City centre traffic shake-up to help West End

Charlotte Square. Picture: Google Earth
Charlotte Square. Picture: Google Earth
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Traffic on city centre streets is set to be rerouted as a lifeline to West End businesses left marooned by years of tram works hell.

Drivers will be able to turn left into Hope Street from Charlotte Square under the plans, providing direct access to businesses that have been strangled of car traffic.

The proposed changes are a remedy to the bizarre situation that sees drivers approaching from Lothian Road directed further and further away from the West End.

Since the launch of the tram service on May 31, drivers have been unable to turn left at Shandwick Place, Charlotte Square or Queen Street. Motorists hoping to visit businesses in the West End are forced to loop through the New Town and Stockbridge – prolonging journeys and directing traffic down residential streets.

Michael Apter, director of West End boutiques Paper Tiger and Studio One, said traffic management in the area had “failed”.

He said: “We’ve been cut off, and things have been exacerbated by the fact that the trams have been given priority over every other form of transport in the city. As a result, people haven’t been able to make their way into the West End by car in any kind of number.”

Virginie Brouard, owner of La P’tite Folie wine bar and restaurant, said: “Customers are having to be dropped at Charlotte Street by cab. The access to the West End should be better. It’s definitely putting off customers coming by car.”

One-way traffic flow will also be reversed on Young Street, after businesses and residents complained that dozens of tourist coaches directed down the narrow lane were causing cracks to appear in buildings.

George Street has been closed to eastbound traffic from Charlotte Square as part of a one-year pilot project in a boost to pedestrianisation in the city but the knock-on effect has seen Young Street become a rat run and caused tailbacks.

Norman Fiddes, a quantity surveyor at firm McLeod & Aitken in Young Street, said: “Because it’s cobbled, it’s very noisy. I counted the other day 15 coaches within one hour.

“It’s part of the first New Town, the buildings are from the 1780s or so. An office on the corner of Charlotte Square has had cracking in the building.”

Transport leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Now that trams have been running for a couple of months or so, it’s a good time to make appropriate alterations to traffic management so that we can make it as straightforward as possible to get from A to B in the city centre.

“West End traders have had concerns about access to their businesses so the proposal to open up Hope Street for all westbound traffic should make things much better.”

On Young Street, Cllr Hinds added: “Changing the one-way direction will help divert traffic away from Young Street and on to Queen Street, which can accommodate traffic far more comfortably.”

The proposals will be considered at next week’s transport committee meeting.