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Transport convener Lesley Macinnes was joined by Active Travel Minister Patrick Harvie and children from Roseburn Primary School to break the ground on the £19.4m City Centre West to East Link (CCWEL).
When complete, the scheme will connect Roseburn to Leith Walk via Haymarket and the West End with a safe, direct cycle route.
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And it will tie into a new George Street cycling thoroughfare delivered as part of the George Street and First New Town project.
Construction, funded by the Scottish Government through Sustrans, is expected to last around 18 months.
The first phase of the section between Roseburn and West Coates will see some lane closures and changes to parking and bus stops, but traffic will be maintained in both directions.
Councillor Macinnes said she was thrilled to mark the start of the cycle link project, which would be one of the largest pieces of safe walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure the Capital has seen yet.
"It’s been really exciting to visit the site and see work get underway – before long, this route will benefit so many people walking, wheeling and cycling to and from the city.
“The CCWEL project is just one of a range of bold initiatives to transform the way we travel around Edinburgh. We are committed to becoming a net zero city by 2030 and a key element of this is encouraging and supporting clean and sustainable modes of transport through projects like this.”
Patrick Harvie said: “I’m pleased to see Scottish Government funding enable the construction of the City Centre West to East Link. It’s a vital connection which will help people to walk, wheel and cycle in Edinburgh as the natural choice, leading to better health, less congestion and a better environment.
"I want to see many more schemes similar to this in communities across Scotland. That’s why we’re nearly tripling what Scotland invests in active travel over the next three years to at least £320 million a year. I’m committed to making sure those record levels of investment lead to real change in our cities, towns and neighbourhoods, delivering safe, attractive places for many more people to walk, wheel and cycle.”
The route, which will be delivered in three sections, will include two-way segregated cycleways from Roseburn to Haymarket connecting via quiet streets to one-way segregated cycleways on each side of Melville Street. There will be two-way cycleways connecting George Street with Picardy Place via St David Street, Queen Street and York Place.
And there will be improvements to public spaces along the route, as well as new pedestrian crossings, enhanced pavements and street trees.
The project, overseen by contractors Balfour Beatty, is also leading the way in sustainable construction, with measures to cut carbon emissions. Site compounds will use ‘EcoSense’ cabins in conjunction with an Econet power management system, which significantly reduces energy consumption and water usage. Project officers will also use e-bikes rather than cars to travel between the site compound and works areas wherever possible, and cycle training has been provided as part of this.