a very different way to the past.

Regarding the Festival, this has been one of the busiest and most challenging years for all – not just Lothian.

Sporting events at Murrayfield were undoubtedly an additional contributory factor, though everyone will have seen how busy both Waverley and Haymarket stations were for those attempting to travel in and out of the city during the Festival but particularly across last weekend.

Despite the best efforts of all transport providers, the transport network can be at a critical point at certain times of the year. The Festival is renowned across the globe and we all want to see it flourish. Much of the city is given over and prioritised for pedestrians during August and as a result, we then need to look at who and what has priority in the streets which remain open.

It could perhaps be the case that buses, coaches, trams and taxis are the only vehicles allowed on certain routes and streets, aside from obvious exceptions such as emergency vehicles and those with blue badges.

This is a discussion which needs to take place in the coming months.

Our staff have performed brilliantly over the last month to keep Edinburgh moving despite the tests faced on a daily basis. Now, the planning gets under way to ensure the stage is set for a successful 2020 and beyond.

Nigel Serafini is Lothian Buses commercial director