TRADERS have welcomed the removal of barriers at a vital junction blighted by tram works.
The stretch of road from Haymarket to Manor Place in the West End will be officially reopened today as central Edinburgh finally returns to normal after years of tram works.
The opening marks one of the final stages of works on the £776 million trams project before full testing begins. The final stretch of road left to reopen is Manor Place to Shandwick Place, with traffic scheduled to return there next Saturday.
Derek Dinse, manager of West Maitland Street eatery The Mercat Bar, said business had already improved after barriers were removed, allowing people to walk freely around that part of the city.
He said he could not remember seeing the venue as busy as last night’s service.
“It’s a middle-of-the-month Friday before pay day and we’re normally pretty quiet, or at least we have been the last couple of months. But now there’s people sitting downstairs, which hasn’t happened for a wee while.
Mr Dinse said the venue had been forced to pay people to hand out discount fliers promoting the bar ever since tram works started clogging up the streets. He said: “I started here just over a year-and-a-half ago. I’ve seen the gradual decline, getting not so busy to absolutely dire straits. We’ve survived the worst – hopefully we’ll get the best now.”
Neighbouring Italian restaurant Gali, situated only several hundred metres from Haymarket Station, has also started reopening for business during the day for the first time in months.
Alison Adamson, of Kiltmakers and Highland Outfitters, said she was “over the moon” the barriers have finally gone.
She said: “We have been in West Maitland Street and now in Grosvenor Street for more than 60 years as a family-run business and the barriers coming down today rank as one of the most memorable occasions. It is a joy to see open space and I look forward to welcoming back all the people who avoided this massive work site over the last year-and-a-half.”
Permanent changes to the road network will include only buses, taxis and bicycles being allowed on to Shandwick Place. General vehicles will only be permitted between 8pm and 7am, including for loading.
Some works are still needed to return conditions to their pre-tram state. This includes changes to the traffic signal system, removal and installation of signs, return of parking bays and the removal of the Haymarket Terrace bus gate.
The works will take place at isolated locations at both day and night.