Tour coaches face ban from Princes Street block

Tour groups will be dropped off elsewhere and forced to walk to their hotels. Picture: Jane Barlow
Tour groups will be dropped off elsewhere and forced to walk to their hotels. Picture: Jane Barlow
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PRIVATE tour buses are set to be banned from part of Princes Street in a bid to cut traffic.

The stretch from South Charlotte Street to South St David Street would be closed to tour buses and long-distance coaches between 7am and 8pm daily, as proposals could be approved by councillors this week.

City hotels warned they would be penalised by the plan, with tour groups, including elderly guests, having to be dropped elsewhere and left to haul their cases along the street.

The move could come after a two-month consultation period stretching from November to January.

The famous “hop on/hop off” tourist buses would continue to use the route as they are classified as “local” buses, which can use the street at any time of day.

City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said the move was aimed at cutting congestion.

She said: “We have a problem at the moment where we have buses continuing to stop on Princes Street and blocking traffic for public transport services. By the time they load and unload passengers, you can have traffic backed up all the way up The Mound.

“We want to work with hotels, but I don’t think those buses need to be on Princes Street really.”

James Fraser, manager of the Mercure Hotel on Princes Street, said there was a problem with the thoroughfare being used as a “rat run” by private long-distance coaches but insisted a complete ban would hit them hard.

He said: “The sense of arrival at the city is compromised when having to alight 100 metres from your accommodation.

“Guests who may not be familiar with Edinburgh are then faced with a very busy street and disorientation may cause undue stress which does not complement Edinburgh’s claim as a well connected and accessible city. Having to transport luggage the distance does present handling issues and additional cost for labour and equipment.”

He added: “My hotel welcomes around 20,000 guests each year who travel here by coach, and each and every one adds to Edinburgh’s economy.

“I feel that the hotel is unduly penalised just because of its location.”

Concerns have also been raised among tourism leaders over whether the move could affect the visitor experience.

Robin Worsnop, chairman of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, said there was a potential economic impact.

He said: “Any proposals to restrict visitors’ choice of sightseeing experiences and unscheduled public service vehicles travelling along Princes Street need to be carefully considered.”

Andy Neal, chairman of Essential Edinburgh, questioned if it was fair to allow some buses to use the route while others were banned. He said: “The drive along Princes Street gives you stunning views of the Castle and it would be a shame that some visitors would not be able to get that.”