Edinburgh council says loss of temporary bus lane on A8 has left bus journey times unaffected

Bus journey times have not been affected by the controversial closure of a temporary bus lane on the A8, the council has said.

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The bus lane – originally installed early in the pandemic to encourage public transport use and reduce journey times for key workers – was taken out recently after claims it was causing traffic chaos. The decision in early June came after Edinburgh Airport called for the move, voicing "very real concerns" about the situation. Travel times between the airport and the Newbridge roundabout, a 2.3 mile journey which would normally take around four minutes, were said to have increased to 28 minutes.

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But Green councillors said that although congestion was dangerous, removing measures that promoted public transport use was not the answer. And they said the council needed to work with bus companies to ensure fast and frequent bus services to the airport, which would only be achieved with dedicated priority space for buses.

In response to a Freedom of Information request about the effect of removing the bus lane from the A8, the council said: “Since the removal of the bus lane, bus journey times from Gogar to Newbridge appear to be broadly unchanged.”

It said transport consultants Stantec had been appointed to support the council in the continued monitoring of the situation. “It will take a few weeks for us to identify trends and get accurate evaluation data, capturing fluctuations in general traffic levels.”

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The council stressed that the bus lane was always a temporary measure, installed through the Bus Partnership Rapid Deployment Fund (BPRDF), and said experts had warned even before it was put in that there would come a time when it had to be removed.

“The traffic modelling analysis carried out prior to installation indicated that once traffic levels increased towards 2019 levels, the bus lane benefits would reduce and therefore its removal would be required. The bus lane was removed to ensure buses were not hindered by the increased congestion occurring on a more frequent basis.

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Traffic on the A8 was said to have reached gridlock.

"Bus operators were involved in all stages of the BPRDF project and were aware that removal would occur as conditions reached the trigger point; which was recently witnessed.

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"We continue to work with operators to develop alternative permanent measures on this corridor and the data collected during the pandemic has helped advance thinking on how permanent measures can be further optimised to maximise outcomes for public transport.”

The council said the temporary bus lane had provided an opportunity to test bus priority measures, collect live data and advance thinking on active projects which would be relevant to the A8/A89 corridor.

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And it added that alternative solutions for bus priority on the A8 were being actively progressed through the West Edinburgh Transport Improvement Programme, which included a permanent bus lane westbound on the A8, and the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal Bus Partnership Fund, which was currently developing business cases for bus priority measures right across the south east of Scotland, including the A8.

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