'A 40 minute journey takes an hour' Edinburgh congestion worsens with traffic at pre-pandemic levels and less space on the roads
A return to pre-pandemic traffic levels has left commuters frustrated and angry over delays and congestion across the Capital.
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And there are signs that the situation has been worsened by more people choosing to bring their car into the city because they are reluctant to use public transport due to Covid
Motorists who use the Queensferry Road route into the centre report long queues and increased journey times and blame the new bus lane, installed earlier this year, which reduces the road available for general traffic to just one lane.
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One commuter who travels from Dunfermline says a drive that previously took less than 40 minutes can now take an hour.
"It was always busy, but the bus lane has made it worse. It's hellish – it's absolutely ridiculous they have put in the bus lane in there.
"All of a sudden it comes to a grinding halt – this is about ten to eight in the morning. It's appalling. And for how many buses an hour?
"You have the main artery into town effectively being cut down to one lane. The planners haven't thought it through."
And another motorist who uses the same route echoed the concerns.
He said: "The bus lane added on Queensferry Road near Cramond has become a major source of frustration travelling into the city by car. Vehicles now have to merge into a single lane, backing traffic up well out of the city, and the bus lane itself is regularly empty at peak times.
"It has exacerbated traffic congestion unnecessarily on one of the key commuter links into the capital. It is rather maddening to have to sit in the car for an extra 15 minutes at this one spot.
"It's been a double whammy as well, because Covid has also contributed to the congestion. Trains travelling in from areas like Fife, where I live, are much quieter than pre-pandemic.
"I genuinely believe people are now choosing to avoid public contact with others – and the risk of catching the virus – for the safe confines of their private vehicle and are shunning public transport in the same numbers.
"As offices finally fully reopen and more people are now choosing the safety of the car, it's going to create a nightmare travelling into Edinburgh. The congestion leading into what was already one of the most congested cities in the UK is going to be far worse than it used to be.”
Lothian Tory MSP and Edinburgh councillor Sue Webber said she had experienced very busy traffic driving into town on the West Approach Road. "It was queued from the Dundee Street slip," she said. "You get the sense there are definitely more cars on the road."
She said roadworks, as well as cycle lanes and other Spaces for People measures all contributed to reduced road space and bottlenecks which had not been there before.
"It's very clear in terms of getting in and around the city, whatever road you're choosing, we're back to pre-pandemic levels of traffic, but everything seems worse because there's less space to accommodate it."
And she said pubic transport was not always an easy alternative. "The frequency of buses is there at peak times but it's perhaps not there to reflect some of the new working patterns. And buses are often caught up in delays because of roadworks."
Recent figures from Transport Scotland showed car journeys back at pre-pandemic levels, rail journeys down by 50 per cent and concessionary bus journeys down by 35 per cent.
Neil Greig, policy and research director at road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, said fewer people were using trains and buses because of Covid, which meant there was a “good chance” more people were using their car than before, especially on routes like Queensferry Road.
He said the general situation on the roads had got worse for car users because of the loss of roadspace to cyclists and buses.
Green transport spokesperson Claire Miller said she was very concerned the number of car journeys was rising again.
"It’s a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, so I would urge everyone to think about other ways to get around when it’s possible.
"Leaving the car at home and going on foot or by bike is a great way to get around and has the added benefit of being a healthy choice too.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Kevin Lang said one of the pledges made by the SNP/Labour coalition had been to expand park and ride sites across the city.
"They have failed miserably on delivering on that promise over the last five years. They have ailed to provide the infrastucture that allows commuters to leave their cars outside of the city centre.
“If the administration had delivered on what they promised I think you would see far fewer commuters having to bring their cars into the city, including along Queensferry Road.”
He said the council had described the Queensferry Road bus lane as a temporary scheme whose performance would be monitored, but the timescale for the review was not clear, nor was how success would be measured.
“One of the frustrations is people don’t see many buses using Queensferry Road. It does leave people wondering what is the point of the bus lane when there are so few buses using it.”
And he said there should be more buses and more varied routes. “There are too few transport options in the north-west of the city – if you’re going into the centre it’s probably OK, but if you’re going to Leith there are very few choices other than to take your car.
“My worry, even before Covid, always was if there was not a wider range of bus services available we would see more and more commuter traffic coming into city and that is what we're seeing.”
Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “Over the last year and a half we’ve made changes along Queensferry Road helping people to walk, wheel and cycle safely during the pandemic, as well as a bus lane to improve journey times for the many people who rely on public transport, particularly once restrictions were eased.
“Both measures aim to support sustainable transport choices and modelling by consultants demonstrated the introduction of a bus lane could significantly reduce journey times, with a high number of buses bringing commuters from outside of Edinburgh via this route. The bus lane also provides a safer space for motorcyclists and people riding bikes, as well as being used by taxis.
“Longer term these schemes will help encourage people travelling to and within the city to choose sustainable modes of transport over private car journeys, supporting our carbon neutral goals and leading to a healthier, more pleasant city. As part of our City Mobility Plan we have committed to investigating the expansion of transport hubs around the city which will be part of this ambition.
“We are aware that there have been some signalling issues recently and we are working to resolve this to ensure the flow of traffic.”