RUSH-hour commuters would no longer have to endure the Capital’s “worst roundabout” under new plans unveiled today.
In a congestion-busting move, transport chiefs want to tear up Sheriffhall and allow the City Bypass to surge straight through.
Three options have been put forward – whittled down from an original eight – to transform the six-arm roundabout.
In all the proposals, Sheriffhall would be removed. In one option it would be replaced with a new roundabout for the A7 and bypass slip roads, while in the others, two smaller roundabouts for the A7 and connected slip roads would be created.
But all three options would allow drivers on the bypass to pass through without being hindered by “dreadful” traffic jams created by the roundabout.
Previous efforts to cut congestion have included road widening, new signals and the creation of additional lanes.
However, drivers could potentially face years of disruption while millions of pounds’ worth of work is carried out.
Regular users of the bypass today welcomed moves to end the misery of Sherriffhall.
Tony Kenmuir, chairman of Central Taxis, said it was Edinburgh’s worst roundabout and that drivers would be delighted to avoid it.
He said: “It can be dreadful. We are round that end of the bypass a lot when going to the Royal Infirmary and there can be long hold-ups.
“Obviously the objective of a bypass is to speed traffic up [but] generally speaking the bypass is the last place you want to take a passenger at peak times. Very often you are quicker heading across town than crossing the motorway – it’s very much affected by the rush hour. In rush hours it’s best avoided.
“I think for a lot of people, particularly those in the south east of the city, it’s great news.”
Improvements for Sheriffhall Roundabout were first mooted as part of the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR), which was published in December 2008.
A total of eight options were initially narrowed down to four, with the final three now being put on display this week for the public to have their say.
The Sheriffhall area contains numerous historical mine workings and there is also a geological fault which lies under the roundabout.
Although there is no longer any deep mining activity at Sheriffhall, Transport Scotland said “potentially significant issues” with ground conditions remain to be investigated.
They will also be undertaking further traffic surveys and traffic modelling in the area, taking into account future transport growth.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “It is a well-known bottleneck for motorists using the Edinburgh City Bypass, with congestion and significant queuing particularly at morning and evening peak times.
“The Scottish Government remains committed to delivering improvements at this busy junction and we are now able to let the public see and comment on the three emerging options as we look to identify a preferred option next year.”
The plans will go on display today and tomorrow at Sheriffhall Park and Ride terminal building on Old Dalkeith Road from 12-7pm. Representatives from both Transport Scotland and consulting engineers AECOM will be on hand to answer any questions.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the transport leader at the city council, welcomed the fact that the roundabout’s revamp could be one step closer.
She said: “Options and proposals to ‘grade separate’ Sheriffhall roundabout have been discussed for years so it’s very encouraging to see this work being progressed.
“This is a key junction on the city bypass so anything that can be done to ease congestion will be welcome news for commuters. Sheriffhall is also a major junction for the A7, which is a vital route into the BioQuarter and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
“We would expect any potential work at Sheriffhall Roundabout to safeguard and even enhance this important transport link between Edinburgh and Midlothian, particularly in terms of public transport and active travel.”
Midlothian councillor Jim Bryant, of Dalkeith ward, said the roundabout could at times be “bedlam” and that the proposed changes were “long overdue”.
He said: “It’s quite dangerous – there are six roads there and there are different lanes.
“Some people get mixed up which lane they are in and suddenly cut across you, so I’m surprised there haven’t been more accidents there to be honest.
“There are lights so you do get through eventually but it’s hell for leather – when the lights turn to orange people rev up.
“Anything that makes it safer is to be welcomed and getting round it quicker as well.”
A recent study revealed that four of the UK’s worst bottlenecks occurred on the Capital’s bypass.
The survey, carried out by Inrix Roadway Analytics, assessed the impact of the congestion by looking at the average duration of traffic jams, their average length and the number of times they occurred.
It found that the impact of Edinburgh’s 455 traffic hotspots was second only to London and was likely to cost drivers £2.8 billion by 2025.
Neil Greig, head of policy for Scotland at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said the findings underlined the need to crack on with the revamp as soon as possible.
He said: “It’s one of the last great pinch points round Edinburgh. There are various locations on every traffic bulletin and Sheriffhall is one of them.
“A lot of roads have been improved around it but they all come into an old fashioned roundabout that can’t cope with the numbers. The Edinburgh bypass should never have been built with any roundabouts on it, they should have all been grade separated.
“The key thing is separation and a flyover. As long as that’s part of the scheme the key thing is to get on with this as quickly as possible. It’s time to get on with it.”
The potential revamp could spell a change in fortunes for Sheriffhall, which has a chequered history when it comes to road safety.
Last year it emerged the roundabout was the scene of 65 injuries in the ten years to 2013, prompting road chiefs to call for its revamp to be sped up. The statistics, provided by Transport Scotland, also listed Hermiston Gait in the worst eight roundabouts, with 31 casualties.
Other upgrades which have previously been brought in include road studs to highlight lane markings by lighting up in sync with the traffic lights.
The technology is designed to encourage drivers to stay in lane on the bypass as they approach and drive round the junction.