Tourists blast city’s roads as worse than Third World

Escocia guide Fabian Chornogubsky on Queen Street
Escocia guide Fabian Chornogubsky on Queen Street
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TOURISTS see the state of the Capital’s roads as “shameful”, with city guides saying visitors from developing nations have branded them worse than those in the Third World.

Potholes and uneven surfaces have made bus trips around city attractions an “uncomfortable” experience, it has been claimed.

Dalmeny Street

Dalmeny Street

Business chiefs reacted with concern to the feedback, saying the deteriorating network could cost the Capital international investment. But city leaders insisted investment was at record high levels.

Fabian Chornogubsky, 47, a guide with tour company Escocia, said: “Almost everyone I’ve taken on tours recently has commented on the appalling state of the roads in Edinburgh, even people from Third World countries. It is something they all bring up, and it tends to range from comments like ‘this isn’t what we were expecting’ to those that say roads are worse than in their own countries.

“Doing tours in the city centre is quite uncomfortable, because of all the potholes on the roads.”

Originally from Argentina, Mr Chornogubsky, who has worked as a tour guide for 17 years, added: “I’ve been on holiday to Third World countries and I’ve never seen anything like this before. For a capital city, it’s just shameful.

“Obviously the council are just not doing anything about it. We get comments from people from places like South America – just a few days ago someone from Venezuela said something about it – they want to know why it’s so bad.

“In the 30 years I have lived in Edinburgh, it has never been like this before. When you go to any of the other cities, like Perth, they are so much better – the roads here are much worse than Glasgow.

“This is supposed to be the capital city – it’s something that needs to be addressed ASAP.”

Nicky Sanderson, 54, a tour guide in Edinburgh for the past 11 years, said: “The roads here are pretty embarrassing.

“I lived in Mexico for a while and the roads in Mexico City and Guadalajara were smooth in comparison to Edinburgh. Those cities had lovely, big avenues designed for cars. Some of my customers are surprised that in a city as beautiful as Edinburgh, there are bad road surfaces right in the city centre.

“I don’t think the roads ruin their experience but it does leave them with the idea that Edinburgh is a bit of a tired, worn-out place. An 18th century city with 18th century roads to match.”

A survey in February by the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland showed that only about 62 per cent of roads run by local authorities were classed as being in a “good condition”, with the remainder falling short of acceptable standards.

And figures released in January showed that 379 claims for compensation over pothole damage were made against the city council in 2011 – 71 per cent more than a year earlier.

Gordon Henderson, senior development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said: “More investment is needed in Edinburgh. Businesses want decent roads and connectivity. People establishing businesses are not going to be encouraged to set up in places which have a bad reputation for transportation.”

Ian Maxwell of cycle campaigners Spokes said: “The quality of the roads in Edinburgh is a huge problem and it’s one of the things that puts people off cycling.

“Although we find that when problems are reported they are fixed quite quickly, there are far too many poor surfaces.”

But deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: “I’d be amazed if the roads in Venezuela are that good that they would cause people to say the roads here were poor.

“The last administration spent more money on roads than any previous administration.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said: “The most recent survey ranked us 11th out of 32 Scottish councils and we are still dealing with the legacy of two harsh winters but it is clear that more can be done.”

Expert warns works may take a decade

CREATING a road network fit for purpose in the Capital could take up to a decade, claimed a motoring expert.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “We are still about five to ten years of continuous investment away from having the roads that we would like to see.

“What’s been happening in Edinburgh is that the council had been managing to allocate a bit extra to the roads and they had started to make progress. But you can’t fix them overnight and it’s certainly not going to happen soon.

“There’s a backlog of more than £1 billion in roads maintenance in Scotland before roads will be up to the standard we expect.”

Mr Greig admitted that local and government finances were under pressure but warned against slashing roads spending.

He said: “With cuts being made all the time to other budgets, it’s important that roads maintenance is not affected. If people perceive Edinburgh to be a tired, worn-out place because of the poor state of the roads then they are less likely to come here.”


Graham Birse, deputy chief exexutive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

There are roadworks right across the city — even without the trams — so its impossible to avoid.

Road maintenance is necessary and as long as the end product is a better standard of roads that make the city more attractive to businesses and tourists then we would be happy.

The problem, is that much of the resurfacing work carried out by contractors working for utility companies is not satisfactory and leaves the roads in the terrible state. The Traffic Commissioner has handed out fines to many of the contractors for work deemed unsatisfactory, but the concern is that these fines do not go far enough.

We want to see bigger fines, and more care taken to ensure the roads are repaired to an acceptable standard.”